Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interesting

I don't believe race is still a huge problem in our country, but I have noticed something really odd lately. My white attendings usually refer to black patients as "African-American" and to white patients as "Caucasian." However, my black attendings usually refer to black patients as "black" and to white patients as "white." I'm intruiged, since studies have shown that dark-skinned Americans descended from sub-Saharan Africans prefer the label "black." I wonder if this is just a generational thing, since I always say "black" or "white."

And the descriptor itself doesn't make sense. I've white South African friends who call themselves African-Americans as a joke, just to point out the absurdity.

It is equally absurd to refer to white patients as "Caucasian" for two reasons. One, real Caucasians (Georgians, Chechens, etc.) are usually a bit dark skinned, and two, almost none of the white population of America is from anywhere near the Caucasus. It would make only slightly more sense to call white people "Alpsians" or "Pyrennesians" (staying with the mountain theme).

Just something I think is odd. And by perpetuating awkward politically correct descriptors, I think we stall the final elimination of racism. Morgan Freeman said recently that "the only way to eliminate racism is to stop talking about it" and further that "black history month" was offensive. I think he's right on.

4 comments:

Zwerver said...

The tricky thing about labels, particuarly "African-American", is that they (the labels/ the language) are so damned particular. For example, "woman of color" is quite acceptable; "colored woman" is horribly offensive.

Moreover, if you notice, the label of choice by African Americans has changed so much over time. Once "negro" was preferred; now it's wrong. Once "African American" was preferred, now it's wrong." I tend to agree with Morgan Freeman, only on the grounds that anything else is just too complicated.

Zwerver said...

You have to approve comments? Why? I'm just curious....

Nathan said...

Because some friends of mine (well intentioned friends, mind you) were putting things in their comments I found too revealing of my real life. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I'm a bit paranoid sometimes.

Zwerver said...

Ah, got it. Well I think that's really smart of you. I can't believe you let friends read your blog....but then again I tend to hide too much from my friends.