Why has the term "Caucasian" remained in use, while equivalent terms, such as those used for Asian people, African people, and Australian Aborigines have fallen out of use in polite society?

I came across this video, but it's about as accurate as you'd expect an (ex) music video station to be about history.

Meaning of "Caucasian" describes what the term "Caucasian" means, but not why it's still used, Why do websites have Caucasian as a race? seems to be more of a complaint than a question, and Is it offensive or unusual to use "Mongolian" in the sense of race? was asking whether using "Mongolian" is appropriate, but doesn't contrast it with "Caucasian" still being used.

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    Because being called or classified as Caucasian has very rarely been used as an insult. When White people complain of the term, it will change.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 29, 2016 at 13:17
  • @GEdgar I can't tell whether you're being serious or snarky. If the former, your comment is simply wrong; if the latter, it's inappropriate. Please consider deleting the comment.
    – deadrat
    Apr 29, 2016 at 18:40
  • One point is that "white" carries, at least in some contexts, more of a negative association than "Caucasian", so "Caucasian" is the least of the bad, so to speak.
    – Hot Licks
    May 6, 2016 at 12:05
  • @HotLicks in the sense that people who use "white" are more racist than people who use "caucasian"? May 6, 2016 at 13:37
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    @AndrewGrimm - Something like that. And "Caucasian" is the more technical term, where, all other factors being equal (which they're not), "more technical" conveys the impression of "less slangy", and "less slangy" is presumed to be less offensive.
    – Hot Licks
    May 6, 2016 at 22:59

2 Answers 2


Group identifiers generally gain a pejorative connotation when the group they are attached to has a low or negative social status, particularly in relationship to the group that uses the identifier.

In other words, the word takes on the prevailing attitudes of the people who use it, regardless of dictionary definition. That's why older words seem so much more offensive --they carry the stench of outmoded attitudes.

The terms "Negro" and "Mongol" were used by Europeans to refer to other cultures, during a more xenophobic time, so the use of them now brings up memories of old stereotypes. Since the term "Caucasian" was applied to members of the in-group, and never used pejoratively, it never gained a pejorative connotation.

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    Worth pointing out that in the Russian Federation, the Caucasians are an out-group and the Russian analog to "Caucasian" is used as an epithet (to be clear though, we're talking about the demonym, people from the Caucuses and the nations in them; we're not talking about the racial group more commonly indicated by the word, because essentially everyone in western Russia and the former Soviet states has white skin). Anyway, my buddy from St Petersburg tells me Russians have stereotypes of Caucasians broadly analogous to Americans' stereotypes of Mexicans.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 29, 2016 at 14:52

People in the West, but nowhere else, are always pussy-footing about what to call people.

Caucasian is a term for a race - an identifiable, genetically stable, sub-group of Homo sapiens sapiens. I prefer to use Caucasoid, to de-stress the connection with the Caucasus. It is not the same thing as European, because most Caucasoids live in South Asia. It is not the same as White, because those same South Asian Caucasoids are mostly not what most European Whites would call White.

All over their range, from Ireland to Kamchatka and from Novaya Zemlya to Sri Lanka, Caucasoids have great variation, and a fair amount of admixture with the other two main races of Hss: the Negroid and the Mongoloid, terms I will stick with here because they suit the purpose.

Mongoloids range from Central Asia to Tierra del Fuego, and constitute the majority of humans, so one could say they are typically human! The pseople Americans call Asians, Amerindians, Polynesians - all are Mongoloid.

The sub-Saharan black Africans are the major part of the Negroid branch. Australian aborigines and Melanesians are a minor part. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Khoi-San people of the Ituri share much in common with them, but might have a different ancestry.

There are many admixtures. The Ethiopians are a mix of Caucasoid and Negroid. The Turkic peoples appear to have elements of Mongoloid and Caucasoid. And so on.

The whitest people on Earth, the Sami or Lapp, may be more closely related to the Mongoloid group than to the Caucasoid.

Difficulties with these words all arise in the minds of Americans and Europeans, whether of the Caucasoid or any other variety. People are what they are, and humans are the more interesting for that fact.

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    This doesn't appear to address the actual question from the OP. Apr 29, 2016 at 16:03
  • The actual question shows murky thinking, which this answer is an attempt to clarify.
    – frank
    Apr 29, 2016 at 17:13
  • Once you gain in reputation, you'll be able to comment on posts, which is the proper action here when you want to clarify a question. Answers should not be used for that purpose. Apr 29, 2016 at 18:14
  • -1: I very much doubt that the progression -descriptive name for other ethnic group- → -derogatory epithet for other ethnic group- (as happened to the word nigger, for example) is a solely Western linguistic phenomenon. May 3, 2016 at 23:17
  • And did I say it was? Read the post again.
    – frank
    May 3, 2016 at 23:46

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