You have probably heard the term caucasian thrown around when talking about race, while at other times, people used the word white. If you were confused by that and were left wondering what the difference between the two was, we’ve got you covered. The difference between white and caucasian is quite simple. Both are used to denote a race.
However, only one is considered correct nowadays. The correct word is white, while caucasian is generally avoided because of its vagueness. White is the color of the skin, which also denotes a race while caucasian has a much more complicated definition that makes it quite antiquated.
The History Of The Term
The caucasian race is an outdated way to group humans according to the color of their skin. In the past, it was used to group people by biology and group them according to their historical race classification. This caucasian race included people from Europe, Western, Central, and South Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. The term was introduced in 1780, so it is not hard to conclude that it could be problematic. It was presented by the anthropologist Johann Friedric Blumenbach.
Originally the term was used to denote one of the three great races of humanity. These three races were the Caucasoid, the Mongoloid and the Negroid race. The term caucasoid was used for many phenotypically similar groups, although they all came from different regions. It focused on the shape of the skeleton, mostly the skull, and it did not pay attention to the color of the skin. People that were considered Caucasoid in the past were not only white; the group included people with dark brown complexions as well.
Is It Still Used Today?
The term was used often until the second half of the 20th century when anthropologists started moving away from these types of understandings of biological diversity. They moved towards a more genomic oriented perspective, and race became something completely different than we believed it to be before.
The race is much more complex than simply biology and the shape of the skull, and it is based on the ancestry and phenotype, but it also includes cultural factors. The concept of race grew beyond anthropology and is even more often used and explored in social sciences.
The term caucasian is still somewhat used as a way to classify people based on biological traits, mostly in forensic anthropology. There, scientists use it to identify the genealogy of excavated human remains using various measurements and interpretations. Nowadays, the term caucasian is still used as a synonym for white sometimes, but this is wrong and should be avoided.
Many criticize the use of the term this way, and by exploring its history, it is clear to see why. The word white should be used when we want to denote the white race, and the term caucasian should be avoided, given that its history can be tied to racist practices. The caucasian race is fabricated, and while the white race can be a bit tricky to define, it is the generally accepted term.