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Columbia University guidelines say don’t call white people ‘Caucasian’

Ophelie Jacobson, Campus Reform

  • The university’s medical school released guidelines that discourage use of the word in an attempt to promote ‘anti-bias and inclusive curriculum.’
  • Professors and researchers across disciplines have criticized the term, arguing it is imprecise and problematic.

The term “Caucasian” is now facing cancel culture, thanks to Columbia University.

The Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University released guidelines to promote “an anti-bias and inclusive curriculum” that encourages people to refrain from using the term “Caucasian” to describe a White person.

“Eliminating the use of outdated and imprecise terms, e.g., ‘Oriental‘ to describe an Asian person or ‘Caucasian’ to describe a white person,” the guidelines state.

This is not the first time that higher education has targeted the term.

In 2020, Andrea Westby, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, wrote an article titled “Time to Phase Out ‘Caucasian.’” The Columbia University guidelines link to Westby’s article, in which she argues that “literally speaking, ‘Caucasian’ refers to people from the Caucasus mountain region, which includes Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, parts of north Iran, and central southern Russia.”

Westby also said in the article that by using “Caucasian” to describe White people, society is “prioritizing [the] comfort of White people.”

Campus Reform reached out to Westby for comment in an email. She replied, stating that “‘Caucasian’ is a historically and geographically inaccurate descriptor for White people, so it would be preferable to use “white” or specific geographically correct ancestry terms (Euro-American, etc).”

Such critiques are neither rare nor new among scholars.

Carol Mukhopadhyay, whom Westby references, wrote a 2008 book chapter titled “Getting Rid of the Word ‘Caucasian’” that argues term “erases” the “ancestry, cultural traditions, and experiences” of those from the Caucuses.

More recently, Susan Rinderle, a consultant that Westby also cites, claimed in 2014 that “at its root, ‘Caucasian’ is a pseudo scientific term used to create distance from race discussion or racial identification.”

Campus Reform reached out to the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Mukhopadhyay, and Rinderle but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @opheliejacobson

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