Mainstream Media uses “White” to Denote Whatever They Want

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” — Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S. — N.Y. Times, May 17, 2012
Census: Minorities now surpass whites in US births — MSNBC, May 17, 2012

Sometimes people use “White” to denote: “full acceptance into mainstream U.S. society, especially as marriage-partner for one’s child.” Under this usage, Hispanics, Arabs, Native Americans, East Indians, Jews, and Asian Americans are not yet fully White today. On the other hand, sometimes they use “White” to simply denote non-Black (anyone who is not African American). Under this usage, Hispanics, Arabs, Native Americans, East Indians, Jews, and Asian Americans are White.

Readers should carefully examine any mainstream media (MSM) statement containing the word White, to determine which usage was intended. Politicians especially, are deliberately vague in order to make each listener hear whatever she wants to hear. My favorite example of the contrast between the two meanings of White comes from a February 25, 2004 speech by U.S. congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL).

She argued that Hispanics are non-White “people of color”, and so Hispanics are the natural allies of Blacks in the struggle against White domination. She then attacked her opponents, Mexican-American federal official Roger Noriega and Cuban-American U.S. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart by saying, “All you White men look alike to me.”

The first sentence used White in the sense of “fully accepted into the U.S. mainstream”, depicting Hispanics as the natural allies of Blacks. The second used White as “non-Black”, depicting Hispanics as the natural enemies of Blacks. Not one listener in a hundred saw the magic trick. Those who saw Hispanics and Blacks as allies, as well as those who saw them as enemies, (both!) came away convinced that Brown supported their own personal ideology.

When you see MSM articles with headines like the above, try to learn what the writer meant by “White”. If you find out, you will know the writer’s political idealogy of the moment. If the meaning is deliberately obscured, you will know that the writer is a demagogue pandering to sensationalism.


Frank W. Sweet is the author of Legal History of the Color Line (ISBN 9780939479238), an analysis of the nearly 300 appealed cases that determined Americans’ “racial” identity over the centuries. It is the most thorough study of the legal history of this topic yet published. He was accepted to Ph.D. candidacy in history with a minor in molecular anthropology at the University of Florida in 2003 and has completed all but his dissertation defense. He earned an M.A. in History from American Military University in 2001. He is also the author of several state park historical booklets and published historical essays. He was a member of the editorial board of the magazine Interracial Voice, and is a regular lecturer and panelist at historical and genealogical conferences. To send email, click here.


Other Backintyme sites: Essays on the U.S. Color Line Armed Citizens and the Law
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