The Continuing Evolution of Whiteness in California
Over the last twenty five years, as the most recent large wave of immigration made itself felt across the U.S., the black-white racial dichotomy has evolved into a de facto racial and ethnic classification scheme of four major groups: whites, blacks, Hispanics (roughly, descendents of Latin Americans) and Asians (roughly far easterners, i.e. east and southeast Asians). This scheme is extremely problematic, not least because the categories are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive.
This paper discusses the brittleness of the social scheme of race and ethnicity in California today, and the cracks that are emerging in its façade: I will focus on the three most important of these problems, both of which have important implications for a possible expansion of the “white” category. The first is the mismatch between the North American ethnic Hispanic identification and Latin-American notions of race. The second is the peculiar status of South and Southwest Asians. The third is California’s rapidly emerging mixed and even multi-race population. All these processes have called into question both the old mutually exclusive categories of “black” and “white”, and increasingly led to doubts about the usefulness of racial-ethnic categories more generally. In the process, traditional notions of whiteness have changed.
Keywords: Ethnicity, Identity, Whiteness, Immigration, California
Dr Michael Reibel
Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Anthropology, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona