The Continuing Evolution of Whiteness in California

Dr Michael Reibel
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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
Stream: Ethnicity, Difference, Identity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Michael Reibel

Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Anthropology, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Dr. Reibel is a geographer whose research focuses on economic and ethnic change in North American city neighborhoods. Using Los Angeles as a living laboratory to guide his hypotheses, he has forged innovations in small area demographic analysis of group segregation, integration, and transitions at the neighborhood scale. Dr. Reibel is also an expert on uncertainty and estimation techniques for population data at local scales using geographic information systems (GIS). His interest in the social construction of race in California began with the extraordinary and occasionally absurd difficulties of racial and ethnic classification in the U.S. Census, and has expanded into the humanistic realm of imposed and self-defined identities in the world’s most ethnically diverse urban region.

Ref: H06P0237