Part of the lunchroom discussion this week was about what politically correct (PC) term to use to refer to a 'White' person. I'm Asian American, but my husband's family came from Eastern Europe. I tell my students that he's 'Caucasian.' However, that term is always met with blank stares, followed by "What means that?" Then, I proceed to use 'White' or 'non-Asian' and get nods of understanding.
Although we often use 'White' and 'Black'/'African-American' in our ESL classes in discussions of prejudice and discrimination in the USA, one of our male instructors said that he really doesn't like to be called 'White' and prefers the label 'Anglo.' However, another instructor asserted that 'Caucasian' was the most PC term, especially in business and in the city of Chicago where she grew up. In addition, since her ancestors came from Eastern Europe, she said she would not want to be identified as 'Anglo,' which could indicate 'English' roots. However, if we see 'Anglo' as identifying Americans by their first language, I could also be considered 'Anglo,' although most people would then think I had 'White' blood in me.
Then, we went on to consider what the best label is for someone from Mexico or from Latin America. Should we say 'Hispanic' or 'Latino/a'? Our Mexican-born instructor dislikes the term 'Latino' because, for her, 'Latino' includes Italians and other Latin-based language speakers. Her first choice for herself would be 'Mexican' and secondly, Hispanic.
To make the discussion even more complicated, one teacher pointed out that 'Native Americans,' who used to be called American Indians, actually prefer that original ethnic label. I can understand their position since people who are born and raised here in the United States are also 'native Americans.'
As if the topic of 'color' (race) were in the air, this morning on NPR (National Public Radio), I listened to commentary about a summit held in California's capital, Sacramento, in which educators gathered to discuss recent findings about the effects of race on educational achievement. In the NPR (National Public Radio) broadcast, the terms 'White,' 'Black,' 'Asian,' and 'Latino' or 'Brown' were used, so to the producers of that show, those labels must be PC. What should we call people like my children who are mixed 'White-Asian' or Tiger Woods? Do the labels matter as much to government once you're out of school?
THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP SUMMIT, Sacramento, CA
It's hard to speculate about future discussions of educational achievement in California (or across the USA) where there will always be diversity in people's value systems. For many people, education only has value if it leads to successful employment afterward, and that really depends on personal or family networks, motivation, previous experience, demonstrated ability, and yes, good luck! In California, many of our students would benefit from the opportunity to do apprenticeships to learn skills in fields such as auto mechanics, masonry, plumbing, food preparation, or landscaping (actually quite vital jobs). However, people in these 'trades' (professions) are rarely discussed. I don't remember my children having the opportunity to shadow a 'plumber,' for example, on career day (because who would 'aspire' to be a blue collar worker?) .
If you want to hear and see some of the latest discussion about the Achievement Gap Summit in Sacramento, CA this week, here are a few links: one to news10/abc and another from which you can get to several other related stories.