Last week, MTV’s Decoded With Franchesca Ramsey released a video that resulted in an internet firestorm. The video, thoughtfully captioned, “The Racist History Behind the Word ‘Caucasian,’” detailed the true way the word came to be the normal classification for all white people. However, the investigation revealed that the word actually comes from extremely racist ideals, and white people of social media weren’t having it.
In the short yet informative video, Ramsey explained that the word Caucasian was widely spread thanks to German philosopher Christoph Meiners and German scientist Johann Blumenbach. Meiners began by categorizing people from the Caucasus region composed of Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and northern Turkey. He basically claimed that those people had the most beautiful skin of all Europeans. Blumenbach then added on to Meiner’s sentiments by saying that the Caucusus region housed the country with the most beautiful people: Georgia.
Things get a little creepy when it’s revealed that Blumenbach believed people from Georgia were most beautiful because of his collection of human skulls. He reportedly owned over 200 human skulls and his favorite skull was that of the Georgian. The idea that all white people, being superior, must have come from that region, thus we have the word Caucasian.
The word has been rooted in America’s history because it allowed colonial ancestors to justify slavery, and it was often used in legal cases, including one in which an Indian man, although defined anthropologically as Caucasian, would still not be granted the same natural citizenship as white Caucasians. Basically, the American government ruled that the word would only be used to refer to white Europeans, and the notion just stuck.
So all of these facts clearly reveal that the word comes from an extremely racist belief and promotes the idea of white supremacy, right? Wrong. After the video was posted, white people on Facebook had all kinds of fits. In responding to the video, one commenter posted, “Stupid and Shameful! And honestly, this video is racist not the word - "Caucasian," Nobody gave you the right to use an Ethnic Group's name as a new definition of racism! I'm Caucasian, from Georgia, (the Country you laughed at) and as much as I know my history, this is a shameful lie.”
Another commenter went on to blame “videos like this [for making] race an issue.” All in all, the video prompted much hostile debate on social media, which is really nothing new. The video proved that there is still extreme sensitivity when it comes to admitting that many foundations of this country stemmed from racist ideas. Because hey, why would we look at something like this as an interesting history lesson, and wonder if it’s time to change many of the antiquated words used to talk about race? It’s not like it’s the year 2016 or anything.
Check out the video below as well as some comments. Have a comment of your own? Share it below!
(Photo: MTV News via Youtube)