I found J. L. O'Fionnain Muphy's personal account to be eye-opening.
Having grown up and spent almost all of my adult life on the East Coast
of the U.S., I guess I've been really lucky.
I'd like to add, however, that as an editor of course materials for a
diverse student population, our style guidelines are extremely careful
about how we refer to specific ethnic groups. This style, of course,
changes as certain terms come into or go out of favor (with the groups in
question, of course). Lately, I have come to realize that many things I
read (both here at work and elsewhere) show a richness in the heritage of
anyone who isn't "white." I don't mean this as a racist statement. Stick
with me, please. What with all the acceptable hyphenated terms being used to
designate disparate groups (and I have no problem with that), when you come
across the word "white" in the middle of a paragraph filled these other ethnic
terms, "white" seems to convey nothing so much as "non-anything else." I
have begun to wish that there were some designation for me that conveyed the
richness of my own Irish-Scottish-English background. (And not "caucasian,"
for let's face it, how many of us are from the Causasus?) For this
reason, I wonder whether some of us might have latched onto the term
"Celtic" as a way of shortening "Irish-Scottish" and similar
combinations. I have no illusions that I am Celtic, but if I were to put
"Celtic-Anglo-American" on a form, I think most people in this country
would know what that meant, whereas "white" could convey any number of
ethnicities--many of which, for me, would be inaccurate.
University of Maryland University College
College Park, Maryland, USA
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