Is that song from the Lion King stuck in your head now? If not, here’s the link for your enjoyment.
And now to the matter at hand. You see, I’m sorry. I just can’t seem to keep my nose where I was supposed to keep it when I started this blog – deeply embedded in foundation and bronzing powders. I digress all the time, and I’m just all over the place. And now I’ve read a little piece online that’s got my fingertips itching and my hair standing on end – so it should be looking quite voluminous right now. I mean, for a beautyblog I’ve dedicated a surprising amount of thought to matters of the mind rather than the visual aspects that one might expect.
Incidentally the cause of my indignation is once more a thoughtless phrase about hair. Beyonce’s hair. I was reading this over at Refinery29, on Queen B’s blonde locks and one quote in particular nagged at me:
I wish some ethnic celebrities would maintain their natural beauty, without subjecting themselves to a caucasian Westernization.
– mind you this is not an opinion expressed by the site itself, but a commenter upon an earlier piece they made.
“Ethnic”. That word as pops up whenever there’s a discussion of race, colour and the likes, and is used in particular to describe people of non-Caucasian heritage, most notably Afro-American or African heritage.
A google search on the word generated about 214 000 000 hits, which to my mind is quite a lot. As this is a blog and not an exam paper I’ll even take the liberty to quote some sites.
This first one is from Wikipedia:
Ethnicity or ethnic group is a socially defined category based on common culture or nationality. Ethnicity can, but does not have to, include common ancestry, appearance, cuisine, dressing style, heritage, history, language or dialect, religion, symbols, traditions, or other cultural factor. Ethnic identity is constantly reinforced through common characteristics which set the group apart from other groups. –Wikipedia
Now, this doesn’t say anything on how non-Caucasians are ethnic, whereas Caucasians are. Now, just to clarify my use of “Caucasian” before I continue, here it represents peoples of
Caucasian race (also Caucasoid) is the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia/Middle East, Asia Minor, Central Asia and South Asia. – yet another one from Wikipedia.
The word originated as a term referring to the common cultural traits of a people, but were later to become synonymous with “pagan” and “heathen” (still quoting wiki) in England through about 400-500 years up to the mid-19th century. Then to further
[…] reflect the different kinds of encounters industrialised states have had with external groups, such as immigrants and indigenous peoples; “ethnic” thus came to stand in opposition to “national”, to refer to people with distinct cultural identities who, through migration or conquest, had become subject to a state or “nation” with a different cultural mainstream.
See, the issue I have with the term “ethnic” is that it is often used to describe the difference between “us” and “them”, and “they”, in general, are those in possession of ethnicity, whereas “we” are not, and “ethnicity” is the term that is considered politically correct to use.
In another instance it is however used to describe “us” as a nation united and defined by our ethnicity as, for instance Norwegians. With our common history, language and customs, in opposition to immigrants, and what’s probably now fifth-generation immigrants, whom although they are in possession of Norwegian passport and citizenship, and have never known another mother country aren’t accounted amongst the group referring to itself as Norwegians or ethnic Norwegians.
In the end it comes down to discourse, and how systems of thought and language moulds our perception and our actions. How they are further legitimized and legitimizing themselves, so that they become percieved as “the truth”, and the only perception that is real, discarding the possibilities of others. For more on this particular subject I recommend looking into Focault and Bourdieu. I find Bourdieu’s ideas of symbolic violence and social reproduction in particular very interesting.
However, there seem to be a discourse relating ethnicity to peoples of non-Caucasian origins, and to certain indigenous groups, whereas the rest of us are only ethnic when we find it suitable for our purposes.
By all means, feel free to discuss.