This Is the Morning Report

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.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Tora says:

    I guess the easiest way to explain the term “ethnic” would be to describe it as belonging to a distinct group in opposition to whatever group you belong to, and yes, is often use to divide people into “us” and “them”.
    But I thinkmost people make the mistake of only including race into the concept of ethnicity. It could include any aspect that differs, so I would call my self an ethnic Norwegian and distinguish myself from immigrants, 5th generation immigrants and even people adopted from outside of Norway, but this is however a matter of genes. I would also consider myself an ethnic geek, based on my interests and tastes regarding tv, movies, books, science and general way of life,and as such distinguish myself from the majort part of the Norwegian population. While being Norwegian, I also identify myself with a worldwide sub-culture, that fortunately has gained some regard in the general public in the last couple of years thanks to tv-shows like The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones, which has managed to attract the mainstream audience.
    My thoughts on the readers comment toward Beyonces hair would be that the person has misunderstood the use of the word ethnic and has perhaps chosen to use that word to avoid the term “black people” in order to appear polite and non-racist. And I definitely believe that the person has misunderstood the concept of caucasian westernization. Her hair has nothing to do with caucasian westernization, but everything to do with the general fashion in America. Her hairstyle is the kind that you more or less only find in the USA. She is not trying to live up tp some kind of caucasian western ideal, she’s just trying to fit into the fashion in the country she lives in, in order to sell records. And there’s nothing wrong with that, and honestly, if she wants to change her hair colour to stand out in a large group of black haired people, that’s okay. It’s really not much different from natural blondes who colour their hair dark, dark brown so as not to be confused with other blondes and nobodies complaining about them denying their ethnicity and submitting to some starnge influnce that people hardly think about in their day to day life.

  2. Tora says:

    Btw, the comment box is not made for long comments. I almost gave up halfway through it, because it was really hard to look over what I wrote. So I hope you will forgive me some of the rather horrible spellingmistakes I’ve commited;)

    1. sirilovise says:

      I very much agree on all accounts 😉 Especially the commenter using “ethnic” as a substitute for “black” or “afro-american” in order to appear, as you say, polite and non-racist. However, “ethnic” as a substitute for other terms identifying a person as non-caucasian, while a poor term as such, seems to be publicly approved as the political correct term, as it is frequently used by the public media. The only exception being when explicitly describing a hereditary nationality, such as “ethnic Norwegian”, once more, as you say, in order to distinguish such a one as different from whatever generation of immigrant to Norway might be the case. Furthermore it is seldom applied to immigrants whose origins can be found in the (north-)western parts of Europe, and to some degree European origins in USA. The discourse being, in rather crude terms, that the general term of “ethnicity” is appliccable as an appropriate descriptor when the person in question is of an origin outside these bounds.
      And I do agree on the comment boxes. They are indeed too small for to write a coherent argument.

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