Not Proving Anything

“This insanely detailed map proves race is a social construct.”

Not exactly, Vox. The social justice media site has uncovered a map from the early 20th century that apparently proves some White people weren’t White. . .or at least according to U.S. classification.

This is a very common trope among the “race isn’t real” crowd. Here’s how it goes: In America’s past, WASPs didn’t see migrants from southern and eastern Europe as White and wanted to limit immigration from those areas to prevent non-White hordes from invading the country. This proves that many Americans who are White today weren’t a hundred years ago and this illuminates how race is just a social construct.

This was mostly famously argued in Noel Ignatiev’s How The Irish Became White and which is refutedin a detailed review by Michael O’Meara over at Counter-Currents. What this present Vox article tries to champion is how the fact that the U.S. previously used the categories of Teutonic, Keltic, Slavic, and Iberic demonstrates that they didn’t consider some groups White. This smoking gun is never provided in the piece and any discerning reader can see this system as grouping Whites into ethnic sub-groups that exist in the real world. The writer also fails to mention that many White Americans in the early 20th century were still not ethnically-mixed and could identity entirely with one ethnic group, thus justifying the use of these categories in population studies.

Though to be fair to the article, Nordic Whites did argue for immigration restriction specifically to limit certain Europeans coming to America. The United States, at the time, saw its roots in Northern Europe and wanted to preserve that link for future generations. That sounds pretty reasonable, and didn’t necessarily imply that the Europeans they didn’t want in the country weren’t White—it was simply about maintaining ethnic and cultural homogeneity. In addition, some of the “European” immigrants who came to the states still dispute their classification as White.

What Vox is trying to do here is to manipulate the reader into believing that these racial categories indicate that these groups weren’t White. That’s not the case. Race, especially in English, has been used interchangeably with people, folk, ethnicity, and other terms for centuries. For example in the Vox map, race is used to mainly to describe ethnicity. That doesn’t change the fact that it can be used to describe the large groups of mankind. So no, this map doesn’t prove race is a social construct—it just shows the term can have different meanings outside of classifying the major groups of humanity.