Mel`a*noch"ro*i (?), n. pl. [NL. See Melanochroic.] Ethnol.

A group of the human race, including the dark whites.


© Webster 1913.

OK, I've read everything in New Writeups; I've checked out the latest Cool!ed stuff. I can't come up with any ideas for anything to write on so I hit Random Node.

First hit: Melanochroi in Webster 1913 -

Mel`a*noch"ro*i (?), n. pl. NL. See Melanochroic. Ethnol.

A group of the human race, including the dark whites.

This gets me thinking about how we define race - and why. This definition implies that skin color is the primary defining characteristic for racial typing. There's also that "Ethnol." in the first line, kind of suggesting that race and ethnicity are the same thing, and that doesn't sound right. I mean, how many "ethnic" conflicts going on in the world right now are between peoples of the same skin color? In Somalia, all the sides are dark skinned. In the middle east, most everyone is olive skinned, and lighter or darker skinned people tend to be excluded. There are plenty of conflicts over skin color, too, but at least in common terms, ethnicity seems to have little to do with color. And what is a "dark white"?

But let's hit that reference and see if that throws more light on the issue.

Mel`a*no*chro"ic (?), a. Gr. ; , , black + color.

Having a dark complexion; of or pertaining to the Melanochroi.

This seems kind of self-referential, but that's OK, considering it's just the adjective form of the noun, and at least part of the definition just says it means you have a dark complexion. There's no mention of "dark whites" here, except by reference back to the original term. Jump back to "melanochroi" again to make sure we got it all. Yep, but there is an interesting soft link down there: Xanthomelanous. Hit it. Webster again:

Xan`tho*mel"a*nous (?), a.Pref. xantho- + Gr. &?;, &?;, black. (Ethnol.)

Of or pertaining to the lighter division of the Melanochroi, or those races having an olive or yellow complexion and black hair.

So now we've got a second sub-group, combining the olive and yellow skinned folks with the dark whites. I also note that both of the terms have black or black + color in the root meanings. This sounds to me like what our dictionary is getting at is that we need to define anything non-lily white (such as "dark whites"), or olive or red, which we haven't hit yet, thank goodness, or yellow as "colored". Is this a vestige of our attitudes in a world defined by whites?

These attitudes are so ingrained into our culture that we still need to define people as white or non-white. President Obama, with an ethnic background that is half black African and half European-American still must be primarily defined as a "black" man.

What does it matter? Why can't we get over this? I don't have any answers, except to lead my own life with respect for other people's cultural background, and to ignore the "racial" and "ethnic" labels as much as possible.

I'm sure there are very good anthropological reasons for making the above distinctions, but they will not stay within the sciences. Our culture demands we divide ourselves into groups that damage the culture as whole.

When I checked with a more modern dictionary I found the following:

Main Entry: mel·a·noch·roi   
Function: noun plural
Usage: sometimes capitalized
Etymology: New Latin, from melan- + Greek chroi, nominative plural masculine of chros pale
: Caucasians having dark hair and pale complexion
- mel·a·no·chro·ic \|meln|krik\ also mel·a·noch·roid \-|näkrid\ adjective, sometimes capitalized


Main Entry: xan·tho·mel·a·nous   
Function: adjective
Etymology: xanth- + melanous
: having olive or yellow skin and black hair

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002

These definitions don't carry the same racial/ethnic weight as those in our Webster 1913 dictionary, but the cultural biases that led me to this rant are still active. The only way we will get beyond this as a culture is for each individual to try to understand cultural differences, and to ignore the very strong influence of our culture to make judgements based on skin color.

Wikipedia actually has a fairly informative entry on this subject. It turns out that this racial theory was developed by Thomas Huxley in 1870, and "dark whites" include such peoples as the Irish, Welsh, Greeks and southern Italians.

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