Russia’s Caucasian Problem – and Ours

Time to scrap the politically correct race classification system.

Russia’s Krasnodar region will host the Winter Olympics in 2014 and governor Aleksandr Tkachev is already working on security. As Ellen Barry of the New York Times put it, Tkachev “has enlisted the area’s Cossacks as an auxiliary police force to prevent darker-skinned Muslims from the North Caucuses from moving there.” Apparently the ethnic Russians of Kasnodar don’t like Caucasians and consider them “outsiders,” most of the time.

“When Caucasians win three gold medals, they’re Russians,” noted state official Gadzhimet Safaraliyev. “But when they move somewhere, they are unwanted individuals.” Governor Tkachev doesn’t want them in Krasnodar, so he has given 1,000 Cossacks powers beyond those of the police. For their part, the Cossacks are already experienced in ethnic cleansing. They served as shock troops for the czars and seven years ago they reportedly drove out a local population of Meskhetian Turks.

The North Caucasians are Muslims but that is not likely the issue because Tkachev’s example was ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Whatever the motive, these events confirm that what passes for democracy in Russia is not exactly strong on freedom of movement. Imagine if David Cameron had deployed Gurkhas to keep the Welsh or Irish out of London during the Olympics on the grounds that the English consider them outsiders. But the Russians manage to get some things right.

They know that the only Caucasians are people from the actual Caucuses region. That is not the case in supposedly enlightened America. For example, if governor Tkachev moved to Los Angeles and managed to get arrested, the police would profile him as a “male Caucasian.”  So would government officials, university administrators and editorial writers, despite the obvious reality that governor Tkachev is not a Caucasian. Neither are millions of Americans of Swiss, Russian, British, Belgian, Polish, Latvian, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or French descent, among others.

American misuse of Caucasian is longstanding and has served up fodder for satire. In Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 The Loved One, set in Los Angeles, Dennis Barlow is arranging a funeral for Sir Francis Hinsley and is asked if the deceased is Caucasian. “Certainly not,” a stunned Dennis replies. “He was purely English.” Even so, Caucasian duly became part of a politically correct classification system that makes no sense on any level.

It has “Pacific Islanders” and “Asian Pacific Islanders” designations that even apply to people born in the United States. It has no “Atlantic Islanders,” which would be appropriate for those descended from the British Isles, Bermuda, Iceland or Cape Verde Islands. On a census form this writer once put “Atlantic Islander” for ethnicity and “human” for race. His reward was an angry telephone call from a federal bureaucrat.

Politically correct is not geographically correct. “Iberian” would make more sense than “Latino,” which fails to include Americans of Italian descent (the plain of Latium, from which “Latin” derives, is in Italy). Worse, “Latino” supposedly contrasts with “whites,” as though Marco Rubio was Wesley Snipes.

“People of Color,” implies that there are people of no color. “Hispanic” is a linguistic term, and as Richard Rodriguez notes, there are white Hispanics, mixed-race Hispanics, and black Hispanics. “Anglo,” has linguistic application but is ridiculous as an ethnic category for people named O’Hoolahan, Krzyzewski or Lafontaine.

Political correctness isn’t about accuracy or fairness. Rather it is about codifying an oppressor class and a victim class, another reason the entire system should be scrapped. That will be a tough task but it has to start somewhere. Americans should marshal common sense and dump “Caucasian” as an ethnic classification, except of course for people from the actual Caucuses region.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.