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Is saying half caste racist, if so why?

(327 Posts)
StrandedBear Thu 29-Mar-12 11:57:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mopswerver Thu 29-Mar-12 11:59:49

Yes the term in modern usage is "mixed race". By using "half" you are implying something "lesser" surely?

CrunchyFrog Thu 29-Mar-12 12:00:35

"Caste" comes from the Latin for "pure" and the Spanish (I think) for "race."

It's been used in a pejorative way for many years, incluring by governments, that's possibly the root of the offence.

TheCraicDealer Thu 29-Mar-12 12:01:56

I thought the phrase might come from the "caste/chaste" system in Indian, but I'm prepared to stand corrected.

TheCraicDealer Thu 29-Mar-12 12:02:28

Ophf, there we go! smile

Mrsjay Thu 29-Mar-12 12:02:54

My dad said half caste the other week about a neighbours children I almost died a little , He wasnt being nasty at all I just dont know why he used their colour to describe them <dunno> , its not used anymore and was [shocked] to hear it still

CherryBlossom27 Thu 29-Mar-12 12:02:58

I ws wondering that too, but I always say mixed race as I never hear anyone saying half caste anymore. CrunchyFrogs explanation makes total sense - thank you!

ReshapeWhileDamp Thu 29-Mar-12 12:03:16

I've always associated it with the Raj - derogatory language and definitely archaic now. So why not just say mixed race?

savoycabbage Thu 29-Mar-12 12:03:18

I haven't heard anyone say that for years. I say mixed race myself. Dual heritage was 'in' a couple of years ago but my dh didn't like that as his grandparents are African, Scottish, Chinese and Portuguese so he felt it didn't cover him.

TheRhubarb Thu 29-Mar-12 12:04:06

I have two brothers of mixed race and we used to refer to them, and they to themselves, as half caste.

I found out from Mumsnet that is was racist.

Still not sure why, but then the term 'mixed race' will no doubt be racist too soon.

It reminds me of the Spastic Society having to change their name because the word 'spastic' and 'spaz' were used as offensive terms. Same as calling someone from Pakistan a Paki, in itself it is not offensive as it's short for Pakistani but it was the way it was being used that started to be offensive.

Any word can become offensive if you use it that way. Personally I'm on a mission to get the word 'daisy' struck off as an offensive word. Wish me luck!

minouminou Thu 29-Mar-12 12:04:29

Caste implies a value and status judgement. One half is worthy, the other not, IYSWIM.

NicknameTaken Thu 29-Mar-12 12:04:31

It certainly sounds a bit old-fashioned. Mind you, in Kenya people with one white parent get called a "point five" (ie. 0.5 Kenyan) which is worse!

If someone is mixed race themselves (like my DD), frankly, they can call themselves what they like. I say "mixed race". I think "dual heritage" is preferred in some quarters, but people often have more than two ethnic backgrounds, so that seems a bit limited to me.

Mrsjay Thu 29-Mar-12 12:05:24

savoy that would be quadrouple heritage oh it could get complicated wink

sunshineandbooks Thu 29-Mar-12 12:05:25

This is just my own personal understanding so it may be completely wrong, but I thought the reason it was considered offensive was because the 'caste' derives from a latin word meaning 'pure', implying that the pureness of the white race had been half diluted.

I'm sure most people haven't even considered the origin of the term, and don't mean any offence, but it is pretty offensive when you think about it, so mixed race is undoubtedly a better choice.

WorraLiberty Thu 29-Mar-12 12:05:30

I think it's an age thing

I'm 42 and most people my age and above always used the term half caste...but I notice younger people say mixed race.

NicknameTaken Thu 29-Mar-12 12:05:43

Cross posted with savoy.

StrandedBear Thu 29-Mar-12 12:06:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WorraLiberty Thu 29-Mar-12 12:06:11

Yes, I think that's what it is sunshine

CrockoDuck Thu 29-Mar-12 12:06:29

Since it was historically used to demean, then it's now unacceptable to use it.

Although, I always think that, for something to be considered actively "racist" - there has to be some element of intent there.

So, you're clearly not being racist just need to get up to date with what words are considered acceptable now.

minouminou Thu 29-Mar-12 12:06:32

When I was little I thought it was half cast, as in cast from two different metals, which seemed a good way to describe mixed race people.

Thankfully my mum explained the caste system.

canyou Thu 29-Mar-12 12:07:22

I would seem to be, I some times wish we had a site/place that would flag words as they became a racist or an unacceptable word within society so that we could avoid offending people. Lives in horror when taking 94 yro GM out as words we definitely know to be racist now were commonly used without causing offence in her time and explaining that the words cannot now be used to a partially deaf women with dementia is impossible

StrandedBear Thu 29-Mar-12 12:07:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mrsjay Thu 29-Mar-12 12:08:25

In the 80s half caste was the norm that is what people said , I say mixed race , but what if you dont know somebodies race if its not clear , Its difficult to use the correct words without causing offence .

ExitPursuedByABear Thu 29-Mar-12 12:08:45

I agree with TheRhubarb

I found out from Mumsnet it was rascist grin

nobutyeahbut Thu 29-Mar-12 12:10:07

My dd's are mixed race, my family is English and dh's family are orginally from Grenada in the West Indies.

I do not like the term half caste, i think sunshineandbooks said it best..

'caste' derives from a latin word meaning 'pure', implying that the pureness of the white race had been half diluted

If someone called them half caste i would be offended and i would explain that i don't like it.

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