Caucasian is/not White – really?

Boston, MA

When I was 22, I received my first speeding ticket, which I deserved as I was speeding. It was a speed trap on a major US highway on the way back to Boston. I accepted the ticket without contest, but since it was my first speeding violation I choose to appear in court to request a smaller fine.

I appeared in court, the clerk announced the case to the the judge, “On April x, Mr. xx, a Caucasian male was cited for driving 78mph in a 65mph zone…”. A long pause, the clerk looked at me, the judge looked at me. The judge says, “Caucasian? is that what the ticket says?” Both the judge and clerk were confused, because to them, Caucasian means “white”, doesn’t it? I was not white – I was brown.

I was born in India and am of Indian ethnicity. When I originally received the ticket from the Trooper, I noticed that the officer checked the Caucasian box, and this was technically correct (see below). In fact, it was actually quite refreshing to see this level of detail from a State Trooper.

Back to the court appearance. The judge was really flustered, and could not figure out how the Trooper could have checked the Caucasian box for me, as it was blatantly obvious that I was not white. Of course, the Trooper was not present to “defend” himself.

I will never know what the Trooper would have said if he was present in court that day. Would he also be confused by the box he checked? Would he educate the court on the technical definition of Caucasian? What about me, why was my being brown and Caucasian even relevant to the fact that I exceeded the speeding limit?

Caucasian race (also Caucasoid)[1] 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.[2] Historically, the term was used for many people from these regions, without regard necessarily to skin tone.[3] (source: Wikipedia – yes, I know it’s not the definitive, scientific source of information)


Tweets by Michele Norris