Black Americans in the USA are commonly referred to as "African Americans", and similarly there are "Asian" and "native" Americans, and people from South America are called "Hispanics".

From my perspective (Netherlands) this would make most white Americans "European Americans", but somehow they are usually just referred to as "white (Americans)".

Wouldn't it be more fitting and consistent to also refer to these people according to their heritage, like this is done to others?

Part of my motivation for asking this question is that sometimes I get the impression that they feel like they are the native inhabitants of the USA, or that they just materialized there out of thin air.

Googling this does produce a Wikipedia page titled "European Americans", very few actual news reports or other articles in which this is mentioned, second and third results are "White Americans" and "Americans" Wikipedia pages.

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    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that white people in USA prefer these terms to call themselves: "White = 61.66%, Caucasian = 16.53%, European American = 2.35, Anglo = 0.96" (with "some other term" and "no preference" accounting for the remaining to 100%). So, as you can see, "European American" is there, but with a smaller percentage. Why is that? I believe the reasons are more related to history and sociology than current politics. – Megaptera novaeangliae Jun 3 '20 at 0:50
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    Perhaps the impetus should be taken into account as well. African American, Asian American etc., generally came to replace slurs. That gave a consistent force to make sure it became adopted, from both within those communities and outside. (not an answer because I'd want to find sources etc. first) – DariM Jun 3 '20 at 0:59
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    I am not sure whether the premise of the question is quite correct. European American is a widely used and well-recognized term, usually contrasted against Americans of other ethnic origins. Sure, these days "white" is certainly more common, but then "black" is also more common, and word pairs tend to track each other. I bet there is a disparity for the reasons mentioned in the question and others, but it's hardly an unused term. Also, for whatever reason Caucasian is or was a popular counterpart to all the other "-American" words. – Obie 2.0 Jun 3 '20 at 1:13
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    @Obie2.0 Interestingly, the meaning of Caucasian as a term in the US seems to be divergent from its actual meaning, i.e. it isn't actually used to represent Caucasian peoples, so much as a subset of fair-skinned people. – DariM Jun 3 '20 at 4:01
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    I don't see this as a political question. It is about etymology, not politics. Perhaps ask on ELU? – James K Jun 3 '20 at 6:52

Language is a social construct, not a logical one. The descendants of British immigrants defined themselves as the majority population which needed no qualifier. Non-British European immigrants became Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans, and so on. Using European-American as a catch-all label for them would have lumped the WASPs with the Hyphen-Americans, so it wasn't done.

Note that Irish-American was used long before African-Americans got any name other than what is now considered a racist epithets. At the time this developed, Native Americans were called Indians, so there was no need to highlight the immigrant status of WASPs.

It would be an act of political advocacy to define all European-descended immigrants as one social/political group, the European-Americans.

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    Note also that African American is often used by descendants of enslaved people who can't know which nation their ancestors came from. More recent immigrants often use terms like Nigerian-American, similar to how white Americans sometimes use terms like German-American. – user141592 Jun 3 '20 at 5:59
  • Note also that with Amy Cooper the term "African American" might have attained a status as racial epithet (as she used is specifically to target somebody for persecution). – Eike Pierstorff Jun 3 '20 at 9:05
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    @EikePierstorff : in the current political climate it changes almost every decade, what was widely accepted a decade or two ago will now be regarded as "horribly racist", because people saying so might want to look virtuous. Most of the new names come from whites, not from the blacks themselves who often use the old names among themselves. – vsz Jun 3 '20 at 10:09
  • Irish-Americans had their share of racist epithets before that term came into use as well. As did Italian-Americans, Asian-Americans etc. Every group gets "othered" for a while before such terms become unacceptable. Irish and Italians had the advantage in that they're harder to visually distinguish from others of European descent, especially after generations of interbreeding. Unfortunately, there will always be a subset of people who disparage those who don't look like them. – Darrel Hoffman Jun 3 '20 at 13:41
  • @o.m. Thank you for answering, I have to admit I did not do any real research before posting the question, even on SE itself, and requested it to be deleted myself. I guess I should have specified I wondered why the term is rarely (or never) used in (reporting on) US politics, and I should have realised that the British and Irish usually don't consider themselves to be "Europeans", and that even if they did Americans would't identify themselves as the people they rebelled against to gain independance, and many other things I hope to learn before I post another question. – Reznik Jun 3 '20 at 20:55

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