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Whites is a term developed in the eighteenth century to describe Caucasian people as an ethnic descent, especially those with fair skin. It is often used in contrast with other "racial" color terms, such as black or yellow.

The definition of "white" has changed over time. For example, Ashkenazi Jews were often considered separate from the "white race" in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and are now generally considered white following the defeat of Nazi Germany. Similarly, in Haiti light-skinned people of mixed African and European descent are considered white; in the United States, those same people are considered black.

Also, the popular definition of "white" in the United States often excludes all Hispanic peoples, even peoples of European Spanish descent. Many people view Muslim Turks and Arabs as non-white as well, even though many of these people are genetically or physically indistinguishable from "white" southern Europeans. Being "white" often is tied more to social or political factors than genotype or phenotype.

Countries with white majorities include most the of the nations of Europe, western Asia as well as countries colonized by Europeans in the 1400s-1700s such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand. In these nations, the relatively small indigenous populations were overwhelmed by white colonists from a European "mother country".

Significant minorities of whites live in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and in the various Latin American and Caribbean countries. Many of these nations have experienced considerable political conflict between the white minority (descended from settlers from the former colonial power) and a non-European majority, heightening the sense of "white" racial identity.

As is the case with many racial groups, throughout history some whites have seen themselves as superior to members of other groups. This has been a factor in issues related to imperialism, slavery and colonization, the latter of which sometimes was justified by the notion of the white man's burden.

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