I first stumbled on this quote at ThoughtCo:

he did not realize that 'white' has no more to do with a colour than 'God save the King' with a god, and that it is the height of impropriety to consider what it does connote.

— E. M. Forster (1924), A Passage to India, chapter 7.

  1. How doesn't "white" relate to skin colour? Most European Caucasians do have lighter skin.

  2. How doesn't 'God save the King' relate to a god? Doesn't it refer to the Church of England's God?

  3. What does "it" connote?

  4. Why is "the height of impropriety to consider what it does connote"?


1 Answer 1


If you read the rest of the paragraph, it's clear that Mr Fielding thinks "white" is an inaccurate description of a Caucasian's skin (it should be "pinko-grey"). The narrator is saying that being "white" is not about skin colour; the implication is that "white" represents racial superiority rather than skin tone.

The narrator sees a corollary with God Save the King, which ostensibly is a prayer for divine protection of the monarch, but in practice can be seen as a purely self-serving utterance, whether as a pledge of loyalty to the monarchy, or as a fervent wish that everything that the monarchy represents (imperial power, social stability, British hegemony) should continue. It doesn't require a belief in a god, just as being "white" doesn't require a particular skin colour.

Of course it would be improper to say these things: one shouldn't draw attention to one's (assumed) superiority, firstly because a cultured person should have better manners than that, and secondly because expressing a belief in the right to rule over the "lesser" races may not exactly be welcomed out there in the colonies.

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