And the Whiteness Award goes to…

Damon Young got hilariously irate with a Trump appointee. But he made a terrible mistake.

Anyway, during a hearing yesterday, Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s homeland security chief, claimed not to know that Norway, one of the world’s whitest countries, was in fact one of the world’s whitest countries. Let’s forget for a moment that, if you take Nielsen by her word, it means that the person in charge of keeping America safe from terrorist attacks lacks the general sense of geographic and demographic knowledge you’d find in a moderately intelligent hedgehog. I literally just Googled “children’s books about Norway” and all of them are either about snow or feature characters named “Snojakta.” She is, under oath, claiming to know less about Norwegians than a 3-year-old.

Instead, let’s focus on her name. Her name is Kirstjen Nielsen. This is, if it’s not the world’s whitest name, a name that didn’t win the world’s whitest name contest because it submitted its application too late and couldn’t enter. This name is so white that it just denied me a car loan. THIS IS THE NAME OF A GOTDAMN VIKING! THIS IS THE NAME OF SOMEONE WHOSE MIDDLE NAME IS PROBABLY BROOMHILDA!


I think he was too quick to hand out the prize for whiteness. I would like to point out that I am so white I recognize that that name is more Danish than Norwegian, that I live in Minnesota and did not grow up in Clearwater, Florida where good Vikings would melt, that I am married to a woman of Norwegian/Swedish ancestry with a silent “j” in her last name, that I literally named our daughter after a Norse goddess, that I’m of half-Scandinavian ancestry tainted with the blood of the English/Scots/Irish, who are almost as white, and that I should probably get that prize. And there is a shocking percentage of the Minnesota population who could reasonably contest me for it.

Unless the prize is also for being the dumbest white person on the planet, in which case I will gracefully concede to Ms Nielsen. She has earned it.


  1. nomdeplume says

    Somehow seems appropriate that someone in charge of “homeland” security apparently knows nothing about any of the 197 countries on the planet except the USA.

  2. says

    “Kirstjen” spelled with a “j” doesn’t sound Scandinavian at all. “Kirsten” is common enough in Norway (and Denmark) though. Nielsen also sounds distinctively Danish.

  3. unclefrogy says

    I am still amazed at how much of a bunch of “brown noser’s” and “suck a****”
    these people in this administration as well as some of the republican congress people are.
    that the guy ‘in charge” is such a childish insecure cowardly baby and has got them scrambling to lie and coverup for him lest he come after them is truly amazing. “chicken feathers all with out one gut”
    uncle frogy

  4. unclefrogy says

    has anybody noticed that when “he” is speaking lately he has his arms tightly wrapped around himself? he does not seem very relaxed in his surroundings.
    uncle frogy

  5. hemidactylus says

    To honor me mixed heritage I should be wearing a Viking helmet and kilt while eating surströmming and haggis, two of the grossest sounding foods known to humankind. And even though I suspect my dad’s side bleeds a tint of orange, I prefer the downtrodden green side.

    Powerful scene from a great movie!

    Does that make me a mutt and a SJW turncoat against part of my heritage? Don’t care.

  6. whheydt says

    The “-en” ending of the (originally) patronymic surname really gives it away as Danish.

    Two of my grandparents immigrated from Denmark. My grandfather’s name was originally Jorgen Jensen Ravn-Jorgensen. At Ellis Island (yes, *literally* Ellis Island, in 1906) he dropped the “-Jorgensen” and later changed Ravn to Rawn…because nobody could spell it or pronounce it. Oh…and my grandmother’s family name was Nielsen. She came through Ellis Island in 1907.

  7. says

    The “-sen” ending is common in both Denmark and Norway (“-son” in Sweden). It’s the surname “Nielsen” (from the given name “Niels”) that indicates Danish. The normal Norwegian spelling would be “Nilsen”.

    And yes, we’re pretty white around here. Perhaps even a shade of blue, especially this time of the year.

  8. EigenSprocketUK says

    Weird. To me, you always seemed like someone with a half-Brittanic ancestry tainted with the blood of the Scandinavians.

  9. TheGyre says

    I heartily recommend that everyone in the U.S. take a DNA test. Both y-DNA and mitochondrial. You might be amazed by what you’ll find. My sister-in-law, born in Indiana and one of the whitest persons I know, found out that she has about 1% sub-Saharan DNA as well as a good dollop of Iberian. She has absolutely no clue where these come from or how far back in time they entered her family tree. She’s pretty liberal and open minded so it didn’t upend her sense of identity. I think she actually likes the mystery of it. The seem thing happened to me. The American Indian DNA didn’t surprise me, but the Ashkenazi and Iberian did. Maybe that’s where the tales of our being Black Dutch comes from. Now my wife is another story. She’s as white as milk. It’s as though her ancestors never moved 10 miles from their ancestral village in the last millennium. She could go to the head of line for Nazi Party membership.

  10. davidnangle says

    I saw this testimony on video, and there’s never been a more apparent body language broadcast of, “Oh, this is something I should lie about to please my boss. They can’t catch me!”

  11. bodach says

    What the? “tainted with the blood of the English/Scots/Irish”
    Take that back, ye blatherskite!

  12. pyrotech says

    Really PZ, call your self a developmental biologist…. and body can tell if you white you must be English with blood tainted by scots/irish and fermented fish scandiwegians. How much whiter can one be than from the Isle of Angels…

  13. says

    Honestly one of the low-key silliest things a Right Wing shill has said since, I suppose, “oops” (ref. R.Perry, 2011 “debate”)

  14. lucifersbike says

    Norway isn’t quite all white. It has a much larger proportion of foreign-born citizens than any of the EU countries, although many of them come from, er, Denmark and Sweden. But Norway has allowed a relatively large number – considering the total population is only just over five million – of refugees from countries like Iraq and Somalia.
    This article was published in 2013 but I don’t think the situation has changed much.

  15. sagennec says

    If you measure whiteness by levels of de-pigmentation, then I guess Scandinavians can claim the prize. But if you measure it by levels of Europid DNA, then the darker Brits are “whiter” than the blonder Norwegians.

    “Interestingly, the similarity with the Asians varied between populations, being higher for Eastern Finns, Western Finns and Swedes than for the Germans and British . . . Indeed, the comparison to the Asian HapMap samples revealed interesting differences between the studied populations, with the Nordic populations and especially Eastern Finns appearing to harbour a significantly stronger Asian affinity than Central Europeans.”