I started using the phrase in 1987 or so, when I was a reporter in the Wall Street Journal’s New York Bureau. It was near the start of the new conversation on the meaning of race in America, one that soon introduced a lot of new terminology applying to nonwhites — diversity, multicultural, African-American, Kwanzaa, people of color, black community, etc.
But we never did get any new ways to talk about the institution I started calling 'white folks'
At college in the early '70s, 'the community' meant the black ghetto just a few blocks northwest of the Yale campus. We black students weren’t part of the community (unless we took the bold step of moving there). We were its guilty but earnest and concerned cousins. To be closer to the cause of 'the community' we felt compelled to disavow relationship with Caucasian classmates. Except, of course, the ones who were even more bent on expunging their 'whiteness' than we were. Those were the whiteboys and whitegirls we got high with.
Only we didn't call them that to their faces, usually. Twenty-five years later I was stunned to see them referring to each other that way.