Goodman, et al. Chapter 5 Histories of Race, Difference and Racism

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Goodman, et al. Chapter 5

Histories of Race, Difference and Racism

Inventing Whiteness 1

  • In sociolinguistics (study of how we use language in social settings) they use a term called “unmarked”.

  • The idea is that the unmarked term is that against which all others are compared.

  • For instance, gender: “actor” is unmarked, but “actress” is marked.

  • “White” is unmarked, all other groups are marked.

  • Your book points out that the history of America is incomplete without an understanding of how “white folks came to be”.

  • In 1691, we see the first use of the term “white” in a colonial Virginian stature.

  • The stature dealt, among other things, with punishments for interracial marriage and sexual encounters.

  • It was an attempt to define the boundaries of whiteness.

  • The 1691 version of white differs from that of today.

  • For instance, Germans and Irish were not considered as white.

  • Also, whites were expected to be Protestant landowners.

  • The label of white continued to change but centered on effects to keep the laboring-class disenfranchised and allowed for the legalization of racialized slavery in the 17th and 18th centuries.

  • The biggest change that resulted from the fear of the working classes and non-whites was that the elites gave all European men full access to political or legal whiteness.

  • During the first half of the 19th century landownership restrictions were removed.

Inventing Whiteness 2

  • The result of these changes was to ‘divide and conquer’; by separating the working-class whites from other underprivileged groups this created a perception of ‘personal whiteness’.

  • This identity came to be ‘owned’ by the lower classes.

  • It meant that the elite could continue to dominate society and created another tier in the social class system. The working whites helped to insulate the elites.

  • This first wave of whiteness later expanded again in the late-1800s to include the Irish, the Germans, and other “Nordics” as “true Americans”.

  • “Old immigrants” versus“ new immigrants”

  • As mentioned earlier in this lecture immigration restriction laws were justified by the pseudoscience, eugenics.

  • Even as the idea of ‘whiteness’ expanded, not all groups gained access to the economic and political power this implied.

  • At the turn of the 20th century, for instance, the Irish remained on the outside.

  • This, in part, was due to the construct called the “Papal Scare”.

  • In 1844, a series of uprising called the “Philadelphia Nativist Riots” targeted Catholics.

  • By 1850 the nativism movement had prompted the introduction of the “No-Nothing Party” which feared a Papal takeover and tried to squash both Catholics and immigrants.

  • By the mid-20th century “whiteness” expanded again to include these groups.

  • In part this expansion was the result of federal housing policies that created the white suburban expansion (called ‘white flight’). This left non-whites in the poorer urban environments.

  • Even if not totally seen as Anglo-Americans they were seen as part of the pan-European ancestry that contrasted with those seen as “ethnics” (Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, and Native peoples).

Inventing Whiteness 3

  • Some of the key entries in the timeline

  • Naturalization Act (1790)

  • First of all American naturalization laws to be enacted.

  • Required the applicant to be white, be of “good character” and have lived in the country at least 2 years.

  • By 1794 the length of residency had increased to 14 years.

  • The Page Act of 1875 was the first law that restricted immigration to those who are “desirables”; it specifically targeted Asian immigrants.

  • Irish immigration in the mid-1850s has had a significant impact on American society.

  • Most Americans think that the primary reason for Irish immigration was the potato famines, and they surely sparked much of the movement (proximate cause).

  • Even so, the underlying reason (ultimate cause) of the Irish economic condition was the British landownership policies.

  • The British landowner took over land for cattle ranching and so no land for the peasants to farm.

  • Initially, the potato allowed more people to subsist on smaller plots of land

  • All this prompted the British to divide land even more into ever smaller plots.

  • Of course all this, combined with the potato famines, plummeted the Irish populations and prompted mass migrations

  • The Klu Klux Klan was formed in 1868; it was not the only such organization (he White Brotherhood, the Men of Justice, the Constitutional Union Guards and the Knights of the White Camelia).

  • Many of the first members were formerly part of the Confederate army.

  • Both African Americans and those who supported them were targets.

  • Congress responded with the Klu Klux Klan Act of 1871 which severely curtailed their activities.

  • After WWI the KKK resurged.

Inventing Whiteness 4

  • American Indian boarding schools (1879)

  • By 1879 there were two competing white American views concerning the “Indian problem” (the idea that Indians were in the way of the more advanced Euroamerican).

  • One solution that was often employed was genocide (ethnic cleansing) and is well represented by this quote, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” by General Sheridan of Civil War fame.

  • More well-meaning whites took the stance of ethnocide (kill the culture) and are represented by this quote by Capt. Richard C. Pratt (founder of the first American boarding school at Carlisle, PA), “Kill the Indian, save the man”.

  • The idea was to take the most vulnerable (children) and acculturate (forced cultural change, also called assimilation) them into white ways to avoid having their own people enculturate (teach one’s own culture) them into their “primitive” Indian ways.

  • The stories of emotional, physical and sexual abuse are widespread. Some children ran away, others died during hunger strikes.

  • At its height as many as 100 such schools were active. This practice was not limited to the U.S. It was practiced in Canada, Australia, and South Africa, for instance.

  • The impact remains today..

  • Here is a post of a PSB documentary called “In the white man’s image”.

  • I have highlighted only a few of the timeline entries; each in and of itself deserves pages of lecture notes.

Inventing Whiteness 5

  • Early American white people observed (Nell Irvin Painter)

  • In 1790, among the interesting facts of the first US. Census: 1) non-free whites were not counted; white and free were not synonymous.

  • The early censuses were for the purpose of determining each state’s militia obligation.

  • White men and women were counted as full persons, all others were counted at 3/5th a person for slaves and indentured servants.

  • New categories were added to the census: 1800 (Indians), 1820 (“coloreds”), 1870 (Chinese).

  • “A white man’s world”

  • Eventually, the label “free white males” became unnecessary as they gained freedom and a new discussion was introduced: universal suffrage (economics were replaced by whiteness and maleness) as many previously disenfranchised poor white men and some while immigrant men gained the vote.

  • The pairing of “American” with “white” is traced to a Frenchman named Crèvecoeur who saw them as “new men” throwing off the yoke of Europe.

  • Yet he was appalled by the treatment of American slaves.

  • He saw America as split both by race and by class.

  • Thomas Jefferson did not see the class/race dynamic but he was concerned about slavery, he felt it harmed whites.

  • Another area in which there was disagreement between these two men was concerning who was white.

  • Crèvecoeur saw German immigrants as important to American success and as white.

  • Jefferson was an advocate of the Anglo-Saxon heritage view and saw his Saxon heritage as justification for his independence from Europe and did not see Germans in this light.

Inventing Whiteness 6

  • “Caucasian” (Carol C. Mukhopadhyay)

  • Mukhopadhyay takes an ethnolinguistics approach to this term.

  • Ethnolinguistics suggests that that the way we see the world is influenced by the words we choose.

  • Remember the earlier discussion of marked/marked? The concepts of sociolinguistics (language in social settings) overlaps with ethnolinguistics (how use of different languages imply different ways of thinking).

  • She objects to the term Caucasian is it evokes racial science and also takes to who has culture and ethnicity.

  • Caucasians and 18th-20th century racial science

  • She remains us of the early discussion of how Blumenbach created racial groups based on skull shapes.

  • By the 1920s, the eugenicists had further split Caucasian label into “subraces”: Nordic, Alpine, Mediterranean, and Jews.

  • After the WWII the term Aryan was replaced with the seemingly neutral “Caucasian” and was seen as the same as “white” and European-Americans.

  • The names for other “macro-racial” groups also shifted to geographic, cultural political and linguistic labels (i.e.; African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and so forth) but Caucasian persists.

  • This author counted 56,000 uses of the term in scientific articles (mostly dating to 2000-2010).

  • It is used on her own campus by her colleagues.

Inventing Whiteness 7

  • “Caucasian” (Carol C. Mukhopadhyay) (continued)

  • An empty category

  • This author reminds us that real Caucasians exist: they live in the Caucasus, but even they represent a myriad of language and culture groups (see the map at the bottom of this website link).

  • But, in the United States she asks us what meaning this label evokes? It is not a language, there is no U.S. Caucasian music or dancing, and so forth.

  • She goes on to remind us that:

  • There is ALSO no single identity for the other macro-racial groups (i.e.; African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and so forth) either.

  • The diversity represented by each of these macro-racial groups is masked by the labels.

  • On the U.S. census ONLY the category “white” is not linked to a geographic-cultural-political reference. This implies that whites are a homogenous, stable, fixed and biologically distinct entity.

  • “Real” versus hyphenated Americans

  • The use of Caucasian implies a special relationship for this group in America. All other Americans have to add an additional modifier (African, Asian and so forth) to American.

  • Also perpetuates the equating of Caucasian those of European descent (American food versus ethnic food).

  • This one always bugged me. All food is ethnic!

  • But when I went to find a grocery store example on the Internet it did not come up!

  • Who has “ethnicity”, “culture”, and an “ethnic identity”?

  • Caucasian label erases ethnicity, ancestry and cultural traditions.

  • Campuses have many ethno-cultural clubs and events, but not for European Americans.

  • European American is a more precise term (even better German American, etc.) than white or Caucasian.

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