Postcolonial Historian Matthew Frye Jacobson In Whiteness

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Postcolonial historian Matthew Frye Jacobson in Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race traces the “racial odyssey” of immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe who were at first regarded as racial other, and then relegated to the status between black and white, and finally inclusive as Caucasian white. These in-between groups were classified as “Hebrews,” “Celts,” “Mediterraneans,” “Iberics,” “Slavs,” “Teutons,” and the like in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Jacobson analyses the contest over the definition, boundaries, internal hierarchies, and identities of inclusion into the white races, and the eventual Caucasian by the mid twentieth century. Caucasian identity united all European origin…show more content…
7). During this period, the population of European origin was homogeneous, while the population of color combination was starkest. Jacobson explains that the 1790 law codified the assumptions of white privilege dating from the seventeenth century colonial charters, statutory law, and the Articles of Confederation. The idea of citizenship was weaved with whiteness and maleness before the Revolution, because citizen was someone who could help put down a slave rebellion or participate in Indian wars (p. 25). The only chattel slaves were of African descent, the only savages were the indigenous peoples, and most of the rest were British descended Christians. The 1790 law set a mandating precedent that even the “uncivilized” immigrants from Europe could automatically be regarded as whites, in contrast to the Indians and black slaves.
Jacobson claims that the second phase of American nativism history from the 1840s to 1924 is mainly the history of a fundamental revision of whiteness (p. 68). The unitary concept of whiteness was shattered by the arrival of the “Celts” during the mid-nineteenth century, and of “Hebrews,” “Italians,” “Slavs,” and others at the end of the century. Large numbers of Catholic German and Irish famine peasants raised the questions about white entitlement and the capacities for republican citizenship of newly immigrants who were attaining citizenship as white people. To maintain the privilege of whiteness, Anglo
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