Whiteness Of A Different Color

1363 Words6 Pages
Matthew Frye Jacobson’s Whiteness of a Different Color offers innovative insight into the concept of “race” and the evolution of “whiteness” throughout American history. Jacobson focuses his analysis on the instability of racial identification over time and how race has been created and perceived throughout different stages of history. He states in his introduction that “one of the tasks before the historian is to discover which racial categories are useful to whom at a given moment, and why” (p.9) and while he is successful in some respects, his analysis is somewhat incomplete in providing a full scope of the power relations that created, altered and maintained racial identities in the United States. While Jacobson offers a detailed…show more content…
Jacobson spends a great deal of time analyzing the way in which ideas about citizenship played into changing perceptions about race and whiteness at the turn of the Twentieth Century. This is expressed in the constant evaluation of a given group’s “fitness for self-government” and how this concept was used to promote inferiority among particular “races” and thus maintain traditional power relations. Jacobson states that “citizenship and whiteness were conjoined,”(p.29) and in saying so he is commenting on the very foundations of the American power structure as it took on the task of deciding who would be entitled to the rights and privileges of being American. It is to this point that further discussion of gender is necessary. If citizenship is understood as being fundamentally connected to the right to participate in democracy then it must be noted that this right was systematically denied to women as well as non-whites at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Therefore to truly benefit from the privileges of American citizenship one need not only be white but also male, a reality that is not expressed in Jacobson’s analysis. By not including a further analysis on gender, Jacobson leaves the reader with the impression that race relations operated independent of gender relations, when in fact sexuality was deeply connected to the construction of racial identities. Jacobson
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