Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs

Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0465070744

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

At the vanguard of the study of race and labor in American history, David R. Roediger is the author of the now-classic The Wages of Whiteness, a study of racism in the development of a white working class in nineteenth-century America. In Working Toward Whiteness, he continues that history into the twentieth century. He recounts how American ethnic groups considered white today-including Jewish-, Italian-, and Polish-Americans-once occupied a confused racial status in their new country. They eventually became part of white America thanks to the nascent labor movement, New Deal reforms, and a rise in home-buying. From ethnic slurs to racially restrictive covenants--the racist real estate agreements that ensured all-white neighborhoods--Roediger explores the murky realities of race in twentieth-century America. A masterful history by an award-winning writer, Working Toward Whiteness charts the strange transformation of these new immigrants into the "white ethnics" of America today.











“Nordic American,” “northern European,” or “Anglo-Saxon” workers. In one arresting case Jews were prohibited from entering a wartime workplace in deference to the sensibilities of German American workers.18 Unions continued to bar noncitizens from membership, with one-third of all U.S. trade unionists at the start of the 1930s belonging to labor organizations holding such a policy. Knowing that employers and unions would be tempted to use appearance, names, language, and accent to dismiss workers

by the “raceless” logic of the market in an unequal society, the FHA constructed powerful preferential options for whites. Its guidelines and redlines insistently linked race and class, with the FHA underwriting manuals branding “pigpens and unwelcome races . . . as equally objectionable” and enjoining planners and lenders to engineer occupancy “by the same social and racial classes.”60 With new developments literally featuring signs of FHA approval as assets, the Roosevelt and Truman

White Noise, 76-77, 128-136, 164; Michael Rogin, Ronald Reagan: The Movie and Other Essays in Political Demonology (Berkeley, 1987), 190-235; Bernardi, “Voices of Whiteness,” 103-128; Hernan Vera and Andrew Gordon, “Sincere Fictions of the White Self in the American Cinema,” in Bernardi, Classic Hollywood, Classic Whiteness, 266-171; Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History (New York, 1973), 4, 7, 16; Ross, Working-Class Hollywood, 38-39, 47-51; Dennis

to which European groups were most desirable and their relative levels of assimilation were incompatible with such organizing campaigns. Indeed in the frenzy of restriction organizing, neighborhoods with 45-60 percent “foreign stock” residents came to be called “American” districts, even “Yankeelands.” By 1927, when MacChesney wrote his Principles of Real Estate Law and produced a standard form for realtors to use, the only “undesirable” population specified was “the negro.” The following year

pulled white urban unemployment rates below crisis levels but left African American communities mired in the Depression.11 Thus the slight statistical overrepresentation of African Americans in WPA jobs reflected not only progress but also the reality that the New Deal state did not contest discriminatory hiring and layoff policies. Moreover, “New (White) Deal” policies kept people of color from the forms of work relief best compensated and most connected to securing steady employment.

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