Synopses of Other Important Works
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Synopses of Other Important Works Inventing Whiteness: Them and Us, Cowboys and IndiansFurther Notes on the Role of Oppositionality The Indian and Irish Analogy: Theodore Allen In the introduction to his classic work The Invention of the White Race, Theodore Allen draws attention to the insights Irish history affords into American patterns of supremacy and racial oppression. The abuse and mean treatment afforded early Irish immigrants "present[ ] a case of racial oppression without reference to alleged skin color or .. phenotype." It illustrates that racial oppression introduced a ruling-class policy even where it was not originally intended. The Irish case also shows how propertyless classes can be recruited first into an "intermediate stratum," and later into a system that embraces racial oppression and white supremacy. Allen also points out that a hallmark of racial oppression is the deliberate destruction of tribal affinities, customs, and bonds of the group in question; he shows how this happened not only with the Irish and African-Americans but with American Indians. Native American tribal relations and rights were assaulted and destroyed, their system of tribal ownership of land ignored. Like blacks, and to some extent the Irish, they were treated as an "undifferentiated mass," a race utterly unlike whites and ripe for exploitation. The Black Shadow-Figure: George Fredrickson In a series of books including The Arrogance of Race: Historical Perspectives on Slavery, Racism, and Social Inequity and The Black Image in the White Mind, Professor George M. Fredrickson of Stanford University describes the process by which white authors, songwriters, and other cultural purveyors coined stereotypes of blacks, both during and after slavery. Some of the stereotypes included docility-the "Sambo," for example , was happy and joviaL satisfied with his lot in life. At other times, society needed a different image-the Negro as brute or oversexed rapacious beast. The various media obligingly disseminated this second image to justify a different set of social needs-outright repression. Similar processes happened with Native Americans and with Mexicans. These images are functionaL created by the dominant society to justify policies exploiting the subjugated group. Whites as Enslaved? Leon Higginbotham In his foundational work In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., discusses the role of race in colonial times. In one section (p. 375 et seq.), Judge Higginbotham demonstrates that, although actual Copyrighted Material Synopses of Other Important Works 191 enslavement of whites was never legal in the colonies, Revolutionary leaders constantly described their plight at the hands of the British as being such. Quoting the diatribe of Governor Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island against the Sugar Act of 1765, Higginbotham notes that the governor-without a trace of irony-asserted: "Liberty is the greatest blessing that men enjoy, and slavery the heaviest curse.. "John Adams of Massachusetts concurred: "[W]e are the most abject sort of slaves, to the worst sort of masters!" (p. 375). In a strange juxtaposition, the colonials saw themselves as defined, oppositionally, from their British overlords, to whom they were virtual slaves because of their economic dependence-and of course from African slaves, whose genuinely debased condition meant that the colonials were justified in revolting, lest they suffer something similar! White Working-Class People and Immigrants: David Roediger In his acclaimed book Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, Professor David R. Roediger of the University of Minnesota analyzes where white, working-class immigrants fit into the picture. Like that of the other authors summarized in this note, Roediger's thesis is subtle and not easily paraphrased. But it includes the idea that society (and the courts) constructed whiteness (and other races, as well) with an eye to class origins and also to what was deemed "common knowledge." In a treatment of "Not-YetWhite Ethnics" (p. 184 et seq.), Roediger amplifies the notion of in-betweenness that he treats elsewhere in this volume. He observes that "immigrants could be Irish, Italian, Hungarian and Jewish, for example, without being white. Many groups now commonly termed part of the 'white' or 'white ethnic' population were in fact historically regarded as nonwhite, or of debatable racial heritage, by the host American citizenry." Professor Roediger goes on to note that around 1850 "the racial status of Catholic Irish newcomers became the object of fierce, extended debate. The 'simian' and 'savage' Irish only gradually fought, worked and voted their ways into the white race. Well into the twentieth century , blacks were counted as 'smoked Irishmen' in racist and anti-Irish U...


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