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

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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.
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About the author

David R. Roediger teaches on the history of race and class in the United States at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is the Babcock Chair of History and of African American Studies. He lives in Champaign, Illinois.
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Publisher
Basic Books
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Published on
Aug 8, 2006
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780786722105
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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David R. Roediger
David R. Roediger's powerful book argues that in its political workings, its distribution of advantages, and its unspoken assumptions, the United States is a "still white" nation. Race is decidedly not over. The critical portraits of contemporary icons that lead off the book--Rush Limbaugh, Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson, and Rudolph Giuliani--insist that continuities in white power and white identity are best understood by placing the recent past in historical context. Roediger illuminates that history in an incisive critique of the current scholarship on whiteness and an account of race-transcending radicalism exemplified by vanguards such as W.E.B. Du Bois and John Brown. He shows that, for all of its staying power, white supremacy in the United States has always been a pursuit rather than a completed project, that divisions among whites have mattered greatly, and that "nonwhite" alternatives have profoundly challenged the status quo.

Colored White reasons that, because race is a matter of culture and politics, racial oppression will not be solved by intermarriage or demographic shifts, but rather by political struggles that transform the meaning of race--especially its links to social and economic inequality. This landmark work considers the ways that changes in immigration patterns, the labor force, popular culture, and social movements make it possible--though far from inevitable--that the United States might overcome white supremacy in the twenty-first century. Roediger's clear, lively prose and his extraordinary command of the literature make this one of the most original and generative contributions to the study of race and ethnicity in the United States in many decades.
Karen Brodkin
The fashion identities in the context of a wider conversation about American nationhood, to whom it belongs and what belonging means. Race and ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality are all staple ingredients in this conversation. They are salient aspects of social being from which economic practices, political policies, and popular discourses create "Americans." Because all of these facets of social being have such significant meaning on a national scale, they also have major consequences for both individuals and groups in terms of their success and well-being, as well as how they perceive themselves socially and politically.

The history of Jews in the United States is one of racial change that provides useful insights on race in America. Prevailing classifications have sometimes assigned Jews to the white race and at other times have created an off-white racial designation for them. Those changes in racial assignment have shaped the ways American Jews of different eras have constructed their ethnoracial identities. Brodkin illustrates these changes through an analysis of her own family's multi-generational experience. She shows how Jews experience a kind of double vision that comes from racial middleness: on the one hand, marginality with regard to whiteness; on the other, whiteness and belonging with regard to blackness.

Class and gender are key elements of race-making in American history. Brodkin suggests that this country's racial assignment of individuals and groupsconstitutes an institutionalized system of occupational and residential segregation, is a key element in misguided public policy, and serves as a pernicious foundational principle in the construction of nationhood. Alternatives available to non-white and alien "others" have been either to whiten or to be consigned to an inferior underclass unworthy of full citizenship. The American ethnoracial map-who is assigned to each of these poles-is continually changing, although the binary of black and white is not. As a result, the structure within which Americans form their ethnoracial, gender, and class identities is distressingly stable. Brodkin questions the means by which Americans construct their political identities and what is required to weaken the hold of this governing myth.

Stephen Middleton
This volume collects interdisciplinary essays that examine the crucial intersection between whiteness as a privileged racial category and the various material practices (social, cultural, political, and economic) that undergird white ideological influence in America. In truth, the need to examine whiteness as a problem has rarely been grasped outside academic circles. The ubiquity of whiteness--its pervasive quality as an ideal that is at once omnipresent and invisible--makes it the very epitome of the mainstream in America. And yet the undeniable relationship between whiteness and inequality in this country necessitates a thorough interrogation of its formation, its representation, and its reproduction. Essays here seek to do just that work. Editors and contributors interrogate whiteness as a social construct, revealing the underpinnings of narratives that foster white skin as an ideal of beauty, intelligence, and power.

Contributors examine whiteness from several disciplinary perspectives, including history, communication, law, sociology, and literature. Its breadth and depth makes The Construction of Whiteness a refined introduction to the critical study of race for a new generation of scholars, undergraduates, and graduate students. Moreover, the interdisciplinary approach of the collection will appeal to scholars in African and African American studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, legal studies, and more. This collection delivers an important contribution to the field of whiteness studies in its multifaceted impact on American history and culture.

David R. Roediger
David R. Roediger's powerful book argues that in its political workings, its distribution of advantages, and its unspoken assumptions, the United States is a "still white" nation. Race is decidedly not over. The critical portraits of contemporary icons that lead off the book--Rush Limbaugh, Bill Clinton, O.J. Simpson, and Rudolph Giuliani--insist that continuities in white power and white identity are best understood by placing the recent past in historical context. Roediger illuminates that history in an incisive critique of the current scholarship on whiteness and an account of race-transcending radicalism exemplified by vanguards such as W.E.B. Du Bois and John Brown. He shows that, for all of its staying power, white supremacy in the United States has always been a pursuit rather than a completed project, that divisions among whites have mattered greatly, and that "nonwhite" alternatives have profoundly challenged the status quo.

Colored White reasons that, because race is a matter of culture and politics, racial oppression will not be solved by intermarriage or demographic shifts, but rather by political struggles that transform the meaning of race--especially its links to social and economic inequality. This landmark work considers the ways that changes in immigration patterns, the labor force, popular culture, and social movements make it possible--though far from inevitable--that the United States might overcome white supremacy in the twenty-first century. Roediger's clear, lively prose and his extraordinary command of the literature make this one of the most original and generative contributions to the study of race and ethnicity in the United States in many decades.
David R. Roediger
In 1907, pioneering labor historian and economist John Commons argued that U.S. management had shown just one "symptom of originality," namely "playing one race against the other." In this eye-opening book, David Roediger and Elizabeth Esch offer a radically new way of understanding the history of management in the United States, placing race, migration, and empire at the center of what has sometimes been narrowly seen as a search for efficiency and economy. Ranging from the antebellum period to the coming of the Great Depression, the book examines the extensive literature slave masters produced on how to manage and "develop" slaves; explores what was perhaps the greatest managerial feat in U.S. history, the building of the transcontinental railroad, which pitted Chinese and Irish work gangs against each other; and concludes by looking at how these strategies survive today in the management of hard, low-paying, dangerous jobs in agriculture, military support, and meatpacking. Roediger and Esch convey what slaves, immigrants, and all working people were up against as the objects of managerial control. Managers explicitly ranked racial groups, both in terms of which labor they were best suited for and their relative value compared to others. The authors show how whites relied on such alleged racial knowledge to manage and believed that the "lesser races" could only benefit from their tutelage. These views wove together managerial strategies and white supremacy not only ideologically but practically, every day at workplaces. Even in factories governed by scientific management, the impulse to play races against each other, and to slot workers into jobs categorized by race, constituted powerful management tools used to enforce discipline, lower wages, keep workers on dangerous jobs, and undermine solidarity. Painstakingly researched and brilliantly argued, The Production of Difference will revolutionize the history of labor race in the United States.
David R. Roediger
In 1907, pioneering labor historian and economist John Commons argued that U.S. management had shown just one "symptom of originality," namely "playing one race against the other." In this eye-opening book, David Roediger and Elizabeth Esch offer a radically new way of understanding the history of management in the United States, placing race, migration, and empire at the center of what has sometimes been narrowly seen as a search for efficiency and economy. Ranging from the antebellum period to the coming of the Great Depression, the book examines the extensive literature slave masters produced on how to manage and "develop" slaves; explores what was perhaps the greatest managerial feat in U.S. history, the building of the transcontinental railroad, which pitted Chinese and Irish work gangs against each other; and concludes by looking at how these strategies survive today in the management of hard, low-paying, dangerous jobs in agriculture, military support, and meatpacking. Roediger and Esch convey what slaves, immigrants, and all working people were up against as the objects of managerial control. Managers explicitly ranked racial groups, both in terms of which labor they were best suited for and their relative value compared to others. The authors show how whites relied on such alleged racial knowledge to manage and believed that the "lesser races" could only benefit from their tutelage. These views wove together managerial strategies and white supremacy not only ideologically but practically, every day at workplaces. Even in factories governed by scientific management, the impulse to play races against each other, and to slot workers into jobs categorized by race, constituted powerful management tools used to enforce discipline, lower wages, keep workers on dangerous jobs, and undermine solidarity. Painstakingly researched and brilliantly argued, The Production of Difference will revolutionize the history of labor race in the United States.
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