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

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How did immigrants to the United States come to see themselves as white?
David R. Roediger has been in the vanguard of the study of race and labor in American history for decades. He first came to prominence as the author of The Wages of Whiteness, a classic study of racism in the development of a white working class in nineteenth-century America. In Working Toward Whiteness, Roediger continues that history into the twentieth century. He recounts how ethnic groups considered white today-including Jewish-, Italian-, and Polish-Americans-were once viewed as undesirables by the WASP establishment in the United States. They eventually became part of white America, through the nascent labor movement, New Deal reforms, and a rise in home-buying. Once assimilated as fully white, many of them adopted the racism of those whites who formerly looked down on them as inferior. From ethnic slurs to racially restrictive covenants-the real estate agreements that ensured all-white neighborhoods-Roediger explores the mechanisms by which immigrants came to enjoy the privileges of being white in America.
A disturbing, necessary, masterful history, Working Toward Whiteness uses the past to illuminate the present. In an Introduction to the 2018 edition, Roediger considers the resonance of the book in the age of Trump, showing how Working Toward Whiteness remains as relevant as ever even though most migrants today are not from Europe.
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About the author

David R. Roediger is the Foundation Professor of American Studies at University of Kansas. The author of The Wages of Whiteness, among other books, he lives in Lawrence, KS.
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Additional Information

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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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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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.
The Liberation to the African Mind: The Key to Black Salvation is a strong book written to the millions of African Americans who have had their history distorted by the Church and public schools. Because of these distortions Black people are estranged and alienated from their culture and the wisdom of their ancestors. The book challenges African Americans to begin to think for themselves especially in the realm of religion.

It is a prophetic book with a revolutionary perspective. It is prophetic in that it points to the direction the Black Church must take to effectively address the spiritual needs of the Black community. It is revolutionary because it challenges the Church and believers to establish a new paradigm, an African Spiritual frame of reference. The Black Church must transform itself and take on a new view of the scriptures, doctrines and dogmas of Christendom.

This book documents the fact that what Blacks have been given as Christianity is in reality stolen African mythology, cosmology and history that has been corrupted by Roman and Greek priest, philosophers and emperors. It is one of the most powerful challenges to Orthodox Christianity to date. The Truth will liberate you from their strong delusions.

While there is indeed some positive and beneficial aspects to Church membership it is time for the Black Church to make its exodus from the Western religious way of faith in God to the African spiritual way of knowledge of God.

Black Pastors and religious leaders must begin to teach that which will bring about the manifestation of the fullness of Christ. This is the charge given to all church leadership by the Bible they teach from. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to be a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13. There are far too many Babes in Christ in the Church. It is not the fault of the believers but a reflection of corrupted doctrines and false dogmas. In addition the unity of the Black Church must become a priority. Not one church or believer can say they have no need of the rest of the Body of Christ in good conscience. Yet unity in the Black Church is more a rhetorical than an actual reality. Imagine what could be done if the wealth of the Church was combined to establish a super fund. Unity must be at the top of the agenda for the Black Church and for the Black community.

Lastly, though we have the proverbial church on every corner there is an undeniable spiritual crisis in the Black community. The Liberation of the African Mind: The Key to Black Salvation makes the Spiritual Resurrection of the Black man a valid goal and priority. It will challenge many long held beliefs and dogmas, however Christendom must be examined and that which is not of God must be abandoned. Not since Marcus Garvey, Fredrick Douglas and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad have Blacks questioned the validity or efficacy of Christianity. Mr. Muhammad made an attempt to make Blacks aware that Christianity was the religion of the people who had enslaved them. Every race worships God in a way that is peculiar to their culture. Since the days of captivity Blacks have worshiped the god of their conquerors and oppressors. Worshipping a White man as God is not only a form of idolatry but extremely detrimental to the Black Psyche.

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.
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.

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.
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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