How White People Became White
Paula S. Rothenberg
William Paterson University of New Jersey
Abstract Biologically speaking, it’s just as possible for a given white person in Florida to have genetics similar to his neighbor down the street as it would be for the same white person to have genetics similar to a black person in Nigeria. We could just as easily disregard skin color and pay attention to hair and/or eye color. Sociologists make this claim because they argue that the definition of what constitutes a race is something that is arbitrarily decided by society. Additionally, what it means to classify yourself or someone else as a particular race carries social meaning. Sociologist claims that race as a biological concept …show more content…
Creating a separate ethnic category within the racial category of White seemed to solve the problem of how to count Hispanics without racializing them as non-Whites, as it had done in 1930 (Neil Foley). To identify oneself today as a “Hispanic” is partially to acknowledge one’s ethnic heritage without surrendering one’s whiteness—whiteness with a twist of salsa, enough to make one ethnically flavorful and culturally exotic without, however, compromising one’s racial privilege as a White person. The majority of Mexicans in the United States were therefore recognized by the census, if not the courts, as non-Whites. Although having their whiteness restored did not lessen discrimination, the Mexican government and Mexican Americans fully understood the implications of being officially or legally recognized as a non-White group (Foley). Segregation statues consistently defined all those without African ancestry as “whites.” Chinese and Mexicans in Texas were thus White under state laws governing the segregation of the races (Foley).
After World War II, a French reporter was asked, “If there are any Negro problems?” The author replied, “There isn’t any Negro problem; there is only a white problem.” By inverting the reporter’s question,