Whiteness as a Field of Study Essay

Whiteness as a Field of Study Essay

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Captain Ahab’s eulogy of whiteness shows that the word “white” implies more than a chromatic description. “White” is an untenable perfection that has haunted the American psyche since colonial times. The idea of “white spiritual superiority” can only be enforced by a terrorist politico-legal system, based on brutalizing the non-whites and creating a national fantasy. A national fantasy defined by Lauren Berlant as the means “to designate how national culture becomes local through the images, narratives, monuments, and sites that circulate through personal/collective consciousness.” As Captain Ahab disregards all his craft’s safety rules on his mad search of the white whale, the American politico-legal system disregarded its basic principles, such as the ones reflected in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, in the mad search for the national fantasy of a “White Republic.”
David R. Roediger argues that the genesis of this national fantasy was the necessity to separate the slave-owners from their slaves, making slavery more palatable to the freedom loving Americans. Despite the symbolical importance of racial definitions the concept of whiteness was very unclear during the colonial and early republican times. That changed radically in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when immigration forced the courts to define what constituted the white race. The American naturalization laws in 1790 placed no limits to immigration, but it made it a requirement that only “free white persons” of “good moral character” with two year residency can become citizens, this racial requirement lasted until 1952.

In the American legal history whiteness goes together with citizenship, since Congress Clearly stated in th...

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.... Unwelcome Strangers: American Identity and the Turn Against Immigration. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1998.
Roediger, David R.. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class . London: Verso, 1991.
___. Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History. London: Verso, 1994.
___. Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: the Strange Journey From Ellis Island to the Suburbs. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
Saxton, Alexander. The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-century America. New York: Verso, 2003.
Sugrue, Thomas J.. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Ware, Vron. Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History. London: Verso, 1991.

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