Front cover image for The history of White people

The history of White people

The author presents a study of racial classification, examining the slave trade and the nation-building efforts which dominated the United States in the 18th century, when thinkers led by Ralph Waldo Emerson strove to explain the rapid progress of America within the context of white superiority. Ever since the Enlightenment, race theory and its inevitable partner, racism, have followed a crooked road, constructed by dominant peoples to justify their domination of others. The author examines more than two thousand years of Western civilization, tracing not only the invention of the idea of race but also the frequent worship of 'whiteness' for economic, social, scientific, and political ends. In Greek and Roman antiquity, where the concept of race did not exist, only geography and the opportunity to conquer led some to enslave others. Not until the eighteenth century did an obsession with whiteness flourish, with the German invention of the notion of Caucasian beauty. There followed an explosion of theories of race, now focusing on racial temperament as well as skin color, and Anglo-Saxons were labeled by some as the only true Americans. It was an ideal that excluded not only blacks but also all ethnic groups not of Protestant, northern European background. The Irish and Native Americans were out and, later, so were the Chinese, Jews, Italians, Slavs, and Greeks -- all deemed racially alien. Did immigration threaten the very existence of America? Americans were assumed to be white, but who among poor immigrants could become truly American? A tortured and convoluted series of scientific explorations developed - theories intended to keep Anglo-Saxons at the top: the ever-popular measurement of skulls, the powerful eugenics movement, and highly biased intelligence tests - all designed to keep working people down and out.--adapted from publisher description
Print Book, English, ©2010
W.W. Norton, New York, ©2010