National Identity and “Whiteness”

In the readings for this unit we learn more about what is a national identity. One of those readings addresses the national identity of Mexico. The main problem, according to Manuel Gamio, is that the Indian has not been given its proper place since the colonization period. He says this because such documents like the Constitution of 1857 follow a set of criteria that only 20% of the population are able to comply. What happens to the other ethnicities and groups that make part of Mexico? Where do they fall? Gamio’s solution to the different scenarios he proposed have to come from the population. He introduces a program where Mexicans have to fix the problem from within. Rather than letting the foreigners in to fix problems for their personal gain, they must learn from their technical advances and fix problems such as illiteracy and language, from within the population. Gamio’s program, rather than following some criteria which would “promote the fit and not the unfit” as eugenics proposes, looks to infuse the Indian and the European. One race is not superior to the other, the Mexican population has its influences from both.

“Whiteness” used to be defined as native of the United States. In that time, European immigrants who were not natives were not welcomed with open arms and were not categorized as “Caucasian” which was true whiteness. In the readings we saw how different immigration laws contributed to defend and define this whiteness. Some of these were the Chinese Immigration Laws and the Naturalization Act. With the Chinese Immigration laws, it all started when there were more and more Chinese laborers, the government decided to intervene with the number of Chinese that could come into the U.S. while trying to protect its treaty with China. Eventually, China got offended with this situation, but the laws were not repealed until the U.S. needed an ally during WWII. As for the Naturalization Act, only immigrants who were white persons or persons of African descent could become naturalized, therefore, it was difficult for people of other ethnicities to gain U.S. citizenship. People who tried to challenge this such as the Japanese man Takao Ozawa were turned away because they were of an “unassimilable race,” even though they had white skin.

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