The concept of “whiteness” was used to determine who could and who couldn’t become a naturalized citizen in the United States. According to “European Immigration and Defining Whiteness”, under The Naturalization Act of 1906 “only white persons and persons of African Descent or African nativity were eligible” to become citizens of the United States. This was put to the test in 1922, and it was ruled by Associate Justice George Sutherland that “only Caucasians were white”. This meant that Japanese and others of Asian descent weren’t considered to fit into the definition of “whiteness”.
“Whiteness” and how it was defined not only limited the immigration of people who were not white, but also limited the number of Eastern Europeans that were able to come into the country. This part struck me as odd, because a vast number of people Eastern Europe are white, so why would they not be considered to fall into the definition of “whiteness”? However, after doing the reading, I realized that this discrimination had little to nothing to do with the color of their skin. Here it was more about the fact that the majority of these people were Catholic or Jewish. This fact made them be viewed as “not easily assimilated into American Culture”. However, individuals from Southern Europe were, many years later, considered to be a part of the “white category”.
Religious differences in people were also discussed in Tone Bringa’s piece. Categories of identity were seen as being so powerful in the former Yugoslavia because if an individual converted to one religion over another from their original, it bolstered the amount of people in their newly chosen religion. Furthermore, which religion you identified with was defined differently depending on the group of people doing the categorization. In reference to people who are Muslim, “Bosnia and former Yugoslavia, refers to an ethnic group, a nationality, and a religious community”. The categorization of Muslims is different in the eyes of Serbo-Croats. They see the “term ‘Muslim’” as ambiguous, as a term that designates “a person’s nationality with an initial capital…the term referring to a member of the religious community with a small letter”. To me, it was very interesting how the categories that people were lumped into changed and created conflict in such a powerful manner when in the views of some, the designation had two different potential meanings if the first letter was capitalized or lowercase.