Week 3 Reflection Post-Lucy Grogan

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.

2 thoughts on “Week 3 Reflection Post-Lucy Grogan

  1. I’ve always thought it to be very interesting how at one point Europeans were not considered “white.” Mostly because most of the whites in the United States were majority European. It’s almost like “caucasians” were always looking for an excuse to keep people who were “different” away from the country. Just like they were racist against Eastern Europeans for being from different religions, they were racist against blacks for having different colored skin and Asians for speaking a different language. I am not trying to generalize and say that all Americans were/are like this. I think there has been a lot of progress regarding these issues. For example, at one point blacks and whites could not even get married because it wasn’t “pure” and now obviously this isn’t the case anymore. However, there’s still different issues that need to be resolved. The United States is a melting pot and it’s time everyone, not just some people, accept that before people who are neighbors become strangers.

  2. I also had always thought of all Europeans as being considered “white” and was surprised to find out this was not always the case, and that it was even said so in legal writing. It seems that immigration law used skin color as a way to identify American culture, rather than an actual skin color, and how over time, that changed. Religion has always been a source of discrimination and tension, this can be seen through crusades and countless wars throughout history, and the current violence and tensions seen today. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia is unfortunately, a recent example of this. Again, legal writing made definitions that were unclear and discriminatory. I absolutely agree with you that we have quite a ways to go in the United States, just because discrimination has been a part of our past, and is a part of our present, it does not have to be a part of our future.

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