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The History Of White People (2010)

The History of White People (2010)

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3.85 of 5 Votes: 1
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0393049345 (ISBN13: 9780393049343)
W. W. Norton & Company

About book The History Of White People (2010)

It's hard not to read Ralph Waldo Emerson a little differently after reading this detailed, fascinating history of white supremacy. So much of what we currently face today in our struggle to address race issues with clarity and honesty comes from the bogus race ideas of long ago. As a white male, I feel better informed about the history of white people in America, thanks to this thoroughly engaging, well-written book. This book is a fascinating account of the history of definitions of "whiteness," emphasizing the relatively recent orgin of a unified white race as a construct, and the fluid lines regarding who is or is not part of the white identity. Although written in an accessible style, Painter is an academic historian who cites her primary sources throughout the book, and the writing has a scholar's detatchment and factual tone throughout. As a historian, Painter does tend to avoid digging into the sociological or psychological motivations underpinning the racial theorists she discusses. However, focusing mostly on assembling and reporting facts does help maintain a high level of objectivity in dealing with most of the subjects she discusses. That in itself is a major accomplishment, because this is a topic that tends to arouse some strong emotional reactions.Most of the book is focused on reviewing how whiteness has been defined by Europeans and European-Americans, mostly pertaining to other groups of people we today consider white. As she notes, most of the writers on the topic of white identity didn't even deal with East Asians, sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans, or other groups in their discussions of race. Rather, the focus was on whether Irish or Italian or Eastern European or Middle Eastern people were white enough to join the Anglo-Saxons in the white identity. Getting this perspective is very informative, because it shows how even most people who today strongly identify themselves as part of an immutable category of racially white people may not have been considered white during the time of their grandparents. As others have noted, the focus is definitely on the writing of elite, educated individuals, but like much of history, these are the people whose voices have been preserved through time, and these are the people who developed social policies that reflected their ideology.There are other books that deal with this topic tangentially, and most people familiar with writing on ethnic prejudices from the 19th and early 20th centuries will find nothing shockingly new. However, I'm personally not aware of any other books that capture such a broad span of time, ranging from ancient Greece and Rome through to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's. The compilation of all this material in one place reveals many undercurrents that I had never noticed previously, especially the way racial theorists consistently struggled to find a way to distance themselves from "undesirable," lower-class whites, or re-write ancient history to change the Greeks and even the Egyptians into Nordic people. At times, Painter omits some very interesting possible areas of discussion, but that's inevitable in a book of this length covering a topic of this breadth. In particular, she deals with the changing conception of Latinos as a distinctly non-white group toward the end of the book, but only briefly. There's more to be read and written on this topic, of course, but I think this is a good start.

Do You like book The History Of White People (2010)?

There were some parts that were almost interesting. I couldn't get through it completely.

A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for

Very challenging read...

Didn't finish!


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