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Whiteness And Citizenship Essay

1577 words - 6 pages

Captain Ahab’s eulogy of whiteness shows that the word “white” implies more than a chromatic description. “White” is an untenable perfection that has haunted the American psyche since colonial times. The idea of “white spiritual superiority” can only be enforce by a terrorist politico-legal system, based on brutalizing the non-whites and creating a national fantasy. A national fantasy defined by Lauren Berlant as the means “to designate how national culture becomes local through the images, narratives, monuments, and sites that circulate through personal/collective consciousness.” As Captain Ahab disregards all his craft’s safety rules on his mad search of the white whale, the American politico-legal system disregarded its basic principles, such as the ones reflected in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, in the mad search for the national fantasy of a “White Republic.”
David R. Roediger argues that the genesis of this national fantasy was the necessity to separate the slave-owners from their slaves, making slavery more palatable to the freedom loving Americans. Despite the symbolical importance of racial definitions the concept of whiteness was very unclear during the colonial and early republican times. That changed radically in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when immigration forced the courts to define what constituted the white race. The American naturalization laws in 1790 placed no limits to immigration, but it made it a requirement that only “free white persons” of “good moral character” with two year residency can become citizens, this racial requirement lasted until 1952.
In the American legal history whiteness goes together with citizenship, since Congress Clearly stated in the Naturalization Act of 1790 that whites were the sort of people that the country wanted or desired as citizens. Making race central to decide who can become citizen and per extension who can come to America. For this study, I have studied secondary literature on the fields of whiteness, legal history, and immigration history.

Whiteness, Law and Immigration

Whiteness studies focus on the creation of whiteness as a legal reality, and its effects on society. Whiteness scholars study the relationship between white identity and of white privilege, and the historical process by which racial identities evolve. The field of whiteness studies came out on the 1980s, and a large body of work appeared on the 1990s. We can date the field's genesis in history to Alexander Saxton's The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America, and it’s academic acceptance to the 1992 publication of Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. It is a very new field with no journals, professional association, or annual conference. Whiteness itself is a historically constructed expression of the full-fledged member of society or citizen. The parallel and...

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