Monday, October 29, 2018

People who say "Jews, Italians, and the Irish weren't white" don't understand the difference between whiteness and Protestantism

I tweeted
In the US, Jews, Italians, and the Irish were always racially white but tribally Not Protestant. People who say they became white miss the fact that you cannot change your race, but who may join a tribe can change, which is what happened to the US’s white not-Protestants.
I suspect the reason is religious differences are generally seen as unimportant today, with the exception of Muslims, who some people racialize even though Islam is one of the world's great universal religions.

The US's laws for immigration and its census have always made it clear that people from Europe are white, regardless of their religion. The Confederacy, which rivals Nazi Germany for being the world's most race-obsessed nation, had a Jewish Secretary of State, and many Jewish slaveowners fought for it. The Jim Crow south, which was even more racist than the Confederacy* gave white Jews and Catholics every privilege of whiteness. They just didn't give them the privileges of Protestantism.

Middle Easterners had to go to court to establish their whiteness in the US, but the whiteness of the Irish, the Italians, and European Jews was never seriously questioned until privilege theorists began redefining whiteness. Yes, some people insulted them by saying they were not white, but when I was a boy caught up in the civil rights movement, racists insulted me by saying I was not white. That did not make me not white in Florida in the early '60s.

* The definition of whiteness changed during Jim Crow from 3/4 or 7/8 white, depending on the state, to one drop of blood. See Four things Nikole Hannah-Jones doesn't know about race and class in the US.

ETA: Just shared this on social media:
If you think Protestantism is not important in the US:

23.9% of the US is Catholic. Only one of 45 Presidents has been Catholic.

13.4% of the US is black. One has been President.

Statistically, a black Protestant has a better shot at being President than a white Catholic.
 ETA 2: Just shared this:
The difference between racial and ethnic prejudice in the US is most easily seen in the US’s south, where
(1) white Jews and Catholics used white facilties and
(2) served in the military like other white people
yet both were hated by the Ku Klux Klan for not being Protestant.