Response to Eric Arnesen
Eric Arnesen's essay highlights some real weaknesses in the burgeoning literature of whiteness and raises serious questions about the use of whiteness as a category of historical analysis. It effectively highlights the ambiguity of the concept and the way it tends to homogenize individuals who differ among themselves on numerous issues, including the definition of race. Moreover, the notion that European immigrants had to âbecomeâ white ignores a longstanding legal structure, dating back to the time of the Constitution, that incorporated these immigrants within the category of white American. Nonetheless, Arnesen fails to take account of some of the positive contributions of this literature, or to locate its popularity in the political and racial context of the late twentieth century. Rather than being abandoned, the concept of whiteness must be refined and historicized.