How Jews Became White Research Paper

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Jews Became White

The Nordic races were viewed as the "real Americans" (53)

Even people from other European countries were not considered "white"

The height of anti-Semitism in the United States was in the 1920s and 1930s; doors were closed to new immigrants.

Anti-Semitism was related to other types of racism including discrimination against Southern Europeans, but also against Asians and any non-Nordic group.

After WWII, the attitudes of Americans changed so that Europeans were viewed as "model minorities"

Jews saw themselves as successful based on hard work and deferred gratification; and discounted the impact of white privilege

There was a sort of affirmative action program for Euromales, essentially "whitening" certain groups and creating a new model of institutionalized racism.


Immigrants poured into urban centers, which were more than 70% immigrant, leading urban America to "take on a distinctly immigrant flavor" (54)

Red scare is linked to anti-working class sentiments

"Scientific" racism was a popular ideology: eugenics allowed some of the racist beliefs to be codified into law

Nordic races were deemed upper class; everyone else lower class

Records from 1930 census distinguish "native" whites from immigrants; the "nativist" ideology

Jews experienced much discrimination in universities because they tended to attend universities; some schools like Harvard developed anti-immigrant admissions programs

Jews came from urban and manufacturing centers in Europe and were able to set up garment businesses and other small businesses with relatively low capital; thus there grew an emerging Jewish middle class that enabled upward social mobility.

Essentially their timing was right for upward social mobility; it is not just about placing a high value on education

Education changed in response to burgeoning industry; schools started to have specialized career-oriented programs rather than just be about intellectual pursuits.

Jews were excluded from mainstream corporate management as well as college posts. They were restricted to the businesses they started in garments and entertainment, or small businesses catering to Jews.

III. Euroethnics Into Whites

The author grew up in a Jewish area and later moved to Long Island, where increased multiethnic population changed the character.

Author asks the central question: did Jews become white because they became middle class (like other Euroethnics?)

Does money buy whiteness?

Or was there an expanded version of whiteness at play in the society?

Both are likely true.

Anti-Semitism became taboo and went underground, leading Jews to be called "white" and was reflected on change in census form.

GI Bill of Rights was "the most massive affirmative action program in U.S. History" (58)

IV. Education and Occupation

The GI Bill transformed higher education, raising the educational level for generations to come.

After the war, more colleges were built in the United States, and they were not just for WASPS.

Still many poor Jews, but many were making it to the middle class.

Note that the GI bill was not extended to African-Americans or women.

White male privilege was shaped with racism and sexism.

Almost all federal institutions such as the Veterans' Administration prevented African-American GIs from accessing benefits

Blacks given disproportionate numbers of dishonorable discharges to prevent benefits

Black veterans did not receive the job assistance programs and were offered menial jobs.

V. Suburbanization

After World War Two more Americans owned their own houses, creating suburban exodus.

Blacks were excluded from suburbia, pushed into dilapidated inner city developments because "the FHA believed in racial segregation" (64)

Up until the GI Bill, both Jews and Blacks received the same type of legislated housing discrimination, as the FHA prohibited the sales of certain properties to Jews and African-Americans alike

"African-Americans were totally shut out of the suburban boom" (65)

"urban renewal" programs meant smashing down buildings in cities and making them "bad places to live" after the war (65)

urban renewal created downtown business districts to replace the manufacturing, shifting manufacturing interests to the periphery freeway construction tore apart (literally) African-American communities

the government is directly implicated in creating institutionalized racism and perpetuating it

Jews did not pull themselves up by their bootstraps; they received affirmative action

The GI Bill, the FHA, and the VA mortgages were forms of affirmative action open to Jews but not blacks or women

According to Sacks, American Jews were the recipients of the "the most massive affirmative action program in U.S. History," the GI Bill of Rights (58). The notion that Jews are special, or just have a good work ethic, is only part of the truth. Jewish immigrants in America did not pull themselves up by their bootstraps in some mythical hardworking immigrant ethos, claims Sacks. Although most immigrants did work very hard to achieve upward social mobility, it was really affirmative action that helped Jews to overcome anti-Semitism and receive white privilege. Understanding that the GI Bill, the FHA, and the VA mortgages were affirmative action programs open to Jewish males, but not to blacks or to females, is essential for understanding the perpetuation of racial inequality and sexism in the United States.

Prior to World War Two, Jews were not considered to be white. Census forms from 1930, for example, show that whiteness was a special category reserved for "native" whites of Northern European origin. Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans, and Jews were lumped into a lower social class ranking. Sacks calls this lower class ranking the "Euromale," which would become privy to the biggest affirmative action program in American history.

Anti-Semitism was rampant prior to World War Two. Jews were prohibited from buying houses in much of the country, just as blacks were. Furthermore, Jews were excluded from many universities and were not allowed to serve as professors at major universities either. Jews were excluded from corporate America. These barriers were impediments to Jews participating in the dominant culture's means of production and of wealth creation. As a result, Jews created their own businesses. Their small businesses often catered to the Jewish community, but some developed businesses in industries that were of use to the greater American economy such as the garment and entertainment industries. Still, as Sacks points out, many Jews in America remained poor. Prior to World War Two, immigration was race-based too. Asians and Jews were among the groups that were prevented from entering the country.

After World War Two, the culture changed, and so did the law. Anti-Semitism became increasingly taboo and was pushed underground. This helped Jews to gradually become accepted as being part of the general "Euromale" category. By 1940, the census forms indicate that there was no longer a separate category for "native" whites, and this allowed Jews and Southern Europeans to classify themselves as white. By classifying as "white," Jews were able to enjoy white privilege. Yet Sacks implies that many Jews are unaware of possessing white privilege, and many are also unaware of the role that affirmative action played in their achievement of upward social mobility. The programs of upward social mobility including the GI Bill, the FHA, and the VA mortgages enabled successive generations of Jews to benefit from affirmative action and white privilege too. African-Americans were not included in these affirmative action programs, and were therefore left behind. Women were also excluded from the affirmative action programs, but white women fared far better than their black counterparts.

The GI bill opened doors to Jews by providing a path to education and career advancement after serving in the armed forces. Prior to the GI Bill, immigrants considered to be non-white, like Jews, were unable to achieve social parity with whites due to institutionalized discrimination in schools and in the business sector. The GI Bill attracted all sorts of male blood to serve in the Korean War. This meant that Jews, Italians, and blacks could theoretically share in the benefits of serving, such as facilitated loans and career development. However, blacks were given disproportionate numbers of dishonorable discharges to…[continue]

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