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The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  8 reviews
What has it meant to be Jewish in a nation preoccupied with the categories of black and white? "The Price of Whiteness" documents the uneasy place Jews have held in America's racial culture since the late nineteenth century. The book traces Jews' often tumultuous encounter with race from the 1870s through World War II, when they became vested as part of America's white ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 1st 2006 by Princeton University Press
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Jan Rice
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Price of Whiteness is primarily sociology. In style it reminded me of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, which I read last year: a series of heavily footnoted chapters documenting the author's points and assertions.

The overall thesis is that "whiteness" is an ideology, not some sort of God-given fact. For example, their skin color notwithstanding, for nearly the entire 19th century in America, Irish immigrants were not considered white.

Goldstein's thesis is, further, that the utility
...more
Rachel
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
My first foray into academic nonfiction in quite awhile! Goldstein, an associate professor of history and Jewish studies at Emory University, fashions his thesis around two tenants. For much of Jewish American history (starting in the late 19th century and ending in the mid 20th century) the group felt a push and pull between two contradictory ideals. They wanted to be accepted and indeed to large degree assimilated into the white mainstream culture. Yet they also wanted to hold onto a sense of ...more
Eric
May 17, 2008 marked it as to-read
What has it meant to be Jewish in a nation preoccupied with categories of black and white? This book documents the uneasy place Jews have held in America's racial culture form the late nineteench century through World War II, when they became vested as part of America's white mainstream. The author demonstrates how the process of identifying as white Americans was an ambivalent one, filled with hard choices and conflicting emotions for Jewish immigrants and their children.
Rochel Klionsky
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a must-read for students of American Jewish history and identity. I cannot believe it took me this long to find it. While overall well-researched and illuminating, it is, at times, repetitive and misses several opportunities to explore aspects of Jewish difference. The focus seems to be mostly on mainstream Jewish self-conception. There is less exploration of outside perspectives of Jews, which continue to make many Jews feel "Other," even as they, in most ways, manage to blend in with ...more
Charles Cohen
The interplay in US history between Jews and the categorization of "white" is complex and challenging. It doesn't make it any easier that in the US, there are only two options - white, and not. Even with that seeming simplicity Jews have found a way to blur the boundaries, sometimes appearing on one side, sometimes on the other. During certain periods of history (and in certain areas of the country) Jews identified one way, and other times they shifted to a different perspective. And that's ...more
clove
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: race, school
i wanted this book to dive deeper into explaining the larger cultural contexts of the eras it was exploring- how did war and economics impact american racialization of jews? i wanted more clear lines drawn between attitudes of white supremacy and larger political events. instead, the book dwells endlessly on the thousands of conceptions of jewish identity- culture, ethnicity, race, religion, people, civilization, etc. who used what terms when. there were certainly interesting facts and ...more
Alexis
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaism, history, race
This is less about whether (European-descended) "Jews are white" (or not) and more about the contentious place American Jews have occupied in an American society that wants to define a sharp boundary between black and white. It's a bit dense, but interesting, looking at how Jews defined themselves, how they were defined by others, and how this defined their relationship with other ethnic/racial groups.

If there's a serious flaw it's that everything post-1965 is jammed into an epilogue.

3.5.
Ashira Konigsburg
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Not an easy read but very useful for explaining historical factors that got us to this point. Lots of food for thought here.
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