The Third Enlargement of American Whiteness (1930-1980) was when Jews, Italians and others from southern and eastern Europe became White Americans, when they melted into the melting pot.
Nell Irvin Painter in “The History of White People” (2010) counts four enlargements of whiteness, of Real America. Roughly speaking:
- Early 1800s: Wasps (British American)
- Late 1800s: Nordics (northern European)
- Middle 1900s: whites (European)
- Early 2000s (in progress): multiracial middle-class
The Life and Times of the Third Enlargement:
Late 1800s: Crossing the Atlantic becomes cheap. Suddenly anyone can come to America: unlettered peasants from Italy, penniless Jews and others from southern and eastern Europe. They fill the slums of New York and elsewhere. The government fears they will be stuck there forever – a permanent underclass.
1910s: They are called “alien races”. Madison Grant says they bring crime and poverty. They have too many children. They do not understand freedom and democracy, they vote for corrupt political machines. Skull measurements (and later IQ tests) prove they lack intelligence.
Grant divides Europe into three races:
- Nordics in the north-west,
- Alpines in the middle and
- Mediterraneans in the south.
As you go south from Britain, people become less intelligent, more ruled by their passions, more given to crime and drink. These are inborn differences: Jews and Italians will always be stuck at the bottom.
1920s: They are now starting to be called “ethnic”. The Immigration Act of 1924 all but shuts off immigration from southern and eastern Europe to save America from destruction. Jews are the people no one wants. This will doom many to die in the Holocaust – and drive the creation of Israel.
Hitler writes Grant a fan letter.
1930s: Enough white ethnics can now vote that Franklin Roosevelt sees them as an important part of the white working-class vote he needs to win. His New Deal policies see them the same as other white people.
1940s: The Second World War: Sons of white ethnics leave their ethnic neighbourhoods to fight for America alongside whites from across the country. Think “Saving Private Ryan” (1998). Meanwhile the military keeps Asians and blacks (Double V!) separate.
The Holocaust and the Nuremberg Trials discredit Grant’s scientific racism.
1950s: The GI Bill makes it easy for returning white soldiers to get a university education or start a business. FHA loans make it easy to buy a house in the suburbs. White ethnics leave the city. Their children grow up among the “blond people” in the bosom of suburbia, becoming fully Americanized. Blacks, meanwhile, are pretty much shut out of the suburbs and the GI Bill. Very little FHA money goes to the cities. City housing starts falling apart.
1970s: Jews now have higher IQs than whites as a whole. Italians have seen huge gains in IQ too.
1980s: Just white, no longer mainly seen as ethnic. They tell blacks that their grandparents came to America with $25 in their pocket, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
Source: mainly Nell Irvin Painter in “The History of White People” (2011).