Monday, February 11, 2019
Sweeping changes in immigration and labor tipped the balance of this delicate exchange. As historian Eric Lott explains, blackface transformed into a performance that “assuaged an acute sense of insecurity by indulging feelings of racial superiority” among the European immigrants. In a precarious moment of change, it became a way for European immigrants to secure their superiority over African Americans and thus become white.
In this period, “whiteness” was central to asserting rights of citizenship. But this racial category was in flux. Irish people were considered closer to black than white, and the government questioned if they would ever be fit for citizenship. Jewish, Italian and other European groups were met with equal scrutiny.
This is all news to me, if it's not utterly fake.