White immigrants weren’t always considered white — and acceptable – Brando Simeo Starkey / The Undefeated

Who, exactly, is white?

The answer sounds obvious — we know a white person when we see one, we think. But when Italians poured into America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they were not considered white upon arrival. A century later, though, when Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey maniacally hoisted a table on national television, she did not do so as a member of a supposedly inferior people. No, she was a crazy white lady throwing furniture.

The story of how European immigrants during that era became white enlightens us on our current political realities. Italians, Greeks, Poles, Hungarians, Slavs and other European groups, at the time called “new immigrants,” sought to overcome their subordination by showing, through their behavior, to be deserving of being considered white.

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