Title: White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945
Author: Thomas Guglielmo
Year: 2003
 
Categories: Whiteness, Immigration, Social History, Race
Place: Chicago
Time Period: 1890-1945

Argument Synopsis
Thomas Guglielmo writes in the historiographic vein of whiteness studies by examining identity and race in early-20th century Italian communities in Chicago. Guglielmo explicitly challenges a core tenet of whiteness literature by refuting the notion that, as "New Immigrants" Italians occupied an "in-between" racial status and had to actively work to obtain the benefits of being considered white. Far from "How the Italians Became White," Guglielmo insists that they arrived white and remained white. To bolster his argument Guglielmo makes a fundamental distinction between color and race. For him, color is a white/non-white binary, while race differentiated the raza Italiana and even more fine-grained distinctions between, say, Northern and Southern Italians. Guglielmo argues that while Italians may have been episodically discriminated against because of their race as Italians, they enjoyed the status of color whiteness in all of the most meaningful arenas: citizenship, housing, jobs, schools, politics, etc. Secure in their color status as whites, Guglielmo notes, Italians were simultaneously more willing to maintain a separate racial identity as Italians for much of the early 20th century - often giving primacy to their racial (Italian) identity rather than a class consciousness. Even when faced with episodes that would seem to heighten their white consciousness - 1919 Race Riot, anti-European debates around 1924 Immigration Act, Democratic political attempts to rally the "white" vote, or the criminalization of Italians by linking them to organized crime - Guglielmo argues that overall Italians clung to a separate racial identity.

Italians began moving away from racial distinctiveness and towards a color consciousness of whiteness beginning in the 1930s. Guglielmo points to their involvement in radical politics (the Communist and Socialist parties) and labor unions during the 1930s and 1940s as beginning the shift towards a broader identity as "white" rather than Italian. This process was accelerated during and after World War II, and in particular crystallized in the arena of housing. In a familiar tale spun by New Suburban historians, Italians began asserting their own whiteness rather than Italian-ness as a means of excluding blacks from their neighborhoods. Much like earlier naturalization laws, the federal government undergirded this process by institutionalizing color into 1930s-1940s housing policies. As they moved towards greater white color consciousness, Guglielmo points out housing as the epitome of the many ways in which Italians had consistently and systematically benefited from their white status. 

Key Themes and Concepts
- Differentiation between color vs. race - Italians might have suffered in small ways by being considered racially Italian, but were almost as always color white (especially in eyes of state) and enjoyed all of its systematic advantages
- Challenges traditional whiteness studies - Italians not "in-between" but basically always white (from color standpoint), especially in comparison to Mexicans, Asians, blacks
- Race vs. color division in how Italians saw selves dissolves by end of World War II
- Stasis vs. change - partially a story of stasis (arrived white and remained white) but partially a story about change - changing racial identity 

Notes
Introduction
- “They were so securely white, in fact, that Italians themselves rarely had to aggressively assert the point. Indeed, not until World War II did many Italians identify openly and mobilize politically as white.” - internally identified as Italian even as they were externally identified as white
- Works at distinction between race and color. Italians were securely “colored” white, but racially they could be discriminated against across a range of groupings (South Italians, for instance)
- “Most important, then, for all of its discursive messiness, the race/color distinction was crystal clear when it came to resources and rewards. In other words, while Italians suffered greatly for their putative racial undesirability as Italians, South Italians, and so forth, they still benefited in countless ways from their privileged color status as whites.” (9) - differentiation between race and color largely ended by WWII, and instead Italisn became an ethnic/nationality group instead of a racial one
- Historiography: Challenges whiteness studies by arguing that Italians did not necessarily come to US as “in-between” people who had to assert their whiteness - this misreading comes from a conflation of race and color. Italians may have been discriminated against racially as Latins or Alpines, but their status as white was never really in question. Especially in comparison to Mexican-Americans, whose whiteness was ACTUALLY under question, and blacks/Asians (whose whiteness was totally OUT of the question).
- In some sense, a story of stasis and privilege. “Italians’ whiteness - conferred more powerfully by the federal government than by any other institution – was their single most powerful asset in the ‘New World’; it gave them countless advantages over ‘nonwhites’ in housing, jobs, schools, politics, and virtually every other meaningful area of life.” (12)
- BUT also a story about change - changing identities and how Italians increasingly became less tolerant of their nonwhite neighbors and developed a more exclusionary color identity

Chapter 1: Early Italian Chicago
- General discussion of Italian race/color in Chicago from late 19th century to WWI
- Italians settlement within Chicago had implications in three ways:
1. Italian communities/neighborhoods were never exclusively Italian
2. Even with lots of Italians, this didn’t make neighborhoods culturally/politically “Italian” – “Italian neighborhoods more closely resembled loose federations of Italian village and regional groups than unified, national communities.” (21)
3. Italian neighborhoods were constantly in motion with high turnover/mobility
- Racial differentiation between North vs. South Italians, esp. in Chicago press
- “While Italians were defined racially as northerners or southerners, their color status was always ‘white’.” (30) - Official classifications: ex. Naturalization laws, U.S. Census, etc.
- Draws a distinction between class conflict and class consciousness. Italians could fully participate in conflict against blacks, but that does not mean they identified themselves as racially white – instead were just as likely to battle with other white groups

Chapter 2: Riot and Relations
- The Chicago Color Riot of 1919 and its aftermath to the mid-1930s
- Despite rising importance of color lines, Italians still rarely identified themselves in color terms of "Caucasian" - instead seeing selves in racial terms as Italianita
- Great Migration led to black migrants into South Side of Chicago - Riot in 119 touched off by black teenager crossing a color line at the beach
- Italian men participated in the riot, but Guglielmo argues that vast majority of Italians didn't take part and that reflected their lack of hardening of the color line - a "still-underdeveloped color consciousness"
- Argues that eventually Italians began mobilizing at neighborhood level against African-Americans before they developed a color white consciousness - saw selves as superior to blacks because of their Italian-ness rather than their whiteness

Chapter 3: The White Peril of Europe
- Debate over restricting “new” immigrants in early 1920s
- Despite vitriolic debates over European immigrants and restrictionist rhetoric surrounding 1924 Act, most Italians mobilized as Italians and refused to identify as color-white - in fact, debates may have helped unify the Italian race (solidarity of North, South Italians)
 
Chapter 4: Race, Color, and Crime
- Italian organized crime/gangsters during Prohibition may have raised questions about racial desirability of Italians, but never questioned their whiteness in any systematic or sustained way
- Argues that constant debates over criminalization helped to lend even more cohesive Italian race identity 
 
Chapter 5: Mayoral Races, Mayoral Colors
- Mayoral politics in late 1920s/early 1930s - argues that Italians mobilized far more around their racial identity as Italians than around whiteness (sometimes voting alongside blacks for candidates)
 
Chapter 6: Fascism, Empire, and War
- Rise of Facism and Italian-Ethiopian War in 1935-1936
- Transnational network of Italian patriotism (Catholic church, newspapers, mutual aid societies) caused Italians to rally around la razza in wake of Italy's invasion of Ethiopia rather than a white vs. black war
- Powerful fascist presence in Italian communities beginning in 1920s
- Italians justify war via larger rhetoric of civilizing missions 
- Blacks insist on Italians' whiteness more so than Italians did

Chapter 7: Radicalism, Unionism, and the Depression
- Unions + left-wing politics during Depression and WWII
- Argues that 1930s were the beginning of shift away from Italian racial solidarity and towards a broader identity as Americans (through involvement with larger organizations like the Communist, Socialist parties or the CIO and AFL
- Experiences in these groups helped nurture a color consciousness 
- CIO's emphasis on equality and color unity paradoxically served to heighten color consciousness for Italian participants
 
Chapter 8: The Color of Housing
- Private and public housing in Italian neighborhoods during WWII (and response to black migration after war)
- Change in WWII and post-war years towards more open assertion by Italians of their whiteness, often hinging around fierce battles regarding housing and integration and demanding privileges as whites
- "Italianita' still had its many adherents, but it was whiteness that was really on the rise."
- Puts housing experiences at center of growing color consciousness
- Federal government's policies set tone in housing by institutionalizing color assumptions about black entrance driving down property values and other discriminatory policies 
- **Probably Guglielmo's strongest and most explicit example of the systematic benefits conferred on Italians for their whiteness**

Conclusion
- Drives home the benefits of whiteness for Italians: "It alone made some things possible - such as the ability to immigrate to the United States and naturalize as citizens - and other things immeasurably easier, such as buying a home, finding a job, joining a union, and attending a quality school." (176)

Historiography
- Challenges much of the earlier whiteness literature by arguing that Italians were not "in-between peoples" - color-wise, they were white

Review articles
Matthew Guterl:
- Guterl notes that Kochlin criticizes whiteness studies for lacking historicity and unmoors it from specific contexts in favor of broad interpretive framework
- Guglielmo originally saw his project as being an Italian "wop to white" study much like Noel Ignatiev's How the Irish Became White
- Instead, he finds that Italians were always white in important ways ("color" race) while simultaneously maintaining their racial separateness as Italians and differentiating between different strands of Italian ("race" race) - took on both of these statuses strategically depending on the context
- Italians might have suffered for their race as Italians (or South Italians), but benefited in countless ways from their color race
- The state almost invariably classified Italians as white (color)
- Italians were far more likely to see the world in terms of their distinctive race rather than white color - invoking race was just as effective at producing results for many Italians as invoking white color
- End of World War II closes the separation between race and color (particularly in struggles over neighborhood integration with blacks)
- Keeps his story tightly focused to Chicago and Italians (very social history-ish)

Richard Alba:
- Challenges a central tenet of whiteness literature: that European immigrants had to struggle mightily to gain access to whiteness
- Argues that Italians were NOT an "in-between" people (Roediger et. al.) - instead Italians were firmly white from a systematic standpoint
- Might have faced EPISODES of discrimination, but not SYSTEMATICALLY discriminated against
- Black/Italian divisions did not crystallize until the 1930s
- Alba thinks he downplays the episodes of racism too much