In David Roediger's Wages of Whiteness, the reader is introduced to the author by an autobiographical introduction that paints the picture of a white adolescent growing up in the turbulent South. The author tells of his experiences with race in a small southern town near St. Louis where locals would rather close a swimming pool than integrate it with African Americans. With this uncommon personal introduction, the author sets up a study examining the growth of the white worker and how they developed their whiteness and the actions they took to make sure their identity was kept separate from the black worker. In his introduction Roediger sums up what his early life taught him in the role of race in defining how white workers looks not only at Blacks but at themselves; the pervasiveness of race; the complex mixture of hate, sadness and longing in the racist thought of white workers; the relationship between race and ethnicity.
[...] Honey's book introduces the concept of unions in Memphis with first providing examples of southern towns like Elaine, Arkansas where black sharecroppers were murdered and imprisoned by whites for their attempt to organize labor groups. Labor organizations like the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (STFU) were created in response to “massive evictions of rural workers precipitated by the New Deal's Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933” (p. 68-69). The New Deal act led to unfair actions by plantation owners and the creation of labor groups that tried to protest, some successfully, the wage and working conditions of field workers (p. [...]
[...] The work culture that was formed by the women eventually united them to fight against the generally unacceptable working conditions they were forced to experience. The AFL and CIO both attempted to unionize the male workers of canneries but paid no attention to the seasonal female workers. It was the UCAPAWA, which was affiliated with the CIO, which saw the promise in unionizing all of the seasonal workers into a democratic union that was decentralized and included delegates of multiple racial and regional backgrounds (p. 43). [...]
[...] Roediger's study into race and class in the nineteenth century is fostered in the literature and contributions of new labor historians, Marxist historians, and psychoanalysis into white workers and their construction of the idea that black workers should be seen as others (p. 14). In referencing Du Bois, the author writes of the notion that the pleasure of being white was used as a ‘wage' for white workers and helped to create an imagined sense of status in the idea of race. [...]
[...] The changing racial hierarchies expressed in Foley's book show a system where economic status became important along with skin color in defining race and how it was utilized. With Mexicans becoming a profitable solution for white landowners, the white tenants no longer needed fell deeper into poverty and “they came perilously close to becoming racially marked themselves” (p. 39). Increased use of Mexican and black workers led to poor white workers being seen as “ignorant” and along with doing only enough work to get by (p. [...]
[...] Foley's book is different from the rest of the books we were asked to read in that it focuses on Texas alone and includes a large emphasis on the Mexican immigrant migration into the Texas cotton culture. Like Roediger's Wages of Whiteness, it explores the issue of whiteness and the interesting problem of how to classify Mexican workers in the time of tenant farming and sharecropping. Foley's book stands out as one that includes various aspects of the period along with the shifting racial and social structure that left poor whites on nearly equal ground with black and Mexican workers. [...]
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