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Are Italians White? The Perspective from the Pacific


By reviewing a wide variety of works pertaining to the racialization of European immigrants in the United States and the history of race relations and of individual ethnic groups in California, this article outlines some reflections arising from addressing the issue of Italians’ “whiteness” within the West Coast’s historically distinct multiracial context. Californian journalist Chester Harvey Rowell’s 1909 view of North America Pacific Coast as the “frontier of the white man” is adopted as a paradigm highlighting how California’s racial dynamic, centered around a white/Asian polarity, supported Italians’ being included among “whites”, with all the symbolic and material privileges this implied.

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