Mexicans known to most Americans are not low because of their nationality (for there are many aristocrats worthy of the name in Mexico City as there are in Washington) but because those who emigrate to the United States are most overwhelmingly of lower class standing. They are low in status because they were low in status.Next Page
The same is true of Italians. The immigration from Italy was not representative of the social structure of Italy, otherwise many more Italians would have achieve middle class status in this country, for instance, than has been the case. The English migration, earlier in American history, was more representative of the social classes of England, and as a result reproduced in this country a more perfect pyramid of classes than did the Greek migration, for example.
Cultural or nationality antagonisms are categorical, in the minds of those given to name-calling. Social class distinctions are subtle and accompanied by feelings of interdependence and accepted situation. A person of another class is approachable, under the rules of procedure customary within the culture. A person of an alien culture is a stranger. The rules for dealing with strangers are different from the rules for dealing with one's own people, of whatever class. A true social class hierarchy exists within a culture or nationality. Other cultures or nationalities have their own social class hierarchies.
Race and social class. One great part of the theory of classes based on ethnic differences deals with conquest. Keller identifies class and race in giving an account of one conquest. He writes: 56
An extreme instance of class formation after conquest was exhibited in Spanish America, where there were distinguished sharply and in about the following order of rank: the Spaniard born in Spain; the Spanish-black; the blacks; the black-Indian; and the Indian. Each stratum hated the one above it and imposed upon the one below; the antagonisms between them were to all appearances irreconcilable.
(In a later chapter of this thesis the theory of conquest will be taken up in great detail. At this point, it is only necessary to stress the difficulties of dealing with the definitions of social strata. In one place a social class is an occupation; in another it is a race or a mixture of races!)
It is probable that never, even in Mexico, were class position and racial affiliation synonymous -- neither in Cortez' army (all Spaniards born in Spain), nor after the first Spaniards were born on this side of the ocean, nor after the first blacks were imported, nor after the Spaniards, in going through the country, had left numberless half-breeds scattered behind them, persons who did not thereby gain appreciably in social standing or were numerous enough to form new social strata. There were always nobles and plain soldiers, protected servants, special slaves, lower officials, favored concubines and wives, confidantes.
In no country, so far as has been ascertained by extensive study, can a person's social class standing be determined by his cephalic index, his pigmentation, or a cross-section of his hair. In fact, it is probably, in modern civilizations, a waste of time to search for conclusive evidence in this direction. It is like trying to determine a person's social standing by giving him, as a child, a battery of psychological tests. They would show something, but not social class.
Race affects the social class structure, but not by so simple a device as to divide the classes according to the races and their admixture. The blacks in America, even though only blacks were slaves and few were early freed, did not cause the formation of a social class structure with the blacks at the bottom and all the whites above them. The real result was that the presence of black slaves in many places divided the whites into those who could live as aristocrats and those who were pushed out of the competition for the better things in life. The blacks, meanwhile, began to form a social class structure of their own. Although it might be thought that during the period of slavery there was considerable intimacy within the family circle between the household servants and the master families, in reality contacts were not sufficiently close to allow one to say that there was any way of placing the blacks on the same social scale as the whites, even those whites who sometimes were associated with the plantations as laborers, or with those related to them by blood.
56. A.G. Keller, Man's Rough Road (New York, 1932) p. 168.