Book review by Kevin Carson. This looks to be a great book.
Unlike many dissident histories of the United States, which attempt to portray racial minorities, sexual subcultures and subordinate classes as “worthy victims” in terms of the social mores of the white middle class, Thaddeus Russell celebrates the kind of people that your parents may have warned you about: the low-down, no-count, not-respectable people. You know, the folks who “never amounted to anything”—and neither would you if you didn’t steer clear of them.
Against the austere “republican virtue” of the “Founding Fathers” as we usually encounter them in public school American history classes, Russell juxtaposes the urban populations of the colonies and the taverns that served them. Those bluenose marble gods were obsessed with “license,” “luxury” and “degeneracy of manners” with good reason, if you look at the taverns that stood on just about every street corner in the towns of British America. There you could see the rabble kicking up their heels and drinking at just about any hour, see blacks and whites dancing (and “dancing”) together, and hear the f-word being shouted with wild abandon. To a large extent the sumptuary laws of the early republican period, with their goal of encouraging Spartan simplicity and self-control, were a social engineering experiment by “Founding Fathers” who regarded the population of their country with horror.
Russell works from a considerable scholarly apparatus on the topic of the artificiality of whiteness, and focuses in vivid detail on the ways of European ethnic minorities like the Irish and Italians before they were officially incorporated into the white race.
He prefers the “unworthy” to the “worthy” victim: freed slaves who didn’t want to internalize the WASP work ethic, gays who didn’t want to create respectable mirror-images of the monogamous heterosexual nuclear family, and blacks who didn’t want to march quietly and decorously in suits with Dr. King.