history of white people book cover

SGA Vice President Fabián Laguna on The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

February 1, 2021

In our series Wonderwork, CU Denver students, faculty, staff, and alumni recommend one book, podcast, television show, film, etc. that deserves more attention. Our ultimate goal is to promote a more diverse and inclusive book and media culture. February is Black History Month, so our focus will be on works by or about Black writers and directors. Nominate your favorite Wonderwork by emailing cudenvernews@ucdenver.edu or posting on social media with #CUDenverWonderWork. 

The History of White People explores the construct of whiteness through history, from Ancient Greece to the present era. The book talks about how race is not just a matter of biology: it has to do with concepts of class, labor, gender, and images of personal beauty. Painter deconstructs the idea of whiteness and demonstrates how it has been engrained in our society today.

When people started writing about the concept of race, they took a Eurocentric approach that ignored the majority of people on earth. These “scientists” ranked the European races based on the shape and measurements of the skull, concluding that northwestern Europeans were the most admirable race for arbitrary reasons. Slowly, the idea of superiority expanded to all Europeans, and it continues today.

Our lives are deeply entrenched in this historical deception, as it has been effectively used by those who benefit from whiteness to maintain power. This book is an essential tool in helping us understand the problems with race and how these concepts have been used by the global elite to maintain power throughout history.

– Fabián Laguna, SGA Vice President 2020 – 2021

Fabián Laguna is a master’s student studying International Business at CU Denver. He is currently the Vice President of the Student Government Association, and this summer he will start working as a technology consultant. Fabián was born in Boulder, Colorado to a German mother and a Mexican father.