Perhaps you can follow historian Painter’s intention from this pronouncement:
I might have entitled this book Construction of White Americans from Antiquity to the Present because it explores a concept that lies within a history of events. I have chosen this strategy because race is an idea, not a fact, and its questions demand answers from the conceptual rather than the factual realm. American history offers up a large bounty of commentary on what it means to be non-white. Moving easily between alterations in the meaning of race and color, from colored to Negro to Afro-American to black to African American, always associating the idea of blackness with slavery. But little attention has been paid to history’s equally confused and flexible discourses on the white races and the old, old slave trade from eastern Europe.Actually, one would do well to skim past Painter’s introduction and statement of her thesis to the rich and significant historical data that she has minedthough it might have been more clear if the book had been more appropriately entitled, The History of White People (in America).
Let me state categorically that while this is not history in white versus black, I do not by any means underestimate or ignore the importance of black race in America. I am familiar with the truly gigantic literature that explains the meaning, importance and honest-to-god reality of the existence of race when it means black. In comparison with this preoccupation, statutory and biological definitions of white race remain notoriously vaguethe leavings of what is not black. But this vagueness does not indicate lack of interestquite to the contrary, for another vast historical literature much less known today, explains the meaning, importance, and honest-to-god reality of the existence of white races.