Whiteness had never existed in Europe before we arrived in the so-called New World. In Europe, we were English, Irish, German, or whatever we were. And we had spent the better part of our histories killing and conquering one another. There was no Pan-European glue bonding us together under a common banner. Only after the colonial project in the Americas began did it become necessary and valuable for the landowning class to create a catch-all term that could smooth over old differences.
This is true for so-called "white" Americans. But James Baldwin (et al.) argues that "white" and "whiteness" both began when those very first 15th and 16th century European "explorers" and conquerors set forth across the seas and "discovered" that THEY were the world's true (and only) "minority."