Us Vs. Bhagat Singh Thind Analysis

972 Words4 Pages
The Naturalization Act of 1790, which restricted naturalized citizenship to only "free white persons," marks the beginning of racial eligibility for citizenship in the United States (Koshy, 1998, p. 290). Subsequent exclusionary policies, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1917, the National Origins Quota Law of 1924, further emphasized whiteness as one of the most defining prerequisite for naturalization. In the early 20th century, the meaning of the racial category "white" became the subject of multiple legal disputes involving Asian Indians. Disagreement over the inclusion of Asian Indians in the "white" category originated due to the fact that "their complexion was dark, but they were ethnologically Caucasian" (Shah, 1999, p. 249). One of the most infamous cases, United States vs. Bhagat Singh Thind, was presented in an article from the March 10, 1923 issue of The Literary Digest, describing the outcome of the case and its implications on the Indian community, primarily in California. Through a textual analysis of the article, this paper discusses the formation of the legal definition of whiteness, the ways of justification of social inequality, and the construction of Asian Indians as a racially unassimilable group in U.S. immigration history. The legal boundaries between white and non-white have been, at least partially, defined through the struggles between Asian immigrants and the U.S. government at the turn of the 20th century. This process culminated with the Supreme Court’s decision on February 23, 1923, ruling that Bhagat Singh Thind, an Asian Indian immigrant, should not be considered a white person despite his claims of having Aryan ancestry, thus belonging to the Caucasian race (Hind... ... middle of paper ... ... Indians had gained a status of fact for decades to come. Race figured prominently in the development of immigration policies in the U.S. It had been most important characteristic used to determine whether or not one would be considered an American for many years. Predetermined by earlier race relations between Americans of the European and African descend, the black and white paradigm was challenged with an arrival of Asian Indian immigrants. Their dark skin hue and Aryan ancestry put this group of immigrants in an ambiguous position in regards to the right of U.S. citizenship. It is through a case-by-case process of determining one’s eligibility for naturalization that the difference between white and non-white categories had been clarified, contributing to the justification of social inequality and the formation of unassimilable groups of Asian immigrants.

    More about Us Vs. Bhagat Singh Thind Analysis

      Open Document