ETHNOLOGISTS vs. THE "COMMON MAN"
(All lovers of justice and international brotherhood will find the following facts of vital interest to them; and it is specially asked that they read each word carefully and then act on the suggestions offered.)
Up until recently, a Hindu of Aryan stock has always been free to become an American citizen, if he so desired. This right was granted him in accordance with an early American statute which declared all "white persons" to be eligible to American citizenship. For 133 years this phrase "white persons" has been interpreted in all courts of law to include the Hindus as a branch of the Aryan race. According to the Dictionary of races and peoples which has been approved and used by Congress in the past, the "white race" includes "the dark Hindus and other peoples of India, still more emphatically because of their possessing an Aryan speech, relating them still more closely to the white race, as well as because of their physical type."
The decisions of the American courts for almost a century and a half have interpreted the words "white persons" to mean those belonging to the Caucasian race. Hindus belong to the Caucasian race and as such have always been eligible to American citizenship. Webster's Dictionary defines "Aryan" to mean "a member of that Caucasic race of which one branch early occupied the Iranian plateau, and another entered India." Every ethnologist acknowledges that the Hindus are Caucasians and Aryans. The skull and other bone formations and the hair texture, as well as historical records and the possession of a common root language, all point to the fact that the Europeans and the Hindus came from the same stock, and they still maintain the same common racial characteristics.
So for 133 years Hindus have occasionally availed themselves, as members of the Caucasian race, of the privilege of becoming American citizens. But on February 19, 1923, when a high-caste Hindu, Mr. B. S. Thind, applied for American citizenship, he was refused this right by Justice Sutherland, who, in an attempt to explain why he was reversing the decisions of his predecessors on the bench for the last 133 years, said:
"What we now hold is that the words 'free white persons' are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word 'Caucasian' only as the word is popularly understood and used, whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologists."
What Justice Sutherland means by these extraordinary words is that he believes that only those persons should be admitted to American citizenship whose skin is so white that even the most ignorant "common man" would know he belonged to the white race. In thus interpreting the words "white persons," Justice Sutherland takes the stand that he prefers the judgment of ignorance to the judgment of science. He would rather let the "common man" interpret what "white persons" means, regardless of what the ethnologist thinks, not withstanding the fact that the former may be an ignoramus on the subject and the latter a learned specialist who has studied the matter and is in a position to give a true impartial decision.
Further, the most remarkable complications may logically result from the decision of Justice Sutherland. If, then, the interpretation of what a "white person" is, is going to be left to the "common man" rather than the ethnologist, and if the words are going to be interpreted so literally that one must have a certain degree of whiteness in the skin in order to qualify for American citizenship, then we may logically expect that not only Hindus but also great numbers of southeastern Europeans will be barred. Certainly many Spanish, Italian, Greek and other Latin peoples have dark skins. Even fair English and other blond types often become very dark thru long association with tropical suns. Many English officials in India return to their native land after years of service in India, so dark that their own mothers would scarcely know them. Such is the power of the fiery sun. So perhaps it is well to warn naturalized Americans who intend traveling in tropical countries that, if Justice Sutherland's ruling is going to stand as a law in this country, they had better extract a solemn promise from their own American government that they will be allowed to return to America and retain all their rights as American citizens, regardless of how dark they may appear on their return. Such a precautionary step is certainly advisable in the present state of affairs!
Then, reflect that many Hindus of Kashmere and other north India provinces within the cold climatic belt of the snowy Himalayas, are very fair and white in complexion and often have blue eyes. The "common man" whose interpretation is so dear to Justice Sutherland, would certainly consider these Kashmiris to be "white persons." The State Department has since ruled that such persons would be ineligible to American citizenship on account of their race, but, so far as Justice Sutherland's decision is concerned (because his ruling makes citizenship dependent not on race, but on skin color), it would not have been impossible for a Kashmiri Hindu to have become an American citizen, while another naturalized American, visiting foreign parts, and who had rashly sunned himself into a shade of brown too deep for political recognition, would find on his return to America that he could not satisfy the "common man" that he was a "white person," since obviously he is not, and hence his citizenship might be lost to him! Nor is this example too far-fetched, since the State Department has since used Justice Sutherland's ruling with what practically amounts to unconstitutional retro-active application.
The situation is not without its humorous aspects. It is most unusual, fortunately, to find a judge who is willing to waive the opinion of experts in favor of the "understanding of the common man." For example, imagine a judge who, in a murder case, would rather accept the opinion of the ordinary layman, and who set at naught the findings of a chemist, in reference to whether or not a certain spot on a vital piece of evidence, was a spot of blood! So, when ethnological advice is obtainable as to the meaning of the words "white persons," it is inexcusable to prefer the judgment of the "common man."
Consider, too, other complications that are bound to arise. Justice Sutherland refused citizenship to Mr. Thind solely because his skin was not white. But in thus refusing to interpret "white persons" to mean Caucasians, and in agreeing to interpret the phrase as referring only to the color of the skin, Justice Sutherland leaves room for a host of new difficulties, some of them of the most humorous "complexion." Who is going to decide just where "white" leaves off, and "brown" begins in the skin pigment? And who will decide just where powder and other cosmetics leave off and true skin color begins? Assuredly, the learned Justice must have realized that he was treading on very delicate ground here!
Jesus Christ, according to Justice Sutherland, was not a "white person" and would be ineligible to American citizenship were he present today. All thru the ages, the spiritual contribution of India to the world has been boundless. But Justice Sutherland is not interested in the quality of the candidate for American citizenship. He thinks that the color of the skin is more important. But it is difficult to believe that the American people agree with him or think as he thinks. The American people realize that their national greatness lies in the contributions of diverse races and minds. "The Melting Pot!" The land of equal opportunity! America would not be America without her cosmopolitan spirit, her racial admixtures, her diverse representatives. When Justice Sutherland expressed his willingness to accept the interpretation of the "common man" in the belief that the "common man" would base his judgment of what a "white person" was, solely on the color of the person's skin, I do not think that the Justice gave much credit to the intelligence and the fair-mindedness of the average American.
What has been the result of this decision of Justice Sutherland's? It has not only prevented any Hindu from becoming an American citizen since 1923, but it has even been used to deprive all Hindus in this country who had become citizens prior to 1923, of their citizenship. The injustice of this simply cannot be overstated. It rendered such Hindus absolutely stateless. They automatically ceased to be British subjects when they took the oath of American allegiance. By British law, they rendered themselves for all time to come, aliens in the eyes of the British. Hence, though they were considered "white persons" at the time they were granted citizenship, and had no reason to suppose the United States would ever retract its pledge of protection, yet they are now in the sorry plight of the "man without a country." The retro-active application of Justice Sutherland's decision has worked the utmost hardship upon those Hindus who had previously been granted citizenship. As stateless persons, neither their liberty nor their property is secured to them. It is hard for them even to make a living as professional men, for few people would wish to employ stateless persons. The American Government will not issue them a passport to travel abroad, and there is no other government to whom they may apply. They cannot enter any other country with proper credentials, nor can they secure citizenship in any other country while staying in America. The wives of these stateless Hindus are also rendered stateless, even when these women are American-born. The sudden change of political fortune forced many Hindus to give up their property under the Alien Land Laws, and wrought the utmost economic injustice and even ruin upon them.
Race distinction by the color standard has in it the dynamite of violent racial passion, which once roused fully would work havoc in the world. America needs statesmen who can design laws to bring out international good will, not racial animosity for pointless purposes.
One such statesman is Senator Royal S. Copeland of New York. On June 23rd, 1926, he introduced into Congress a bill designed to give a legal definition to the words "white person" and to include Hindus within the scope of this definition. For 133 years it has not been necessary to thus specifically define "white persons," because all judicial authority during that period of time has agreed to interpret the words "white persons" in their ethnological and true sense. It was left to Justice Sutherland to discover that all his predecessors for 133 years had been mistaken and that he alone had at last discovered the proper and literal meaning of the word "white." Senator Copeland, in an effort to legally define the words "white persons," has introduced a bill, which, if passed, will effectively prevent any more literal rulings by individual judges to whom white is white, and brown is a crime. The new bill aims to include all Caucasian peoples within the scope of the words "white persons."
One authority sums up the situation thus: "The Hindus affected by this ruling (of Justice Sutherland's) number from three to five thousand, most of them farmers on the Pacific Coast. They had made an important contribution to the economic life of the country in developing cultivation of cotton in the Imperial Valley, and were in many cases well-to-do. The opinion of Judge Sutherland placed them in the class of those ineligible for citizenship, who under California law are ineligible to hold or lease land. They were enabled to remain on the farms which they had developed on what was thought to be sterile and arid land, only by virtue of transferring title or leasehold to American citizens, by whom they were mulcted of the fruits of their industry, and in some cases reduced to peonage. The present bill, which should be promptly passed, will have no effect on the immigration of Hindus from the barred zone. It will merely make impossible the economic exploitation of a group of extraordinarily able farmers and artisans. It will rescue the Hindus already admitted to citizenship from their stateless condition, and in cases where Hindus not citizens have married American women, it will allow their wives to retain United States citizenship. It will save the United States from the meanness and dishonor of retracting a pledge already given. A man who renounces one government and swears allegiance to another in good faith has a right to expect good faith on the part of the nation to which he is admitted, particularly if he is ready to shed his blood in its defense."
Senator Copeland's bill is worthy of the support of all right-thinking and justice-loving Americans. It was introduced into the last session of the 69th Congress on June 23, 1926, and is Bill Number S. 4505. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Immigration. The bill reads as follows: "A BILL: To amend section 2169 of the Revised Statutes as amended, in respect to the definition of a white person. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that section 2169 of the Revised Statutes, as amended, is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new sentence: 'A person shall be deemed to be a white person within the meaning of this section if such person is of any one of the following peoples; Scandinavian (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), German, Dutch, English, Flemish, Lithuanian, Scotch, Irish, Welsh, Russian, Polish, Czech (Bohemian, Moravian), Servian, Croatian, Montenegrin, Slovak, Slovenian, Ruthenian, Dalmation, Herzegovinian, Bosnian, Albanian, Armenian, French, Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Spanish-American, Mexican, Portuguese, Greek, Hindu, Gypsy, Arabian, Hebrew, Syrian, Caucasus, Basque,'"
Thus it will be seen that Senator Copeland's bill does not have any reference to immigration of Hindus from the barred zone. Nor is it my wish or intention in this article, to give the United States Government any advice or suggestions about handling its immigration situation or other political problems. It is my desire simply to protest against the injustice that the Hindus in this country have suffered thru an interpretation of the words "white persons" from a standpoint of color rather than from the proper standpoint of race. Color is a most unnatural and arbitrary standard to use. The Hindu Aryans and the European Aryans are brothers, not only in the wide and beautiful sense that all men are brothers, claiming the same Divine Father as their Creator, but also in a narrow historical sense. Because one branch of the Aryans settled in the warm regions of India and acquired a darker skin, and the other branch settled in the colder European countries and remained lighter in color, is surely no argument in favor of their denying their common blood and heritage.
I specially request all my students to write to the Senators who compose the Immigration Committee, to which Senator Copeland's bill has been referred, urging the passing of the bill. The name of the Senators comprising the Committee, are as follows:
1.--Hon. Hiram Johnson, of California.
2.--Hon. Henry W. Keyes, of New Hampshire.
3.--Hon. Frank B. Willis, of Ohio.
4.--Hon. David A. Reed, of Pennsylvania.
5.--Hon. Rice W. Means, of Colorado.
6.--Hon. Gerald P. Nye, of North Dakota.
7.--Hon. William H. King, of Utah.
8.--Hon. William J. Harris, of Georgia.
9.--Hon. Pat. Harrison, of Mississippi.
10.--Hon. Royal S. Copeland, of New York.
11.--Hon. Cole L. Blease, of South Carolina.
These gentlemen should all be addressed as above, in care of the Senate Office Building, Washington, D. C.
If you have not time to write to all of them individually, then write to Hon. Hiram Johnson, who is Chairman of the Committee; to Hon. Royal S. Copeland, thanking him for introducing the Bill; and to President Coolidge, asking for his support.
In your letters, please stress the following points:
1—Senator's Copeland's Bill (Number S. 4505; please mention this) does not have any bearing on the immigration problem.
2—The passage of the bill will prevent the economic exploitation of those Hindus who now have had to dispose of their property under the Alien Land laws.
3—It will rescue those Hindus, admitted to citizenship prior to 1923, from their present stateless condition of men without a country.
4—It will enable American women who have married Hindus to retain their American citizenship. An American man does not lose his citizenship thru marriage with a foreigner. The same privilege should be granted to American women.
5—It will prevent racial bitterness and the raising of a new color barrier. The Hindus are now discriminated against, not as members of the Caucasian race, but as the possessors of a dark skin. This is manifestly unjust and unwise.
6—India has ever been the great giver of spiritual gifts to the world. America has ever been the land of political freedom. To cultivate friendship between the two countries is to foster a constructive and mutually advantageous relationship.
Please write up the above points in your own words. Try to interest all your friends in this struggle against injustice and untruth, and ask them to write to Senator Copeland and Senator Johnson. If you have time, besides writing to President Coolidge and to the eleven Senators of the Immigration Committee, mentioned above, write also to the two Senators in the National Senate who represent your own state.
My object in writing this article, is not merely to aid in securing simple justice for the Hindus in America, however desirable that object might be. For the Hindus have their own great and spiritual land, and Americans should deem it at least as high an honor to welcome a son of India to American citizenship, as the Hindu should feel in assuming that position.
But my object is also to point out to all truth-loving, Christian Americans that their high and sacred duty is to uphold the beautiful standards of Christianity, whose Founder said, "All ye are brethren" (Matthew 23:8). If Christianity is to remain a vital and redeeming faith in the world, it must inspire its followers with courage to maintain its principles. Mental sloth is spiritual stagnation. We must fight for the right, and be willing to actively bestir ourselves in a spiritual cause against injustice.
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