HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Whiteness and Inferior St...

Sun Dec 7, 2014, 04:29 PM

Whiteness and Inferior Stock, the Johnson-Reed Act 1925 & historic prejudice re immigrants

IOW, give us your tired, poor, yearning to be free as long as they don't look like or have names that sounded like Gypsies, Jews, Catholics, Italians or Asians.

Our nation of immigrants has a long history of not fulfilling the great dream. In the wake of Obama's decision to cut back on deportations, I thought this might remind us of our own not too distant immigrant pasts.

Doing some digging into SO's geneology I've been having trouble getting to original names which were changed sometimes radically to camouflage their roots in poor villages in the mountains of northeastern Slovakia. Seems the 1920's was a time the US had some resentment against folks who didn't seem to have the 'superior traits' of northwest Europeans. Even after 25 years as US citizens in the 1920s it was necessary for her grandfathers to abbreviate and change spellings to fit in, just to have jobs in shoveling coal into steel mill furnaces.


Discriminatory immigration policies aimed at southern and eastern Europeans figured into the quota-based policies of the 1920s. With the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, also known as the National Origins Act or Johnson-Reed Act, the U.S. used restrictive immigration policies in the 1920s based on the 1890 proportions of foreign-born European nationalities. Since the 1890 census reflected higher numbers of northern Europeans, immigrants from those countries had greater opportunities to emigrate.

The arguments, outlined in Madison Grant's 1916 book The Passing of a Great Race, held that older immigrants were skilled, thrifty, hardworking like native born Americans and recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unskilled, ignorant, predominantly Catholic or Jewish and not easily assimilated into American culture.

Madison Grant and Charles Davenport, among other eugenicists, were called in as expert advisers on the threat of "inferior stock" from eastern and southern Europe, playing a critical role as Congress debated the Immigration Act of 1924. The act attempted to control the number of "unfit" individuals entering the country by lowering the number of immigrants allowed in to fifteen percent of what it had been previously. Existing laws prohibiting race mixing were strengthened as well.

Gradually, southern Europeans were included in the white category over the next census decades. Those denied equal status were marked and measured as racially different—Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and Native peoples. The 1920 census racial categories included Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mulatto, Negro and White.

The Naturalization Act of 1906 provided the conditions under which immigrants to the U.S. could become naturalized citizens.
Under the act, only white persons and persons of African descent or African nativity were eligible. In 1922, a Japanese businessman named Takao Ozawa filed for U.S. citizenship under the act; he did not challenge the constitutionality of the racial restrictions, but argued that people of Japanese descent should be classified as white.

Associate Justice George Sutherland however, ruled that only Caucasians were white, and therefore the Japanese could not be considered white but rather were of an "unassimilable race," not covered by any Naturalization Act.

Sutherland issued a similar ruling three months later in another Supreme Court case. This one, known as United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, concerned another alien seeking U.S. citizenship. The decision classified South Asian Indians as Asian for the first time, and not only affected immigrants seeking naturalization, but allowed previously naturalized Asian Indians to be stripped of their American citizenship, since it could be claimed that they had gained citizenship illegally—a claim often upheld. Once they had been stripped of their citizenship, Indian land owners became subject to the California Alien Land Law and similar laws against Asian immigrants. With the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917 preventing new immigration to the U.S. to strengthen the Indian community, most Asian Indians left the U.S., so that by 1940 their population was reduced by half to 2,405.

0 replies, 550 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Reply to this thread