Racial Classification of Indian Americans - U.S. Courts

U.S. Courts

Courts have classified Indians as white and non-white until the 1923 Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, which created the official stance to classify Indians as non-white. At the time, this decision retroactively stripped Indians of citizenship and land rights. The ruling placated the Asiatic Exclusion League demands, spurned by growing outrage at the Turban Tide / Hindoo Invasion (sic) alongside the pre-existing outrage at the Yellow Peril. As they became classified as non-whites, Indian Americans were banned by anti-miscegenation laws from marrying white Americans in the states of Arizona, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

Suggestive of the poor coordination within the legal system of the early 20th century is the fact that Thind applied for and received U.S. citizenship through the state of New York a few years after his original U.S. citizenship was revoked by the U.S. Supreme Court. Numerous other instances exist of naïve clerks, or clerks acting in protest, who granted citizenship in defiance of the Supreme Court. Enthusiastic anti-Indian sentiments seemed fairly absent in New England.

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