‘Journey’ Teaser Series: Are Indians Aryan?

For a full answer to this and other questions, see Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam

With the issue of race still very much in the public eye in 2010, we thought it interesting to re-investigate the position of the country earlier in the country’s history. In doing research for Journey into America, we found that in 1923,  the Supreme Court of the United States passed a verdict stating that “naturalization”, or US Citizenship, was reserved for “whites” only.

The case, United States v Bhagat Singh Thind, involved Singh, a man of Indian origin, who had come to the United States in 1913 looking for higher education.  After having been honorably discharged from the Army, Singh applied for citizenship from the state of Washington in 1918. The Immigration and Naturalization Service insisted that US Citizenship was only for “free white men.”

Singh’s lawyers argued that as Singh was of “Aryan blood” he was racially “pure” and therefore met the stipulations for citizenship. There is controversy to this day about the historical accuracy of the “Aryan Invasion” of India whereby the “Aryans” had come to India and subordinated the natives. Therefore, it was argued, Singh, and many others, were in fact Aryan and could be considered “white”.

This line of reasoning was lost on the Supreme Court. The court, which rejected Singh’s claim in unanimous opinion, noted that while Singh may have had “purity of Aryan blood” and was of “high caste” status, he was still not Caucasian in the “common understanding” so he could not be included in the “statutory category as white persons.” President Johnson, following initiative begun by President Kennedy, later signed the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act in 1965, which reversed many of the previous laws. The act laid the groundwork for the immigration laws that we use today.

Singh finally received citizenship through the State of New York through a loophole that allowed veterans of World War I to gain US citizenship. This was over the objections of the INS which was adamant that no non white could receive US citizenship.

The Bhagat Singh case raises obvious questions about who can be an American and the history of this question, which we discuss in detail in the book Journey into America.

Order Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.


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