Bhagat Singh Thind case was filed by an Indian origin man Bhagat Singh Thind in which he wanted the supreme court of the United States to declare that he was eligible to become the US citizen by Naturalization (261 U.S 204,1923).In the case, Thind argued that he was an Indian who belonged to the Aryan group and therefore he could be categorized as of Caucasian race (white) based on Aryan theory that had been formulated and grouped human beings into five racial groups which included the whites referred to as Caucasians. In the case the supreme court decided that Thind who was an Indian Sikh which is a high social caste in India could not become a US citizen by naturalization since he was not a white person and thus was not eligible under the US Naturalization Act (1790) which allowed only people of the white origin to enter and settle in America. The ruling of this case led to revocation of all citizenship passports that had been acquired by people of Asian origin
This is an act that was drafted by the then Maryland senator Tydings-McDuffie and passed in the US senate in 1934 (Sonia, 2004) .The act provided that US government was supposed to grand independence to Philippines within 10 years after the passage of the bill. This act was to allow the US government to withdraw its troops from the Philippines islands and recognize Filipino as an independent state. This was in a bid to prevent the large influx of Philippine citizens into American’s soil. Previously, all discriminative laws passed to bar entry and naturalization of aliens in the US did not bar the Filipinos as they considered themselves to be subjects of the US government since Philippines was a territory of US.
Arguments for why the Bhagat Singh Thind case is an example of racialization
As defined previously, racialization refers to the process of imbuing a character, religious beliefs, cultural beliefs or even ideological beliefs based on one’s race. In the case, Thind was declared ineligible for US citizenship due to the fact that he had been born in India in a high social caste and only migrated in the US in 1913(Jeffrey, 2000) as an alien despite the fact that he was able to argue that he was of Caucasian origin a group which all the whites claimed to belong. Though he worked his way through to enroll in the US military army in 1917 (Jeffrey, 2000).Thind was eventually absorbed in the army but dismissed on the basis of his race.
Discrimination of people of Asian origin was a clear motive from the court’s rulings. Thind had argued his case based on a court ruling that was passed in 1992,the Ozawa v United States (1922).In the case, the high court had refused to grant citizenship to Ozawa who was of Japanese origin on the fact that he was not of a Caucasian origin a group that composed of the white Americans and other groups which would be deemed by the courts to be US citizens .The law as early as 1900 had defined people of Caucasian origin to be inclusive of south Asian immigrants who entered America from the south. Thind had argued that since he was of Asian origin, he belonged to the Caucasian family and hence he was eligible for citizenship. However, he was denied his request which showed the efforts, the court was applying to defy any attempt of Caucasian definition that would include people of other origins apart from Europe.
The decision of the 1923 Thind case and the Aliens land act of 1920 led to clear definition of people of Asian origin that they were not Americans and could be defined as foreigners. They were thus subject to racial discriminatory laws such as the right to own land and right to become citizens of the US.
Racialization was also be evidenced in this case through Political discrimination. Thind just like all other Asians could not be naturalized and therefore they had no political voice in governance. This meant that nobody would be able to fight for their rights in the senate or the congress.
Immigration barriers were also evident before and after the ruling of this case. This ruling strengthened the previous laws that had been enacted barring immigration of the Asians in US .Asians could not be allowed to migrate and settle in America neither were they allowed to own lease land .It succeeded the enactment of more policies and laws such as the Tydings-McDuffie act (1934) and drawing of an imaginary line across the Black sea to create a bar zone that prevented people of Asian origin from migrating and settling in America.
The physical violence which was initially subjected to the Chinese was extended to people of Asian origin. In 1908 (Jeffrey, 2000) an incident in live oak saw many Asians of Indian origin being evicted from their farms. This act led to emergence of more anti-Asian movements and further laws were passed bar their entry and ensure those were there were deported to their countries of origin. This was fueled by the fact that there was no legal means to protect them against the violence. The ruling of the Bhagat Singh Thind case v United states ( 1923) paved way for more violations of their rights of Indians in US.as a result many resorted to going back to their native land significantly reducing their numbers in US
This act was meant to segregate all Filipinos who were living the US as foreigners and therefore they could not be eligible for citizenship in America. The government negotiated other bills that limited the number of Filipinos to about 50 per year who could be allowed to go and settle in America. This meant that all Filipinos who previously had acquired us citizenship would be revoked and thus they could be discriminated just like other foreigners.
The law allowed the passage of Filipino repatriation act in 1935 (Sonia, 2004) in which all Filipinos who had settled in the US would be returned back to Filipino. The law provided that all those who wished to come back should obtain a passport from the government of Philippine up to a maximum of 50.As a result, many Filipinos were deported back to their country of origin never to return in Us given their big numbers and the limitations that were provided.
The law provided that people of Filipino were aliens and this led to their subjection to physical violence by the Native Americans. They were evicted from their firms and high taxation was imposed on these immigrants.
Economic racialization was another implication of this law. Clause of the law indicated that all people of Filipino origin could not be allowed to either purchase or lease land in America. Those who were working as laborers were underpaid by the Native Americans of euro origin as they took this opportunity to exploit them in all economic areas
The enactment of this law included clauses that had defined Filipinos as people of Asian origin and thus racial discriminations and segregations were also applicable to them. They were not supposed to educate their children in schools that were segregated for the whites only. They were supposed to attend either the Asian schools or schools for the black people.
The Tydings-McDuffie act and Bhagat Singh Thind case exemplify the process of racialization. They Tydings-McDuffie act (1934) was passed with a motive of segregating all the Filipinos due to their race. On the other, Thind case ruling was meant to counter all the effects of other citizens who were considered as aliens from acquiring US citizenship on the basis of their race. The two cases aimed at discriminating and excluding all people considered being of Asian origin.
The Philippine Independence Act (Tydings-McDuffie Act) approved March 24, 1934, Chan Robles Law Library.
Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Schultz, Jeffrey D. Jeffrey D Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics: African Americans and Asian Americans. 2000.
Zaide, Sonia M. The Philippines: A Unique Nation. All-Nations Publishing Co., 1994.
United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Certificate From The Circuit Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit, No. 202. United States Reports, v. 261. The Supreme Court, October Term, 1922, 204–215.