Will “Whiteness” Continue to Be the Historic Marker for US Immigration Policy?
A chronological look at some of the policies and laws that emphasized the value of white immigrants over others could begin with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which declared “all male white inhabitants” would become citizens. This would exclude native populations, African slaves, populations of non-whites who had established communities in the Southwest, and women from citizenship, although all resided in this country. As time passed, the 1882 Immigration Act imposed a head tax on “undesirables” and sent them back. Also in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act kept Chinese labor immigrants out. Stereotypes became the base for maintaining a white superiority in admission to this country; if a nationality was thought to be alcoholic or criminals with links to a Mafia, they would be sent back. Public health inspectors could make snap decisions with little information other than how a person looked. If they could not bolster the economy, they were not welcome. Between 1882 and the 1900s, laws were enacted that set quotas and maintained a preference for immigrants who looked like the majority white population. Stories of refugees fleeing oppression being sent back to sure annihilation have become part of our history.
Coupling these race-based laws with the eugenics movement creates a history of complicity by many in the nonprofit sector. Writing for the History News Network and based on his 2012 book The War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, Edwin Black writes,
Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America’s most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Stamford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics’ racist aims.
The upheaval of life in the U.S. following the Civil War, along with increased immigration, created a movement that sought to populate the nation with blond, blue-eyed Nordic types. According to Black, “This group alone, they believed, was fit to inherit the earth.”