Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Sikh That Defined Whiteness in America

The shootings at the Oak Creek Gurdwara reminded me of the story of Bhagat Singh Thind who could be fairly described as the man who caused the United States Supreme Court to define White in the same way that inspired the murderous Wade Page.



Bhagat Singh Thind, a native of Punjab, immigrated to America in 1913. Working in an Oregon lumber mill he paid his way through University of California, Berkeley and enlisted in the United States Army in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. He was honorably discharged in 1918. In 1920 he applied for citizenship and was approved by the U.S. District Court. The Bureau of Naturalization appealed the case, which made its way to the Supreme Court. Thind’s attorneys expected a favorable decision since the year before in the Ozawa ruling the same Court had declared Caucasians eligible for citizenship and Thind, as most North Indians, was clearly Caucasian.

A sensible argument, if American racism made sense or you were confused what was meant in Ozawa.  Any confusion in the Ozawa case was swiftly cleared in this decision.…

Associate Justice George Sutherland found that, while Thind, an Asian Indian, may claim to have “purity of Aryan blood” due to being “born in Village Taragarh Talawa,near Jandiala Guru, Amritsar, Punjab” and having “high caste” status; he was not Caucasian in the “common understanding”, so he could not be included in the “statutory category as white persons”.[1] George Sutherland wrote in his summary: [1]

” The eligibility of this applicant for citizenship is based on the sole fact that he is of high caste Hindu stock, born in Punjab [Amrit Sar], one of the extreme northwestern districts of India, and classified by certain scientific authorities as of the Caucasian or Aryan race…In the Punjab and Rajputana [Rajasthan], while the invaders seem to have met with more success in the effort to preserve their racial purity, intermarriages did occur producing an intermingling of the two and destroying to a greater or less degree the purity of the “Aryan” blood. The rules of caste, while calculated to prevent this intermixture, seem not to have been entirely successful… the given group [Asian Indian] cannot be properly assigned to any of the enumerated grand racial divisions. The type may have been so changed by intermixture of blood as to justify an intermediate classification. Something very like this has actually taken place in India. Thus, in Hindustan [India] and Berar [town in India] there was such an intermixture of the “Aryan” invader with the dark-skinned Dravidian.[1]

The Court concluded that “The term ‘Aryan’ has to do with linguistic, and not necessarily with physical characteristics, and it would seem reasonably clear that mere resemblance in language, indicating a common linguistic root buried in remotely ancient soil, is altogether inadequate to prove common racial origin.”

The Singh Thind decision had real consequences to those already nationalized.  Many had their citizenship rescinded.  Sikhs as well as others from the sub-continent  property confiscated and had to live an extremely furtive life hiding land titles in American born children’s hands or relying on trusted White associates.

As our MSM is currently asking Sikhs to justify their existence in our country as good non Muslims something kept tickling me to remember.  Sikhs have fought and suffered for the American dream every bit as much as other minorities in this nation and have experienced the same hate.  I’m no longer interested in people like AC Cooper being fascinated by the flag in a Sikhs front yard as if they need prove their American bona fides.  They don’t have to prove themselves to America, America needs to prove itself to them.



  1. fogiv

    thanks for this, adept. I had no idea.

    They don’t have to prove themselves to America, America needs to prove itself to them.


  2. Thanks Adept, you are always there with some interesting background.

    The president’s slave ancestor through his mom was an education for me as well. For those who missed it, the first African slave in America was an indentured servant named Mr. Punch – like many of all races – but breaking his contract and fleeing he was punished by being sentenced to permanent servitude.

    I don’t know more about that transition, but as a point in time it is an interesting slice of how what became the black/white divide began here.

    Interestingly as well, Mr. Punch fled Virginia in 1640, the same time and location my great-… grandmother was born. The London Company was also in the process of changing its marketing pitch after a 1622 Indian raid decimated the first settler population. The earlier pitch to get settles was: “come get rich”, the next batch were lured with: “come spread god’s word and overcome the savages”.

    Over coming years I hope to dig more into that period, for personal and family reasons. I would like to be able to tell my kids how things evolved from one point to another and use their ancestors as a framework to hold their interest. It was so few people and such small issues that led to such enormous problems we still deal with today.

  3. DeniseVelez

    on the subject of “when ‘Aryan’ isn’t white enough”.  Sadly – early anthropologists, steeped in scientific racism created the Aryan/Caucasian “race” at the top of a system of racial hierarchy.  

    Interesting to see how that was put to the test by Associate Justice George Sutherland.


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