A historical perspective of Americans of Asian Indian origin
By Srirajasekhar Bobby Koritala
© All Rights Reserved, Srirajasekhar Koritala.
This is a brief historical perspective of Americans of Asian Indian origin. Having immigrated from India to the USA, I have developed a curiosity about people like myself who have moved to “Amerika”. For a long time I hardly knew anything about “Indians in America”. Frankly, I didn’t care to know. After all I was just a student in the USA who wanted to get a great education and return home to India. But circumstances changed and I decided to become an immigrant to the USA. It was at this point that I wondered about the Indian immigrants who had come before me and made similar decisions to stay.
I’d always assumed that Indians never really came to the USA until the 1960s. However, I remembered vaguely, from my high school history lessons, that there had been a group of Indian expatriates who had formed a party, called the “Ghadhar Party”, in the USA to assist in India’s struggle for freedom from British colonial dominion. So I had an inkling that there was more to the story than I knew.
Well, the experience of researching and learning about the history of Indian immigration to the USA has been enlightening, to say the least. Mind-blowing is more like it! I had no idea. I’ve wanted to share this knowledge with people and that’s why I’ve written this perspective. I don’t really have the time to write in more detail, so please forgive the brief nature of this document. I have included some references at the end and I strongly encourage interested persons to look them up.
The earliest record of an Indian traveling to the USA is that of a young Indian man from Madras who may have visited Massachusetts in 1790. As Salem developed its trade with India during the next decade, young Indians worked on the India wharves at Crownshield and Derby, two of the larger shipyards. In 1851, six Indians marched in the Salem Fourth of July parade under the banner of the “East India Marine Society”. Most of these men are believed to have married American women of African origin and integrated themselves into that community.
After the American civil war, American consuls did everything they could to stop Indians from immigrating to the USA (That hasn’t changed even today, has it?). The consul in Bombay told a group of Parsees that “the United States would not be a good place for them”. The consul in Calcutta strongly opposed efforts to remove racial discrimination in India because as he stated, “it was bad to bring Europeans and Americans down to the level of non-Christian civilizations”. He also discouraged Mormon missionaries from taking converts back to the USA in the 1880s.
Coming to America
Regardless of the efforts of a few bigots, a few hundred Indian traders did come to the USA in the 1880s. They traded in silk, linens, spices and other goods from India. This period was also witness to burgeoning interest in Indian culture, philosophy and religions among American intellectuals. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau studied Indian philosophy and religions with great zeal. Walt Whitman wrote the poem “Passage to India” in 1868. The number of people in Boston who were interested in Indian philosophy and religions grew to the extent that it led to the coining of the term “The Boston Brahmin”. “The Rajah’s Daughter” and “Cataract of the Ganges” were plays performed at the Boston theater during this period. The song “The Hindu Girl” was quite popular. Not only did the Boston Brahmins read about India, but they also bought Bengal ginghams and other fine goods on India Street. The ships that brought these goods tied up at India wharf. This period of interest in things Indian reached a high point when Swami Vivekananda, a fluent English speaking Hindu monk, addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in the year 1893. The interest he generated led to the establishment of “The Vedanta Society” centers all across America. Perhaps as a result of the goodwill generated between the American and Indian peoples of this period, the American people shipped large quantities of food to India to help Indians endure the famine (of 1897) caused by British colonial looting. Cosmopolitan magazine ran a scathing rebuke of the British for spending a hundred million dollars on the Queen’s jubilee while at the same time causing millions of Indians to starve.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s a number of Indians from Punjab migrated to the western United States. During this period economic conditions in the Punjab state of India had worsened because of severe exploitation by the British. This exploitation, which usually took the form of the British forcing Indian farmers to grow cash crops such as Indigo rather than food crops, caused severe famine and impoverished many farmers. In order to support families, the youngest sons of families were encouraged to emigrate to find work and supplement the family income. A number of these men were Sikhs, though a few Hindus and Muslims migrated as well. They usually came by boat through Hong Kong and disembarked either in Vancouver or Angel Island (the Asian equivalent of Ellis Island which holds terrible memories of oppression and racism). The Sikh temple in Hong Kong provided support along the way. Most of these young men in their early 20s took jobs in lumber mills and the railroad when they arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Several hundred Indians worked in lumber mills settled in Bellingham in Washington State. A few hundred to at times over a thousand Indians worked on the railroads in California. One particularly well documented Indian work group was led by Tuly Singh Johl and helped build the Marysville railway station in California.
However, after the racist violence against Indians, perpetrated by the European labor unions in the lumber mills (see section titled
“The Riots”), a number of Indians moved to the San Joaquin valley and the central California alluvial plain to work as agricultural laborers. Most of these workers were well-suited for agricultural work because they came from the agrarian society of Punjab and the Californian farming conditions were similar to those they were used to at home in India. They made more money as farm workers and through long hours of hard work typically saved enough money to buy their own land to farm. Hundreds of Indians settled in the Sacramento, Imperial and San Joaquin valleys. The Imperial valley in particular was considered so hard to farm that it was usually pronounced “unfit for the white man” so “handing it over to Indians” was acceptable. The Indians in these valleys thrived. They worked so hard and did so well in farming that they developed reputations as being “a safe bet” when it came to banks lending money. According to the 1919 census of land in the state of California, Indians owned 88,000 acres of land in California. 52% of this land was in the Sacramento valley. In the Imperial valley they owned 32,000 acres. However, most of these Indians were destined to lose their land under the 1913 California Alien Land law. This law held that certain aliens (specifically Japanese and Indians) were ineligible to own land if they weren’t citizens. Pursuant to this a number of Indians were denied citizenship and their lands usurped. The supreme court of the USA, in November 1923, upheld this law and claimed that it did not violate the fourteenth amendment. A few months later California strengthened the law, disallowing Indians from even leasing land. The net effect was that Indians could ONLY work as agricultural workers. However, by this time some Indians had born children and a large number of Indians transferred title to their American born children. The road to prosperity in agriculture was however, severely restricted for other Indian immigrants.
During the same period that some Indians were immigrating to the USA, as laborers in logging, railroading and agriculture, there was another group of Indians who migrated to the USA as students in Universities. A number of these students went to the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University where they organized themselves into groups supporting the cause of Indian freedom from British dominion. The story of these students is covered in more detail in the section “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Unless……”.
Sadly however, the tide was changing. As groups of Indian men continued to migrate to the American west to work in lumber yards and the railroad, the laborers who were Americans of European origin started complaining. These laborers belonged to organized labor movements that wanted to maintain higher wage levels in the lumber and railroad industries. The colonial British government which ruled India was also pressuring the American government to put an end to Indian student support for the Indian freedom struggle. The American government willingly and actively conspired with the British to monitor and deport these Indian students. Most of the deportees were murdered by the British upon their return to India. At the same time the political forces in Washington were becoming increasingly racist and supportive of British colonialism. Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 called for an American conquest of the Philippines because it was an “inevitable march of events” where the “dominant race” was the conqueror. While addressing Congress in 1904, he legitimized British colonial rule of India by comparing it with American rule in the Philippines.
The mob of over 500 angry racist men kicked open the doors to the waterfront barracks. Some of them grabbed all the “hindoos'” belongings and threw them onto the street. If they found any money or jewelry they pocketed it. The others went after the “rag-heads” themselves. They dragged the Indians from their beds and punched and kicked them. The ones that jumped out of the buildings to escape injured themselves in the process or were caught and beaten outside. Other rioters attacked a tenement on Forest Street. Once they were done beating the “hindoos” they burnt the bunkhouses. The date was Thursday, September 5, 1907 and the place was Bellingham, a frontier town in Washington State.
The police did nothing. Well actually that’s not quite accurate. They watched! In fact, the police chief turned over City Hall to the mob so the mob could collect the Indians and hold them there. He claimed it was to protect the Indians! Earlier, at the insistence of the mob, his policemen had released two youths who had been caught stoning Indians. They didn’t interfere with the mob’s rampage after that.
Earlier in the evening of that same day, racist Europeans who wanted to “drive out the hindoos” had chased and beaten two Indians walking on C Street. In the days preceding the major riots Indians had been beaten in defense of “white womanhood”, windows in two Indian houses had been smashed and numerous other hate crimes were committed.
The Indians lost their belongings and savings. They had nowhere to live anymore. They were beaten and injured. They had no hope of any protection from the city authorities. They didn’t have any jobs because the lumber yard owners who had employed them had been intimidated by the racist mob to fire them. And last but not the least, they faced death threats and continued violence if they stayed in Bellingham. Bewildered by the intensity of the hatred they left to find work elsewhere.
There were NO prosecutions of the marauders in the Bellingham riots.
The Bellingham riots triggered similar riots and “expulsions” throughout the pacific northwest. Some of the Indians who were driven from Bellingham went to Everett, another town in Washington state sixty miles south of Bellingham. On November 5th, 1907, in Everett, Washington ,over five hundred armed men attacked and beat the Indians and robbed and destroyed their belongings. The result was the same as in Bellingham.
Most newspapers editorials in the west including the San Francisco Chronicle condemned the violence but proclaimed that they understood and supported the intentions of the mobs for a “white west coast”.
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Unless……
…you were an Indian under British colonial dominion. There was no liberty in colonial India. Regardless of whether they were in India or America, Indians were not free and carried the yoke of British persecution. Life for Indians under British rule was miserable. India had never experienced a famine until the British conquered it and perpetrated two famines. India produced close to 25% of the world’s GDP before the British invaded; by the time the British left after looting the country for 300 years, India produced less than 1% of the world’s GDP. Happiness for Indians under British rule was a dream to be experienced once the British were driven out. Given these and other horrendous circumstances it is understandable why Indians longed to be free and fought for their independence from British colonial rule.
President Theodore Roosevelt was a strong supporter of British colonialism in India. In fact in an address to a Methodist Episcopal church group in January 1909, he stated that he considered British rule of India to be “..the greatest feat of the kind…since the Roman Empire…one of the most admirable achievements of the white race during the past two centuries…”. (Pardon me while I puke..). His feelings would set the tone for collusion between the British and American governments to squelch efforts by Indian students (in the “land of the free” – America) to support freedom in India.
Even though Roosevelt and his cronies created an environment of hostility a number of Indians involved in the freedom struggle were able to influence and draw support from more enlightened sections of American society. Lala Lajpat Rai, an Indian freedom fighter, visited the Boston Anti Imperialist League. The league’s president, Moorfield Storey, a committed racial egalitarian, strongly criticized British rule in India. This also set the stage for future interactions with the Indian National Congress and the arrival of Indian students and intellectuals, sympathetic to the Indian freedom struggle, on American shores. The first recorded Indian student arrived on the west coast in the winter of 1901-1902. The American consul in Calcutta at the time, Ohio Civil war veteran William Michael encouraged a number of students and even wrote introduction letters for them (far cry from the problems the consuls nowadays create for Indian students wishing to study in the USA). He would however change his attitude once the students got involved in supporting Indian freedom from the British.
Two of the primary organizers of the students and the support for the Indian freedom struggle among people in America were Taraknath Das and Har Dayal. A 22 year old Das arrived in Seattle on July 16, 1906 and later enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley as a student. Later he started a newspaper named “Free Hindusthan”, dedicated to Indian freedom, in Vancouver and organized the Indians there. In 1908 he moved to Vermont after being harassed by British intelligence agents and American authorities. Here he enrolled in the Vermont National Guard, but was removed after the British again raised concerns about Indian freedom fighters receiving military training in the USA. He obtained his American citizenship in 1914. The story of Das is very interesting and eventually ends with his de-naturalization as an American citizen (see the section titled “Brown Aryans”). I strongly encourage people to read more about him, its a fascinating story. After reading his story, the feeling one is left with is best described in the disgusted words of his American wife of European descent, “In America today (that is the 1910s), as well as in other countries, there exist double standards of international morality – one for the superior White man and the other for the Asiatics. The people of India are enslaved Asiatics, and they cannot, under the existing circumstances, expect to have equal rights with the superior Whites”. I sometimes wonder if some of what she said isn’t true even today, though things seem much better now!
The second leader to plague the British government with his support of Indian freedom was based in the Bay Area as well and his name was Har Dayal. He picked up where Das had left things when he moved east. Dayal first came to the USA to study Buddhism at the library in Harvard. He moved west in 1911 and took up a lectureship at Stanford teaching Indian Philosophy. He was a socialist and his involvement in these activities led the Stanford administration to dislike him and he resigned before they could fire him. He then moved down to Berkeley and organized the students there. He also contacted the Indian laborers in California and started organizing them. His cross community activities alarmed the British, who couldn’t fathom a united Indian opposition to British rule of India. Dayal worked with both the California Khalsa Diwan, a Sikh religious community group, and the Hindustan Association to build support for Indian freedom. He also worked to oppose the exclusion of Indians from America. After raising money from the Indian community he founded a paper titled “Ghadhar” (means revolt in Urdu) as a means of communication among Indians in America and to work for India’s freedom. The first issue, published on November 1, 1913, ran the advertisment,
“Wanted – Brave soldiers to stir up Ghadhar in India;
Pay – Death;
Prize – Martyrdom;
Pension – Liberty;
Field of battle – India.”.
This newspaper sent shivers up the British spine. Some of the Ghadhar publications made their way to India and the possibility of an Indian revolt frightened the British. They feverishly worked with their spies and informants to discredit the Ghadhar party and prosecute its members. After significant pressure from the British government the American government issued an arrest warrant for Dayal. Strangely enough Dayal was arrested, on March 25, 1920, for being an “anarchist or advocating the overthrow of the United States government by force.” Since Dayal had never advocated harming America, the trumped up nature of the charges and his strong defense led to his subsequent release. However, the British had infiltrated the Ghadhar party with informants by now. Any member of the party who returned to India was either promptly imprisoned or murdered by the British.
One of the primary intelligence agents hired by the British to spy on Indians in America was a man named W. C. Hopkinson. He was first hired by the Canadian government in 1909, but later worked extensively with the British government in India. He was instrumental in harassing both Das and Dayal. He was the pivotal person working with the British government and American officials to counter Indian freedom activities and to persecute Indians. With the blessing of the British government he hired private investigators and informants to keep track of Indians in the USA. He worked very hard with the British diplomatic staff in the USA to convince the sympathetic US State Department, Department of Justice and the Immigration authorities to prosecute Indians under trumped up charges for even participating in supporting the Indian freedom struggle. He was eventually assassinated by Mewa Singh in a Canadian courtroom where Hopkinson had appeared to testify against other Indians.
After Dayal, Ram Chandra took over the Ghadhar press. He and a few other Indians in the USA looked to Germany for support of the Indian freedom movement. During the war with Germany, the United States and Britain opposed Indian freedom while Germany supported it. So the obvious attraction of these Indian freedom fighters to Germany is understandable. It seems particularly hypocritical that while the United States was fighting Germany, ostensibly to further the cause of self-determination, they were also undermining the Indian nationalists in America. The British planted the idea of a “Hindu Conspiracy” and the Canadian and American justice departments willingly took it upon themselves to prove this shaky claim. The “Hindu Conspiracy” trial of 1917 held in San Francisco is a symbol of this farce. On April 6, 1917 President Wilson signed the house resolution declaring war on Germany. Immediately, that morning itself, Assistant Attorney General Charles Warren (who was working closely with Frank Polk – in charge of neutrality matters in the State Department) ordered the United States Attorney in San Francisco, John W. Preston to arrest the Indians in the “Hindu-German Conspiracy”. Ram Chandra (of the Ghadhar Party) and sixteen other Indian freedom fighters were arrested. It is interesting to note here that Warren didn’t sign the papers to arrest German agents until that afternoon. So in America’s war against Germany the Indian freedom fighters were arrested before the Germans spies were (makes me sick!). Most of these men were politically opposed to British hegemony of India and had used “the land of the free”-America- to launch their fight for India’s freedom. They were charged and convicted of seditious activities. Equating the political support they received from Germany to oppose British rule in India to a conspiracy was far-fetched and tenuous. Hearsay evidence rules were loosened and British documents were used to convict them. The similarity between the Indians’ aspiration for freedom and the American revolution against British colonialism was ignored. It is a disgraceful incident in American history, where the “land of liberty” was insidiously tricked by the colonialist British into persecuting Indians who held the American ideals of freedom and liberty close to heart.
It is noteworthy to mention that when Indians finally won their freedom (on August 15, 1947) and threw the British invaders out, they chose to start the constitution of the newly created secular, democratic, republic of India with the words “We the People of …India…” (inspired by the American constitution). I believe that this is the ultimate symbol of the fact that in their hearts and at the core of their beings Indians and Americans cherish and value the same essential absolute ethics about Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It is unfortunate that a few powerful and bigoted people in history and today tarnish this unity of purpose.
The hoodlums of the Bellingham and Everett mobs provided a violent catalyst for the actions and legislation by politicians in Washington D.C. to exclude, restrict and remove Indians from the USA. The Asian Exclusion League(AEL) provided a medium through which the more extreme racists and the politicians could meet to achieve their objectives. The British colonial government, in its mad rush to retain its control over India, actively spied on and conspired with the all too willing American government to crush any support among Indians in America for the Indian freedom movement. The environment of hatred and bigotry created by these forces led to very interesting legislative (by the U.S. Congress) and judicial (by U.S. Supreme Court decisions) maneuvers to remove Indians from America.
A number of Indians entered the USA through Angel Island (The Asian immigrants’ equivalent of Ellis Island. Though Asians were generally excluded or harassed beyond belief at Angel.) in San Francisco between 1908 and 1910. The immigration inspector at this port, Hart North, allowed Indians to enter because there were no laws restricting them. The Asian Exclusion League in collusion with a number politicians was conspiring to restrict Indian immigration. The AEL complained to anyone and everyone who would listen about North’s policy of letting Indians in. The democrats courted the AEL for their political support and in exchange supported restricting Indians. From 1904 through 1911, the AEL maintained a continuous pressure on the US government to restrict Indian immigration. In 1909 they complained to the Secretary of commerce and labor that Indians should not be allowed in. When nothing was done, they spread rumors that Indians were bringing in exotic diseases. This created mass hysteria and put pressure on the politicians. Racist newspapers like the San Francisco Call supported the AEL and printed wild stories about hordes of Indians coming to America. North continued letting Indians in. In the meantime the AEL spread rumors about Indians being polygamists, about their health being bad, about them being “filthy and unsanitary” and so on and so forth. They wrote to President Taft. On October 27, 1910 Taft suspended North and ordered an investigation. The stage was set by precedent to exclude Indians from the USA. There was no law specifically to exclude them, but there was an understanding that they were to be excluded by any means possible (that hasn’t changed much even today has it?). Furthermore the threat of getting dismissed if you let them in was enough to put a chilling effect on Indian admissions.
However, the tacit understanding to exclude Indians was not enough for the racist AEL or its political cronies. They kept on pushing ahead. The next step was to achieve legislative exclusion of Indians. However, Indians were still considered to be of Aryan descent and hence could not be excluded based on their race (Europeans were considered to be of Aryan descent too). An immigration commission composed of racist exclusionists reported in 1910 that Indians were the “least desirable race”. John Raker, a racist democratic congressman, and Anthony W. Caminetti, who became President Wilson’s immigration commissioner, did the most to restrict Indian immigration. Both of these men pushed for and finally secured the passage of the “Barred Zone Act” on February 4th 1917. This act effectively said that certain people from the barred zone, which included India, could not immigrate to the USA. Of course there was a loophole to admit white persons from the barred zone.
Even the fact that they had secured legislative banning of Indian immigration did not satisfy Caminetti and his AEL cronies. They pushed to have the Indians already in the USA deported. However, a large number of these Indians had legally obtained American citizenship and it was impossible to deport a citizen. This meant that they would first have to be de-naturalized and then deported. The Supreme Court came through on this account. A number of Indians such as Taraknath Das had applied for citizenship and were granted it by different judges because they couldn’t decide if they were “white” or not. There are strange stories of judges taking “close” looks at Indians to determine if they were white. Though their complexion was darker it was similar to a number of southern Europeans and their features were characteristically “white”. However, the Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte was convinced that Indians were not white and he challenged a number of these naturalizations. Interestingly enough, the census of 1910 counted the Indians separately but noted that “pure blood Hindus” were “ethnically white”. The first real challenge to this came when Bhagat Singh Thind’s application for naturalization was rejected. This man was a veteran of the United States Army and had been drafted during World War I but was still being denied citizenship. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Justice George Sutherland delivered the unanimous opinion of the court (on February 19, 1923) in which he argued that since the “common man’s” definition of white did not correspond to “Caucasian”, which Indians were, they could not be naturalized. The court stated that even though Indians were Caucasian they were not white and furthermore since Congress had passed a “Barred Zone Act” excluding Indian immigration it seemed like Indians were not allowed immigrants. Interestingly enough this is a reversal of previous verdict rendered by the same court (and Justice Sutherland in particular) in the October 1922 Ozawa case in which Sutherland clearly mentions Indians as Caucasians. In this verdict he mentions that Ozawa is not eligible for naturalization because he is Japanese and only Caucasians, including Indians, are eligible for citizenship. So in effect the court threw legal precedent, history, science and logic to come up with the flawed Thind decision. The Justice Department took this as a green light to de-naturalize Indians who had been naturalized even before the verdict. This is one of the few instances when a verdict was applied retroactively.
There is an interesting case of de-naturalization against a lawyer, S. G. Pandit of Indian descent. The justice department filed a petition to de-naturalize him. Congress had passed a law to prevent interracial marriages, requiring that white women lose their citizenship if they married a person not eligible for citizenship. But since Pandit had obtained his citizenship legally and his wife married him legally, removing his citizenship would imply that his wife would lose hers ex post facto. The judge agreed with Pandit and denied the justice department’s petition. The justice department appealed the case to the supreme court but they lost the case when the court refused a writ of certiorari.
However, the de-naturalization of Indians continued. California took the precedent one step further and stripped these Indians of land they legally owned. Tens of thousands of acres of land were usurped. Many Indians transferred their land to their American born children. California tried to deny citizenship to American children of Indian descent who were born in the USA. The attempt failed. However, the net effect was that a number of Indians lost their livelihoods. The San Francisco Examiner commented that these policies were not “race discrimination”, but “race preservation”. Fancy words for robbery.
These actions in America led Mahatma Gandhi to declare that “America had nothing to give India and India, for the present, had nothing to give to America”. The Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore refused an invitation, by the “Atlantic” magazine, to visit the USA and criticized the “utter lack of freedom with which the atmosphere is charged”. So much for the “Land of the free”! A few powerful racists like Caminetti, the AEL and Sutherland succeeded in undermining the lofty principles that the USA was founded on.
The door’s open
The “Barred Zone Act” of 1917 and the “Thind decision” of 1923 put Indian immigration to the USA into a deep freeze. There were few interactions between Indians and Americans. In the 1930s a few extremely successful Indian professionals and businessmen re-started interactions between the Indians and Americans. Sirdar Jagjit Singh founded the India League of America in 1938. Mubarak Ali Khan founded the Indian Welfare League in 1937. Indians continued lobbying for granting citizenship rights for Indians. In the early 1940s President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to suggest dominion status for India, but (that cigar chomping, fat obnoxious, pompous lout) Winston Churchil of Britain refused to entertain the idea of Indian freedom. Thousands of American troops had been stationed in India for the Second World War to fight Japan. The resentment against American troops in India grew because of America’s hypocritical policy of supporting British colonial hegemony over India. Republican Clare Booth Luce and Democrat Emmanuel Celler introduced bills to life restrictions on Indian immigration as a few previous bills had done for the Chinese and Japanese. However, the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization stonewalled until President Roosevelt sent William Phillips (in March 1945), his personal representative who had visited India, to testify secretly for the bill. The house passed the bill in October 1945, but Southern Democrats and Midwestern Republicans blocked it in the senate. The bill allowing Indian naturalization and immigration was finally passed in July 1946.
The success story
Since the doors opened, the saga of Indian immigration to the USA has been one of unparalleled success. Dalip Singh Saund an Indian from California was elected to Congress in 1956. He was re-elected twice, but his term ended when he had a debilitating stroke in 1962. Other Indians have made attempts to run for political office since (mostly in the 1980 and 1990s). Indians have formed PACs and are active participants in the political process. However, the political power of Indians is virtually non-existent compared to other more vocal groups.
The detailed statistics pertaining to Indians in the USA is something I intend to cover in another article but I’ll try to maintain a historical perspective in my discussion here. The number of Indians coming to the USA until 1965 remained in the hundreds. It has picked up significantly since then. In the 1980’s and 1990’s tens of thousands of Indians came to the USA. Most of them are extremely well-educated and well-qualified professionals. The census department reports that over 85% of Indians in the USA have graduated from high school, over 65% have college degrees and around 43% have graduate or professionals degrees. These educational levels are the highest of any group in the USA (including whites and other Asian groups). The Indian family’s median income is the highest in the country as well.
I found this information to be extremely eye-opening. I believe that one has to learn from history and better oneself. The history of Indian immigration to the USA is tortured and painfully racist. However, the fact that things changed for the better and the incredible success of Indian immigrants today is cause for optimism.
Throughout, history, there have people who have tried to harm America and its people of Indian descent by imposing their racist beliefs. However, this evil (like all evil) has been overcome by good. The evil of racist policies still lurks in the background and constantly needs to be fought and defeated. Immigration bills, one sponsored by Senator Alan Simpson in 1996 (which was defeated thanks to Bill Gates) and another passed in 1997 sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith, are significant threats to a fair immigration system. The very fact that these legislators target their bills towards Asian immigration is a sad and painful reminder of our history. The passing of the visa lottery system is another significant threat to fairness.
The behavior of visa officers in American consulates in India and immigration officers in the USA who deal with Indians too often reflects terrible racist and ethnic prejudices. From my conversations with an acquaintance who worked as a visa officer for the State Department it is apparent that these people are trained to discriminate against Indians. My own experiences with visa officers and immigration officers confirms this belief. I will do everything within my power to fight these racist policies. It is vital that America not slip back into the sordid policies of its past. Of course, things are much better than they were, but it is important to keep the trend from reversing.
The sentiments I have raised in this epilogue deserve more detailed analysis and I will try to deal with them in separate documents.
Finally, I want to emphasize that I believe America is a wonderful country. I believe most Americans (white, yellow, black, brown, green, blue – regardless of what color or ethnicity they are) are decent people. The purpose of this perspective is not to say “see what the white people did”. It is to say “see what mistakes were made by people in the past. Let’s avoid them in the future”.
Great Americans who helped Indians in the USA
- Mary Das – Wife of Taraknath Das and supporter of Indian freedom
- William Howard Taft – Vetoed racist immigration bill. But also a rogue for other things he did.
- Samuel Clemens and William Dean Howells – Criticized British imperialism and Kipling’s racist poetry.
- Harrison Gray Otis – Owner, Editor of Los Angeles Times favored Asian Immigration in 1917.
- Hart North – Immigration inspector in San Francisco who allowed a number of Indians to enter between 1908 and 1910.
- Franklin Roosevelt – Great American president who pushed through congress the repeal of the “Barred Zone Act” and allowed Indians to immigrate again to America.
- Clare Booth Luce – Republican congressman who supported renewing Indian immigration.
- Emmanuel Celler – Democratic congressman who supported renewing Indian immigration.
- Gilbert E. Roe – Attorney who volunteered his services to defend Indians who wrongfully faced deportation in 1918.
- Agnes Smedley – Helped Indians in America who were interested in freeing Indian from British colonial rule (circa 1918).
- W. A. and Marion Wotherspoon – Wealthy midwestern attorney and his wife who helped Indian freedom fighters like Das (circa late 1800s and early 1900s).
- Moorfield Storey – President of Anti-Imperialist League and racial egalitarian who criticized British colonialism in India.
- Arthur Upham Pope – Stanford Professor who served on committee to pick Indian scholarship recipients in 1911.
- Norman Thomas – Executive board member of Friends for the Freedom of India (FFI) in 1918.
- Roger Baldwin – Executive board member of Friends for the Freedom of India (FFI) in 1918.
- Margaret Sanger – Executive board member of Friends for the Freedom of India (FFI) in 1918.
- Robert Morss Lovett – President of Friends for the Freedom of India (FFI) in 1918.
- Dudley Field Malone – Vice President FFI, 1918.
- Frank P. Walsh – Vice President FFI, 1918
- John F. Kennedy – Great American President who helped India during the unprovoked Chinese attack on India in 1962. He and Jackie visited India too.
This is a list of historic figures who were bereft of common human decency and persecuted the Indians in the USA:
- William C. Hopkinson – Canadian/ British spy who conspired to undermine Indian freedom fighters.
- Charles Warren – Assistant Attorney General ordered arrest of Indian freedom supporters
- John W. Preston – United States Attorney in San Francisco prosecuted Indians in bogus “Hindu Conspiracy”
- Theodore Roosevelt – Racist, Imperialist, Colonialist, anti-Asian, anti-Indian American President
- William Howard Taft – Racist, American President – supported some anti-Indian sentiments
- Anthony W. Caminetti – Racist Congressman who championed restriction of Indian immigration and deportation of Indians and de-naturalization of American citizens who were of Indian descent.
- Rudyard Kipling – Sent the racist poem “White Man’s Burden” to Theodore Roosevelt. Supported “white” hegemony and colonialism.
- Frank Polk – State Department official in charge of neutrality laws during the war who conspired with British to railroad Indian freedom fighters into “Hindu Conspiracy” trial.
- The San Francisco Call – A racist newspaper that strongly opposed Indian immigration to the USA in 1910s.
- San Francisco Chronicle – A racist newspaper that strongly opposed Indian immigration to the USA in 1910s.
- Julius Kahn – California republican politician campaigned on a platform of racism against Indians in 1910.
- Asian Exclusion League (AEL)- One of the most insidious racist organizations which used violence, political muscle and any crooked means it could to restrict Asian
- Olaf Tveitmoe – AEL president in 1908. Racist scumbag.
- Andrew Furuseth – AEL group leader in 1908. Racist scumbag.
- Daniel J. Keefe – Commissioner General of Immigration in 1904 – Racist scumbag who was instrumental in executive restriction of Indian immigration to the USA.
- Frank H. Ainsworth – Immigration Inspector on Angel Island in 1910. Racist scumbag wanted to exclude Indian immigrants.
- Senator Frank Flint – Republican senator from Los Angeles. Racist scumbag who wanted to exclude “hindoos”.
- John Raker – Racist congressman who introduced many bills to stop Asian immigration.
- “Passage From India – Asian Indian Immigrants in North America”, Joan M. Jensen, Yale University Press, 1988.
- “Asians in America”, H. Brett Melendy, Twayne Publishers, 1977.
- “An Immigrant Success Story – East Indians in America”, Arthur W. Helweg and Usha M. Helweg, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.
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