Explore Different Rules for Whites

For centuries, whites have benefited from exclusionary laws and policies, while other groups were barred from citizenship, denied opportunities, and restricted from full participation in American society.

1790 Naturalization reserved for whites The 1790 Naturalization Act reserves naturalized citizenship for whites only. African Americans are not guaranteed citizenship until 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified in the wake of Reconstruction. Groups of Native Americans become citizens through individual treaties or intermarriage and finally, through the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. Asian immigrants are ineligible to citizenship until the 1954 McCarran-Walter Act removes all racial barriers to naturalization. Without citizenship, nonwhites are denied the right to vote, own property, bring suit, testify in court - all the basic protections and entitlements that white citizens take for granted.
1830 Indians dispossessed of lands Throughout the 19th century, American Indian lands are taken away and given to white settlers. The 1830 Indian Removal Act forcibly relocates thousands of Indians from east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma. Many die en route. The 1862 Homestead Act encourages a flood of squatters to invade Indian lands in the midwest. Already suffering from decimation of the buffalo, nomadic Plains Indian tribes are forced to relocate to government reservations. The 1887 Dawes Act breaks up collectively owned Indian lands and redistributes it to individuals, allowing "surplus" land to be sold to whites. Lewis Cass, Secretary of War under President Jackson, sums up 19th-century Indian policy this way: "The Indians are entitled to the enjoyment of all the rights which do not interfere with the obvious designs of Providence."
1854 Nonwhites barred from testifying In People v. Hall, the California Supreme Court reverses the conviction of a white man in a murder trial, ruling that the testimony of key Chinese witnesses is inadmissible because "no Black or mulatto person, or Indian, shall be allowed to give evidence in favor of, or against a white man." Chief Justice Charles J. Murray remarks that the Chinese are "a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior....The same rule which would admit them to testify, would admit them to all the equal rights of citizenship, and we might soon see them at the polls, in the jury box, upon the bench, and in our legislative halls. This is not a speculation...but an actual and present danger."
1857 African Americans denied citizenship In the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Fugitive Slave Act and declares that "Negroes," whether free or enslaved, are not citizens. As Chief Justice Taney puts it, they have "no rights which any white man is bound to respect." Free Black people are taxed like whites, but they do not enjoy the same protection and entitlements. African Americans are not granted citizenship until the Fourteenth Amendment is ratified in 1868. In the meantime, the wealth of centuries of slavery accrues exclusively to whites. When slaves in Washington, D.C., are freed in 1862, the only reparation paid is not to slaves but to slaveowners for loss of their property.
1887 Jim Crow segregation begins Beginning in the late 19th century, southern states codify a system of laws and practices to subordinate African Americans to whites. The "new" social order, reinforced through violence and intimidation, affects schools, public transportation, jobs, housing, private life and voting rights. Cutting across class boundaries, Jim Crow unites poor and wealthy whites in a campaign of aggression and social control, while denying African Americans equality in the courts, freedom of assembly and movement, and full participation as citizens. The federal government adopts segregation under President Wilson in 1913, and is not integrated until the 1960s.
1913 Alien land laws discriminate against Asians California passes the first alien land law, prohibiting "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning or leasing land. Although the language isn't explicitly racial, the law only applies to Asian immigrants and it gives white farmers an unfair advantage by keeping Japanese and other competitors out. Loopholes in the law allow Japanese to continue farming until a 1920 ballot initiative bars them from leasing land altogether. Arizona passes a similar law in 1917, followed by Washington and Louisiana in 1921, and nine other states by 1950. California's alien land laws are rescinded in 1956. Wyoming and Kansas finally repeal their statutes in 2001 and 2002, while two states, Florida and New Mexico, still have alien land laws written into their state constitution.
1924 Immigation quotas favor "Nordics" The 1924 Johnson-Reed Act overhauls U.S. immigration and creates the first quota system based upon national origin. The act favors immigrants from northern and western Europe over "the inferior races" of Asia and southern and eastern Europe. Following the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the 1917 Asiatic Barred Zone Act, the Quota Act of 1921, and other exclusionary measures, the act represents the culmination of several decades of racialized, anti-immigration sentiment and policy. This explicit preference system continues to shape American demographics and immigration policy until the 1960s.
1934 U.S. housing programs benefit whites only Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government creates programs that subsidize low-cost loans, opening up home ownership to millions of Americans for the first time. Government underwriters also introduce a national appraisal system tying property value and loan eligibility to race, inventing "redlining," and effectively locking nonwhites out of homebuying just as many white Americans are getting in. The growth of restricted suburbs, especially after World War II, helps European "ethnics" blend together as whites, while minorities are "marked" by urban poverty. Discriminatory policies and practices help create two legacies that are still with us today: segregated communities and a substantial wealth gap between whites and nonwhites.
1935 Minorities denied social security and union protection In 1935, Congress passes two laws that protect American workers and exclude nonwhites. The Social Security Act exempts agricultural workers and domestic servants (predominantly African American, Mexican, and Asian) from receiving old-age insurance, while the Wagner Act, guaranteeing workers' rights, does not prohibit unions from discriminating against nonwhites. Nonwhites are locked out of higher-paying jobs and union benefits such as medical care, job security, and pensions. As low-income workers, minorities have the greatest need for these provisions, yet they are systematically denied what most Americans take for granted.
1994 Black-white wealth gap Centuries of inequality are not remedied overnight, and colorblind policies only perpetuate disparities. Today, the average white family has eight times the wealth of the average nonwhite family. Even at the same income level, whites have, on average, two to three times as much wealth. Whites are more likely to be segregated than any other group, and 86% of suburban whites still live in places with a Black population of less than 1%. Today, 71% of whites own their own home, compared to 44% of African Americans. Black and Latino mortgage applicants are 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for loans, even after controlling for employment, financial, and neighborhood characteristics.


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