DAILY KOS BLOG
By Meteor Blades
Every 10 years, millions of Middle Easterners in the U.S. turn to their census forms and check the box under race labeled “white.” This is, after all, their legal classification. The U.S. government formally recognizes anyone from “Europe, the Middle East or North Africa” as white.
This seems counterintuitive, but it’s the product of several contentious court battles that occurred in the early 1900s. The most prominent of these was Dow v. United States, a 1915 case in which Syrian immigrant George Dow fought to overturn two lower court decisions that found him ineligible for naturalization because he wasn’t white. A federal appeals court ruled in Dow’s favor. And he won because of Jesus.
Part of Dow’s successful argument was couched in the logic that if Jesus, a Middle Easterner, was white, it only followed that George Dow, also from the Middle East, was white too. It was notions of Jesus’ whiteness—in a largely white Christian American culture—that ultimately won the case for Dow. White Christians owned Jesus and the right to call him theirs, and they were unable to let him go.