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American Geographical Society

The Geopolitics of Eugenics and the Exclusion of Philippine Immigrants from the United
Author(s): James A. Tyner
Source: Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 54-73
Published by: American Geographical Society
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ABSTRACT. From 1898 to 1936, Philippine immigrants were routinely excluded from the
United States,where incipient practicesof eugenic "science"and geopoliticswere informing
social policy. Concomitant with emergent theories of evolution, a geopolitically informed
eugenics forewarnedof possible racialcompetition and societaldegeneration.Immigration
legislation emerged as an effective social policy to exclude perceivedundesirable,and ra-
cially distinct, immigrant groups, ostensibly to protect race and state. Keywords:eugenics,

Godgave the nonassimilableAsiaticsa place in thesun and thatplace is the

I have no racialprejudices.
-Representative RichardWelshof California,1932

Qeographersand othersocialscientistsareincreasinglyinterestedin the interlaced

constructions of "race"and "nation" (Anderson 1991;Jackson and Penrose 1994). A
largepart of this interestturnson observationsthat raceand nation areperceivedto
be natural divisions of humanity-one social, one spatial.Racesare presumed to
reflect inherent biological classificationsof people; nations, conversely,are pre-
sumed to be naturalspatialdivisions,often definedby racialhomogeneity.Thesedi-
visions,whetherracialor national,aremadepracticableandreified:Racistideologies
build socialboundaries;nationalistideologiescontributeto spatialboundaries.Rac-
ist and nationalist ideologies are also dialectic,each reinforcingthe other: Social
boundaries are manifest spatially;spatialboundariesare manifestsocially.
The scientific study and control of populations has been, and continues to be,
centralto the construction of race and nations.An armoryof segregationpolicies,
schemes, and, ultimately,euthanasiaprogramswere tangibleweapons in the ideo-
logical battlegroundsof pre-WorldWarII society.During the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries,numerous social-reformpolicies throughout Germany,
South Africa,LatinAmerica,and the United Stateswereformulatedaroundthe ex-
clusion of undesirable populations (Burleigh and Wippermann 1991;Stepan 1991;
Dubow 1995; Paul 1995; Tyner 1998). A eugenical discourse greatly informed these
policies. As a putativescience,eugenics sought to understandhuman heredity;as a
reform movement, eugenicsjustifiedsocial policies by encouragingthe reproduc-
tion of "fit"individualswhile denying any reproduction-biological or social-to
"unfit" individuals (Stepan 1991,1).

fit DR. TYNER is an assistantprofessor of geographyat KentState University,Kent,Ohio 44242.

The GeographicalReview89 (1): 54-73, January1999
Copyright i 1999 by the American GeographicalSociety of New York

In today'ssociety, sterilizationand euthanasiaprogramshave largelybeen dis-

carded,although some observerssuggestthat currentpolicies, such as the denial of
preventiveand prenatalhealthcareor even attemptsto block undocumentedimmi-
grants' access to public school education, are designed to achieve the same goal
(Roberts 1997). Various policies, programs,and laws have been instigatedto pre-
serve the purity of racesand places.So would MadisonGrantwrite in 1933 that the
"vasttide of immigration [has]greatlyimpairedour purityof race.... America'sfirst
duty is to herself and to the people alreadyhere"(pp. 5-6); and in 1995 PeterBrime-
low wrote, "The American nation has alwayshad a specific ethnic core. And that
core has been white"(quoted in Kanstroom1997, 301).
The statementsof both Grantand Brimelowreveala spatiallyinformed notion
of eugenics;truly,what is advancedis a geopolitics of eugenics.The confluence of
geopolitics and eugenics posits a competitiveworldviewin which racialproximity
and territorialexpansion arepresumedto contributeto both societaland racialde-
generation(Tyner1998). Geopoliticallyinformedeugenicaldiscoursesarepowerful
ideologicalweapons in the conduct of statecraft.The decisionto excludePhilippine
immigrantswas a definingmoment in the historicalevolution of an Americangeo-
politically informed eugenical discourse.
During the late 1920S and early1930S a public outcrydemandedthe exclusion of
Philippine immigrants,the latestvictims of "yellowperil"hysteria.The movement
to exclude Filipinoswas complicatedby the statusof the Philippinesas a colony of
the United States.LegallyU.S. nationals,Philippineimmigrantswere exempt from
immigration legislation and remainedso for as long as the Philippineswas in the
possession of the United States.Immigrationand politicalindependencewereinex-

Ideological formations are inseparablefrom historicaland geographicalcontexts.

Contemporary"Western"theoriesof raceoriginatedin an emergingscienceduring
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,as after-the-factrationalizationsfor colo-
nialism (Miles 1989; Tucker1994; Haller 1995). Initially,racialclassificationswere
based on selected, and visible, traits, including skin color, hair color and texture,
and facialfeatures.Especiallycommon was a hierarchicalracialdivision, consisting
of three Caucasiansubgroups ("Nordics"from northernand westernEurope,"Al-
pines" from central Europe, and "Mediterraneans"from southern and eastern
Europe), followed by Asians (also referredto as "Mongols"or "Orientals"),and
Blacks. Frequently,racial classifications were based on climatic differences and
other environmental factors(Livingstone1993). During the latterpart of the nine-
teenth century, classificationsbased on phrenology-cranial size and shape-be-
came more popular and, ostensibly, more scientific and objective (Gould 1981;
Tucker1994). Never, however,did the overall racialhierarchychange.
The publicationof CharlesDarwin'sOn theOriginof Species(1859) undermined
fixed biological categoriesof race.Significantly,Darwin'swork, along with that of

AlfredRusselWallace,intimatedthat humansevolvedthroughvariousnaturallaws
of competition (Paul 1995).This reconfigurationof human evolution-and, by ex-
tension, of racialclassification-was adoptedby HerbertSpencer,who forthrightly
claimedthatpurposefulcrueltywasnature'smethod forbiologicalprogress(Tucker
1994, 26). The shift in racial research was ominous: No longer was the study of race
classificationmerelyan exercise.Abruptly,throughthe effortsof social Darwinists
like Spencer,raceswere thought to be engaged in a monumental competition for
survival (Haller 1995; Hawkins 1997). As the twentieth century approached, social
Darwinists in the United Statesevoked consternationthat society was tampering
with nature.Socialprogramsimplementedwithout the aid of sciencewere seen as
interferencewith the naturallawsof evolution.Progressin socialsciencewas needed
to understandthe implicationsof human interferenceand, if possible, providevi-
able solutions.Whatwas requiredwas controloverthe threefundamentalprocesses
of population change:fertility,mortality,andmigration.As Grantargued,"themost
practicaland hopeful method of race improvementis through the elimination of
the least desirableelementsin the nation by deprivingthem of the powerto contrib-
ute to futuregenerations"(1918,53).The emergentscienceof eugenicswas seen as a
viable remedy;from its outset, eugenics promised to link scientific advancement
and socialprogressby exercisingrationalcontroloverthe reproductiveprocessand,
hence, the very path of evolution (Tucker 1994, 55).


Although the eugenics movement reflected many variations within and among
countries, key similarities identify a eugenical discourse (Stepan 1991;Kuhl 1994;
Kevles 1995).Paramountin eugenical thinking was the presumptionof essential,
biological differencesamong races.Second, a eugenicaldiscoursemaintainedthat
the physicalproximityof disparateracesled inevitablyto both racialand societalde-
generation,aswell as to racialcompetitionand conflict.Lastly,a eugenicaldiscourse
counseledthatsocialprogramsshouldbe guidedbythe ameliorationof suchthreats;
for example,programsand solutionsshouldbe designedto staveoff racialdegenera-
tion and competition.
Eugenical solutions can broadly be classifiedas positive or negative (Stepan
1991;Kevles 1995). Positive eugenics include policies to increase the racial contribu-
tion of populations deemed the most desirable.In theirwidely used 1918textbook,
AppliedEugenics,PaulB. Popenoe and RoswellHill Johnsonarguedthat the birth-
rate of the Americanstock was too low and that, therefore,the most desirableseed
stockwas dying out and being supplantedby immigrants(1918,260). Citingstudies
on the fertilityratesof studentsand alumni of Vassar,BrynMawr,Mount Holyoke,
and WellesleyColleges,Popenoeand Johnsonconcludedthatthe most "fit"women
were delaying marriageand remaining single (p. 241). This was, they stressed,a
"greatharm"to the Caucasianrace.
Accordingto eugenicists,Nordics were not applyingproperbreedingphiloso-
phy, especially with regardto the selection of desirable mates (Davenport i1io;

Popenoe and Johnson 1918). Miscegenation,in particular,was viewed as a horror.

Grant condemned interracial unions, stating that miscegenation should be re-
gardedas "asocial and racialcrime of the firstmagnitude"(1918, 6o). Popenoe and
Johnsonwere still more blunt:"Ifyou havemixing,you producea mongrel.... The
blending of the two destroysthe purity of the type of both and introducesconfu-
sion"(1918,147). The presumedinferiorityof interracialunions was thought to carry
two unacceptableconsequences:a financialand socialburdenon the dominant so-
ciety, and an overalldeteriorationof the dominant race and society. Popenoe and
Johnson professedthat "if the choice of a properlife partneris to be eugenic, ran-
dom mating must be as nearlyas possible eliminated,and assertiveand preferential
mating for desirabletraitsmust takeplace"(p. 218). Althougheugenicistsidentified
prejudiceand racismas nature'swayof preventingthe union of differentraces,there
also existed a belief that naturealone was not sufficientto preventthese births.Al-
though Nordics supposedly "long ago reachedthe instinctive conclusion ... that
[they] must put a ban on intermarriage,"the "taboo of public opinion [is] not
sufficient and should be supplemented by law" (pp. 294, 296). Grant concurred:
"Lawsagainstmiscegenationmust be greatlyextendedif the higher racesare to be
maintained"(1918, 60).
The basis of negativeeugenics was to reducethe biological contribution of the
least desirablepopulations,includingall non-Nordics,as well as those singledout as
criminals,deviants,or mentallyill persons(Tucker1994; Kevles1995; Paul1995). The
sociologist EdwardA. Ross,for example,in 1914 warnedof "conquestmadeby child-
bearing"of Blacks and immigrants (quoted in Tucker1994, 60). Grant likewise
alerted readersto the high fecundity levels of immigrants (1933, 274). For many
eugenicists, the increasedfertilityof undesirablepopulations was inextricablyre-
lated to a decreasein mortality rates.Especiallypronounced was a popular belief
that welfareand charityprogramswere counteractingthe "bloodyhand"of evolu-
tion. Ratherthan succumbing to nature'slaw of "the survivalof the fittest,"mis-
guided philanthropy-including minimum wages, set working hours, free public
education, and public health reforms-was enablinginferiorpeoples to live longer
and to reproduce(Tucker1994; Haller1995; Paul 1995).
Eugenicistsin the United States,unlikethose in Germany,tendedto favorsterili-
zation and segregationover euthanasiaand other,more extreme"solutions"(Proc-
tor 1988; Burleigh and Wippermann 1991;Burleigh 1994; Kuihl1994). Popenoe and
Johnson, for example, believed that "to put to death defectives or delinquents is
wholly out of accordwith the spirit of the times, and is not seriouslyconsideredby
the eugenics movement"(1918, 184). However,EdwardEggleston,in The Ultimate
Solutionof theAmericanNegroProblem(1913), did suggestthat if Blacksand Whites
were forced into open economic competition, the superiorNordics would win out
and that within a few generationsthe "Negrorace"would die out. As William H.
Tuckerasserts,this "ultimatesolution"may not have been planned with the same
efficient brutalityas the "FinalSolution"in Germany,but the two were close rela-
tives, sharing a goal of genocide and justifiedby similarscientific rationales(1994,

31).Evenmore disturbingis a statementby the BritisheugenicistWicksteedArm-

strong, in his 1930 book, The Survivalof the Unfittest:"Todiminish the dangerous
fertilityof the unfit there are three methods: the lethal chamber,segregation,and
sterilization"(quoted in Stepan1991, 29).

Contemporaneouswith the emergenceof eugenicalthought was the development

of geopolitics.Likeeugenicists,geopoliticianswereprofoundlyinfluencedby evolu-
tionary thought. Borrowingliberallyfrom social Darwinism,geopoliticiansincor-
porated ideas of competition, survival,and health into state theory.The geopoliti-
cians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centurieswere divided into two
schools, geostrategists and proponents of the organic state (Glassner 1996).
Geostrategistsemphasizedthe importanceof fixedgeographicalpositions, such as
oceans and landmasses,at a global scale. Both AlfredThayerMahan and Halford
Mackinderfall into this school (Mahan 1890; Mackinder1904). A naval historian,
Mahan'swritingsprofoundlyinfluencedthe developmentof U.S.foreignpolicy,es-
peciallydevelopmentsin the Philippines.In his work,Mahanstressedcommercial
expansion through sea power and advocateda strong navy.A country's"national
will"was also importantto Mahan;he generallytook the view that a statecould only
surviveby being fit, and he definedfitness chieflyin terms of militarystrengthand
people's moral and martialfiber (Glassner1996).
Conversely,the organic-stateschool was typified by FriedrichRatzeland Ru-
dolf Kjellen.Ratzel'spolitical geographywas based on the concept of lebensraum,
or living space. Heavilyinfluencedby social Darwinism,Ratzelarguedthat states,
like living organisms,requirea specificamount of territoryfromwhich to drawsus-
tenance (Bassin 1987, 477).
Ratzel'smessage,much like those of the geostrategists,was an argumentfor im-
perialism.The phraseKampfumsDasein, or strugglefor existence,effectivelycap-
turedthis attitude(Bassin1987,479). The internationalarenawasviewedas "ajungle
of competing stateorganisms,strugglingagainsteach other for their baresurvival"
(pp. 476-477). The problemwas that, as Europeancolonialismcontinued at a fren-
zied pace, virtuallyall of the habitablespaces of the earth were appropriated.The
greatempires of Asia,such as China and Japan,werebeing slicedlike so many mel-
ons;Africawas systematicallydividedin the "GreatGameof Scramble"(Hobsbawm
1989; Griffiths1995). If stateswere unableto expand,they would, it was believed,in-
The confluenceof geopoliticsand eugenicsforeshadoweda dangerousworld,in
which racialproximityand territorialexpansionwould lead to racialand social de-
generation,with the potentialfor racewars.To ensuresurvival,manypolicymakers
advocatedthe retention of a healthy,vigorous population;this to them tended to
imply a racially homogenous population. Consider the statements of a leading
Americaneugenicist,CharlesDavenport:"Wherethe life of the stateis threatened[,]
extrememeasuresmay and must be taken.... Societymust protectitself;as it claims

the right to deprivethe murdererof his life so also it may annihilatethe hideous ser-
pent of hopelesslyvicious protoplasm.Hereis whereappropriatelegislationwill aid
in eugenics and in creating a healthier, saner society in the future" (1910, 16).
A geopolitically informed eugenical discourse demanded the identificationof
"inferior,""degenerate" peoples who threatenedthe securityof raceand state.Grant
capturedthese sentiments:"Thefundamentalquestion for this nation, aswell as for
the world atlarge,is forthe community ... to regulatebirthsby deprivingthe unfitof
the opportunityof leavingbehind posterityof theirown debasedtype. Our civiliza-
tion has mercifullyput an end to the cruel,wasteful,and indiscriminatedestruction
of the unfit by Nature,whereforeit is our duty,as exponents of that civilization,to
substitute scientific control, that civilization may be maintained" (1933, 353-354).


The development of U.S. immigrationlegislationreflectsa geopoliticallyinformed

eugenics.Racialand societaldegenerationwasto be preventedthroughspatialsepa-
ration. Whereas sterilizationprograms,segregationlaws, and antimiscegenation
laws were designed to keep separatethe various races alreadyin residencein the
United States,immigrationpolicywas seen asa meansof preventingthe entryof un-
desirable races and, by extension, of interracialmarriages.Accordingto Popenoe
and Johnson, "The question of the regulationof immigration is ... a question of
weighingthe consequences.... Lookingonly atthe eugenicconsequences,we cannot
doubt that a considerableand discriminatoryselection of immigrantsto this coun-
try is necessary" (1918, 316-317). Edward Drinker Cope, a leading biologist in the
United States,believed that interracialunions would resultin a "mixedand enfee-
bled people"who would destroythe very fabricof Westerncivilization (quoted in
Gould 1981, 49).
In the United States,duringthe latenineteenthandearlytwentiethcenturies,the
theoretical basis and scientific credibility of a geopolitically informed eugenics
merged easily with the racist and nationalistdevelopmentof federalimmigration
policy.As Eliot Norton wrote, "TheWorldis a difficultplace in which to live, and to
establish moral standards has been one of the chief occupations of mankind.... Na-
tional charactercan only be formedin a populationwhich is stable.The repeatedin-
troduction [immigration]into a body of men of othermen of differenttypescannot
but tend to prevent its formation" (1904, 163).Any immigrant who was considered a
threatto the fitnessof the United Stateswassubjectto exclusion.Popenoe andJohn-
son declared,"IfAmericais to be strongeugenically... it [must] slow down the flood
of immigrants who are not easily assimilable" (1918, 306). The definitions were
drawnincreasinglyalong racistand nationalistlines. Southernand easternEurope-
ans, andAsians,wereregularlyportrayedas deviant,diseased,or both, andtheywere
seen as threatsto the purity and securityof race and state (Kraut1994).
A chronology of U.S. immigrationlegislationindicatesthe increasingclarityof
who was to be included in or excluded from American society. In 1875Congress
passed the Page Law,which markedthe beginnings of direct federalregulationof

immigration (Hutchinson 1981).This act identifiedChinesewomen and criminals

as potential threatsto the United States.SevenyearslaterCongresspassedthe 1882
Chinese ExclusionAct,which barredChineseimmigrantsfrom naturalizationand
denied entry to Chinese laborers.The ImmigrationAct of 1891excluded persons
sufferingfrom contagious diseases,felons, polygamists,and persons convicted of
misdemeanors.The ImmigrationAct of 1893 excluded crippled,blind, and other
"physicallyimperfect"personsunlessproof of theirsupportby relativescould be es-
tablished.With the passage of the ImmigrationAct of 1907,further"excludable"
classeswere defined,includingimbeciles,feeblemindedpersons,childrenwho were
not accompaniedby their parents,and women who came for immoral purposes.
The ImmigrationAct of 1917denied entry to all illiterates-a measureaimed at ex-
cluding southernand easternEuropeans-and designatedan "AsiaticBarredZone":
All persons nativeto the landsbetweenIndia,Australia,and Japanweredeclaredin-
admissible.FouryearslaterCongresspassedthe Quota Lawof 1921,a temporaryact
that representedthe first quantitativeimmigrationlaw based on national origin.
The quota systemwas madepermanentwith the passageof the ImmigrationAct
of 1924 (popularlyknownasthe Johnson-ReedAct).Thisactrepresentedthe most re-
strictiveimmigrationlaw and would remainthe dominantfeatureof U.S. immigra-
tion policy until1952.Clearly,the evolutionof U.S.immigrationlegislationreflecteda
geopoliticalvision designedto maintainthe purityandsecurityof the nation.Amer-
icawasto be a "White"America.JohnRogersCommons,afternearlyfiftyyearsof im-
migrationlegislation,would interpretthese acts accordingly:"Allof our legislation
governingimmigrationshould be describedas improvement of immigrationrather
than restriction of immigration"(1920, 231). He continued,"The object has always
been to raisethe averagecharacterof those admittedby excludingthose who fallbe-
low certainstandards."JamesHerbertCurleechoed these sentiments:"Americahas
had a fright:firstaboutthe qualityof herimmigrants,andnow the quantity.Realising
thatherown soil will soon be neededbyherown people,shehasnow closedherdoors
to Northern Europeansin great part, to Southernand EasternEuropeansalmost
completely, and to Asiatics entirely" (1926,182). Curle was only partially correct, how-
ever:The shores of Americawere still trod upon by an Asiaticgroup,Filipinos.It is
this immigrationstream,viewed within the geopoliticallyinformed eugenicaldis-
course of racialand societaldegeneration,that meritsspecialexamination.


Large-scalePhilippine immigrationto the United Statesbegan in Hawaii (Ander-

son, Coller, and Pestano 1984; Pido 1986). Since 1852American entrepreneurs had
been developing sugarplantationsin the HawaiianIslands.Considerablesums of
moneywere to be made,especiallythroughthe 186osand1870s,asplantationowners
poised to reapthe benefitsof a potentialeconomic boom bolsteredby the blockage
of Southernsugargrowersduringthe AmericanCivilWar.As in other colonial cir-
cumstances,however,plantationownersin Hawaiirecognizedthe importanceof an
uninterruptedsupplyof cheaplabor.NativeHawaiianswereunableto providethis

labor,in partbecausediseaseshaddecimatedthem.Confrontedwith a laborscarcity,

plantation owners recruitedworkersfrom elsewhere.Between1852and 1909 nearly
220,000 laborerswereimportedto Hawaii.Morethanhalfof them camefromJapan,
with other large contingents from China,Portugal,and PuertoRico (Teodoro1981,
8-9). Not until plantationowners in Hawaiiwere affectedby U.S. federalimmigra-
tion law was the recruitmentof Filipinos seriouslyconsidered.
In August 1898 Hawaii was annexed to the United States;on 13June 1900, the pas-
sage of the HawaiianOrganicAct made Hawaiisubjectto U.S.laborlaws,effectively
ending much of the supplyof contractlabor.The 1882ChineseExclusionActbarred
Chineselaborersfrom entry into the UnitedStates;the 1907Gentlemen'sAgreement
between the United Statesand Japanpreventedthe entry of Japaneselaborers.Geo-
political and geoeconomic motives of U.S. immigration legislation curtailedthe
economic growth of plantations owners in Hawaii. Facedwith the possibility of
acute labor shortages,Hawaiianplantationownerssought workerselsewhere.Fili-
pinos, classifiedas U.S.nationals,wereexempt fromfederalimmigrationlaw,which
provided a solution.
In 1898the United Stateswent to warwith Spain,motivatedby a desireto protect interestsin Spain'scolony of Cuba.Not much later,AssistantSecretary
of the NavyTheodoreRooseveltsent the U.S.Navyto the Philippines-itself a colony
of Spain-to engage the Spanish fleet stationed in the Pacificarchipelago.Roose-
velt's decision was based on his acceptanceand agreementwith his most senior
Within months the United StatesdefeatedSpain and was nominally in posses-
sion of the Philippines (Miller 1982; Welch 1987). Throughout the summer and
autumn of 1898,PresidentWilliamMcKinleywas confrontedwith a strategicdeci-
sion: What to do with the Philippines?One solution was to simply give the islands
backto Spain.However,the question aroseas to why the United Statesshould relin-
quish territoryit had acquiredthroughwar.A second possibilitywas for the United
Statesto cede the Philippinesto anothercolonialpower,such as Germanyor Japan.
Both of these countrieswere eagerfor colonial expansionin Asia;Germany,in par-
ticular,was seekingadditionallebensraum.This proposal,however,would havede-
nied the United States the possibility of economic expansion in Asia. A third
outcome was to grantthe Philippinesits independence.This was discreditedon the
groundsthat Filipinoswould be in no position to defendtheircountryandwould be
subjectto colonizationby anotherimperialpower.No doubt the appearanceof Ger-
man warshipsoff Manila Bay added to this apprehension(Figure1).
McKinleyelected to retainpossession of the Philippinesfor economic and geo-
political reasons, a choice that ultimately led to the Philippine-American War
(1899-1902). His decision, based on having a strategic coaling base in the Pacific and,
hopefully,accessto the lucrativeChinamarket,raisedthe firstof a seriesof contra-
dictions and paradoxesthat would continue throughoutthe United States-Philip-
pines colonial relationshipand, later,would intrude on the debates surrounding
Philippine immigration (Tuason1999).Havingacquiredthe Philippines,McKinley

UNCLE SAM -(ucss I'll keep'em!"

FIG. i Having acquired the Philippine Islands following the Spanish-

American War,the United States elected to retain possession of the archipelago
for political and economic motives, as revealedin this 1898 political cartoon. (Il-
lustration courtesy of the Jim ZwickCollection)

THE WHITE MAN'S BURDEN.-TheJournal, Detroit.

FIG. 2-The United States assumed the role of "benevolent" tutor to the Filipinos, as depicted in
this 1899 cartoon. (Illustration courtesy of the Jim Zwick Collection)

and the supportersof U.S. expansionismhad to legitimatehow the United States,a

country that had fought for its independenceagainsta colonial power,could subju-
gate a foreign people and deny Filipinostheir independence.
The solution was found in the perceivedbiological characterof Filipinos and
was made easy for many Americans to accept (Welch 1987;Stephanson 1995;Vergara
1995). Filipinos were considered childlike and incapable of self-government;de-
scribed as such, they were classifiedwith such other groups as women, Blacks,and
Native Americans-and thus were not privy to the ideal that "allmen are created
equal" (Stephanson 1995, 91). The United States was to become a benevolent tutor
and help the Filipinopeople mature.It wasAmerica'sduty to "civilize"the Filipinos
for,asAndersStephansonconcludes,"nothingcould be more negligentthanleaving
them in anarchy"(p. 88) (Figure2). Most important,the Americanimperialistsar-
gued that independence would be grantedwhen, and if, Filipinos evolved to the
point that self-governmentwas possible (Figure3). In the meantime, American
business interestswereto takeadvantageof newlyacquiredAsianmarketplacesand
The U.S.colonialventurein the PhilippinesprovidedHawaiianplantationown-
ers with a new source of cheap labor,unimpeded by U.S. immigrationlegislation.
Large-scalerecruitmentof Philippinelaborersbegan in 1909; in the next two dec-
ades, some 120,000 Filipinos migratedto Hawaiito work on the plantations (Teo-
doro 1981,14).Manyof these Filipinoswould then undertakea secondarymigration

lPe rs Soap

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is. thlroughi teachinglc the virtuies o-f cleanlliniess.

is a j)otent fa-ctor thec (lark corne-rs of thve earthi as

inI lrignhteningi
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it holds- thec placc---it is the ideAl toilet soap.
FiG.3-Independencewaspromisedto the Filipinoswhentheybecame"civilized:' In the mean-
its economicandpoliticalpresencein the Pacific.(Illustration
time,the UnitedStatesstrengthened
courtesyof theJimZwickCollection)

to the continental United States,obtainingemployment in a varietyof settings,in-

cluding Californiaagriculture-especiallythroughoutthe Sacramentoand SanJoa-
quin Valleys-and Alaskanfisheries.As socialnetworkswereforgedand recruitersin
the United Statesbecame more active,direct immigrationfrom the Philippinesto
the United States was established.Gradually,a permanent Philippine population
formed throughout Hawaii and the PacificCoast states.The 1930 U.S. Census re-
ported approximately45,ooo Filipinos residing on the mainland and more than
63,ooo Filipinosin Hawaii(Hing 1993,62). AlthoughmanyFilipinosweretransitory,
shifting employment sites with the changingagriculturalseasons,largeconcentra-
tions emerged, especiallyin the Californiafarmingareasof Stockton,Fresno,and
Delano. Other Filipinos establishedcommunities in Chicagoand farthereast.
Philippineimmigrants,likeotherethnicgroupsarrivingin the UnitedStates,en-
counteredracialdiscrimination.Racismand prejudicewere especiallypronounced
in the western United Statesduring the 1920S and early1930s. A public clamor for
Philippineexclusionfound a distressinglyfamiliarfitwithin the historicalpracticeof
anti-Asiandiscrimination(Takaki1989; Chan1991;Hing 1993). Withvirtuallyall im-
migration from Asia denied (following the 1875, 1882, 1917, and 1924 immigration
acts), questions aroseas to why Filipinos,classifiedas Orientals,were still coming to
the United States.RoyMalcolmarguedthat "Americahas successfullydealtwith the
threatof Chineseimmigration... [and]the immigrationof Japaneselabor.Howwill
it meet this third wave of Orientalimmigrationthat beats so persistentlyupon its
westernshores?"(1931,726). PaulScharrenbergnoted,"Itis extremelypuzzlingto the
averageAmericanworker... [who] does not understandwhy the Filipinohad been
made a privilegedcharacterunderthe immigrationlaws"(1929, 50). Grantwas not so
circumspect about the newest iterationof the "yellowperil."He warned that "the
swarmingof the Filipinosinto the PacificStatesbringswith it a repetitionof the Chi-
nese problem of sixty years ago. Californiais determinedthat the white man there
shallnot be replacedby the Chinese,the Japanese,the Mexican,or the Filipino"(1933,
Ironically,W\hiteracismalso sprangfromthe successof Filipinosin theirassimi-
lation, especiallytheir marriageand integrationwith Caucasianwomen (Almirol
1985; Hing 1993). Historically,Philippine immigrationhad been male dominated,
reflectinga sojournermentalityamong earlyFilipinoimmigrantsand the selective
practicesof Americanlaborrecruiters.SuchengChanidentifiesthe contradictionof
Philippineassimilation:AlthoughAsians,especiallythe Chinese,werefaultedfornot
assimilating,when Filipinosdid mix sociallywithWhitewomen, Californiaand doz-
ens of other statesmodified existing antimiscegenationlaws that prohibitedBlack-
W\hiteintermarriageto applyalsoto Filipino-Whiteintermarriage(Chan1991,54).
One simple solution to the nonexclusionof Philippineimmigrantslay in grant-
ing the Philippinesits independence.Werethis to happen,Filipinoswould no longer
be consideredU.S. nationalsandwould thus be subjectto federalimmigrationlaws.
Philippineimmigrants,therefore,would be excludedunderthe AsiaticBarredZone
provision of 1917. This solution, however,was far from likely.Debatesproliferated

throughout the media and Congressduring the late 1920S and early1930S over the
"Philippineproblem'"In manyrespects,the UnitedStateswas as dividedovergrant-
ing independenceto the Philippinesas it had been in debatingwhetherto colonize
the islands three decadesearlier.
Previousresearchhas examinedthe many nuancesof Philippineindependence
and Philippine exclusion, especiallythose argumentsrelatedto domestic politics
andeconomics (Friend1965; Brands1992; Golay1997). Whentheverdictcame,how-
ever, it had about it the air of reasoned authority,in a geopolitically informed
eugenical discourse that provided, ostensibly,scientific credibilityfor the policy-

Congressionalandpublicdebatesof the 1920S and1930S took on Philippineindepen-

dence and exclusion.Argumentsfor eitherexclusionor independencewere framed
within contextsof evolutionaryprogressand racialpurity.Filipinoswereclassifiedas
Orientalor Mongolian;theirreadymixingwithCaucasianswasperceivedby some asa
threatto the purity and securityof the United States.Conflictsbetween indigenous
Americanworkersand immigrantFilipinoworkers,forexample,wereconsideredin-
evitable because, despite intermarriageand considerable elements of Hispanic
influence in many Filipinos, essential geographicaldifferencesbetween the two
"races"werethoughtto exist.The themewasbroughthome in the 1930S statementsof
RepresentativeRichardWelshof California:"[TheFilipinos']presencein competi-
tion with the whiteworkingmenhasso rousedthe latterthathe has resortedto unlaw-
fulviolence andbloodshed.Weof Californiadeeplydeploresuchoccurrences,but we
must admit that we foresawthem as inevitable"(U.S. Congress1932,379).
AnotherCalifornian,U.S. SenatorSamuelShortridge,explainedthe geopolitics
of race relations:"Thereare less than 2,000,000,000 human beings on this earth,
and practicallyone-half of them live overyonder acrossthe Pacificin what we may
term 'the Orient.'Speakinggenerally,we belong to the Caucasianbranchof the hu-
man family.They of the Orient to anotherand differentbranchof the human fam-
ily; and, for reasons which I need not go into, these two branches of the human
family are not assimilable" (Congressional Record 1930, 7511). Senator Shortridge
elaborated that "we now have enough-too many-race questions in the United
States.We havethe Negro racequestion ... the Chineseproblem... [and] the Japa-
nese problem"(p. 7512).He continued, "If we do not stop Philippine migration,
there will be hundreds of thousands and millions of them here"(p. 7517).
Conformingto a geopoliticallyinformedeugenicaldiscourse,miscegenationbe-
tween Filipinos and Caucasianswas posited to contributeto the racialand societal
degeneration of the United States.Senator Shortridgewarned that Filipinos and
Caucasians"neverhavelived and they neverwill live in harmonyon the same soil"
and that "itis not wise thatthereshouldbe mongrelor hybridraces"(Congressional
Record 1930, 7511).Grant likewise observed that "since the end of the [First] World
Warthe immigrationof Filipinoyoungmen hasbecomea disturbingproblemon the

Pacific Coast" (1933,293). Specifically, Grant asserted that it was the immigration of
"45,ooo Filipinos [that] created serious problems in some regions, both by compet-
ing with native labor, and by paying attention to white girls, which is resented by the
Americans." To Grant, because few Filipinas immigrated, the Filipino men formed "a
socially undesirable and racially threatening element" (pp. 265, 294). In a telling
statement, V. S. McClatchy of the California Joint Immigration Committee wrote:
Thereis a basic racialor biological differencewhich does not permitof assimilation
or absorption of one raceby the other,and thereforethe presencein either country
of large groups of the other race must create friction and possible international
difficulty.The fault in such caseslies with neitherrace.The usual dislikeof one race
for another,frequentlyassumedto be purelya matterof prejudice,is perhapsreally
a wise provision of Nature,actingas a safe-guardagainstmiscegenation.(Quoted in
Brands1992, 149)
Between 1925 and 1931six court actions involving the question of Filipino inter-
marriage were filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles. According to one of the
presiding judges in these cases,
the dominant raceof the country has a perfectright to exclude all other racesfrom
equal rights with its own people.... I regardthis question [of intermarriage]of far
reachingimportance.... Here we see a largebody of young men, ever-increasing,
working amongst us, associatingwith our citizens.... The question ought to be de-
termined whether or not they can come into this country and intermarrywith our
American girls or bring their Filipino girls here to intermarrywith our American
men.... The matter ought to be settled. (Quoted in Foster1932, 446)
In giving the court's decision, the judge ruled:
It is my full conviction, based upon what little scientific knowledge I have, and
mostly from my observation and from my readingof history,that the Negro race
will become highly civilized and become one of the great racesonly if it proceeds
within its own lines markedout by Natureand keeps its blood pure.And I havethe
same feeling with respectto other races.... I am quite satisfiedin my own mind ...
that the Filipino is a Malayand that the Malayis a Mongolian,just as much as the
white Americanis of the Teutonicrace,the Teutonicfamily,or of the Nordic family,
carryingit backto the Aryanfamily.Hence,it is my view that underthe code of Cali-
fornia as it now exists, intermarriagebetween a Filipino and a Caucasianwould be
void. (Quoted in Foster1932, 446)
Another judge, presiding in Watsonville, California, predicted that the "union of
East and West will produce a group that in all measures will be a detriment to the at-
tainment of a higher standard of man and woman-hood" (quoted in Almirol 1985,
400). Evocative of Ratzel's social Darwinism, the interracial relationships between
Filipinos and Whites were perceived to be harmful to both race and state. Remedy
was to be found in eugenic principles. The Immigration Study Commission of Sac-
ramento concluded that "immediate exclusion is tragically necessary to protect our
American seed stock" (quoted in Almirol 1985, 400; emphasis mine). Grant likewise

affirmedthat "itis the dutyof allAmericans... to facethe problemboldlyandto take

all eugenic meansto encouragethe multiplicationof desirabletypes and abatedras-
ticallythe increaseof the unfit andmiscegenationbywidelydiverseraces"(1933,352).

Geopoliticallyinformed eugenicaldiscourseslegitimatedracistpolicies under the

guise of nationalism. As such, population-controlpolicieswere utilized as strategic
tools to preservethe purity of raceand the securityof the state.Congressionaland
popular debates regardingPhilippineexclusion clearlyreflectedthis admixtureof
racism and supranationalism-portrayedas one's duty.RepresentativeJoe Crailof
Californiadesiredexclusionbecausehe believedthat Filipinoswereraciallydistinct
and, by implication,were harmfulto the United States.He declared,"I am not for
Philippineindependencemerelyforthe purposeof excludingimmigrationfromthe
Philippineislands,but I do believethat exclusionis vitallyimportantto ourwelfarein
the United States" (U.S. Congress 1932,124;emphasis mine). Senator Shortridge ex-
plained that "it is our duty to guardthe citizenshipof the United Statesof America,
andto guardit by seeingto it thatthose racesnot familiarwith or devotedto our form
of governmentshallnot come here to interferewith the administeringof that Gov-
ernment, shall not be here to cause racialconflicts and hostilities imperilingthat
Government" (Congressional Record 1930, 7511). The senator later affirmed that
Congressowes "adutyto the presentandto the future,andthatdutyis to preventthe
growth of another raceproblem in the United States"(p. 7512).
The spatialseparationof the races,coincidentwith a decolonizationof the Phil-
ippines,was thereforeallegednecessaryto protectthe United Statesfrom racialand
societal degeneration.Granteffectivelycapturedthe logic: "Asa safeguardto [the
United States']own racialwelfare,it may become necessaryto give the Filipinohis
independence" (1933, 294). However, to preserve the racial purity of the United
States, a redefinition of the Philippine peoples was required.Granting indepen-
dence to the Philippines necessitatedan admission that Filipinoswere capableof
self-government.And yet, paradoxically,if the Philippine people had "evolved"
enough that self-governmentwas possible,then on what groundscould U.S.policy-
makersjustify a near completeexclusion of Filipinoimmigrants?Quite simply,the
solution was to claim that there was more than one "race"of Filipinos (Figure4).
RepresentativeRalphHorr of Washingtonexplained:
WehaveeitherspoiledtheFilipinos[intheUnitedStates]... orelsewehavealower
type of Filipino.... Morally,they havenot made a veryhigh contributionto our city
[Seattle].They have aligned themselveswith people of extremelylow morals,par-
ticularlyof the feminine sex of our city.... Now, I do not attribute [the negative
characteristics]of Filipinos, as a people, but we have either gleaned a very poor
product from the islands,or else in their associationwith our people they areoccu-
pying a placethatwe do not liketo havethem occupy.(U.S.Congress1932,271-272)

RepresentativeHorrclaimedto identifya distinctionbetweenFilipinosresident

in the Philippinesand immigrantFilipinos in the United States:"I am not talking

aboutyour intellectualdass that we have [in the Philippines].They area wonderful

people, but I am talkingabout the dass that is broughtover in the steerageto com-
petewith Americanlabor,who do not assimilate,who takeon the worstcharacteris-
tics of our race"(U.S.Congress1932,273).SenatorShortridgeexplainedthat among
the "io,ooo,ooo people of the PhilippineIslandswe see humanityfrom a low up to a
high degreeof civilization.... The Philippine people are made up of many tribes,
representingmany grades in the scale of what we are pleased to call civilization"

ii.'' S ., I

FIG. 4-This 1899 stereoscope, entitled "ABetter Glassof Filipinos,"illustratesthe perception that
therewas more one "race"of Filipinos:the "better"class,who remainedin the Philippines and were
capableof self-government;and the "worse"class,who immigratedto the United States.(Illustration
courtesyof the Jim Zwick Collection)

(CongressionalRecord1930, 7512). RepresentativeWelshsaw the same distinction:

"Iadvocate... independencebecauseI do not judgethe Filipinosby the undesirable
types that make theirhomes here [in the United States],and I advocateFilipino ex-
clusionbecausethe types that come herewill inevitablyruin the standardsof living
thathavebeen so laboriouslyachievedby our Americanworkingmenand women"
(U.S.Congress1932, 379).
Placingthese debatesin a wider context,we see thatthe issueof representation,a
questionof who the Filipinoswere,was an importantcomponent of the geopolitical
decisionsof colonization and immigrationlegislation.Certainlythe pressingeco-
nomic considerationsand the pressureof U.S.industryandlaborunions influenced
the draftingof legislation.Nevertheless,it is importantto recognizethat Philippine
independencearose,in principle,becauseof racistsentimentsin the United Statesas
a means of barringthe only remainingAsiaticswith readyaccess as citizens. This
episodeof U.S.immigrationhistoryreflectsa continuationof a half-centuryof laws

designed to keep unwanted peoples from the shores of the United States, ostensibly
to retain the health and vigor of a dominant race. In 1924, following the Johnson-
Reed Immigration Act, U.S. Senator Albert Johnson wrote:

Today,insteadof a well-knit homogenous citizenry,we havea body politic made up

of all and everydiverseelement.Today,insteadof a nation descendedfrom genera-
tions of freemen bred to a knowledge of the principles and practice of self-
government, of liberty under law, we have a heterogeneous population no small
proportion of which is sprung from races that, throughout the centuries, have
known no liberty at all.... Our capacityto maintain our cherished institutions
stands diluted by a streamof alien blood, with all its inheritedmisconceptions,re-
specting the relationsof the governingpower to the governed.... It is no wonder,
therefore,that the myth of the melting pot has been discredited.... The United
Statesis our land.... We intend to maintainit so. The dayof unalloyedwelcome to
all peoples, the day of indiscriminateacceptanceof all races,has definitelyended.
(Quoted in Daniels 1990, 283-284)

Ten years later we see that Philippine independence, granted by the Tydings-
McDuffie Act of 1934, also resulted from the culmination of nearly six decades of
racist sentiments and constitutes a manifest social control of space through restric-
tive immigration laws. In the words of Senator Millard Tydings, coauthor of the
Philippine Independence Act, "It is absolutely illogical to have an immigration pol-
icy to exclude Japanese and Chinese and permit Filipinos en masse to come into the
country.... If they continue to settle in certain areas they will come in conflict with
white labor ... and increase the opportunity for more racial prejudice and bad feel-
ings of all kinds" (quoted in Takaki1989, 331-332). Philippine independence, in other
words, originated out of fear of racial competition and conflict.


By 1946 Filipinos were no longer considered U.S. nationals and were immediately
subject to federal immigration law. Virtually all Philippine immigration was elimi-
nated; the Philippines was allocated an annual quota of just fifty migrants. This was
half the minimum quota that the 1924 act had established for all other non-Asian na-
tionalities (Hing 1993,35).Numerically, the effect of Philippine independence on im-
migration was dramatic. Whereas Philippine arrivals in the United States totaled
36,535 in 1931, only 72 entered in 1936 (Arnold, Minocha, and Fawcett 1987, Table 6. i).
Geopolitically, however, the United States entered into a period of neocolonialism
with the Philippines; independence was not intended to be detrimental to American
business interests (Shalom 1986).
The messages contained in this episode of U.S. immigration history extend be-
yond the events of the 1930s, and even beyond the international relations of the Phil-
ippines and the United States. The fear of racial and societal degeneration has not
disappeared. Western nations, in particular, are experiencing a disturbing resur-
gence of nativistic attitudes and discriminatory legislation, not unlike those es-
poused during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Throughout the

1980S and l990S, for example, the United Stateswitnessed a significant rise in the
number of organizationssupporting"EnglishOnly"movements,immigrationre-
strictions, citizenship reformmeasures,and the elimination of health careservices
(Tucker1994).Manyof these sentimentshavebeen introducedinto the popularme-
dia through diatribessuch as PeterBrimelow'sAlien Nation: CommonSenseabout
America's Immigration Disaster (1995).
During the autumn of 1996,accordingto the AssociatedPresswire service,Peter
Davis,the mayorof PortLincoln,Australia,said,"Ifyou area child of a mixedrace...
Asian-Caucasianor aboriginal-white,you are a mongrel and that'swhat happens
when you crossdogs or whatever."PaulineHanson,a memberof the AustralianPar-
liament, is also on recordas claimingthat Asiansare "swamping"the country.And
in France,Jean-MarieLe Pen, head of the far-rightNational Front,campaignedon
the France-for-the-Frenchtheme and statedhis belief in "racialinequality"and the
CCsuperiority of Frenchcivilization."
Accordingto David Sibley,"separationis partof the processof purification-it is
the means by which defilement or pollution is avoided"(1995,37). Jim Crow laws,
zoning restrictions,and antimiscegenationlawshavebeen employed to maintaina
separation of races. Immigration legislation, likewise, has historically been em-
ployed as a means of restrictingthe unwantedin the constructionof the state.A geo-
politically informed eugenical discourse provides, to the uninformed, scientific
credibilityto racist and discriminatorypracticesand policies.

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