The Snow White Clause

By Christopher Zoukis

The color of a person’s skin is of no consequence whatsoever.  This is a prime verity.  So why – throughout history -have so many people made an issue of it?  Well, let’s see:

To me, it is fascinating that there is no universal definition of what is meant by whiteness, being white, white man, white race, or whites.  Which only serves to emphasize just how parochial men are after all.  In fact, about the only thing the experts agree upon with regard to whiteness is that it designates people with pale skin.  After that, though, it all falls apart, because they can’t agree on what ‘pale skin’ means.  This is because everyone, for some reason, wants to be whiter than they are.  Especially rich people.  Rich people with darker skin tend to consider themselves ‘whiter’ than they really are.  And poor people tend to agree with them.  It’s almost as if the poor people believe the reason the rich people are rich is because they’re white, which means they’re somehow better.  Therefore they deserve to be rich.  Image courtesy

One extreme example of this whiter way of thinking, I discovered, took place in Haiti, during the late 1700’s.  At that time, Haiti was known as Santo Domingo.  One half of the island was governed by the French, the other half was governed by the Spanish.  And England was looking for a way to gain part of the island, because there was so much money to be made from the sugar and coffee plantations.  Anyway, the blacks on the island, most of who were slaves, came up with a skin-color classification system with 136 different names for each of 136 different shades of black.  The lighter you were the higher your status.

In 1923, some guy named Bhagat Singh Thind so desperately wanted to be whiter than he was that he sued the United States government over it.  In the end, the case came before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The court decided that the people of India could not claim the title of “free white men” and all the perks that went with it.  With little concern for Mr. Thind’s wanna’ be vanity, the court stated:  “swarthy brunette[s] … are darker than some of the lighter hued persons of the brown or yellow races.”

Under this ruling, which I call the Snow White Clause, white women are the freest of all, generally speaking, because women have lighter skin than men in all races.  But even in the fairest races, the women come in second, since Albinos produce almost no melanin and have the palest of all skins.  They are the fairest of the fair.

As I previously observed, no one, especially the experts can agree upon what defines being white. But boy, do they try.  Most countries of the world have, at one time or another, instituted programs to keep the riff-raff, that is, people of color, out. 

In the late 1800’s, Australia decided to restrict all permanent immigration by non-Europeans.  It became knows as the White Australia Policy.  They called their program the Immigration Restriction Act, which was a fancy way of saying, keep out.  That means they were getting sick and tired of all the Chinese people coming into the outback.  The way it worked was this:  the immigration officials gave everyone trying to enter the country a language test.  Applicants had to prove they could read, speak and write a European language.  And the immigration guys got to specify the language.  So one day it could be French, the next day it could be Italian.  It wasn’t until 1973 that the White Australian Policy was cancelled, because that’s when it became politically advantageous to be non-racist.