Transparency phenomenon is the conceptualization of whites not identifying themselves in terms of racial classification. This comes into play, as whites often tend to ignore specific tendencies, traits, norms, and behaviors that are associated with the white race (Lopez 16). The racial classification has eluded whites as they identify themselves as white with no specific characteristics attached as included in other races. White consciousness hence exemplifies the notion of transparency as the white race is deemed sacred in terms of being subjected to explain who a “white” is. The idea of transparency also afflicted judges in the prerequisite cases as they were unable to articulate who was white when faced with the question.
The prerequisite judges found it hard to explain who was white. Their research in encyclopedias and anthropological texts so as to find a meaningful and accurate description of a white person were all futile. Although they themselves white, they faced a difficult task of defining white as there were no distinguishing characteristics to act as a point of differentiation. The logic of transparency, however, worked differently in other races as they were well defined in the prerequisite cases. Such a case can be described by an extract from the Re Davis case in where the report says a “negro and others.” This definition of a negro was articulate to mean a black colored person, while others were inferred as white (Lopez 17). This is the most striking characteristic of transparency logic where there is no definition of white as racial while nonwhites are subjected to races brought about by their characteristics.
Although the Prerequisite cases were unable to define a white person, they resorted to the naturalization of whites. This they did by defining white as a natural phenomenon that is a grouping and by having common knowledge of white as the standard to which the society should define white. This common knowledge was taken to be a true understanding of the world (Lopez 19). This led to the prerequisite cases constructing boundaries of white by defining who was not white but not having a list of characteristics of a white person.
Scientific Evidence Versus Common Knowledge
Courts used either the scientific evidence or common knowledge in determining cases abut naturalization. The courts did not use both the ideas at the same time as they could arise conflicts based on the two rationales. Issues arose in the courts following a ruling by Judge Newton, where Najour was the petitioner in a naturalization case. The judge used scientific evidence and ruled in favor of Najour becoming a white hence setting the precedence for the definition of white thereafter. The ruling distinguished between skin color and race in a way that did not qualify skin color to be a factor in determining race, which was in direct conflict of the common knowledge that defined white based on the skin color (Lopez 49). The second issue was that it generalized the Caucasian race as being white. This set a course for conflict for the prerequisite cases that had determined the cases depending heavily on the common knowledge.
Cases Showcasing the Conflict
The conflict was shown on the Shahid and Dow cases where the petitioners were applying for naturalization. In the Shahid case, Judge Smith rejected the application on the basis of personal qualifications rather than color in that Shahid did not understand the English language properly (Lopez 51). The common knowledge was that being white meant a proper understanding of the English language. In the case of Dow, the petitioner was conversant with the English language and was backing his naturalization based on the virtue that he was Caucasian. The petitioner also compounded his case by stating that he hailed from the cradle of Christianity; hence he was entitled to naturalization based on the whiteness of Jesus Christ by whites.
The denial of Dow’s naturalization was paramount to the denial of the whiteness of Jesus Christ (Lopez 53). The judge declined the first application suggesting that common knowledge trampled over scientific knowledge regarding Caucasians as white. The broader definition of Caucasians as white defined by scientific evidence was overshadowed by the white definition according to the common knowledge at the time. This was to show that skin color was the most important aspect of determining who was white or not.
Lopez, Ian Haney. White by law: The legal construction of race. Vol. 21. NYU Press, 1997.
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