Last century's absurd immigration debate

Amateur ethnologists conveniently discovered that exemplary southern Europeans (Dante, Raphael, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci) were actually from the north. One wrote, “Columbus, from his portraits and from his busts, whether authentic or not, was clearly Nordic.” (Emphasis added.) Okrent writes: “In an Alabama case, a black man who married an Italian woman was convicted of violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law, then found surprising absolution when the conviction was vacated by an appellate court’s provocative declaration: ‘The mere fact that the testimony showed this woman came from Sicily can in no sense be taken as conclusive evidence that she was therefore a white woman.’”

The canonical text of the immigration-eugenics complex, Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race, is available today in at least eight editions and is frequently cited in the internet’s fetid swamps of white supremacy sites. At the 1946 Nuremberg “Doctors’ Trial,” Nazi defendants invoked that book as well as the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buck v. Bell decision upholding states’ sterilization of “defectives” (Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a eugenics enthusiast: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”) and America’s severely restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. It based national quotas on 1890 immigration data — before the surge of the “motley throng.” Okrent writes, “These men didn’t say they were ‘following orders,’ in the self-exonerating language of the moment; they said they were following Americans.”