Many members of these categories passed temporarily or permanently as white.
Since several thousand blacks have been crossing the color line each year, the phenomenon known as "passing for white", millions of white Americans have recent African ancestors.
Shishim's naturalization application was opposed by the U. The judge ruled that "if aboriginal people of Asia are excluded it is hard to find a loophole for the admission of Hebrews." In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the racial classification of Jews in the United States was not settled, with many nativists describing them as "Mongoloid" and "Asiatic." The United States Bureau of Immigration had classified Jews as "Slavonic" during the 19th century, but the Dillingham Commission contended that linguistic and physical criteria, including the "Jew's nose", classified Jews further down the Caucasian pecking order, as Semites. courts nor the census bureau categorized Indians as a race because there were only negligible numbers of Indian immigrants in the United States.
The man claimed the arrest was invalid because Shishim was Lebanese, and thus not racially white but rather "Chinese-Mongolian" and had no right to arrest him. Despite the Shishim case, Arab-Americans were found to be not white by U. The issue was resolved by the Immigration Act of 1917, which stated that for purposes of immigration and naturalization, Syrians and Palestinians were white. Circuit Court judge in Boston, ruling on a citizenship application by four Armenians, overruled government objections and found that West Asians were so mixed with Europeans that it was impossible to tell whether they were white or should be excluded as part of the "yellow race".
Shishim, his attorneys, and the Syrian-Lebanese and Arab American communities rallied to prove that Lebanese, Syrians, and all Arabs and Middle Easterners were in fact "white" to both gain official citizenship in the United States, as well as avoid other exclusive and restrictive penalties of being labeled as Asian. Another 1909 immigration and naturalization case found that Armenians were white and thus eligible for citizenship. In making the ruling, the judge also noted that the government had already made no objection to Jews.
A statistical analysis done in 1958 estimated that 21 percent of the white population had African ancestors.
The study concluded that the majority of Americans of African descent were actually white and not black.
Legal scholar John Tehranian argues that in reality this was a "performance-based" standard, relating to religious practices, culture, education, intermarriage and a community's role in the United States. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria." Laws dating from 17th-century colonial America excluded children of at least one black parent from the status of being white.
Early legal standards did so by defining the race of a child based on a mother's race while banning interracial marriage, while later laws defined all people of some African ancestry as black, under the principle of hypodescent.
The process of officially being defined as white by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship.
The Naturalization Act of 1790 offered naturalization only to "any alien, being a free white person".
Some 19th-century categorization schemes defined people with one black parent (the other white) as mulatto, with one black grandparent as quadroon and with one black great grandparent as octoroon.