fluidity & contested nature of racial categories / WBL p. 63
Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 62-63.
Not everyone agreed with Wigmore in his willingness to support Japanese but not Chinese naturalization. Wigmore’s preference for the Japanese contrasts with the preference articulated by the editor of the Fresno Republican, Chester Rowell, in 1909. While against both Chinese and Japanese immigration in principle, as a businessman Rowell favored the Chinese: “Taking for the moment this [businessman’s] viewpoint, we find the Chinese fitting much better than the Japanese into the status which the white American prefers them both to occupy–that of biped domestic animals in the white man’s service. The Chinese  coolie is the ideal industrial machine, the perfect human ox.” Rowell’s argument demonstrates that views regarding the race of Japanese and Chinese persons and their fitness for citizenship turned on racial prejudice. Wigmore’s determined advocacy, however, shows that many other factors also entered into debates about who qualified as White. Race is often seen in fixed terms, either as a biological given or a static social category. However, as the debates about race at the turn of the century demonstrate, racial categorization is a fluid process that turns not only on prejudice, but also on factors ranging from dubious science to national honor.
An extraordinary number of rationales surfaced as criteria in the prerequisite decisions. However, in the complex task of racial definition, judges deciding prerequisite cases relied principally on four distinct rationales: (1) common knowledge, (2) scientific evidence, (3) congressional intent, and (4) legal precedent….