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An ancient map of the world.

In 1923, an Indian American man named Bhagat Singh Thind told the U.S. Supreme Court that he was white, and therefore eligible to become a naturalized citizen. He based his claim on the fact that he was a member of India’s highest caste and identified as an Aryan. His claims were supported by the so-called Indo-European language theory, a controversial idea at the time that says nearly half the world’s population speak a language that originated in one place. Theories about who lived in that place inspired a racist ideology that contended that the original speakers of the language were a white supreme race that colonized Europe and Asia thousands of years ago. This was used by many to define whiteness and eventually led to one of the most horrific events in history. On this episode of Throughline, we unpack the myths around this powerful idea and explore the politics and promise of the mother tongue.


Amanda Frost, Professor of Law at University of Virginia Law School and author of You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping from Dred Scott to the Dreamers.

David Anthony, author of The Horse, The Wheel and Language.

Vaibhav Purandare, senior editor at The Times of India.

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Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.

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