The Mulatto in the United States. by Edward Byron Reuter [Review by: Kelly Miller]

The Mulatto in the United States. by Edward Byron Reuter [Review by: Kelly Miller]

American Journal of Sociology
Volume 25, Number 2, September 1919
pages 218-224

Kelly Miller (1863-1939), Professor of Mathematics and Sociology
Howard University

The Mulatto in the United States. By Edward Byron Reuter. Boston: Badger, 1918. Pp. 417.

The case of the everlasting negro again intrudes itself on public attention in the form of a scientific treatise upon the mulatto in the United States. The author has brought together much interesting and valuable material bearing upon mixed-blood races in all parts of the world.

At the outset the author informs us that his treatise deals “with the sociological consequences of race intermixture, not with the biological problem of the intermixture itself.” The mulatto in the United States has no sociological status; the Eurasian, the half-caste product between the European and the Hindu, constitutes a tertium quid, an outcast by both parent types. But the mulatto in the United States is socially stratified with the mother-race. His case constitutes one of ethnological interest rather than of sociological significance. The three most conspicuous Englishmen produced by the world-war are Lord Kitchener, an Irishman, General Haig, a Scotchman, and Lloyd George, a Welshman. No comparable names have arisen of purely English blood, but the basal English idea predominates, and the racial identity of these illustrious names has not the slightest sociological importance. Moses, the renowned leader of the Israelites, might have been Egyptian, but it was his mighty works rather than incident of blood that counts through all the years. In the United States all negroid elements of whatever blood composition are forced into one social class by outside compulsion. The quantum of different bloods coursing through the veins of distinguished individuals in this class is, practically speaking, a sociological negligibility. The author is, therefore, discussing a theory which he eagerly advocates rather than a condition that actually exists.

The scientific pretension of this treatise is vitiated by the vagueness of fundamental definition. The word mulatto is used as “a general term to include all negroes of mixed ancestry regardless of the degree of intermixture.” This definition is not only unscientific but practically meaningless. A careful observation of negro schools, churches, and miscellaneous gatherings in all parts of the country convinces the reviewer that three-fourths of the negro race have some traceable measure of white blood in their veins. It is, therefore, not the least surprising that practically all eminent negroes in the different walks of life are classified as mulattoes. One is reminded of a famous historian who proved conclusively that the Caucasian race alone had made valuable contributions to civilization by claiming that all people who had made such contributions were Caucasians. At the expense of great labor and pains, the author has analyzed numerous lists of eminent negroes and by some unexplained process has separated the mulattoes from the blacks. Frederick Douglas tells us that genealogical trees did not flourish among slaves. It is indeed a wise negro who knows his own ancestry. Any negro can claim some degree of mixed blood without successful refutation. There is no scientific test of blood composition. The utter worthlessness of his classification is disclosed by a casual selection of four consecutive names arranged in alphabetical order on page 206. Monroe N. Work, R. R. Wright, Sr., R. R. Wright, Jr., and Charles Young are classified as mulattoes. Both in color and negroid characteristics these names would rank below the average of the entire negro race. To rank Nannie Burroughs and Mrs. C. J. Walker as mulattoes certainly evokes a smile. When William Pickens and Colonel Charles Young are so described, the smile breaks into uncontrollable laughter.

…The hundred thousand quadroons and the sixty-nine thousand octoroons together with numerous thousands of the nine hundred thousand mulattoes returned by the census of 1890 are crossing and are still likely to cross the great social divide and incorporate into the white race, in order to escape the lowest status of the despised fraction of their blood.

In some states a person with only one-eighth negro blood is given the legal status of white. The transition of the quadroon, octoroon, and lighter mulattoes will widen the physical margin between the two races. The male more easily crosses the social dead-line than the female. This gives a darker male a wider area for his well-known propensity to mate with a lighter female and will thus facilitate the rapid diffusion of white blood throughout the race…

…The author really proposes a triracial rather than a biracial division. The utter impracticability of this scheme would be found in the impossibility of identifying the so-called mulatto class. The mixed race always represents physical instability. I have known twin brothers who were so diverse in racial characteristics that the one easily crossed the color line and withheld all recognition from his brown brother who could not follow whither he went.

The dual caste system is undemocratic and un-Christian enough; to add a third would be inexcusable compounding of iniquity.

The first fruit of contact of two races of ethnic or cultural diversity is a composite progeny. There exists no biological dead line. Social custom and priestly sanction have never been able to control the cosmic urge to multiply and replenish the earth. The sons of God in their supercilious security never fail to look lustfully upon the daughters of men, while shielding their own females from the embrassure of the lower order of males. The composite progeny is generally the offspring of the male of the stronger race and the female of the weaker race. There is no discovered race repugnance or antipathy when it comes to the fundamental principles of reproduction. Political pronouncements, religious inhibition, social proscription, operate only upon the controlled sex. The first laws regulating slave relations were made to prevent intermarriages of negro males and white females. In the long run it makes no difference whether the races are mixed through the relation of the higher male and the lower female or by the reverse process. The social stigma against the bastard progeny dies out with the third and fourth generation. Intermingling of Norman and Saxon took place largely through bastardization, which has not the slightest influence or effect upon the pride of the Anglo-Saxon today…

Read the entire review here.

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