Race Crossing

…Fleming’s use of the term ‘passing’ is also worthy of comment. Not only does it have the connotation of deceit and disguise, but it also implies that the offspring of mixed heritage could never be truly English, despite their birth in England and their English mothers. To cross racial boundaries (‘race crossing’) had two meanings: crossing the ‘colour line’ in terms of sexual relationships, and crossing races in the sense of being of mixed race. The white women who crossed the colour line and gave birth to mixed race children were not aliens as such, but liminally placed by virtue of their ‘unBritish’, ‘unpatriotic’ behaviour. Where the mothers were Irish, as some were (as Hodson noted) the mixed race children were even less likely to have been permitted the mantle of Englishness, for the Irish were not only ‘not English’, but frequently seen as ‘not white’ either. There was (and is) a hierarchy of whiteness, in which some people were/are white only some of the time, such as Irish, Latinos, and Jews. Fleming’s assumption that mixed race children were not, and implicitly could not, be English, sounds not dissimilar from the ‘one drop of black blood’ rule that was operating at this time in US Deep South. This ‘rule’ proclaimed that even a single black person in ones ancestry deemed one black. The system was a means of policing entry to the privileged category ‘white’. In the context of Britain in the interwar, the Eugenics Society was concerned with classifying and codifying those of mixed race in an attempt to reduce the threat to racial and national boundaries represented by their presence…

Lucy Bland. “British Eugenics and ‘Race Crossing’: a Study of an Interwar Investigation”, New Formations. 2007,  Number 60, pages 66-78.

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