Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-02-16 01:42Z by Steven

Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age

USC Annenberg Press
113 pages
ISBN: 9781625175564

Edited by:

Ulli K. Ryder
Department of Gender and Women’s Studies
University of Rhode Island

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Clinical Assistant Professor
Annenberg School for Communication and Jounalism
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

Have you been asked, “what nationality are you” or “what country are you from”?
Have you been puzzled when forms tell you to “select only one ethnicity”?
Have you been disturbed to hear that you’re the “face of a colorblind future”?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, this book is for you.

Mixed Race 3.0: Risk and Reward in the Digital Age is an e-book that contains 17 contributions (many with exclusive photos) from award-winning writers, researchers and artists who embody a “mixed mindset.” Audacious and razor-sharp, Mixed Race 3.0 exposes the many monochromatic portrayals of multiracial people’s richness, variety and struggles in history, politics, mass-media and technology. Fans of Loving Day, Race Remixed, Mixed Chicks Chat, The Mixed Experience Podcast, Mixed Girl Problems and Critical Mixed Race Studies will be captivated, incensed and inspired by the powerful discussions of risks and rewards of being multiracial today.

Beyond memoir or case study, this book offers three versions of what it means to be mixed from a variety of voices. Version 1 is “Mixed Race 1.0: A Monologue.” Or, how did multiracial identities emerge in the U.S. and what challenges did they face? Version 2 is “Mixed Race 2.0: A Dialogue.” Or, what are some core differences between how multiracials think and talk about themselves and how U.S. and global cultures think and talk about them? Version 3 is “Mixed Race 3.0: A Megalogue.” Or, where in the world is this entire thing going as technology plays more of a role?

With honest storytelling and up-to-date critical inquiry, Mixed Race 3.0 plots a path not just to being mixed in the 21st century, but one open to anyone interested in simply “how to be.” The result is a poignant, intelligent, and daring journey that dissects the controversial label—multiracial—and challenges any politician, pundit or provocateur that purports to speak for or about all multiracial people.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
    • Herman S. Gray
  • Introduction
  • Section 1 Mixed Race 1.0: A Monologue
    • Gary B. Nash
    • Peggy Pascoe
    • Jordan Clarke
  • Section 2 Mixed Race 2.0: A Dialouge
    • Ken Tanabe
    • Lori L. Tharps
    • Andrew K. Jolivette
    • Ulli K. Ryder
    • Marcia Alesan Dawkins
    • Stephanie Sparling
  • Section 3 Mixed Race 3.0: A Megalogue
    • Rainier Spencer
    • Velina Hasu Houston
    • Lindsay A. Dawkins
    • Amanda Mardon
    • Shoshana Sarah
    • Mary Beltrán
    • Lisa Rueckert
  • The Authors and Artists
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of “Race” in Twentieth-Century America

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2014-04-09 22:33Z by Steven

Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of “Race” in Twentieth-Century America

The Journal of American History
Volume 83, Number 1 (June, 1996)
pages 44-69

Peggy Pascoe (1954-2010), Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History
University of Oregon

On March 21, 1921, Joe Kirby took his wife, Mayellen, to court. The Kirbys had been married for seven years, and Joe wanted out. Ignoring the usual option of divorce, he asked for an annulment, charging that his marriage had been invalid from its very beginning because Arizona law prohibited marriages between “persons of Caucasian blood, or their descendants” and “negroes, Mongolians or Indians, and their descendants.” Joe Kirby claimed that while he was “a person of the Caucasian blood,” his wife, Mayellen, was “a person of negro blood.”

Although Joe Kirby’s charges were rooted in a well-established—and tragic—tradition of American miscegenation law, his court case quickly disintegrated into a definitional dispute that bordered on the ridiculous. The first witness in the case was Joe’s mother, Tula Kirby, who gave her testimony in Spanish through an interpreter. Joe’s lawyer laid out the case by asking Tula Kirby a few seemingly simple questions:

Joe’s lawyer: To what race do you belong?
Tula Kirby: Mexican.
Joe’s lawyer: Are you white or have you Indian blood?
Kirby: I have no Indian blood.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Joe’s lawyer: Do you know the defendant [Mayellen] Kirby?
Kirby: Yes.

Joe’s lawyer: To what race does she belong?
Kirby: Negro.

Then the cross-examination began.

Mayelien’s lawyer: Who was your father?
Kirby: Jose Romero.
Mayelien’s lawyer: Was he a Spaniard?
Kirby: Yes, a Mexican.
Mayellen’s lawyer: Was he born in Spain?
Kirby: No, he was born in Sonora.
Mayellen’s lawyer: And who was your mother?
Kirby: Also in Sonora.
Mayellen’s lawyer: Was she a Spaniard?
Kirby: She was on her fathers side.
Mayelien’s lawyer: And what on her mother’s side?
Kirby: Mexican.
Mayellen’s lawyer: What do you mean by Mexican, Indian, a native [?]
Kirby: I don’t know what is meant by Mexican.
Mayellen’s lawyer: A native of Mexico?
Kirby: Yes, Sonora, all of us.
Mayellen’s lawyer: Who was your grandfather on your father’s side?
Kirby: He was a Spaniard.
Mayellen’s lawyer: Who was he?
Kirby: His name was Ignacio Quevas.
Mayellen’s lawyer: Where was he born?
Kirby: That I don’t know. He was my grandfather.
Mayellen’s lawyer: How do you know he was a [S]paniard then?
Kirby: Because he told me ever since I had knowledge that he was a Spaniard.

Next the questioning turned to Tula’s opinion about Mayellen Kirby’s racial identity.

Mayellen’s lawyer: You said Mrs. [Mayellen] Kirby was a negress. What do you know about Mrs. Kirby’s family?
Kirby: I distinguish her by her color and the hair; that is all I do know.

The second witness in the trial was Joe Kirby, and by the time he took the stand, the people in the courtroom knew they were in murky waters. When Joe’s lawyer opened with the question “What race do you belong to?,” Joe answered “Well . . . ,” and paused, while Mayellen’s lawyer objected to the question on the ground that it called for a conclusion by the witness. “Oh, no,” said the judge, “it is a matter of pedigree.” Eventually allowed to answer the question, Joe said, “I belong to the white race I suppose.” Under cross-examination, he described his father as having been of the “Irish race,” although he admitted, “I never knew any one of his people.”

Stopping at the brink of this morass, Joe’s lawyer rested his case. He told the judge he had established that Joe was “Caucasian.” Mayellen’s lawyer scoffed, claiming that Joe had “failed utterly to prove his case” and arguing that “[Joe’s] mother has admitted that. She has [testified] that she only claims a quarter Spanish blood; the rest of it is native blood.” At this point the court intervened. “I know,” said the judge, “but that does not signify anything.”

From the Decline and Fall of Scientific Racism to an Understanding of Modernist Racial Ideology

The Kirbys’ case offers a fine illustration of Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham’s observation that, although most Americans are sure they know “race” when they see it, very few can offer a definition of the term. Partly for this reason, the questions of what “race” signifies and what signifies “race” are as important for scholars today as they were for the participants in Kirby v. Kirby seventy-five years ago. Historians have a long—and recently a distinguished—record of exploring this question. Beginning in the 1960s, one notable group charted the rise and fall of scientific racism among American intellectuals. Today, their successors, more likely to be schooled in social than intellectual history, trace the social construction of racial ideologies, including the idea of “whiteness,” in a steadily expanding range of contexts.

Their work has taught us a great deal about racial thinking in American history.  We can trace the growth of racism among antebellum immigrant workers and free-soil northern Republicans; we can measure its breadth in late-nineteenth-century segregation and the immigration policies of the 1920s. We can follow the rise of Anglo-Saxonism from Manifest Destiny through the Spanish-American War and expose the appeals to white supremacy in woman suffrage speeches. We can relate all these developments (and more) to the growth and elaboration of scientific racist attempts to use biological characteristics to scout for racial hierarchies in social life, levels of civilization, even language.

Yet the range and richness of these studies all but end with the 1920s. In contrast to historians of the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century United States, historians of the nation in the mid- to late-twentieth century seem to focus on racial ideologies only when they are advanced by the far Right (as in the Ku Klux Klan) or by racialized groups themselves (as in the Harlem Renaissance or black nationalist movements). To the extent that there is a framework for surveying mainstream twentieth-century American racial ideologies, it is inherited from the classic histories that tell of the post-1920s decline and fall of scientific racism. Their final pages link the demise of scientific racism to the rise of a vanguard of social scientists led by the cultural anthropologist Franz Boas: when modern social science emerges, racism runs out of intellectual steam. In the absence of any other narrative, this forms the basis for a commonly held but rarely examined intellectual trickle-down theory in which the attack on scientific racism emerges in universities in the 1920s and eventually, if belatedly, spreads to courts in the 1940s and 1950s and to government policy in the 1960s and 1970s.

A close look at such incidents as the Kirby case, however, suggests a rather different historical trajectory, one that recognizes that the legal system does more than just reflect social or scientific ideas about race; it also produces and reproduces them. By following a trail marked by four miscegenation cases —the seemingly ordinary Kirby v. Kirby (1922) and Estate of Monks (1941) and the path breaking Perez v. Lippold (1948) and Loving v. Virginia (1967)—this article will examine the relation between modern social science, miscegenation law, and twentieth-century American racial ideologies, focusing less on the decline of scientific racism and more on the emergence of new racial ideologies.

In exploring these issues, it helps to understand that the range of nineteenth- century racial ideologies was much broader than scientific racism. Accordingly, I have chosen to use the term racialism to designate an ideological complex that other historians often describe with the terms “race” or “racist.” I intend the term racialism to be broad enough to cover a wide range of nineteenth-century ideas, from the biologically marked categories scientific racists employed to the more amorphous ideas George M. Fredrickson has so aptly called ‘romantic racialism.” Used in this way, “racialism” helps counter the tendency of twentieth-century observers to perceive nineteenth-century ideas as biologically “determinist” in some simple sense. To racialists (including scientific racists), the important point was not that biology determined culture (indeed, the split between the two was only dimly perceived), but that race, understood as an indivisible essence that included not only biology but also culture, morality, and intelligence, was a compellingly significant factor in history and society.

My argument is this: During the 1920s, American racialism was challenged by several emerging ideologies, all of which depended on a modern split between biology and culture. Between the 1920s and the 1960s, those competing ideologies were winnowed down to the single, powerfully persuasive belief that the eradication of racism depends on the deliberate non-recognition of race. I will call that belief modernist racial ideology to echo the self-conscious “modernism” of social scientists, writers, artists, and cultural rebels of the early twentieth century. When historians mention this phenomenon, they usually label it “antiracist” or “egalitarian” and describe it as in stark contrast to the “racism” of its predecessors. But in the new legal scholarship called critical race theory, this same ideology, usually referred to as “color blindness,” is criticized by those who recognize that it, like other racial ideologies, can be turned to the service of oppression.

Modernist racial ideology has been widely accepted; indeed, it compels nearly as much adherence in the late-twentieth-century United States as racialism did in the late nineteenth century. It is therefore important to see it not as what it claims to be—the non-ideological end of racism—but as a racial ideology of its own, whose history shapes many of today’s arguments about the meaning of race in American society…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , ,

What Comes Naturally: A Racially Inclusive Look at Miscegenation Law

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2014-01-16 17:12Z by Steven

What Comes Naturally: A Racially Inclusive Look at Miscegenation Law

Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies
Volume 31, Number 3, 2010
pages 15-21
DOI: 10.1353/fro.2010.0020

Jacki Thompson Rand, Professor of History; American Indian and Native Studies
University of Iowa

In What Comes Naturally Peggy Pascoe interrogates the U.S. racial regime through a study of civil marriage and miscegenation law. Her admirable work traces the development of legislation and court decisions about mixed marriage between White settlers and African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Asians, and American Indians. Bans against mixed marriages, or miscegenation, between White men and women of color, Pascoe argues, served to protect White supremacy and heteronormative patriarchy. By maintaining boundaries between the races, and material consequences that favored men in land disputes and White relatives in estate disputes, for example, White men’s economic and social positions were reinforced while women’s positions were undermined. Pascoe includes American Indians in her study because their lands, unique relationship with the federal government, and kinship systems presented complications not found in other cases. Pascoe also briefly mentions tribal miscegenation laws among the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Creeks.

Pascoe’s book and a recent special issue of the journal Frontiers, on interracial marriage and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century North American Indians, White settlers, and African Americans, complement each other in some ways. French fur traders in the Northeast and Great Lakes region and Spanish and Mexicans in the Southwest mixed with Native women long before the creation of the United States. The French were early astute observers of Native people and soon realized the crucial role kinship played in providing access to prime beaver-trapping grounds along rivers. French men married into Native groups to enhance their trade. By the nineteenth century White American men also sought Native women who held land as a way of gaining access to resources. The federal government looked upon such unions as a means to facilitate Indian acculturation and assimilation into White society, even well into the twentieth century. In many instances Native families saw the marriage of their daughters to White men as a means to enhance their access to trade goods and to a more secure life.

Pascoe treats miscegenation law that covered American Indians primarily in the case of Oregon. In fact, miscegenation law evolved from initially targeting White and African American unions to include White unions with other races, including American Indians. The creation and enforcement of laws that pertained to marriages with Native Americans, Pascoe notes, seemed to coincide with external or individual circumstances where the acquisition or loss of land was at stake. Like the unions of French men and Native women, many marriages followed the custom of the country, where the partners were bound to each other outside of civil law. In the mid-nineteenth century the Oregon Territorial Supreme Court heard a case to determine whether such marriages were legal under territorial law. Oregon settler land claims at that time were unstable, so it is not surprising that the court and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the custom of the country. While this chapter of American Indian history diverged from the history of barring mixed marriages, Pascoe demonstrates that the tolerance of mixed marriage between White men and Indian women also secured White male patriarchy. It was a variation on the theme of White supremacy.

Like settler regimes elsewhere White American society viewed race through a biological lens that assessed parentage, phenotype, and blood quantum. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both the American and the Australian governments encouraged intermarriage to Whiten and eventually erase indigenous populations. The coexistence of miscegenation laws that pertained to Native peoples and assimilation proponents of interracial marriage arose from conflicting impulses. On one hand, intermarriage was objectionable on the grounds Pascoe depicts in her book: the progeny of mixed marriages challenged racial regimes, White supremacy, and White male privilege. But the federal government and settler society’s twin desires to avert an unaffordable war with Indians and to expropriate lands in Native possession weakened the resolve to bar mixed marriages. In the Frontiers special issue Cathleen Cahill explores the federal Indian Service as a site of applied assimilation policy where marriages between Whites and American Indians were made possible by putting numbers of White women in proximity to eligible Native men.

In the same period intermarriage could also serve as a vehicle for the expropriation of Native…

Tags: , ,

Marriage, Melanin, and American Racialism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2013-06-12 03:32Z by Steven

Marriage, Melanin, and American Racialism

Reviews in American History
Volume 41, Number 2, June 2013
pages 282-291
DOI: 10.1353/rah.2013.0048

Heidi Ardizzone, Assistant Professor of American Studies
St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri

Adele Logan Alexander, Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In)significance of Melanin. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010. 375 pages. Photographs, notes, bibliography, and index.

Fay Botham, Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. 288 pages. Notes, bibliography, and index.

Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Photographs, maps, notes, bibliography, and index.

The development of the multidisciplinary field of Mixed Race Studies over the last few decades has focused new attention on patterns of cross-racial unions and the experiences of people of mixed ancestry in the U.S. and elsewhere. Historians bring to this endeavor a rich understanding of the long history of racial mixing, documenting the tremendous variety of contexts for consensual and nonconsensual interracial sex, the diversity of cultural attitudes and policies towards such relationships, and the resulting spectrums of identity and social standing available to the children, families, and communities that resulted from these unions. While pundits and intellectuals debate the significance of the emergence of multiracial families and identities in the U.S., historians can attest that there is little new here. As George Sánchez has put it from the vantage point of Latino and Latin American history, “Welcome to the Americas!”€  The American past is full of examples of cross-cultural unions, people and communities of mixed ancestry, and marked shifts in racial and ethnic categories in response to demographic, economic, and political changes. So, too, new U.S. scholarship is providing rich contributions to ongoing debates of the meaning of race, racial identity, and racial mixing in the twentieth century and beyond.

The three scholars considered here span this latest surge in U.S. historical studies of racial mixing and mixedness. Adele Logan Alexander is a pioneer in the field. Parallel Worlds: The Remarkable Gibbs-Hunts and the Enduring (In) significance of Melanin joins her previous books in focusing on communities and families of mixed—€”primarily black and white—€”ancestry. In her latest offering, Alexander rescues to historical memory the fascinating political careers of Ida Gibbs (1862-1957) and William Henry Hunt (1863-1951), whose activist and diplomatic work, respectively, brought them into close, if sometimes ambivalent, connection with African American and Pan-African communities in the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Like Alexander’s earlier works, Parallel Worlds spans multiple methodologies, this time offering a rich entre into an international world of shifting racial identities and political loyalties. Faye Botham’s Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law, on the other hand, is her first academic book, reworking a religious studies dissertation. Botham identifies a large and significant gap in historians’€™ collective approach to interracial marriage and its accompanying concerns with racial identity and categorization; social constructions of gender, race, and sexuality; and civil rights. Her work models a new direction of inquiry into the role of religious ideology and influence on what Peggy Pascoe calls miscegenation law, particularly the distinctive Catholic doctrine on marriage as a sacrament. In turn, Pascoe’€™s research for her recent publication spans this new age of historical scholarship. Begun in the early 1990s with a few pieces published as articles, the long-awaited and much celebrated What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America is a multilayered cultural, social, and legal history of post-Civil War legal prohibitions against interracial marriages and the enduring significance of the laws.

The books by Botham and Pascoe share an interest in legal and cultural sanctions against interracial marriage, but each author comes to the subject from vastly different training and experience. (Pascoe was a member of Botham’s dissertation committee, and that difference in academic maturity is evident in their works as well.) Botham’€™s analysis of the impact of American Catholic and Protestant theology on race and interracial marriage is strongest in her treatment of the Perez v. Lippold case (better known as Perez v. Sharp), which ultimately overturned California’s anti-intermarriage laws. Botham is especially interested in the longer history of Catholic influence on both Perez and the later Loving v. Virginia case, which respectively offer evidence of American Catholics’€™ support for and opposition to interracial marriage. The prominence of Catholics in bringing and opposing these legal challenges to laws against interracial marriage is most central to her analysis. But she returns to a focused treatment of the Perez case several…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-03-31 00:57Z by Steven

What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America

Oxford University Press
December 2008
404 pages
ISBN13: 9780195094633
ISBN10: 0195094638

Peggy Pascoe (1954-2010), Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History
University of Oregon

  • Winner of the Ellis W. Hawley Prize of the Organization of American Historians (2009)
  • Winner of the Lawrence W. Levine Award of the Organization of American Historians (2009)
  • Winner of the William H. Dunning Prize of the American Historical Association
  • Winner of the James Willard Hurst Prize of the Law and Society Association
  • Winner of the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize of the American Historical Association
  • Finalist, John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association

A long-awaited history that promises to dramatically change our understanding of race in America, What Comes Naturally traces the origins, spread, and demise of miscegenation laws in the United States–laws that banned interracial marriage and sex, most often between whites and members of other races. Peggy Pascoe demonstrates how these laws were enacted and applied not just in the South but throughout most of the country, in the West, the North, and the Midwest.  Beginning in the Reconstruction era, when the term miscegenation first was coined, she traces the creation of a racial hierarchy that bolstered white supremacy and banned the marriage of Whites to Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, and American Indians as well as the marriage of Whites to Blacks.  She ends not simply with the landmark 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court finally struck down miscegenation laws throughout the country, but looks at the implications of ideas of colorblindness that replaced them. What Comes Naturally is both accessible to the general reader and informative to the specialist, a rare feat for an original work of history based on archival research.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Part I: Miscegenation Law and Constitutional Equality, 1863-1883
    • 1. Engendering Miscegenation
    • 2. Sexualizing Miscegenation Law
  • Part II: Miscegenation Law and Race Classification, 1860-1948
    • 3. Configuring Race in the American West
    • 4. The Facts of Race in the Courtroom
    • 5. Seeing Like a Racial State
  • Part III: Miscegenation Law and Its Opponents, 1913-1967
    • 6. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
    • 7. Interracial Marriage as a Natural Right
    • 8. Interracial Marriage as a Civil Right
  • Part IV: Miscegenation Law, Civil Rights, and Colorblindness, 1964-2000
    • 9. Lionizing Loving
    • Conclusion: The Ghost of the Past
Tags: , ,

This book examines two of the most insidious ideas in American history.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-03-18 15:07Z by Steven

This book examines two of the most insidious ideas in American history. The first is the belief that interracial marriage is unnatural.  The second is the belief in white supremacy. When these two ideas converged, with the invention of the term “miscegenation” in the 1860s, the stage was set for the rise of a social, political, and legal system of white supremacy that reigned through the 1960s and, many would say, beyond.

[Page 1, Paragraph 1]

Pascoe, Peggy. What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. (New York, London: Oxford University Press, 2008). 1.


Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America and the Use of Legal History to Police Social Boundaries

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-16 20:34Z by Steven

Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America and the Use of Legal History to Police Social Boundaries

Michigan State Law Review
Volume 2011, Issue 1 (2011)
pages 255-261

Kristin Hass, Associate Professor of American Studies
University of Michigan

“‘Being black is not the only reason why some people have not been accepted . . . .’”

In 1980, Lena Santos Ferguson first sought membership in one of the thirty-nine D.C.-area chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). After three years and a great deal of struggle, Santos Ferguson was begrudgingly granted a limited membership-at-large. This meant that she was not a voting member and did not belong to any local chapter—the center of DAR activity. Despite having the same well-documented genealogical documentation that granted her nephew easy entry to the Sons of the American Revolution, Santos Ferguson met fierce resistance from local and national DAR bodies.

A few years earlier, in 1977, Karen Farmer had, in theory, broken the racial barriers of the DAR when she became the first African American to be accepted for membership in the organization. But, Farmer’s acceptance in a Detroit chapter did not help Santos Ferguson. It probably hurt; together Farmer and Santos Ferguson may have looked like a trend.

In 1984, when the Washington Post ran a front-page story under the headline “Black Unable to Join Local DAR,” the organization’s president general, Sarah King, had a very revealing response to the problem of Lena Santos Ferguson’s membership. King said, “‘Being black is not the only reason why some people have not been accepted into chapters . . . . There are other reasons: divorce, spite, neighbors’ dislike. I would say being black is very [far] down the line.’” This, of course, does not deny that being black is a reason for blocking admission to the DAR; it just claims that it might not be the most pressing reason. For King, the distance between a reasonable request and Santos Ferguson’s attempt to join “the society” is indicated by her insistence that “‘[b]eing black is not the only reason.’” It is as if she was unable to understand that this statement still assumes that being black was reasonable grounds for barring someone from membership.

Certainly King did not deny that African Americans had served in the Revolutionary War. In fact, in the first Post story, she mentioned the Rhode Island Reds and told the reporter, “‘See if you can find me one . . . . We want them [blacks], but I do think the lines should have integrity and legitimate descent. I don’t think you can have it any other way.’” This language, of course, was highly charged. “‘Integrity and legitimate descent’” did not refer to high-quality genealogical research; instead, it referred to the antebellum legal mechanisms by which African Americans were denied the right to marry. Further, it evoked this legal history to continue at the end of the 20th century to deny African Americans access to the kind of full cultural citizenship that the DAR worked to police. In 1979, two years after Karen Farmer successfully joined the DAR, the society revised its application process to include an added requirement—proof of marriage going back each generation. In 1984, the DAR National Congress proposed going one step further by amending the bylaws to include the language that only “‘legitimate’” descendants were eligible for membership. This would have serious consequences for African Americans wanting to join.

The DAR’s interest in rules—and in this intense policing of the boundaries of its membership—was new. From its founding in 1890, at the start of the first great memory boom in the United States, until the 1940s, the greatest obstacle to membership was the invitation of two sponsors. The rules about establishing a paper trail for a direct (not a “‘legitimate’”) lineage were far looser. It is also worth noting that the DAR requirements for membership understand service in the Revolutionary War rather broadly. Its definition includes civil service, political service, and what the DAR calls patriotic service, which includes: “[m]embers of the Boston Tea Party”; “[d]efenders of forts and frontiers”; “[d]octors, nurses, and others rendering aid to the wounded (other than their immediate families)”; “[m]inisters who gave patriotic sermons and encouraged patriotic activity”; and among other things, “[f]urnishing a substitute for military service.” Under the 1984 rules, then, you could join the DAR because your relative sent a slave to fight in his place, but you could not join the DAR if you were a descendant of that slave because he would have been unable to be legally married and therefore unable to produce “‘legitimate’ descendents.”…

…The DAR’s insistence that all women worthy of membership in either society were the products of legally sanctioned marriages harkens back to a past in which sexual racial mixing, or amalgamation or miscegenation, was not only not a topic of polite conversation, but was also a subject of great anxiety, especially for white women invested in defining a national family in particular highly racialized terms—a past in which it was unthinkable for someone like Lena Santos Ferguson to ask for membership, a past in which shame was the only imaginable response to the kind of relationships that would lead a person like Santos Ferguson to think that she deserved to be recognized as part of the national family that the DAR helps to name and shape.

Of course, the DAR’s policies and logic did not go unnoticed in 1984. Both Santos Ferguson and the Council of the District of Columbia initiated legal action and the major newspapers followed the story. A reading of the response to the Santos Ferguson case in the Washington Post reveals both a clear indignation about the prejudice Santos Ferguson faced and an avoidance of the obvious lurking question of miscegenation. Only one op-ed piece in the Washington Post directly addressed this question. Historian Adele Logan Alexander writes, “What is ignored (by the DAR and in Washington Post articles as well) and seems almost impossible for white Americans to accept, discuss, or articulate, is miscegenation.” She continues, “[n]o, formal marriages between slaves were not permitted prior to the Civil War, but more important, marriage and even cohabitation between the races was forbidden by law in most states from colonial times. In many jurisdictions these bans remained in force until 1967.” For Alexander, what needs to be said is that:

No other people on earth display greater variation in skin color, facial structure or hair texture than we do, yet white America hesitates to admit why this is so. Certainly in our country’s early history some few black men sired children by white women, but more commonly we twentieth century black Americans are descended, somewhere along the line, from black women who were sexually coerced by white men.

Alexander is interested in this obvious, unspoken truth in the context of the DAR. She writes,

[t]he tough question then is not so much whether the DAR members accept the handful of black women who will join the organization and who, for the most part (other than skin color) will greatly resemble the present members in education and background . . . but rather how they will deal with these women whose presence must continually remind them of the illicit, coercive and often violent acts of their mutual forefathers to whose valiant patriotic deeds their organization is dedicated.

Peggy Pascoe’s brilliant 2009 What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation and the Making of Race in America offers a dense web of explanatory tools for understanding how laws about marriage have been mobilized to police the boundaries of not only marriage itself but of ideas about what constitutes full cultural citizenship and who should have access to it…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Posted in History, Law, Media Archive, My Articles/Point of View/Activities, Papers/Presentations, Slavery, United States on 2012-06-12 22:15Z by Steven

Don’t Pass on Context: The Importance of Academic Discourses in Contemporary Discussions on the Multiracial Experience

Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, California

Steven F. Riley

The following is the slightly modified text from my opening remarks.

As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, ponder about re-electing our first black President, and begin the remaining 99 decades of the so-called “Mixed Millennium,” never in any point in time have there been so many ways to disseminate and share information about the multiracial experience: online, offline, YouTube, iPhones, blogs, podcasts, self-publishing, publishing on demand, etc. Thoughts and ideas that in the not too-distant past, that may not have been published until after death; can now be broadcast to the world before breakfast.  Never have so many, been able to say so much, so quickly. But while we marvel at the quantity of the information about multiracialism, I ask that we pause and consider the quality of the information about multiracialism.  Never have so many, been able to publish so much… and say so little, so quickly.

The purpose of this workshop is to encourage writers, filmmakers, and activists to consider discourses and texts outside of their own—or their subject’s—personal experiences during the formation of their respective projects.  The ideas discussed during the workshop should not be seen as mandatory or even suggested guidelines for projects, but rather topics for consideration to help an writer or artist present and communicate their ideas in a more meaningful way.

Just a quick question for the audience… What is the year of the first census that tabulated data on individuals of two or more races? [Audience responses were mostly “2000”, there was one “1890.”  The correct answer is “1850.”]

[By the census of 1850, the aggregate number of slaves in the United States was 3,204,313. Of this number, 246,656 were of mixed blood, mulattoes, The number of unmixed negro blood was, therefore, 2,487,455. The free black and mulatto population was 434,495, in the following proportions; blacks, 275,400; mulattoes, 159,095.]

There are three interconnecting areas of discussion that I find lacking in these contemporary discourses.  I will speak briefly on each of them and explain their importance and at the same time use the narrative of Richard and Mildred Loving as a central point of focus.

Our celebration of the Lovings is an excellent entrée into an examination of co-option and the distortion of an American historical narrative.  Similar to the reduction of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life into his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, the narrative of the Lovings has been reduced into the story of “love denied.”  Dr. King did not die because he dreamt of what America could be; he died because he demanded that America be what it should be.  Few remember Dr. King’s criticism of the Vietnam War when he said,

“We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit.”

Like King’s legacy, the popular narrative of the Loving saga has often been crafted in a way that ignores historical facts and denies persistent inequalities.  Like in many stories, there are truths, lies, and omissions. The story of the Lovings is no exception.  It is not that the celebration of the Lovings is inappropriate, it is that it is inadequate.

On the site www.LovingDay.org, the creators state that,

“The Loving Day name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. We found it quite perfect that a couple named Richard and Mildred Loving won their right to marry, and we know a good thing when we see it. So, Loving Day refers to two kinds of loving: the couple in the Supreme Court case, and the original definition of loving.”

Loving did not legalize interracial marriage in the United States.  It legalized interracial marriage in the 15 remaining states that still had anti-miscegenation laws.  (There were 16 states with such laws at the begining of the trial but the state of Maryland repealed its law while Loving v. Virginia was still pending.)  To its credit, LovingDay.org does give the visitor a state-by-state and year-by-year breakdown of anti-miscegenation laws throughout the United States, nevertheless, the inaccuracy of this paragraph remains.  Loving neither increased the number of interracial marriages in the South nor did it create a so-called late-20th century “multiracial baby boom”—the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 did that by increasing immigration from Asia and Latin America.  In fact, ten states have never enacted anti-miscegenation laws. Loving did, according to Victor Thompson, “send a signal to the U.S. population that, in the eyes of the state, interracial marriage was no longer the ‘sin’ that it used to be—even if it still remained a sin in the minds of some.”  Yet even today in 2011, the state of Mississippi with the lowest ratio of white-to-black residents, and as a result the highest potential of interracial unions and multiracial births, reports the lowest rate of self-identified multiracial individuals in the country.

Our preoccupation and celebration with Loving—and in the case of LovingDay.org with the word “loving”—diverts our attention away from the institutional inequities—that are still with us—that created “race” and racism as we know it and forced the Lovings to spend over half of their marriage fighting for their marriage.  While we may remember Richard Loving’s famous, “Tell the court I love my wife,” few remember their lawyer Bernard Cohen’s eloquent argument to the Supreme Court where he said,

“The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional.”

Race is a Social Construction

“Race is a social construction.” Though it has been nearly a century since scientists began to recognize that the concept of race has no basis in biology, yet race—or rather the belief in race—remains a salient force in our world today.  As most have you have already heard before, human beings are the most similar species on earth. When we speak of race, we speak of a concept originally designed for the commoditization, exploitation, oppression and near extermination of African, indigenous (and later Asian) populations. Race as biology is fallacious and we know it.  If we teach our children to tell the truth, then we should do the same.  I ask that writers and artists consider whether embracing an identity that is based in whole—or in part—on these social constructions merely reinforces those constructions.  As author Cedric Dover stated so eloquently in 1937, “Today there are no half-castes because there are no full-castes.” Additionally, little attention is paid to the role class has in self-identification.  It would be interesting to see projects that take leave of the college campuses, suburban enclaves, and coffee shops and investigate the lives of individuals in poorer rural and/or urban settings.

While multiracial identities give the appearance of a deconstruction of a social order based on race, I suggest otherwise. For example, many multiracial Americans of African/European descent understandably attempt to claim and reassert their non-African ancestry; reminding us how they are “a little French, a little Scottish, Italian, etc.,” few of us stop to ponder the near utter destruction of their African ancestry and how it has-even with the inclusion of European ancestry-been reduced to “black.”  While some may embrace a “Black/White” identity, I ask where are the “Luba/Lithuanians”, “Shona/Scottish”, “Ewe/Estonians”, “Igbo/Icelanders?”  It used to be our identities told us and others, where we came from, what we did, how we hunted, how we fished, where we pressed our wine, how we made cheese, when we planted, how we worshiped, and how we lived.  Only a few seem to know or notice these nearly infinite identities (even from Europe) have been reduced through the centuries by the onslaught of white supremacy to just a handful of exploitable commoditized categories. We think we can manipulate the morally corrupt framework of “race” into a modern utopia, but even the so-called “new” hybrid identities may be reabsorbed or discarded back into the oppressive essentialist elements.

Individuals and groups today in 2011 that insist and demand we all tell our whole “racial truth”, are no less misguided and insidious than the Virginians who insisted and demanded “racial integrity” in 1924.  While some criticize President Obama for identifying as Black, who here knows that “black” Mildred Loving had European ancestry along with Native American ancestry on both sides of her family tree?  What even the most ardent racists in Virginia knew—that apparently some activists today do not—was that “racial integrity” was and is pure nonsense.

I ask the creators in this room if they could create projects that consider what life in our society would be like without race.


My second area of discussion is by far, my personal favorite, and unfortunately completely neglected in the non-academic contemporary discourses.  Hopefully those in the audience will make my complaint—excuse the pun—history.

No serious discussion about multiracialism can begin without an understanding of history.  History is not merely important, it is essential.  Without an understanding of the past, we shall not only fail at transforming the future, we shall merely repeat it. Loving v. Virginia was the final battle in a 50+ year struggle to repeal all anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. For many, the history of multiracial America—if one even bothers to discuss history—begins in 1967 with Loving.  Yet even the history of this one case suggests that the genesis of multiracial America began much earlier.

As Kevin Maillard has stated,

“Looking back to Loving as the official birth of Multiracial America reinforces the prevailing memory of racial separatism while further underscoring the illegitimacy of miscegenations past. By establishing racial freedom in marriage, Loving also sets a misleading context for the history of mixed race in America. Even though Loving instigates the open acceptance of interracialism, it unintentionally creates a collective memory that mixed race people and relationships did not exist before 1967.”

Loving did not create an explosive growth in the multiracial population.  The heterogeneous residents of Caroline County, Virginia would have scoffed at such a notion just as the inhabitants of San Salvador would have scoffed at Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of their island.  Just as Columbus was a thousand of years too late to claim a “discovery,” those that suggest a post-Loving “multiracial baby boom” are 300 years too late.  If we are to use a point in time as a demarcation of the beginning of multiracial America, we should consider the year 1661, when the then colony of Maryland codified the first anti-miscegenation statute.

The fact that Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter began their courtship in 1950—when he was 17 and she was 11—clearly indicates that their relationship was not transgressive as far as their families were concerned.  In fact, the Jeters made it clear that “Richard [wasn’t] the first white person in our family,” indicating that Mildred—like most “black” Americans—had heterogeneous ancestry.  Perhaps the reason that the 1950’s Loving-Jeter courtship was non-transgressive within their families, was because such relationships were non-transgressive within their community of Caroline County, Virginia; which was known as the “passing capital of America” because so many light-skinned blacks were mistaken for whites.

White Supremacy

LovingDay.org provides us with what, as far as I can tell is the only interactive state-by-state map of anti-miscegenation laws that I know of. It is indeed—as they put it—“cool”.  Yet despite the information given about these statutes, we are presented no overarching reasons why these laws were enacted in the first place.  Nor are we told who wrote these laws. The site does, correctly state that, “The judiciary system played an important role in regulating interracial relationships.”  Yet something very important is missing from these texts.

Fortunately for us we have a scholar like Peggy Pascoe to tell us the whole truth.  The very first paragraph of her multiple award winning book, What Comes Naturally, Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, states:

“This book examines two of the most insidious ideas in American history. The first is the belief that interracial marriage is unnatural.  The second is the belief in white supremacy. When these two ideas converged, with the invention of the term “miscegenation” in the 1860s, the stage was set for the rise of a social, political, and legal system of white supremacy that reigned through the 1960s and, many would say, beyond.”

No one should celebrate another “Loving Day” without reading this magnificent book.

In my last of the three areas of discussion, this perhaps is the most difficult to discuss, yet perhaps the most pervasive.  No force in American society has had—and continues to have—a stronger influence on identity than that of white supremacy.

While it is tempting to frame the narrative of the Lovings as a case of love denied by racial difference, there is more to the story.  Anti-miscegenation laws did much more than prevent the marital unions between men and women of different races.  Anti-miscegenation law in fact; transformed the fiction of race into a social reality.  Their enforcement meant that a persons racial identity had to be determined in order to receive a marriage license. Furthermore, the variation in punishments—based on the determined race of the litigants—reinforced the idea of racial hierarchy. Whereas for example, a white person and Indian would both face a $200 dollar fine and two years in prison for illegally getting married, while a white person and a black person would face a $500 fine and five years in prison for the same offense.  Anti-miscegenation laws also disenfranchised spouses and children.  To make matters worse, the idea of racial hierarchy was embraced even in states that had no anti-miscegenation laws. These laws adversely affected all people of color regardless of their marital unions. In short, anti-miscegenation laws were the cornerstone of white supremacy.  Yet despite the multitudes of non-academic discourses celebrating the demise of these laws, absolutely no mention is made in them about white supremacy.

The first anti-miscegenation statutes enacted in Maryland and Virginia in the 1660s were part of the broader strategy of supporting the growing institution of slavery.  The presence of interracial couples and their mixed-race offspring threatened the belief in racial difference, black inferiority, and notion of slavery altogether. To counter this perceived threat, these laws were enacted to create a physical, moral and psychological barrier between the whites and blacks and made the concept of the ownership of another human being acceptable.

On January 6, 1959, just six months after police officers entered through the unlocked front door of the Lovings and arrested the sleeping newly married couple for violating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, they were sentenced to one year in prison. The sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave the state of Virginia for 25 years.  After passing sentence, the trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile infamously proclaimed:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Although Judge Bazile’s statement is ostensibly about the prevention of what he saw as putative marriages, a closer examination reveals a more sinister agenda. For him, not only did Mildred and Richard Loving not belong in the same bed, they—and all of their respective racial cohorts—did not belong on the same continent.  Although Jim Crow segregation could not send the “races” back to their separate respective “home continents,” it did the next best thing by consigning the races to their separate schools, separate theaters, separate hospitals, and separate water fountains.  Much like his predecessors almost 300 years before, Bazile reaffirmed the framework of white supremacy and the oppression of people of color via the ruse of anti-miscegenation laws.


While we all owe a debt of gratitude to the courageousness of Richard and Mildred Loving that can never be repaid, we should use care on how we celebrate their interracial marriage.  The increased attention towards multiraciality has brought—appropriately—more scrutiny, particularly from the academic community.  More scholars than ever before are examining the role of multiraciality within the framework of racial justice in the United States and abroad. In the case of Latin America, critics have begun to argue that “multiracialism, like the firmly discredited concept of Brazilian racial democracy, functions as an ideology that masks enduring racial injustice and thus blocks substantial political, social, and economic reform.”

The clever positioning by multiracial identity activists of the Loving marriage as the 1960s vanguards of multiraciality, promotes several troubling ideologies that should exposed and examined.  These ideologies effectively distance the Lovings’ saga from the greater African-American struggle for freedom and justice.  Firstly, the emphasis on the “marriage” of the Richard and Mildred Loving implies that these unjust anti-miscegenation laws had no adverse impact towards Black-Americans and other people of color as a whole.  Finally, and most importantly, the continual dissemination of the myth of increased multiracial births since the Loving decision, is an insidious maneuver that illogically seeks to erase the history of over three centuries of interracial marriages and the millions of descendants from those unions.  As I have stated before, we are not becoming a multiracial society, we already are a multiracial society and we have been so for centuries.

By the time the Loving decision marked its first anniversary on June 12, 1968, there was no sign of either a multiracial baby boom or an interracial marriage boom. While the Lovings were finally able to live quietly—and legally—as husband and wife in their Virginia home town, the racist attitudes that inspired the creation of anti-miscegenation laws were still very salient. (In fact, Alabama did not remove its unenforceable statute until 2000).  What “booms” that could be seen and heard were near and far and were those of dismay, protest and death.  Booms were heard loudly in January, 1968 when the North Vietnamese began the Tet Offensive that despite its military failure, shocked policy makers in Washington, D.C. enough that they became convinced that the war—even with its black and white comrades in brutal solidarity—could not be won.  Booms would be heard in cities like Newark, New Jersey—exactly one month after the decision, with riots over racial injustice. Then more “booms” in Detroit, just days later which would be just another one of the 159 race riots in the “long hot summer” of 1967. The most ironic and tragic “boom” would come from the shot of a rifle across the street from a Memphis, Tennessee hotel on April 4, 1968, which would fell Dr. King, America’s true non-violent symbol of racial reconciliation.  From hence “booms” would be heard in violent protest all over America.

The past two years have brought forth an unprecedented amount of critical examination of multiracialism.  Articles, books, live programs, even a conference—The first critical mixed-race studies conference—are forcing us to ask serious and important questions about how multiracialism and multiracial identities may impact  racial dynamics here and abroad.  Even Dr. Naomi Zack—who many of you have just seen in this morning’s movie Multiracial Identity defending the political recognition of a multiracial identity, has since, retracted that position in her article titled “The Fluid Symbol of Mixed Race” in the Fall 2010 issue of the journal Hypatia.

She states:

“The recognition of mixed race that I have advocated would proceed from where we are now, in a society where many people continue to think that human racial taxonomy has a biological foundation. Recognition of mixed race would be fair, because if racially “pure” people are entitled to distinct racial identities, then so are racially mixed people.  Also, the false belief in biological races logically entails a belief in mixed biological races. But, of course, in true biological taxonomic terms, if pure races do not exist, then neither do mixed races (Zack 1997, 183-84; Zack 2002, chap. 7).

However, by the time I finished writing Philosophy of Science and Race (Zack 2002), I had come to the conclusion that broad understanding of the absence of a biological foundation for “race,” beginning with philosophers, was more urgent than mixed-race recognition or identity rights.  Against that needed shift away from the false racialisms to which many liberatory race theorists still clung, advocacy of mixed-race recognition seemed self-serving, if not petty. And I think that the shift is still a work in progress. But still, the ongoing historical phenomena of mixed race and the distinctive experiences of mixed-race people continue to merit consideration, and I am grateful for this opportunity to revisit my earlier confidence and enthusiasm that mixed-race recognition was on the near horizon, with the full-scale undoing of race soon to dawn.”

She continues with,

“…The dangers of insisting on black and white mixed-race political recognition in a system in which blacks are disadvantaged is that a mixed-race group could act as a buffer between blacks and whites and re-inscribe that disadvantage. It is interesting to note that under apartheid in South Africa, there was not only a robust mixed population known as “colored,” but individuals were able to change their race as their life circumstances changed (Goldberg 1995).  From the perspective of mixed-race individuals, this example may seem as though even South Africa was more liberatory on the grounds of race than the one-drop-rule-governed U.S. (This is not to say that South African coloreds had full civil liberties under apartheid, but only that they were better off than many blacks.)  But from a more broad perspective, in terms of white–black relations, recognition of mixed-race identity, while it may advantage mixed-race individuals and add sophistication to a black and white imaginary of race, does little to dislodge white supremacy overall. The public and political recognition of mixed-race identities could be quite dangerous to white–black race relations overall if the position of blacks remained unchanged (Spencer 1999).  But continued obliviousness about mixed-race identities holds the immediate danger of denying the existence of injustice for some presumptively pure blacks who do not have the advantages of white parentage…”

With the next two years promising even more scrutiny of the discussion surrounding multiraciality, it is more important than ever that we all read the academic texts to help us create projects that can produce greater impact.

©2011, Steven F. Riley

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Race, Forgetting, and the Law

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2012-02-05 03:24Z by Steven

Race, Forgetting, and the Law

The Atlantic

Sara Mayeux

Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America is a tour-de-force of archival research, bringing to light countless criminal prosecutions, civil cases, and bureaucratic decisions through which miscegenation laws were enforced not just in the South but throughout the nation; and not just in the deep past, but well into my parents’ lifetimes; and not just between blacks and whites but between blacks and whites and Japanese and Filipinos and Mexicans….. the list could go on. The book spans the 1860s through the 1960s, with a focus on the less-well-known story of race-based marriage laws in the Western states, including California.

Throughout, Pascoe is attentive not just to ideologies of race but also to ideologies of gender, and the complex interactions between them. This history is not, she insists, simple, and “interracial couples should be relieved of the burden of having to stand as one-dimensional heroes and heroines.” Many, like the now-famous Lovings, wanted mostly to be left alone. “Mr. Cohen,” Richard Loving told his Supreme Court advocate, “tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

One of Pascoe’s themes is the role that forgetting plays in the law. In the years immediately following the Civil War, some state courts had upheld interracial marriages (typically in cases involving a white husband whose privileges and property rights the courts wanted to protect), and some states had repealed their antebellum anti-miscegenation laws. But this was all quickly forgotten. After legislators had reinstated the laws and judges had overturned or simply abandoned the earlier rulings, bans on interracial marriage came to seem, to almost everyone, “natural” and “traditional,” the way it had always been…

Read the entire review here.

Tags: , ,

Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America [Review: Pascoe]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2011-03-06 03:41Z by Steven

Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America [Review: Pascoe]

Journal of Social History
Volume 25, Number 1 (Autumn, 1991)
pages 174-176

Peggy Pascoe (1954-2010), Beekman Professor of Northwest and Pacific History
University of Oregon

Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America. By Paul R. Spickard (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. xii plus 532 pp.).

Intermarriage must surely rank as one of the most neglected topics in American social history. Only a handful of historians have attempted to study it, some of  whom focused on the enactment of laws that prohihited interracial marriages while others traced changes in the social patterns of intermarriage over time. Whichever route they chose, historians relied heavily on the statistical data and theoretical constructs put forth by social scientists. This alliance between historians and social scientists, a sort of intermarriage of its own, has been something of a love-hate relationship: dependent on social scientists for both data and theories, historians tend to use their insight into change over time to challenge the very theories they borrow.

The most recent—and surely the most ambitious—historical study of intermarriage in the United States, Paul Spickard’s Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America, is a case in point. Spickard focuses on intermarriage in three different ethnic groups over the entire twentieth century. The unprecedented range of his study puts him in an ideal position to criticize social science theories, which, he argues, are flawed because they concentrate too much on social structure and not enough on culture. In an attempt to redress the balance, he adds the “cultural factors” of “a group’s own perception of its relative social status, the general society’s toleration of intergroup relationships, and different ethnic groups images of each other” to the analysis (pp. 343—44). Mixing data from statistical studies with cultural images from oral history interviews, popular journals, and movies, Spickard tests the validity of a wide range of social science theories about intermarriage and ethnic identity.

Mixed Blood is organized into four separate sections, one each on Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, and Black Americans, and an additional one on Japanese women who married American soldiers. Within each section, Spickard considers a melange of topics. The most innovative are those Spickard considers “cultural” topics, including the “images” mainstream and ethnic groups held of each other, the “hierarchy of preference” each group showed in choosing marriage partners, and (a particularly useful choice) the interethnic divisions usually invisible to dominant groups. The rest are topics far more familiar, including such old chestnuts as the “success” of intermarriages and the ethnic identity of the children. On several issues Spickards determination to explore the attitudes of ethnic groups as well as those of the dominant society pays off impressively. He demonstrates, for example, that some ethnic groups, like Japanese Americans, held their own notions of racial superiority so strongly that they were even less likely than Anglo Americans to welcome the children of intermarriages into their communities. On others, his findings are too narrow to be of much help. In trying to measure the “success” of intermarriages, for example, Spickard compares the divorce rate of intermarriages with the divorce rate of marriages within each ethnic group; curiously, he never compares them with the divorce rate in American society as a whole.

In the end, only two theories about intermarriage survive Spickard’s scrutiny: the general proposition that the extent of intermarriage has increased over the twentieth century and the assertion that the larger the ethnic community is, the lower the rate of intermarriage will be. Several others, including the theory that an unbalanced sex ratio leads to intermarriage, that intermarriages fall into a “triple melting pot” pattern, and that barriers of race are harder to breach than barriers of religion or national origin, fail to survive because they cannot account for all of the widely disparate groups Spickard has chosen for his study. Still others, including nearly every theory about gender and class in intermarriage, fail for more fundamental reasons. Theories about ethnic identity fare no better: Spickard discards the notion that children of mixed marriages invariably fit into subordinate groups, raises doubts about whether intermarriage is a reliable indicator of assimilation, and finds tremendous variation in the extent to which intcrmarriers maintain ethnic ties and ethnic identity.

Well-documentcd as they are, these results should scarcely come as a surprise, for historians have plenty of reason to be suspicious of social scientists’ transhistorical explanations for social patterns. More surprising is the extent to which Spickard’s critique of social science theories itself remains embedded in transhistorical categories. Spickard is adept at using his comparative data to disprove the theories of social scientists. Yet, like the social scientists he ultimately rejects, Spickard takes for granted that two of the fundamental axes of intermarriage—race and gender—are fixed, immutable categories, the “givens” of historical analysis. As a result, he overlooks the possibility that his data point not only to comparative variability in ethnic identity but also to significant historical reformulations of the notions of race and gender. To take one striking example: because Spickard discovered that there were more similarities between the intermarriage patterns of Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans than between those of Japanese Americans and Black Americans, he concludes that perhaps, race is not so fundamental a category of social relationships in America as has often been supposed” (p. 343). The more reasonable point, 1 suspect, is that over the time period which Spickard covers, there were significant shifts in the social construction of the idea of race, shifts that might help make interpretive sense of Spickard’s own finding that over the course of the century, Japanese Americans, once labeled by dominant Americans as “Black,” later came to be considered “White” (p. 347). Scholars interested in these questions should consult anthropologist Virginia Dominguez’s White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana, a recent social science study of intermarriage that pays unusually close attention to the social construction of race/ A similar attempt to map shifts in the social construction of gender would seem to be in order as well, for as Spickards critiques of existing theories show, gender is perhaps the least understood aspect of interracial marriage.

In the future, more attention to the social construction of race and gender may lead studies of intermarriage in a different direction. For the moment, though, one thing is certain: for its sheer ambition, for its unsurpassed range of data, for its painstaking critiques of social scientific theories, Mixed Blood is indispensable reading for historians interested in the study of intermarriage.

Tags: , , ,