Miscegenation in South Africa

Posted in Africa, Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2011-09-20 05:21Z by Steven

Miscegenation in South Africa

Cahiers d’études africaines
Volume 1, Number 4 (1960)
pages 68-84
DOI: 10.3406/cea.1960.3680

Pierre L. Van Den Berghe
University of Natal

A number of related factors make the Union of South Africa an ideal object of investigation in the field of miscegenation. The exceptionally virulent brand of racism that has developed in South Africa since the beginning of the 2oth century was accompanied by an increasingly morbid fear of miscegenation unparalleled in intensity anywhere else in the world. As consequence of this miscegenophobia South Africa went further than any other country in recent times in prohibiting by law all sexual relations whether marital or non-marital between whites and non-whites. Finally the South African government in its concern over bastardization provides the social scientist with the best data on inter-racial marriage and concubinage of any country known to the author.

The history of miscegenation in South Africa is as old as the first permanent Dutch settlement at the Cape in 1652. In the first few decades, some instances of marriage between Dutchmen and christianized Hottentot women took place as well as extensive non-marital relations between masters and female slaves. In the 1670’s, an estimated 3/4 of all children of female slaves had white fathers. With the rise of colour prejudice in the latter decades of the 17th century, legal unions of whites and non-whites became rare. A 1685 law prohibited marriage between white men and slave women; some legal unions of white men with free women of colour continued to take place, but with decreasing frequency. Miscegenation however, continued to flourish in the form common to most slave societies namely institutionalized concubinage between white men and non-white women.

The salient fact in the early history of miscegenation in South Africa is that while intermarriage became rapidly condemned, extra marital relations between white men and women of colour were not only tolerated, but even looked upon with amusement The slave lodge of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape was wide-open brothel of which Mentzel gives an interesting account:

“Female slaves are always ready to offer their bodies for trifle; and towards evening one can see string of soldiers and sailors entering the lodge where they misspend their time until the clock strikes 9… The Company does nothing to prevent this promiscuous intercourse since, for one thing it tends to multiply the slave population and does away with the necessity of importing fresh slaves. Three or four generations of this admixture for the daughters follow their footsteps have produced a half-caste population—a mestizo class—but a slight shade darker than some Europeans.”

Among the European bourgeoisie, interracial concubinage was also common:

“Boys who, through, force of circumstances have to remain at home during these impressionable years between 16 and 21 more often than not commit some folly, and get entangled with handsome slave-girl belonging to the household. These affairs are not regarded as very serious… the offence is venial in the public estimation. It does not hurt the prospects; his escapade is source of amusement, and he is dubbed young fellow who has shown the stuff he is made of.”

British visitor to the Cape in the beginning of the 19th century tells that slave girls were routinely assigned to the bedroom of white guests to enliven the latters’ nights. Slave girls were “loaned out” to Europeans by their masters:

“Female slaves sometimes live with Europeans as husband and wife with the permission of their masters who benefit in two ways: the cost of upkeep of the slave is reduced through the presents she receives from the man, and her children are the property of her master since children of female slaves are themselves slaves… In this manner the slave population is always increasing.”

Similarly, the whites interbred extensively with the nominally free Hottentots. Vaillant estimates the number of Bastards (for such was the contemporary designation of white-Hottentot half-breeds) in 1780’s as 1/6 of the inhabitants of the whole Cape Colony. In the first half of the 19th century, entire communities of Bastards settled along the Orange River where they established autonomous “states”. The offspring of these white-slave and white-Hottentot unions, as well as interbreeding between slaves and Hottentots gave rise to the people known today as the “Cape Coloureds”.

In this early period then, miscegenation was not only common but sanctioned so long as it took the form of concubinage between higher-status men and lower-status women. There was no trace of feeling of horror against miscegenation per se. The main concern of the dominant white group was the preservation of its superior status, and the latter was left unthreatened by master-slave concubinage. Intermarriage on the other hand, entailed measure of social equality and was consequently opposed…

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Blood Simple: The politics of miscegenation

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-09-03 17:33Z by Steven

Blood Simple: The politics of miscegenation

Slate Magazine

Eric Liu

The “Negro problem,” wrote Norman Podhoretz in 1963, would not be solved unless color itself disappeared: “and that means not integration, it means assimilation, it means—let the brutal word come out—miscegenation.” Coming after a lengthy confession of his tortured feelings toward blacks—and coming at a time when 19 states still had anti-miscegenation statutes on the books—Podhoretz’s call for a “wholesale merging of the two races” seemed not just bold but desperate. Politics had failed us, he was conceding; now we could find hope only in the unlikely prospect of intermarriage.

Podhoretz’s famous essay was regarded as bizarre at the time, but 33 years later, it seems like prophecy. We are indeed intermarrying today, in unprecedented numbers. Between 1970 and 1992, the number of mixed-race marriages quadrupled. Black-white unions now represent 12 percent of all marriages involving at least one black, up from 2.6 percent in 1970. Twelve percent of Asian men and 25 percent of Asian women are marrying non-Asians. Fully a quarter of married U.S.-born Latinos in Los Angeles have non-Latino spouses. We are mixing our genes with such abandon that the Census Bureau is now considering whether to add a new “multiracial” category to the census in the year 2000. This orgy of miscegenation has not yet brought the racial harmony for which Podhoretz longed. But recent publicity about the intermarriage figures has stirred hope once again that our racial problems might be dissolving in the gene pool…

…Race, you see, is a fiction. As a matter of biology, it has no basis. Genetic variations within any race far exceed the variations between the races, and the genetic similarities among the races swamp both. The power of race, however, derives not from its pseudoscientific markings but from its cultural trappings. It is as an ideology that race matters, indeed matters so much that the biologists’ protestations fall away like Copernican claims in the age of Ptolemy. So the question, as always, is whether it is possible to break that awful circle in which myth and morphology perpetually reinforce one another…

…One possibility is that all multiracials, over time, will find themselves the intermediate race, a new middleman minority, less stigmatized than “pure” blacks (however defined) but less acceptable than “pure” whites. Their presence, like that of the “coloreds” in old South Africa, wouldn’t subvert racialism; it would reinforce it, by fleshing out the black-white caste system. Again, however, the sheer diversity of the multiracials might militate against this kind of stratification.

Yet this same diversity makes it possible that multiracials will replicate within their ranks the “white-makes-right” mentality that prevails all around them. Thus we might expect a hierarchy of multiracials to take hold, in which a mixed child with white blood would be the social better of a mixed child without such blood. In this scenario, multiracials wouldn’t be a distinct group—they would just be distributed across a continuum of color.

Sociologist Pierre van den Berghe argues that such a continuum is preferable to a simple black-white dichotomy. Brazilians, for instance, with their mestizo consciousness and their many gradations of tipo, or “type,” behold with disdain our crude bifurcation of race. Yet no amount of baloney-slicing changes the fact that in Brazil, whitening remains the ideal. It is still better for a woman to be a branca (light skin, hair without tight curls, thin lips, narrow nose) than a morena (tan skin, wavy hair, thicker lips, broader nose); and better to be a morena than a mulata (darker skin, tightly curled hair). Subverting racial labels is not the same as subverting racism.

Still another possibility is that whites will do to multiracials what the Democrats or Republicans have traditionally done to third-party movements: absorb their most “desirable” elements and leave the rest on the fringe. It’s quite possible, as Harvard Professor Mary Waters suggests, that the ranks of the white will simply expand to engulf the “lighter” or more “culturally white” of the multiracials. The Asian American experience may offer a precedent: As growing numbers of Asian Americans have entered the mainstream over the last decade, it is increasingly said—sometimes with pride, sometimes with scorn—that they are “becoming white.”…

…These cautionary scenarios demonstrate that our problem is not just “race” in the abstract. Our problem is the idea of the “white race” in particular. Scholar Douglas Besharov may be right when he calls multiracial kids “the best hope for the future of American race relations.” But even as a “multiracial” category blurs the color line, it can reaffirm the primacy of whiteness. Whether our focus is interracial adoption or mixed marriages or class-climbing, so long as we speak of whiteness as a norm, no amount of census reshuffling will truly matter…

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