Are White Americans “Passing” for White?
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Are “White” Americans All “Passing as White”? The Alchemy of “Race” By A.D. Powell
Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson. Harvard University Press, 1998.
Hardly two [scientists] agree as to the number and composition of the races. Thus one scholar makes an elaborate classification of twenty-nine races; another tells us there are six; Huxley gives us four; Kroeber three; Goldenweiser, five; and Boas inclines to two, while his colleague, Linton, says there are twelve or fifteen. Even my dullest students sometimes note this apparent contradiction.<p>—- Brewton Berry, “A Southerner Learns about Race,”Common Ground (1942)</p><p> </p><p>Matthew Frye Jacobson ‘s Whiteness of a Different Color tells us all how we got in this mess. The book is subtitled European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. “Alchemy” is correct. It means that the “base metal” of Nordic, Alpine, Mediterranean and even Western Asian “races” were turned into the “gold” of unadulterated white status. Jacobson explains how “whiteness” was created by colonial elites for the purpose of defending the state from Indian invasions and slave insurrections, and continued by the American republic in order to create a sense of unity in its polyglot European immigrant population. In 1790, United States naturalization law granted citizenship to “free white persons” — which meant, mostly, those of Anglo-Saxon descent. As the U.S. population became more culturally mixed beginning in the 1840s, with an increase in immigration from non-Anglo Europe, the nation experienced “a fracturing of whiteness into a hierarchy of plural and scientifically determined white races.”</p><p>In other words, people who came from Ireland, Poland, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Jews from Russia and other Slavic nations all became, by virtue of the “melting pot” ethic, “Caucasian” whites. But, the creation of whiteness was – and still is – by no means an easy, continuous process. TheCeltic, Nordic, Alpine and Mediterranean “races” were abolished in favor of the myth of one homogenous “white” race (with the adoption of the “scientific” term “Caucasian” providing a new legitimacy to the honorific “racial” term “white.”</p><p> </p><p>Jacobson contends that traditional historians have deliberately dismissed the “racial” distinctions of the 19th century and before as “misuses” of the word “race.” Of course they didn’t mean that Irish, Germans, Bohemians, Nordics, etc. were separate races; they just didn’t know what they were saying. This is a courtesy not given to mulattoes. Jacobson, however, shows that there was no “misuse.” “Patterns in literary, legal, political and graphic evidence” show that the perception of race was very different from the standard rhetoric promoted in today’s U.S. I have a sense of deja vu here. As I stated in a review of Lawrence R. Tenzer’s The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War, mainstream historians’ inability to acknowledge the fact that 19th century Northern “whites” saw predominately European slaves as “white,” makes them deliberately blind to the role “white slavery” played as a cause of the Civil War. Few historians wish to deal with the fact that, while “white” privilege in various forms has been a constant in American political culture since colonial times, whiteness itself has been subject to all kinds of contests and has gone through a series of historical vicissitudes.</p><p> </p><p>Jacobson divides the history of whiteness in the United States into three great epochs:</p>
- The nation’s first naturalization law in 1790 (limited naturalized citizenship to “free white persons”) demonstrates the republican convergence of race and “fitness for self-government”; the law’s wording denotes an unconflicted view of the presumed character and unambiguous boundaries of whiteness.<p> </p>
- Fifty years later, however, beginning with the massive influx of highly undesirable but nonetheless “white” persons from Ireland, whiteness was subject to new interpretations. The period of mass European immigration, from the 1840s to the restrictive legislation of 1924, witnessed a fracturing of whiteness into a hierarchy of plural and scientifically determined white races. Vigorous debate ensued over which of these was truly “fit for self-government” in the old Anglo- Saxon sense.<p> </p>
- Finally, in the 1920s and after, partly because the crisis of over-inclusive whiteness had been solved by restrictive legislation and partly in response to a new racial alchemy generated by African-American migrations to the North and West, whiteness was reconsolidated: the late nineteenth century’s probationary white groups were now remade and granted the scientific stamp of authenticity as the unitary Caucasian race – an earlier era’s Celts, Slavs, Hebrews, Iberics, and Saracens, among others, had become Caucasians so familiar to our own visual economy and racial lexicon.
Before we learn how Europeans became “whites” and “whites” became “Caucasians,” we should know the origin of “Caucasian.”<p> </p><p>THE MOST BEAUTIFUL “RACE” IN THE WORLD? A GEORGIAN SKULL, AND THE ORIGIN OF THE “CAUCASIAN RACE”</p>
Caucasian Variety. I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially the southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; …That stock displays…the most beautiful form of the skull, from which, as from a mean and primeval type, the others diverge…Besides, it is white in color, which we may fairly assume to be the primitive color of mankind, since…it is very easy to degenerate into brown, but very much more difficult for dark to become white.<p>–Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, “On the Natural Varieties of Mankind” (1775)</p><p>Of all the odd myths that have arisen in the scientific world, the “Caucasian mystery” invented quite innocently by Blumenbach is the oddest. A Georgian woman’s skull was the handsomest in his collection. Hence it became his model exemplar of human skulls, from which all others might be regarded as deviations; and out of this, by some strange intellectual hocus-pocus, grew up the notion that the Caucasian man is the prototypic “Adamic” man.</p><p> —-Thomas Henry Huxley, “Methods and Results of Ethnology” (1868)</p><p> </p>
<p>Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), one of the founders of modern anthropology, ranked “races” on the basis of aesthetic judgment. He thought that the Georgians, a people who are native to the Caucasus mountain region, were the most “beautiful” people in the world. The “beauty” of each “race” was ranked by how close each one came to an “ideal” skull that Blumenbach found in Georgia. He therefore assumed that “whites” in general originated in the Caucasus because “white” features were closest to Blumenbach’s aesthetic ideal. Because of Blumenbach’s obsession with Georgian “beauty,” the word “Caucasian” became a “scientific” synonym for “white.” However, Blumenbach’s ranking was based more on facial features as opposed to skin color. This is why anthropology texts have usually claimed that “Caucasian” skin color can range from the fairest Swede to nearly “black” natives of India – as long as the features are sharp, the eyes “round,” and the hair is straight, wavy or curly.</p><p> </p><p>This idea that “Caucasians” are the “beautiful race” beside whom all others fall short has never gone away. We see it on TV and the movies, where obviously multiracial women of “tan Caucasian” phenotypes are chosen as sex symbols for “black” males. Marriage advertisements placed by Hindus and Muslims from the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East are not shy about demanding “fair” brides (not as necessary for bridegrooms). Mexican and other Latin American television and film industries use “white” faces in front of the camera because darker ones are considered lacking in attractiveness.</p><p> </p><p>UNDERSTANDING PROBATIONARY AND CONTESTED WHITENESS</p><p>Who is “white” and are there degrees of “whiteness”? Jacobson provides the following case as a major example of the ambiguity of this question:</p><p> </p><p>In Rollins v. Alabama (1922), an Alabama Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of one Jim Rollins, a black man convicted of the crime of miscegenation, on the grounds that the state had produced “no competent evidence to show that the woman in question, Edith Labue was a white woman.” Labue was a Sicilian immigrant, a fact that, this court held, “can in no sense be taken as conclusive that she was therefore a white woman, or that she was not a negro or a descendant of a negro.” Although it is important to underscore that this court did not find that a Sicilian was necessarily nonwhite, its finding that a Sicilian was inconclusively white does speak volumes about whiteness in 1920s Alabama. If the court left room for the possibility that Edith Labue may have been white, the ruling also made clear that she was not the sort of white woman whose purity was to be “protected” by that bulwark of white supremacism, the miscegenation statute.</p><p>This ruling is not an oddity of the Alabama courts, but part of a much broader pattern of racial thinking throughout the United States between the mid-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth. …In his 1908 study Race or Mongrel? Alfred Schultz lamented in unambiguously biological language:</p><p> </p>
The opinion is advanced that the public schools change the children of all races into Americans. Put a Scandinavian, a German, and a Magyar boy in at one end, and they will come out Americans at the other end. Which is like saying, let a pointer, a setter, and a pug enter one end of a tunnel and they will come out three greyhounds at the other end.
<p>Jacobson points out that in her 1910 study of Homestead, Pennsylvania, the sociologist Margaret Byington broke the community down along the “racial” lines of “Slav, English-speaking European,” native, white, and colored.” H.L. Mencken later casually alluded to the volume of literature crossing his desk by “Negro and other non-Nordic writers.” …When Porgy and Bess appeared (1935) critics broadly attributed George Gershwin’s talent for “American-Negroid music” to the “common Oriental ancestry in both Negro and Jew.” In other words, not all Americans saw the social divisions of the nation as simply “white” versus “black.”</p><p> </p><p>We must cease to think of contested whiteness as something fromImitation of Life and other works obsessed with “Negro blood” in otherwise “white” persons. Most of the officially “pure white” population is descended from people who were, at one time, not considered truly “white.” They were on “probation,” eventually graduating to full whiteness in a long and untidy process. As Jacobson explains it:</p><p> </p>
The boundary over whiteness – its definition, its internal hierarchies, its proper boundaries, and its rightful claimants has been critical to American culture throughout the nation’s history, and it has been a fairly untidy affair. Conflicting or overlapping racial designations such as ‘white,” “Caucasian,” and “Celt” may operate in popular perception and discussion simultaneously, despite their contradictions – the Irish simians of the Thomas Nast cartoon, for example, were “white” according to naturalization law; they proclaimed themselves “Caucasians” in various political organizations using that term; and they were degraded “Celts” in the patrician lexicon of proud Anglo-Saxons. Indeed, this is the nature of ideological contest. Such usages have had regional valences as well: it is one of the compelling circumstances of American cultural history that an Irish immigrant in 1877 could be a despised Celt in Boston – a threat to the republic – and yet a solid member of The Order of Caucasians for the Extermination of the Chinaman in San Francisco, gallantly defending U.S. shores from an invasion of “Mongolians.”
How did the honorific “racial” term “white” originate? Would you believe it was related to the need for a militia?<p> </p><p>“FREE WHITE PERSONS” IN THE REPUBLIC, 1790-1840 OR WE NEED SOMEBODY TO FIGHT OFF THOSE SLAVES AND INDIANS.</p><p>The Third Charter of Virginia (1611-1612) dedicates the colony to “the propagation of the Christian Religion, and Reclaiming of People barbarous, to Civility and Humanity.” The Declaration of Proposals of the Lord Proprietor of Carolina (1663), the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1663) all defined the mission of their colonies as the taking of land from “barbarous” natives and their conversion to Christianity and a European (specifically English) way of life.</p><p> </p><p>These colonial documents do not use the word “white,” Jacobson says, but between the charters of the early seventeenth century and the naturalization law of the late eighteenth, the word “white” did attain wide usage in New World political discourse, and it was written into an immense body of statutory law. In the colonies the designation “white” appeared in laws governing who could marry whom, who could participate in the militia; who could vote or hold office; and in laws governing contracts, indenture and enslavement. The term “white” was used to confer rights and freedoms (except limiting one’s right to marry). Citizenship became inseparable from the idea of whiteness and maleness because a citizen’s primary duty was to help put down slave rebellions and participate in wars against the Indians. In other words, colonial British elites first created “white people” as a social and political category to create a sense of European solidarity against slaves and Indian nations. The colonial European population, divided by class, religion and national origin, had to be united. People who had little land and no slaves themselves had to be made to feel a certain brotherhood with large landowners and slave holders. It is no accident that Congress established a Uniform Militia (1792) defined as “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states.” In return for this military obligation, “white” men received the franchise (with property qualifications), the right to hold office and other rights superior to women and non-white males.</p><p> </p><p>Another important component of political whiteness was Republican ideology. If the Crown of England was no longer the ruler, and the Revolution had been fought in the name of self-rule or rule by “the people” – the majority – then who were these citizens and what determined their fitness to rule? Furthermore, the Revolution’s ideals meant different things to different classes. A planter aristocrat like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson did not necessarily want the kind of political equality favored by a New England farmer or a small merchant or artisan. The new American ruling class was thus presented with a dilemma – how to rule without overtly appearing to do so. In the Enlightenment’s model of race and politics, the ideal republic was ruled by men who were logical, balanced and not given to irrational passions. Non-white “races” were, by definition, the opposite of this ideal, and most European “races” were judged inferior to the English – the standard by which all other “races” would be judged. The polity should be “a homogenous body” whose interests were, when thoughtfully considered, one and the same. The ideal American citizen’s concept of “the public good” should be, essentially, the good of wealthy planters and merchants.</p><p> </p><p>MASSIVE IMMIGRATION, 1840-1924 AND A CRISIS OF WHITENESS</p>The Irish Famine Migration of the 1840s produced the first true crisis of whiteness in the American republic, according to Jacobson. Whereas the salient feature of whiteness before the 1840s had been its powerful political and cultural contrast to nonwhites, especially Indians and Africans and mixed- race Americans, this period is characterized by:<p> </p>
- A spectacular rate of American industrialization, whose voracious appetite for cheap labor encouraged hordes of non-English Europeans to come to the United States.<p> </p>
- A growing nativist perception of these laborers as a political threat to the smooth functioning of the republic.<p> </p>
- Consequently, a fracturing of monolithic whiteness by the popular marriage of scientific doctrines of race with political concerns over the newcomers’ “fitness for self-government.”<p> </p>
Why a threat? The demographics of the republic began to change dramatically in the 1840s. Consider these figures:
- 1820 – 8,385 immigrants from all sending countries combined<p> </p>
- 1847 (worst year of the Irish Famine) – 234,968 immigrants, of whom nearly half were from Ireland<p> </p>
- From 1846 to 1855 – a total of 3,031,339 immigrants, including 1,288,307 from Ireland and 976,711 from Germany, the two leading sources of immigration in this period.<p> </p>
- Combined with Italians, Russian Jews and other Europeans, the “white” foreign-born population of the U.S. reached 13.5 million by 1920.<p> </p>
We have to understand the tremendous changes and fear created by this massive immigration and why these “white” immigrants were in a state of probationary or contested “whiteness.”<p> </p><p>ARE THE IRISH WHITE?</p><p>In The Inequality of Human Races(1855) Arthur Comte de Gobineau predicted the decline of the Anglo-Saxons in America, now overwhelmed by the most degenerate races of olden day Europe. They are the flotsam of all ages: Irish, cross-bred German and French, and Italians of even more doubtful stock.</p><p></p><p>Negative assessments of the Irish character are rooted in the history of English conquest and hostility toward Catholicism. (An outlawed religion for much of English history). They were “savages” to be tamed, similar to Indians. They had fine land that they supposedly didn’t deserve or know how to use properly.</p><p>Jacobson even shows us that 19th century Americans had perceptions of distinctive Celtic physical characteristics. Harper’s Weekly (1851) described “the Celtic physiognomy” as, among other things, “the small and somewhat upturned nose [and] the black tint of the skin.” While this opinion sounds incredible to us, we must remember that a “racial” label often causes people to “see” differences that are not there. Many people, both Irish and non-Irish, thought they saw distinctive Celtic physical types. Here’s an opinion of Irish morals and intelligence:</p><p> </p>
Atlantic Monthly (1896): ” A Celt lacks the solidity, the balance, the judgement, the moral staying power of the Anglo-Saxon.” The Celt “imbibes with avidity the theory of equality, and with true Celtic ardor pushes it to excess; there are many Irish-Americans, young men growing up in our cities, who are too vain or too lazy to work, self-indulgent, impudent, and dissipated.”
Irish were often compared unfavorably to “Negroes”:<p> </p>
The Atlantic Monthly (1864): “The emancipated Negro is at least as industrious and thrifty as the Celt, takes more pride in self-support, is far more eager for education, and has fewer vices.”
<p>A famous political cartoon of 1876 shows the “Celt” and the “Negro” on the scales of civic virtue and finds them weighing in identically – an argument that seems to favor stripping the Celt of official “white” status rather than raising the “Negro” up.</p><p> </p><p>It is ironic that the predominately Celtic and racially mixed Healy Family, — which produced Alaskan hero Captain Michael Healy as well as James Healy, Bishop of Portland, Maine and Patrick Healy, President of Georgetown University — is today denounced by “blacks” and “white” liberals as “passing for white” social climbers for embracing their Irish ancestry and identity instead of submitting to a “black” stigma. If you were social climbing in 19th century America, you would not want to be either Irish or Catholic and certainly not both.</p><p> </p><p>ARE ITALIANS WHITE?</p>In Rollins v. Alabama (1922), as we have seen, a Sicilian woman was not deemed “white” enough by an Alabama court to legally prevent a “black” man from mating with her. Italians in Louisiana were also deemed unworthy of full “whiteness” and its privileges.<p>Many Italians are quite swarthy, olive or even brown-skinned. This is not surprising, given Italy’s geographical closeness to Africa. In 1891 a “white” Louisiana mob lynched 11 Italians, What made Italians non-white in their eyes despite their immigration to the U.S. as “free white persons”? Jacobson says that Italians did not “act white” by Southern standards. They socialized freely with “blacks” and worked at “black” jobs. They also supported Republican and Populist political candidates. I would like to inquire as to whether many of these “blacks” were in fact mixed-race Creoles. Physically, Italians and Creoles are very similar. Culturally, they are both Roman Catholic and “Latin.” Since Jacobson says that Italians intermarried with “blacks,” I have to suggest that these mates were probably not “black” at all but Creole.</p><p> </p><p>ARE JEWS WHITE?</p>Anyone who believes that Jewish people have always been considered “white” is ignorant of Jewish history – both medieval and modern. The Holocaust was a genocide directed against Jews and others that the Third Reich deemed “inferior races” who threatened the “purity” of “superior” German or “Aryan” blood? Sound familiar? Jacobson devotes an entire chapter, “Looking Jewish, Seeing Jews,” to the ambiguous “racial” position of Jews in the United States. It was quite common, until the mid-twentieth century, for the media to refer to Jews in “racial” terms:<p> </p>
In Types of Mankind (1855) Josiah Nott remarked that the “well-marked Israelitish features are never beheld out of that race”; the complexion may be bleached or tanned…but the Jewish features stand unalterably through all climates.”
<p>The most dramatic example of Jews’ racial ambiguity was the infamous Leo Frank case (1915), in which a “white” Jewish man in Georgia was convicted of murdering a working-class white girl – all on the testimony of a “Negro” janitor named Jim Conley. In the South at that time, if was considered culturally impossible for a “white” man to be convicted of anything on the word of a “Negro.” Frank was sentenced to death on the word of a “Negro” of poor reputation and who was, logically, the most likely murder suspect. Reporters, both “white” and “Negro,” questioned Frank’s “racial” classification. He was officially, on paper, a “white” man, yet he was being treated more like a “Negro.” Jacobson maintains that Frank’s conviction was a sign of his contested whiteness. Frank was inconclusively white and therefore, by Southern standards, did not deserve the “respect” normally due “white” men. When the governor of Georgia commuted Frank’s death sentence, he was lynched by a “white” mob – a stereotypical “Negro” fate.</p><p> </p><p>Moving up into the later 20th century, American Jewish writer Philip Roth shows that the possibility of losing “whiteness” is still in the mind of American Jews. Jacobson gives us this extensive quote from Roth’sCounterlife (1988), in which a Gentile woman chances to comment that she seldom repays the attention of Jewish men “because there are enough politics in sex without racial politics coming into it.” “We’re not a race,” objects her Jewish listener. The ensuing exchange cuts to the very heart of “difference” and the epistemology of race.</p><p>”It is a racial matter,” she insisted.</p><p> </p><p>”No, we’re the same race. You’re thinking of Eskimos.”</p><p>”We are not the same race. Not according to anthropologists, or whoever measures these things. There’s Caucasian, Semitic – there are about five different groups. Don’t look at me like that.”</p><p>”I can’t help it. Some nasty superstitions always tend to crop up when people talk about a Jewish ‘race.'”</p><p>”…All I can tell you is that you are a different race. We’re supposed to be closer to Indians than to Jews, actually; – I’m talking about Caucasians.”</p><p>”But I am a Caucasian, kiddo. In the U.S. census I am, for good or bad, counted as Caucasian.”</p><p>”Are you? Am I wrong?”</p><p>This conversation should not be surprising given the history of Jewish persecution by Europeans. Even today, Jews are at the heart of right-wing racial ideology, defined as racially mixed or plotting the “mongrelization” of the “white race.”</p><p>Jacobson summarizes the American Jewish “racial” situation very well:</p><p> </p>
Across the latter half of the nineteenth century Jews, by common consensus, did represent a distinct race; but by the mid-twentieth such certainties had evaporated….the racial odyssey of American Jews from “white persons” to “Hebrews” to “Caucasians” illustrate how historical circumstance, politically driven categorization, and the eye of the beholder all conspire to create distinctions of race that are nonetheless experienced as natural phenomena, above history and beyond question.
<p>EUGENICS AND THE “PASSING OF THE GREAT RACE”</p><p>The Immigration Act of 1924 gave precedence to immigrants from Northern Europe and was designed to make sure that the U.S. would never again be deluged with “undesirable” immigrants, especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe. Jews, especially, were targets of the new immigration law. It is no accident that the 1924 Immigration Act occurs in the same year as Virginia’s “Racial Integrity” Act of 1924 – which banned non-Caucasian blood from the “white race.” The eugenics movement was the ideological midwife of both laws. (For an example of how this era affected Americans of racially-mixed descent, see the Melungeon Homepage.) Jacobson places great emphasis on Madison Grant’s, “The Passing of the Great Race” as the “Mein Kampf” of the eugenics movement:</p><p> </p><p>Among the most important and popular expressions of the rising eugenic view of immigration was Madison Grant’sPassing of the Great Race, an extended diatribe against the “pathetic and fatuous belief in the efficacy of American institutions” to absorb and transform diverse populations. The book first appeared in 1916, but achieved its peak popularity only in the early 1920s; the old-stock liberal immigration policies, in Grant’s view, were tantamount to “suicidal ethics which are exterminating his own race.” He took issue with Franz Boas and others who emphasized the influence of environment and the potential for changes; what the melting pot (a biological, not a cultural, contrivance) really accomplishes, Grant argued, is best exemplified by “the racial mixture which we call Mexican, and which is now engaged in demonstrating its incapacity for self-government.”</p><p>Multiracial ancestry that is now presented to Americans as a variety of “white,” was once held up as examples of the need for forced hypodescent to protect white racial “purity.” As Grant states:</p><p> </p>
Whether we like to admit it or not, the result of the mixture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race reverting to the more ancient, generalized and lower type. The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a negro is a negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.
I would say that the great difference between most “black” and “white liberal” thinking today and Grant’s overt racism, is that the former “whitens” all the crosses mentioned above except those between “Negro” and “white.”<p>Jacobson reminds us that so salient are the differences among Nordics, Alpines, and Mediterraneans, that when Grant lumps them together at all, he does so only by the self-undermining phrase “so-called Caucasians.” The term “Caucasian race” has ceased to have any meaning, he argued, except where it is used to contrast white populations with “Negroes,” “Indians,” or “Mongols.”</p><p></p><p>The advocates of the new eugenics movement, such as Madison Grant and prominent eugenicist Harry Laughlin, worked hard to eliminate the old immigration law which opened America’s doors to all “free white persons.” Most of these so-called “whites” were not all that “white,” – that is, they were not of the ideal “Nordic” stock that Grant, Laughlin and their ideological confederates considered the truly “superior race” and the genetic base of the American republic. Jacobson summarizes the successful political activism that Grant, Laughlin and their comrades in the eugenics movement engaged in to protect the U.S. from “inferior races”:</p><p> </p><p>Their activism finally achieved success in 1924’s Johnson Act – a quota system based on 2 percent of each group’s population according to the 1890 census. This formula was originally part of the Report of the Eugenics Committee of the United States Committee on Selective Immigration. That committee, chaired by none other than Madison Grant and including Congressman Albert Johnson of Washington (the president of the Eugenic Research Association, 1923-1924), argued that a formula based on the 1890 census rather than a more recent one “would change the character of immigration of the stock which originally settled this country.” North and Western Europeans, read the report, were of “higher intelligence” and hence provided “the best material for American citizenship.” Although the authors of the report alleged that this was not a question of “superior” and “inferior” races, but merely a matter of admitting an “adaptable, helpful and homogeneous element in our American national life,” they did venture that their formula would “greatly reduce the number of immigrants of the lower grades of intelligence, and of immigrants who are making excessive contributions to our feeble- minded, insane, criminal, and other socially inadequate classes.” Citing data from Yerkes’s Army Intelligence Tests, the authors now poured very old wine into the new bottle of eugenics: “Had mental tests been in operation, and had the “inferior” and “very inferior” immigrants been refused admission to the United States, over six million aliens now living in this country, free to vote, and to become the fathers and mothers of future Americans, would never have been admitted.”</p><p></p><p>The words “six million” have special significance, since this racist immigration law would cost countless European Jews their lives during the 1930s and 1940s. They could not be admitted, because, although officially “white” under America law, they were among the “inferior races” the eugenics activists intended to exclude.</p><p>The Johnson Act did not invent the hierarchy of white races. While the view of Madison Grant, Albert Johnson, Harry Laughlin and their ilk seem extreme to us today, Jacobson reminds us that it is critical to recognize that figures far more central to American political and intellectual life shared many of their basic assumptions – Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Edward A. Ross, Frederick Jackson Turner, W.E.B. Du Bois and Charlotte Perkins Gilman are among them. Herbert Hoover’s Committee on Social Trends could enthusiastically laud the immigration act as selecting “a physical type which closely resembles the prevailing stock in our country.” Authors such as Jack London, Frank Norris, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, John R. Dos Passos and many others accepted the idea of a hierarchy of “white” races.</p><p> </p><p>CREATING “CAUCASIANSOR FINDING ALLIES AGAINST “THE RISING TIDE OF COLOR”</p><p>Between the 1920s and the 1960s concerns of “the major divisions” would so overwhelm the national consciousness that the “minor divisions,” which had so preoccupied Americans during the period of massive European immigration, would lose their salience in American culture and disappear altogether as racially based differences. Indeed, between the mid-1920s and the end of World War II, “Caucasian” as a “natural” division of humanity became part of a popular national catechism. Scientists “apply” the term “race” only to the broadest subdivisions of mankind, Negro, Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, and Australian,” explained a 1939 handbook for high school teachers. “ALL THESE SCIENTISTS AGREE THAT NO NATION CAN BE CALLED A RACE,” the text emphasized, self-consciously undoing the notions of “Aryan” and “Semitic” integrity.</p><p> </p><p>Jacobson believes that themassive migrations of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West between the 1910s and the 1940s produced an entirely new racial alchemy in those sections. Mid-century civil rights agitation on the part of African Americans – and particularly the protests against segregation in the military and discrimination in the defense industries around World War II – nationalized Jim Crow as the racial issue of American political discourse. Both the progressive and the regressive coalitions that formed around questions of segregation and desegregation solidified whiteness as a monolith of privilege; racial differences within the white community lost their salience as they lost their reference to important power arrangements of the day. And, finally, events in Nazi Germany, too, exerted a powerful influence on public opinion.</p><p> </p><p>Jim Crow whitened people who would not otherwise have been “white.” When four dusky Armenians petitioned in court for “white” status after a lower Massachusetts court found them to be “Asiatic” and thus ineligible for citizenship, the Circuit Court judge In Re Halladjian (1909) ruled in their favor by citing Southern segregation statutes that placed Armenians on the “white” side of the line. They were suspiciously dark, but claimed no relationship to the despised “Negro.”</p><p> </p><p>Increased uprisings and demands for independence in Europe’s African, Caribbean and Asian colonies, as well as the rise of non-white nations such as Japan and China, impressed upon many “white” elites the need for a reconstruction of the “white race.” In other words, there were not enough “superior” Nordics to fight off all these “colored” peoples. More “white races” had to be invited into the “white” club with full membership. Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color against White World Supremacy(1920) and Reforging America (1927) sounded the call to “white” solidarity. There had to be some sense of shared destiny among Nordics, Alpines and even Mediterraneans if the “white race” was to survive the “white civil war” of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution’s challenge to European capitalism and civilization, and the insistent demands of colonized “colored” peoples for independence and equality. Note the similarity between this reasoning and colonial America’s need to create a sense of European solidarity against slaves and Indians.</p><p> </p><p>The treatment of race in the sciences underwent fundamental changes in the years between the eugenic triumph of 1924 and the post-World War II period. Social scientists such as Ashley Montagu, Ruth Benedict and Julian Huxley proclaimed “race” and “racial purity” to be myths. However, there was a double standard that is still inherent in American “racial” liberalism that Jacobson could have given more emphasis. Concepts such as the “Aryan race” or the idea that Jews, Mediterraneans, Germans, etc. constituted different races was denounced in forceful, moral terms. Students were told to NOT see those groups as “races.” If they did, then their own moral blindness and intellectual stupidity were at fault. At the same time, they were told that the “purity” of the “white race” was false and that it was nonsensical to describe someone with a small amount of “black” ancestry as “Negro.” However, scholars would simply blame “society” for those beliefs and encouraged their students to use those myths as if they were true. We still see their handiwork. If you accuse a “liberal” scholar of putting the “African American” label on any person he suspects of “black blood,” regardless of how they saw themselves or how they were accepted within their own communities, he will smile condescendingly and say some version of, “Of course, I know better, but society…” However, if a student uses “Aryan” as a racial term or refers to Germans, Jews, Italians, etc. as “races,” he will go to great pains to correct the student as an individual. If the student persists, social and academic censure will follow. In other words, academia takes responsibility for making sure that the “hierarchy of white races” does not resurface. In the case of forced hypodescent, however, they blame “society” and pretend to be helpless.</p><p> </p><p>Jacobson shows that the most liberal scholars of “race relations” de-legitimized the old hierarchy of “white” races in order to replace it with the equally unscientific myth of “three great races” or “divisions of mankind” – the Caucasian, Negroid and Mongoloid” (sometimes adding the Australoid, or Australian aboriginal). They took pains to take their “knowledge” to elementary and high schools, instructing teachers throughout the nation to emphasize the idea of one unified “Caucasian” race when before there were Irish, Jewish, Slavic, etc. “races.” Imagine what could happen if they took the same pains to denounce forced hypodescent and “white racial purity” with the same fervor they used to intellectually destroy the “Aryan race.”</p><p> </p><p>The intellectual reworking of “race” reached its zenith in The Race Concept (1950, 1952), a series of statements hammered out by the world scientific community under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Again, it promoted contradictions. The human race is characterized by an “essential and undeniable unity,” yet there are “three great races” (Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid). Much of this work is devoted to attacking the doctrine of the “Aryan” race, especially the traditional belief that Jews are a “race.” The method for doing this was to emphasis the “whiteness” of Jews and free them from the implied stigma of Asiatic or other non-white descent. The genocide suffered by European Jews was the moral foundation upon which the denunciation of the concept of Jews as “non-Aryan” or “non-white” was promoted as the moral responsibility of both institutions and individuals. Notice that, if you use the terms, “Jewish race,” or “Aryan race,” most people (especially if they’re educated) will take individual responsibility for correcting you. They rarely feel such responsibility for correcting those who espouse the “one drop” myth – probably because the people who are the official arbiters of what is and is not “racist” (“black” and “white liberal” elites) support it.</p><p> </p><p>Among the self-conscious popularizations of this new, post-Nazi racial economy of “difference” was a public exhibit entitled “Races of Mankind” based on Ruth Benedict’s pamphlet of the same name. It was developed by the Cranbrook Institute of Science in 1943 and purchased by the American Missionary Association as a traveling show for use by any group “seeking o promote interracial understanding and goodwill through the medium of education.” The main points of the exhibit were: 1) Nationalities are not races; (2) Jews are not a race; (3) There is no “Aryan” race; (4) the “Negro” is racially mixed (as opposed to that former “mongrel” the Mexican or other Hispanics); (5) There are three great “races” of mankind – white, black and yellow; (6) the “Caucasian” race has darker (West Asiatic) and lighter (European) branches. This was a conscious effort to expand the “white race” even further – to include Turks, Central Asians, Middle Eastern and North African peoples under the “Caucasian” umbrella. We still see this today in affirmative action forms that define “white” for us. The stigmatization of racial mixture as “Negro” is still with us. When many “white” mainstream newspapers editorialized against the “multiracial” census category, the repeated refrain was that all “blacks” are racially mixed (implying that “whites” are “pure” with Hispanics and their thoroughly mixed racial ancestry conveniently disappearing).</p><p> </p><p>THE DAWNING CIVIL RIGHTS ERA THE ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY IN CREATING THE WHITE/BLACK DYAD</p><p></p><p>The American Communist Party, throughout the 20th century, was heavily involved in civil rights work. Indeed, only people on the far Left felt really free to openly advocate complete racial equality. However, the CP, true to its Stalinist heritage, often undermined its own work by trying to make reality fit ideology.</p><p> </p><p>The Sixth World Congress of the Comintern in 1928 adopted a“Black Belt Thesis” on “Negro national rights” that portrayed the problem of a despised caste as one of a “nation” with its own stable language, homeland and economic life similar to the national homelands that made up the Soviet Union. This was nonsense, of course, but the American Community Party (CP) used the fact that “Negroes” outnumbered “whites” within a “black belt” area of the South to invent the notion of a “Negro nation” with territorial rights and cultural consistency. The CP did not concern itself with minor details such as the “ethnic cleansing” that would be involved in creating this “black nation” and the fact that many people claimed against their will by “Negroes” did not want to be part of any separate nation. This notion has also been embraced in various forms by Trotskyists, Maoists, etc. I would also add that, if you believe a people to be a “nation,” then you are conceding authority to them over individuals within that “nation.” The CP legacy in American liberalism does seem to encourage the idea that a stigma (the “one drop” myth, for example) is really a valid or “national” identity. During the 1970s, this idea of a national “homeland” was extended to Chicanos in order to please the more militant activists.</p><p> </p><p>As the CP pushed the fight against racial discrimination to the top of its political agenda, it also bullied its European-origin members to think of themselves simply as “white workers” – people with no separate “national” rights who suffered no discrimination except that common to the working class. There would be no Jews, Finns, Slavs, etc. but only a monolithic band of “white” workers “united” in struggle with their “Negro” counterparts. The CP was the major influence on the Left in legitimizing the binary system of “race” in the U.S. Its definition of “nations” and “minorities” set “Negroes” on a plane of society far removed from any other group in American society.</p><p> </p><p>Part of the CP doctrine of a “Negro nation” was its insistence that other groups did not qualify as “nations” or “minorities” because they “are gradually being amalgamated with American people into the melting pot from which has emerged the American nation.” I wish to add here that it is no wonder the CP supported the “one drop” myth. To admit that the mixed-race or even “white” descendants of “Negroes” were NOT “Negro,” would be a denial of its absurd definition of a “nation.”</p><p> </p><p>THE WHITE/BLACK DYAD BECOMES THE CENTRAL TENET OF “LIBERAL” THOUGHT</p><p>Jacobson’s view that the white/black dyad makes all peoples defined as neither “black” nor “white” invisible mirrors my own research, only I would have added multiracial to the groups he cites: While bigots like Senator John Rankin were railing against the “Kikes” who were trying to “mongrelize the nation,” the weight of American culture was steadily and inexorably reducing the polity to a simple dyad of black and white – a scheme in which the former white races vanished into whiteness, and in which, so far as public discussion went, American Indians, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, and Mexican and Asian immigrants and their children vanished altogether. By the civil rights era library shelves were filling up with books bearing titles like:</p><p></p><p>White and Black: Test of a Nation; Crisis in Black and White; Confrontation: Black and White; Black Families in White America; Race Riots in Black and White; Black and White: A Study of U.S. Racial Attitudes Today; Black Children, White Dreams; Beyond Black and White; Assertive Black, Puzzled White; Black and White Self Esteem; and White Justice, Black Experience.</p><p></p><p>I would say that this deluge of books with black/white themes was sending a clear message: that Americans come in only two “races” – “white” and “black.” Who are those people who don’t look white or black? Must be foreigners. It’s no wonder that Hispanics and Asian-Americans constantly complain about being assaulted with questions such as “What country are you from?” or “Do you speak English?” Native Anglo multiracials are puzzled as to why they are often assumed to be “foreign.” The answer is clear. Pick up any newspaper and see articles with phrases such as “all Americans, both white and black,” or “Americans of both races.” If you’re sick of being a “foreigner,” end the black/white dichotomy!</p><p> </p><p>Jacobson gives credit to Carey McWilliams, an architect of the “nation of nations” tradition in American social thought, for his refusal to lose sight of the overall complexity of the American mosaic and for his refusal to make “race” identical with “the Negro” in American political life. Unlike Gunnar Myrdal and other social scientists, who would effectively expel from consideration those pegged neither as “white” nor as “black,” McWilliams wrote about the plight of American Indians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Japanese and Chinese in Brothers under the Skin (1942). However, even McWilliams could not overcome the doctrine that “color” was the central division of American life:</p><p> </p><p>But even so, “color” and the “Color line” had become for McWilliams the primary organizer in thinking about American diversity. Indeed, if he carefully eschewed the simplicity of black-and-white, he did depict the political landscape in a binary of color/not color that consolidated whiteness itself.</p><p></p><p>After the Civil Rights movement opened up much of “white” society by securing laws against “racial” discrimination, some of the “forgotten” neither “white” nor “black” ethnic groups began to make themselves heard and couldn’t be ignored – the various Latino and Asian groups as well as American Indians. The Left was therefore forced to change its cherish dyad of “white” versus “black” for one of “whites” versus “people of color.” These terms all make about as much sense as “Aryan” and “non-Aryan.”</p><p> </p><p>Unfortunately the Left is still wedded to the white/black dichotomy. A new example is Noel Ignatiev’s “New Abolitionist” movement and its journal Race Traitor. He dismisses the importance of “other races” and views “whites” as a monolithic army against “blacks,” from whose ranks some “whites” will gallantly defect and turn “traitor.” His views are similar to those of the far Right in that he believes that “race treason” is possible. Like too many leftists, he tries to put a “positive” spin on a racist concept.</p><p> </p><p>CONCLUSION</p><p>When you read Jacobson’s history, you can see why liberals and leftists tended to oppose the Multiracial Movement. Without monolithic “blackness,” there can be no monolithic “whiteness.” If the movement succeeds, “white” liberals and leftists become less “white.” Ethnic “minorities” such as Latinos, Arabs, etc. also stand to lose some of the “whiteness” they have claimed via their unacknowledged interracial ancestry.</p><p> </p><p>We must be aware of the history of this “racial alchemy” and not hesitate to use it to fight the liberal and left-wing devotion to “white purity” and hypodescent. Even more so, we must be cognizant of the fact that “racial” categories have never arisen from some common will of the people, but from the machinations of elites who seek to divide the population in ways that serve their own political and economic needs. They have both created and eliminated “races” according to THEIR needs, not ours. We must also take advantage of what freedom is left in this country and remember that we are still citizens with the right to speak out, not helpless victims of hypodescent. The knowledge and research provided by scholars such as Matthew Frye Jacobson, Lawrence R. Tenzer and others are ideological weapons in our hands. Will we have the courage to use them?</p>
White Racial Identity, Racial Mixture, and the “One Drop Rule”
|by A. D. Powell
Presented at Fifth Union, Kingsport, Tennessee
Friday, 18 June 2004
In the days of the Third Reich, the Nazis imposed the “Nuremberg Laws” on German citizens. Assimilated German Jews were told that they were not German. It didn’t matter that their language, culture and self-image were all proudly German. They now belonged to a separate and “inferior race.” Nazi propaganda pictured all Jews as racially distinct from Germans, but the reality was that Jews were forced to wear symbols of identification – yellow Stars of David – so they would not be able to “pass” as German or “Aryan.” People with either one Jewish parent or grandparent found themselves reclassified as mischlings or “mixed race.” The biographies of German Jews and part-Jews frequently speak of “passing for Aryan” and the desirability of having Nordic as opposed to darker or more Semitic looks because the former facilitated the ability to “pass.” Are we having a feeling of deja vu yet?
While most Americans have been carefully taught that the Nazis were crazy, evil, racist, etc., for “seeing” separate “races” in Europe when they didn’t exist, we are never asked to see the similarity between the Nuremberg Laws that defined Jews and mischlings and our own legal and social traditions of racial classification – especially the myth that white people with a “taint” of Jewish – excuse me – Negro blood are not truly white but secret, “light-skinned” members of the “black race” who are only “passing for white.” Just as German Jews were declared unworthy of the honor of being German, American laws, films, novels, television programs, etc., encourage Americans to accept the idea that even small amounts of “black blood” destroy all right to a European-American heritage and identity. The great difference is that, while the Nazis were avowed racists, today’s American society is based on laws that enforce legal and social equality between the so-called “races.” Indeed, the idea that otherwise white persons can be secret, hidden members of the black race, is promoted by many of the very people who pride themselves on fighting racism in others.
Documentary Genocide and “Lynching” Reputations
|In its June 16, 1996 issue, the very liberal and prestigious The New Yorker magazine published an article by Harvard University Afro-American Studies professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in which he denounced the late, highly respected New York Timesbook critic and author, Anatole Broyard, as a “light-skinned black man” who had “passed for white.” Entitled, “White Like Me: The True Lies of Anatole Broyard,” Gates’ article charged Broyard, who was of Louisiana Creole parentage, with “lying” about his “race” because he did not identify with blacks. The attack by Gates and The New Yorker was aimed not just at one man but at all Americans in a similar situation. It was an attack that Adolf Hitler and Walter Plecker would have enthusiastically supported.
Broyard had brought the blood of the “inferior” Negro race into the “superior” white race and “polluted” the latter. But wait! Our mainstream American media don’t believe in superior and inferior races. In our society, the ideals of racial equality and opposition to racism are trumpeted from the rooftops. What’s going on here?
A recent major motion picture, The Human Stain (and the novel that preceded it), also solemnly warned the nation that strange, inferior creatures it called “light-skinned blacks” had implanted themselves into the white race. Like the German Jews who looked German, acted German, etc., but were NOT truly German, these strange creatures looked and acted white but were most unworthy of that honor. It sounds almost like one of those horror movies in which aliens take over human bodies in an attempt to walk among us do us harm. Miramax, the company that produced the film, sent special instructions to movie critics to make sure that all of them knew about so-called “passing for white” and would describe the otherwise white protagonist, called “Coleman Silk,” as a “light-skinned black man” who was guilty of the heinous crime of claiming the “honor” of being white when he was tainted by the blood of the inferior black race – excuse me, we don’t believe in that anymore. He tainted the white race with the blood of the blacks in whose equality Miramax and all the other mainstream movie critics claim to believe. Does this make sense? If a man tells you he’s Irish and you later find out that he’s also part-German, do you denounce him as a lying German who only “passed” for Irish? No, because Irish and Germans are considered biological and social equals. If our Irishman is part-German, you are not getting an inferior product. If our Irishman is part-Negro, he is no longer Irish because the Negro blood means you are getting an “inferior” person and not the “superior” person you thought he was. This makes sense if you’re a racist who believes in white racial purity, but all these anti-passing accusations are made by people who claim to be against racism. Why is that?
The Human Stain was only the latest in a string of warnings about the white race being infiltrated by these alien, genetic freaks called “light-skinned blacks.” While those Americans who lived through the pre-Civil Rights era when racism (not anti-racism) was politically correct are aware of the so-called “anti-miscegenation” laws that supposedly prevented Negro blood from entering the white race, most Americans probably learn this lesson from Hollywood. Constant television reruns of films such as the two versions of Imitation of Life, Pinky and various television programs present the horror movie scenario- the inferior, genetic freaks look like us but are not us.
American journalists who write about so-called “passing for white” solemnly inform the public that “one drop” of “black blood” makes you “black” in the United States of America. They admit that this idea is rooted in the presumed inferiority of the race in whose equality they claim to believe. However, unlike other racist practices from the pre-Civil Rights era, we are told that the “one drop rule” is something we should embrace rather than scorn. We are told that those who reject the racism of the “one drop rule” are worthy of our contempt. Why the contradiction? Why is the “one drop” myth the only racist rule that self-described anti-racists in the media and academia are fighting to preserve? Why did the only credible and powerful opposition to the proposed “multiracial option” for the U.S. Census, for example, come from NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and other so-called civil rights organizations? Why are certain questions and matter of fact never presented to the public when the topic of so-called “passing for white” comes up? Consider the following:
* Hispanics and Arabs within the U.S. population show obvious signs of the supposedly dreaded “black blood.” Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are essentially mulatto nations. Nearly all Mexicans have some black ancestry from the African slaves who were brought to colonial Mexico and then assimilated into the Indian and mestizo populations. Why is there an “escape hatch” for Hispanics and Arabs when their Anglo and Creole counterparts are condemned as “light-skinned blacks”? Whites who are told by family members to consider themselves “black” are told that “society” or “whites” in general hate and despise the dreaded “black blood.” But what racist worth his salt says that the “inferior” Negro blood is more than welcome into the white race as long as it comes speaking Spanish or Arabic?
* Since it is acknowledged that the “one drop rule” is racist, why are we told to preserve it instead of eliminating it? Why aren’t the people accused of “passing for white” hailed as heroes who defied racism instead of being subjected to character assassination and the kind of condemnation usually reserved for child molesters and serial killers?
* Why are black American elites and black-identified mulattoes usually the most fanatical and enthusiastic supporters of the “one drop rule”? Indeed, could this racist myth even continue to exist in polite society if blacks turned against it?
* Why is evidence against the “one drop rule” ignored? Why is the public never told that the antebellum Southern states legally permitted persons with one-fourth to one-eighth “Negro blood” into the white race, and could be even more lenient when the person or family was accepted by the local white community? Why are we not told that the “one drop rule” is not related to slavery but accompanied the rise of Jim Crow segregation and the eugenics movement? Why is the audience not told that no American is legally obligated to call himself “black” and the “one drop rule” depends almost totally on self-policing? Why are they lying to us?
While the Jews of Europe were punished with physical genocide for supposedly “polluting the “pure blood” of the “Aryan race,” Anglo and Creole Americans of partial black ancestry are subjected to documentary genocide and the lynching of reputations. People are declared “black” because some paper or ancestral document has the telltale words “black,” “Negro,” “Colored,” or “mulatto.” Or, like Anatole Broyard, their reputations are blackened after they are dead and can’t defend themselves.
The web sites Interracial Voice and The Multiracial Activist have spent several years challenging the idea of hypodescent. This is the doctrine that the offspring of mixed race unions should always identify with the ancestral group with the lowest social status and never with the higher status ancestry. In those years we have learned many things about “race” in the United States.
American Indian Ancestry and White Racial Identity
|All white supremacists hold that white racial purity is essential for the survival of the white race. The support of so-called anti-racists for the “one drop rule” complements this idea perfectly. If a drop of black blood can truly make a white person black, who can blame whites who are opposed to interracial marriage? Bigotry becomes self-defense. Yet, even here there are contradictions. American Indian blood is considered harmless and compatible with white ancestry in a way that black blood is not. We started to ask why an American can say, “My grandmother is an Indian but I am white,” when he cannot say “My grandmother is black but I am white” without his right to a white identity being challenged.
All our lives we have seen people such as the late Johnny Cash, Burt Reynolds, Loretta Lynn, Cher, etc., proudly proclaim their American Indian ancestry without this acknowledgment being taken as a repudiation of their white ancestry or right to a white identity. One of Johnny Cash’s records, called Bitter Tears, is devoted to denouncing the wrongs done to American Indians by that favorite villain of politically correct American history, “The White Man.” But somehow Johnny’s whiteness was not compromised by this. According to the letter of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, most part-Indian whites would not be white, yet few Americans realize this. Why can’t “black blood” be treated like American Indian blood? Why are Interracial Voiceand The Multiracial Activist the only ones asking that question?
Have you noticed that, while Bell Curve-type studies purporting to show the genetic inferiority of blacks appear with some regularity, no one produces studies purporting to show that American Indians are racially inferior to whites? Could this be because the wide acknowledgment of American Indian ancestry in whites protects American Indians from this kind of racial attack? There is no political profit in it. In the two version of the American movie, The Squawman, the American Indian wife of a British aristocrat is clearly presented as racially inferior, but their son is not. The son is even considered a worthy heir to his father’s title and estates in England. Change the wife’s race to “black” and try to imagine that ending.
White Honor, Dishonor, and the Severing of Interracial Family Ties
|Sociologist Orlando Patterson, in his cross-cultural study of slavery, Slavery and Social Death, describes a slave as a person with no ancestors. Biologically, of course, everyone has ancestors. But the slave has no official family and no family rights and obligations within society. He is socially dead. In American history, describing a physically white person as nonwhite, especially Negro or black, was a perfect way for white elites to send a message to the white masses: Don’t get too close to or friendly with blacks or mulattoes. Otherwise, you will lose your race, your honor, your whiteness, your very ancestry. You will become socially dead to other whites.
The producers of the 1934 version of Imitation of Life worried about how they were going to present the “passing for white” girl without evoking the specter of miscegenation. Clearly, some “pure white” had to mate with a Negro for the girl to exist. How could they avoid reminding the audience of that? It is no accident that, in Pinky, Imitation of Life, The Human Stain and other anti-passing melodramas, you almost never see any parents or ancestors who look like the accused passer. We are told that the absent father of the “passing” girl of Imitation of Life fame was a “real light-skinned colored man” since her docile black mammy would never be so bold and uppity as to mate with a real white man. The point is that we are meant to see the girl as a genetic freak. Whites did not produce her, we are told, and therefore have no family responsibility to her. We are also told that her spiritual descendant, Anatole Broyard, had no white ancestors since there were no “pure” whites among his immediate ancestors. The same could be said for most Latinos, but somehow their lack of white racial purity doesn’t count.
What is a family? What is an ethnic group? What are the obligations of a family? The “one drop rule” and the anti-passing drama tell us that the “passer” has sacred obligations to his socially inferior black-identified relatives which should prevent his upward mobility, but his “pure” white relatives have no obligation to him. Officially, he doesn’t have any white relatives or ancestors. The very term “light-skinned,” which has been used to describe anyone from brown-skinned people to Nordic blonds, is used as a euphemism to avoid saying “white.” We are taught that the “passer” is “light-skinned” but not “white.” Why? Because the word “white” implies a connection to and family relationships with white people – something anti-miscegenation laws and racial classification statutes were designed to destroy.
As previously mentioned, black elites and black-identified mulattoes have internalized many of these racist beliefs that “whites” and “blacks” can never be part of the same family. Yet, the Southern mulatto elite, which traditionally considered themselves the “superior” members of the “inferior” race, have families that are very racially mixed. The “one drop rule” or myth allows them the emotional luxury of hating whites in general while prizing the physical characteristics that white ancestry bestows. Most of the anti-passing hysteria in the post Civil Rights era seems to come from this group. Their fanatical devotion to the “one drop rule” is also used as a moral shield by others who want to promote the “one drop” or hypodescent ideology that proclaimed blacks and mulattoes inferior in the first place.
Hating Whites and Loving White Genes: Black Support of the “One Drop Myth” and White Racial Purity
|In 1999 The Washington Post published an emotional article by one of its so-called “black” reporters, Lonnae O’Neal Parker, in which the author described her trauma when she discovered that her first cousin, Kim, was white-identified. This shouldn’t have been too surprising since Kim was born to and reared by a “pure” white mother, looks totally white, and has a “light-skinned” mulatto father who was not keen to identify with blacks.
O’Neal Parker’s article became a nationwide sensation. The Seattle Times and other papers reprinted it and ABC Television’sNightline devoted an entire episode to it. O’Neal parker’s highly irrational thesis was that Cousin Kim and all others in a similar situation have an obligation to repudiate their white ancestry and identify with blacks in order to make up for any wrongs done to blacks and black-identified mulattoes by whites in both the present and the distant past. In other words, the “one drop rule” is not presented to the public as a sign of black moral superiority instead of black biological inferiority. Cousin Kim supposedly chose the evil, racist whites over the innocent, pure-hearted blacks. This is also the way the “one drop” myth was justified inThe Human Stain and the attacks on Anatole Broyard. O’Neal Parker, who is herself mulatto elite – not physically black but not as white as Kim – has no problem incorporating white genes into her family, but she does not want whites in it since whites are defined as the enemy. Only in Interracial Voice and The Multiracial Activist could one find some suggestion that O’Neal Parker’s racial views were – shall we say – not a picture of good mental health.
We find it very interesting that O’Neal Parker insists that Cousin Kim must refuse to be white because “whites” are the enemies of blacks. It was the white-owned Washington Post and other white media that promoted O-Neal Parker’s venom and let it go unchallenged. They were the ones who gave her a forum. In The New York Times, black columnist Brent Staples performs a similar task ; his columns are used mainly to promote the “one drop rule” and denounce “passing for white.” The “one drop” myth is promoted either through blacks or justified as a glorification of blacks.
Racial Kidnaping and Ethnic Rape
|What do we mean by a glorification of blacks? At Interracial Voice we started using the terms racial kidnaping and ethnic rape to refer to the practice of claiming as “black” people who were not physically black and did not identify with blacks. Kidnaping and rape are appropriate analogies here because the victims are taken by force – clearly against their will. Anatole Broyard was such a victim. Here are some other major examples:
Michael Morris Healy, an Irish immigrant, arrived in the U.S. around 1815 and established a plantation near Macon, Georgia. He took a mulatto slave, Eliza Clark, as his common-law wife and the two produced 10 children. All of the surviving children were sent North to be educated and protected from slavery since Georgia made legal manumission almost impossible. They were baptized as Catholics and lived the rest of their lives as proud Irish Americans. James Augustine Healy became Bishop of Portland, Maine. Patrick Francis Healy became President of Georgetown University from 1873 to 1881. Michael Morris Healy, Jr. joined the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard) and became a celebrated sea captain, the sole representative of the U.S. Government in Alaska. Now, many decades after their deaths, these proud (and “white”) Irish Americans are being widely promoted as “blacks.” First “blacks” this and first “blacks” that, even though no one identified with blacks could have accomplished what they did. The U.S. Government named an ice cutter after Captain Healy, but only to honor blacks, not him. Indeed, for Captain Healy it is an insult rather than an “honor.”
What is the point of this racial or ethnic kidnaping? Does it prove what blacks could accomplish? No! The Healys were biologically more white than black and, socially, they were white. What can the public conclude except that something is strangely unique, mystical and inferior about black genes? (See http://www.interracialvoice.com/powell8.html)
On November 30, 1944 Calvin Clark Davis of Bear Lake, Michigan died a hero’s death in World War II as part of the U.S. Army Air Force. He was posthumously honored with several medals. However, the “honor” was tainted by the fact that Davis was described as a “black man” who “pretended to be white.” Indeed, Davis’ racial identity has received far more publicity than his military heroics. I wrote an article about Davis for Interracial Voice called “Pissing on the Grave of Heroes.” Davis, we are told:
* passed for white
Remember what I said about having no ancestors? Far from being honored for his military service, Davis is being publicly shamed and dishonored.
Another World War II hero “outed” for alleged “passing for white” was Pvt. Robert Brooks of Sadieville, Kentucky. He died heroically in the Philippines on December 8, 1941. His story appears in Studs Terkel’s book on World War II, The Good War.
Here are other prominent examples of racial kidnaping or ethnic rape:
* Jean Toomer, whose name is taught to schoolchildren and college students as the “black” author of a book of poetry and short stories called Cane, was in fact a multiracial Caucasian who rejected a false “black” identity and wrote extensively on why the U.S. racial classification system should be eliminated in favor of a common “American” identity.
* Alexander Dumas, the French author of the famed novel The Three Musketeers, is presented to American schoolchildren as “black” when he was really three-quarters white and in no way socially “black.”
* Alexander Pushkin, the greatest of Russian poets and father of Russian literature, is frequently presented to schoolchildren as another famous “black” because of one African great-grandfather.
Why are all of these people described as “black” in American schools even though there are no physical or cultural standards to justify that description? Are they claimed as “black” because of a tacit fear that “black” genes cannot stand on their own? Is this a “liberal” version of the old racist canard that miscegenation “improves” the “Negro” race while “degrading” the white race?
The Lies that Sustain the Myth of “Passing for White”
|When the “one drop myth” is reported in the mainstream media, no mention whatsoever is made of the evidence against it. Such evidence, if presented, never sees the light of day and is limited to a few people who take pains to study the subject. The American people are not allowed to consider the following:
* If the “one drop rule” is real and enforced by whites, why is a glaring exception made for Hispanics and Arab-Americans? It does not take a genius to see both the physical and historical evidence that Hispanics and Arabs are nearly all “tainted” with the blood of what used to be America’s official “inferior race.”
* Why aren’t Americans told that antebellum definitions of “white” tended to be more liberal than 20th century definitions; people with one-fourth to one-eighth Negro blood were legally allowed into the white race. For example, Edison Hemings Jefferson, the former slave son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (and whose white descendants are the only Hemings descendants to pass a DNA test showing descent from the Jefferson line), was legally white once he was manumitted because the has at least seven-eights white. We should not be surprised that in both abolitionist and Republican Party literature, “white slaves” were frequently used to arouse the Northern white population against slavery. Why are these facts kept from the American people?
* What are the real world standards for saying that someone is “black” and not “white”? Edison Hemings Jefferson is always described in the media as “light-skinned black” who only “passed for white,” but his descendants are acknowledged as white without qualification. Where is the cutoff point? The only one I can see is that dead whites with a touch of the dreaded “tarbush” are “black” and those still living are ‘white.”
In the magazine American Heritage, a white woman named Jillian Sim announced that she had discovered that her great-grandmother was Anita Hemmings, a white mulatto or mixed white who graduated from Vassar College in the late 19th century was almost expelled for being “colored” when a wealthy and envious classmate decided to have her background investigated. Now Vassar proudly claims that Anita, who lived as white for the rest of her life, was their first “black” graduate. Jillian Sim accepts the myth that Anita was a “black” who “passed for white” and she condemns both her paternal grandmother and great-grandparents as “blacks” who “passed for white.” Sim, her father, and her son, however, are still white. The dead are “black” and the living are “white.”
After Broadway star Carol Channing’s recent disclosure that her father was partially black but lived all his life as a white man, you’ll notice that Channing is not described as “black” in the media but her father is described that way without qualification. Moreover, if you look at the Amazon.com comments on Channing’s autobiography, Just Lucky, I Guess, you’ll note that commentators who are black-identified insist on calling her “black” as well.
People as diverse as the actress Mae West, former U.S. President Dwight David Eisenhower and former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, etc. have been labeled “black” (usually by blacks and black-identified mulattoes) on the basis of the one-drop myth. There appear to be no standards except opportunism – the ethnic rape charge again.
It is common, we at Interracial Voice have discovered, for black-identified supporters of the “one drop” myth to announce that people don’t “look white” when they’ve been white all or nearly all of their lives. They will shamelessly insist that Carol Channing doesn’t look white and Mae West didn’t look white. They could see the dreaded colored blood all along! Mixed whites who used to travel all over the Jim Crow South as white, are told by fanatical black-identified folks that they are obviously black. These rants are so similar, we swear there must be a school somewhere that teaches black-identified folks nothing but defense of the “one drop” myth.
“Passing for White” is an Honored American Tradition – for Nearly Everyone Else. “Passing” is an honored American custom – for nearly everyone except tarbrushed whites non-Hispanic, non-Arab whites and mulattoes who have the misfortune to be too American or Louisiana Creole. It is not so much your touch of the dreaded black blood that matters, but whether or not your ancestral documents (census records, birth, marriage and death certificates, etc.) bear the telltale words “mulatto” or “free person of color” or “Negro” on them.
The Latino Escape Hatch. Throughout most of the 20th century, Latino elites in the United States (and the government of Mexico itself) argued that all Hispanics should be classified as “white” on all official records – regardless of appearance or ancestry. So a blond person with the “tarbrush” could be labeled “Negro” in Texas while a dark-skinned Mexican with no white blood or European ancestry would be officially labeled “white” – even if he was treated more like a Negro than a white person. Now that is big time passing!
South Asians. Before the Civil Rights era and the rise of affirmative action, South Asians from India, Pakistan, etc. insisted that they were “white.” They were first labeled “nonwhite” and then received the ultimate honor of being called “white.” According to this myth, dark-skinned people from India were dark-skinned “Caucasians” while “tarbrushed” Americans of totally European phenotype were unworthy to call themselves “Caucasian.” Now South Asians are called “Asians” and are eligible for “minority” benefits and the numerous advantages “white guilt” can bestow. Big time passing!
Mississippi Chinese. The Chinese of Mississippi started out as “colored” and many of the men married “Negro” women. The leaders of the Chinese community begged the local white elites for the right to be classified as “white” instead of “colored.” The price the white elites imposed was rejection of all Chinese kin who were part-Negro or intermarried with Negroes. Big time passing and a rejection of family that you will never see condemned on television a la Imitation of Life.
Jew and “Passing for White.” The Jewish immigrant moguls who founded Hollywood prided themselves on rejecting their Jewish heritage and forced Jewish actors and actresses to change their names. That is why Jews named Issur Danielovich, Bernie Schwartz and Betty Persky became Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Lauren Bacall, respectively. You can buy books telling you about hundreds of famous Americans who are secretly Jewish. By “secretly” I don’t mean that they would deny it if you asked them. I mean that they don’t announce it and carefully present a non-Jewish image to the public. This is called passing when the tarbrushed whites do it. It is big time passing!
Working Class “Passing.” Hiding a working class background when one rises in class is considered morally acceptable. In an anthology of autobiographical essays from academics from the working class, This Fine Place So Far From Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class (Temple University Press, 1995), editors C.L. Barney Dews and Carolyn Leste Law present a stream of stories in which academics from poor and working class backgrounds quickly learn to “pass” as upper middle class in origin and hide their less desirable relatives and backgrounds. In the 1930’s movie, Stella Dallas, the working class mother drives her daughter away so the girl can be reared by her upper class father and have a better life. The film ends with the mother secretly looking at her daughter’s high society wedding while standing outside in the rain. Imagine Imitation of Life ending like that! Big time passing!
Southern Whites in the North and “Passing for Yankee.” One can also say that Southern whites who move North quickly learn to drop the accent and “pass” for Yankee. I once asked Rick Bragg, the former New York Times reporter and author, who is from Alabama, how he managed at The Times when he is so obviously Southern. He admitted that he is an exception. Many others will not deny that they were born south of the Mason-Dixon line, but hope to God that no one brings it up. Think of it! How many white Southerners do you know who are not poor and living in a community with other Southerners who retain their accents or advertise their Southern origins? Big time passing!
Finally, how can there be true equality in this country while the “one drop” myth is presented to the American people as a perverted ideal we must honor – for no reason that makes any sense? I began this presentation with a reference to racial definition laws of Nazi Germany. There is no sense in pointing out the illogic and racism of the Nuremberg Laws while simultaneously upholding the “one drop” myth and its assumptions of white racial purity.
We at Interracial Voice and The Multiracial Activist have spent years arguing with people (the vast majority of them black-identified) who claim to be devoted opponents of racism but fight like hell to retain the myth that all true whites are “pure” and “one drop” of “black blood” makes you “black.” But what we call “race” is a spectrum of human colors and phenotypes that blend into each other. There are no hard and fast boundaries that divide one so-called “race” from another. Whenever we fail to challenge the “one drop” myth and argue in favor of human freedom to choose one’s one own identity, we effectively deny that sacred reality.
|Barney Dews, C.L. & Law, Carolyn Leste. This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class. Temple University Press, 1995.
Brodkin, Karen. How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America. Rutgers University Press, 1999.
Brooks, James F. Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America. University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
Channing, Carol. Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
Clinton, Catherine & Gillespie, Michelle, Eds. The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Courtney, Susan. “Picturizing Race: Hollywood’s Censorship of Miscegenation and Production of Racial Visibility through Imitation of Life.” Genders 27 1998
Crane, Cynthia. Divided Lives: The Untold Stories of Jewish-Christian Women in Nazi Germany. Palgrave MacMillan, 2000.
Dominguez, Virginia. White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana. Rutgers University Press. 1994
Dorman, James H. Creoles of Color of the Gulf South. University of Tennessee Press, 1996.
Foley, Neil. “Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and the Faustian Pact with Whiteness,” in Reflexiones 1997: New Directions in Mexican American Studies, ed. Neil Foley (Austin: University of Texas-Center for Mexican American Studies, 1997
Forbes, Jack D. Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples. University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. Random House Value Pub., 1988.
Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717. Yale University Press, 2003.
Gates, Henry L. Jr., “White Like Me,” The New Yorker (June 17, 1996)
Gugielmo, Jennifer and Salerno, Salvatore. Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America. Routledge, 2003.
Haney Lopez, Ian F. White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (Critical America Series), New York University Press, 1998.
Hartigan, John Jr. Racial Situations: Class Predicaments of Whiteness in Detroit. Princeton University Press, 1999.
Hodes, Martha E. Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History. New York University Press, 1999.
Hoberman, J. “Jump Cuts,” The Village Voice, October 29, 2004.
Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Harvard University Press, 1999.
Johnson, Kevin R. How Did You Get to Be Mexican?: A White/Brown Man’s Search for Identity. Temple University Press, 1999.
Johnson, Kevin R. (Ed.) Mixed Race America and the Law: A Reader. New York University Press, 2003.
Kein, Sybil. Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color. Louisiana State University Press, 2000.
Kerman, Cynthia Earl. The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness. Louisiana State University Press, 1987.
Loewen, James W. The Mississippi Chinese: Between Black and White. Waveland Press, 1988.
Logan Alexander, Adele. Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia, 1789-1879. The University of Arkansas Press, 1991.
Mills, Gary B. The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color. Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
Mills, Gary B. “Miscegenation and the Free Negro in Antebellum ‘Anglo’ Alabama: A Reexamination of Southern Race Relations” The Journal of American History, Vol. 6, No. June 98. Pp. 6-34.
Mosse, George L. Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism. Howard Fertig, 1978.
O’Toole, James M. Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920. University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.
Pascoe, Peggy. “Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of “Race” in Twentieth-Century America,” The Journal of American History, 83 (no. 1, June 1996), 44-69.
Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study. Harvard University Press, 1985.
Rigg, Bryan Mark. Hitler’s Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military. University Press of Kansas, 2002.
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Sollors, Werner. Neither Black Nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature. Harvard University Press, 1999.
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Sweet, Frank W. The Destruction of the Louisiana Creoles. Backintyme, 2000.
Sweet, Frank W. The Virginia Origin of the Two-Caste System. Backintyme, 2000.
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Tenzer, Lawrence R. A Completely New Look at Interracial Sexuality: Public Opinion and Select Commentaries. Scholars Publishing House, 1991.
Tenzer, Lawrence R. The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue. Scholars Publishing House, 1997.
Terkel, Studs. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II. Random House, 1984.
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From The Multiracial Activist
White Slaves: Chapter 3 of The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War
From The Washington Post
Parker, Lonnae O’Neal. “White Girl? Cousin Kim Is Passing. But Cousin Lonnae Doesn’t Want to Let Her Go.” The Washington Post. 1999.
Introduction to Lawrence R. Tenzer’s
The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue
Preface by A.D. PowellDefinition of “White Slavery” – in the antebellum South, the enslavement of people who were physically “white.” “White slaves” were presumed to be descended from a “black” female slave according to the maternal descent rule of inherited slave status. There was no way to really determine who was descended from a female African slave and who was “pure” white. If the slave descent was broken by manumission, “white” slaves could often become legally “white.” Northerners, who were told by the Southern slaveholding elite that slavery was justified by the “inferiority” of the “black race,” were horrified to discover that people as white as themselves were being held as slaves. Southern political power and the federal Fugitive Slave Law allowed slave catchers to seize alleged fugitives from bondage with no due process. “White slavery” meant that one’s physical appearance was no protection from legal kidnapping. The political ramifications of this fact, unacknowledged by most American historians, are that anti-slavery politics increasingly emphasized the threat of slavery to Northern whites. The fear and hatred of slavery was usually not, as commonly believed, an altruistic response to the sufferings of “blacks” by liberal “whites.” Racial intermixture and mixed-race “whites” were, therefore, important factors in increasing the tensions that ultimately led to the American Civil War, and not just marginal characters in bad melodramas.To Interracial Voice Readers from A.D. Powell:
This is a crusade for justice.
The issue of “white slavery” in the antebellum South has FINALLY received some recognition in academic circles.
“White Slavery: An American Paradox” by Carol Wilson and Calvin D Wilson in Slavery and Abolition, 19:1.
“The Slave Trader, the White Slave, and the Politics of Racial Determination in the 1850s” by Walter Johnson in Journal of American History, (June 2000)
The definitive work on “white” chattel slavery and its political ramifications – Lawrence R. Tenzer’s The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue (Manahawkin, NJ: Scholars’ Publishing House, 1997) – has not been reviewed in any academic journal or even cited in a scholarly bibliography. Any idiot who wants to write fairy tales about mythological “black” Confederate soldiers bravely defending their Southern homeland from the marauding Yankees can find a publisher, but Dr. Tenzer’s 21 years of research in PRIMARY documents has been rejected by publishers. Why? Consider these possible reasons:
** The Forgotten Cause answers a question that American historians are always asking but don’t really want answered: Why was slavery the great moral and political issue of the antebellum period if it affected only “blacks,” a people who were deemed an “inferior race”? If slavery was a threat to “whites” in general, and “white slaves” were recognized as fellow “whites” by Northerners, historians must admit that there was no clear dividing line between the “races.” They must acknowledge that Southern slavery was a threat to Americans in general. Neither “liberal” nor “conservative” historians want to admit that.
** Neo-Confederate historians constantly argue in the popular press that the Confederacy fought, not for slavery, but for “states’ rights” and against some kind of federal tyranny. Tenzer shows that it was Northern states who exercised their “states’ rights” by passing personal liberty laws to nullify the effects of the federal Fugitive Slave Law. This law gave the accused slave, who could be “white,” no right to bring witnesses, have a jury, or any other forms of due process. The judge was authorized by the law to receive a larger fee if he ruled against the accused slave than if he ruled in his or her favor. Why do “liberal” historians refuse to publicize these facts when they totally devastate the Neo-Confederate nonsense about an abstract devotion to “states’ rights”?
** Other academics, such as Werner Sollors, have noted that abolitionist literature constantly emphasized white slavery. It’s hard to find an abolitionist novel that doesn’t feature quadroons, octoroons, etc. If slavery was justified by “race,” shouldn’t a “white” slave be free? Tenzer unearths the pro-slavery apologists who seriously argued that SLAVERY WHITE OR BLACK was justified and the institution didn’t need an “inferior race” to justify its existence. If historians acknowledge that the South’s intellectual defenders were willing to promote slavery as superior to free society and openly suggest that poor Northern laborers would be better off as property, what happens to the South’s glorious “Lost Cause”? What happens to the useless arguments about how much Northern “whites” liked or disliked “blacks,” or the Neo-Confederate nonsense that the presence of “black” (actually, wealthy mulatto) slaveholders “proves” that slavery was not the cause of the war?
** Finally, Tenzer researched antebellum Republican political literature to show that the threat of “white slavery” was used by Abraham Lincoln’s party to galvanize voters. The Republican Party activists, Lincoln included, knew that Northerners had good reason to fear the South and its insatiable need for more and more slaves. Southern pro-slavery apologists constantly stated that their slaves were better off than free white laborers in the North. More than that, the pro-slavery intellectuals defended slavery as a good in and of itself, regardless of “race” or “color.” While the current fashion is to argue that Southern states were merely resisting the tyranny of a federal government, we forget that The South effectively controlled Congress and the Presidency for most of the antebellum period. Northern whites had seen the Fugitive Slave Act shoved down their throats, the mails censored, and the expansion of slavery into new territories. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the only one who knew that the nation couldn’t exist half slave and half free – it would become ALL SLAVE or all free. If slave society had triumphed over free society, who is naive enough to think that greedy slave owners wouldn’t have used their power to add many poor whites and Indians to their human property? Once we acknowledge these facts, what happens to the cherished myths of both liberal and Neo-Confederate historians?
IV readers, if you have ANY contacts in publishing, the history profession, the media, etc., please promote The Forgotten Cause. University students, introduce the book to your professors and fellow students. People who are NOT “gatekeepers” of information seem to have no trouble understanding Dr. Tenzer’s thesis. Only those with POWER suddenly lose their reading comprehension. If only ONE of them breaks ranks, it could make all the difference in the world.
The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue (Introduction)
Open-mindedness. That is what is required for reading all of the pages which follow. When one thinks of slavery in America, images of black and brown people come to mind. As this text will document through a considerable number of unmistakable primary sources, white people were also slaves. When talking to students, teachers, and others about white slaves, inevitably, the first question asked is, “If there really were white slaves in the South prior to the Civil War, where did they come from?” The common understanding of slavery in America pictures black slaves from Africa being brought over on slave ships. That, of course, is true, but rather than ending there, the story just begins. Several generations of interracial sexual relations with white plantation masters and other white men produced a population of white slaves, so-called white mulattoes. Darkness was taken to be prima facie evidence of slave status, and black and brown slaves greatly outnumbered white slaves. Although white slavery was merely the by-product of a black slavery system, there were, nevertheless, white slaves as well. Even after all visual characteristics of the African had long since disappeared, many generations of white people continued to be held in slavery because any child born of a slave mother automatically assumed slave status. It is to be understood that slavery was transmitted from generation to generation through the maternal line. Having a remote black female ancestor permitted people to be classified as black even though they were physiologically white, so slavery in the South in this ultimate sense was not based on color. Indeed, many travelers throughout the Southern states noted that they saw slaves who were as white as any white person. Since the subject of white slavery has gone and continues to go virtually unaddressed, slaves being black and brown endure in our common thinking. The image of a black person picking cotton standing next to a white person also picking cotton seems unbelievable and almost surreal, but that actually occurred in reality. It was that reality–the reality of white slaves–which played an important role in the pre-Civil War politics of the nation.
As the political power of the antebellum South increased, the fact that Southerners owned white slaves became a threat to many white Northerners. The enslavement of white mulattoes, actually white people, was quite a different matter than the enslavement of brown and black people, and white slavery became a controversial political issue. As the epigraph to this book indicates and Chapter 5 explains, these whites being enslaved gave rise to the fear that under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, free whites in the North could be mistaken for white runaway slaves and be literally enslaved as well. Moreover, as Chapter 6 will show, this fear expanded into a widely held belief that freeborn white laborers in the North were also susceptible to literal enslavement if the South ever succeeded in nationalizing slavery. The bibliography to this work and several of the plates reproduced herein attest to the fact that many publications between 1850 and 1860 addressed the threat of white slavery in both of these literal manifestations. The existence of this body of literature is proof that white slavery was a threat to many white Northerners, and that threat was the fundamental aspect of this forgotten cause of the Civil War. It is important to note, however, that not everyone in the North wanted to end slavery or felt threatened by white slavery. Merchants had investments in Southern mines and railroads, sold manufactured goods to the South, and were purchasers of Southern cotton. The South owed $200,000,000 to Northern business interests, and this business community called for concessions to avoid a conflict between North and South. In addition to those in the business community, there were certainly others in the North who did not fear slavery. Many in the Democratic party and those who participated in the New York City draft riots in July of 1863 are good examples. As the abolitionists were establishing themselves and their movement in the 1830s, many Northerners looked on them as troublemakers. In his memoirs, the abolitionist Samuel J. May recalled what a New York merchant had told him in 1835.
Mr. May, we are not such fools as not to know that slavery is a great evil, a great wrong. But it was consented to by the founders of our Republic. It was provided for in the Constitution of our Union. A great portion of the property of the Southerners is invested under its sanction; and the business of the North, as well as the South, has become adjusted to it. There are millions upon millions of dollars due from Southerners to the merchants and mechanics of this city alone, the payment of which would be jeopardized by any rupture between the North and the South. We cannot afford, sir, to let you and your associates succeed in your endeavor to overthrow slavery. It is not a matter of principle with us. It is a matter of business necessity. We cannot afford to let you succeed….We mean, sir, to put you Abolitionists down,–by fair means if we can, by foul means if we must.From 1835 to 1860 is a very short span of time, a mere twenty-five years. What could possibly have accounted for the drastic change in attitude toward the abolitionists, their extreme increase in number, and a widespread change in the sentiment against slavery in general? Worth noting is that at the peak of the antislavery movement, there were people numbering in the hundreds of thousands who were, to varying degrees, empathetic to the cause, but many cared little if anything for the plight of people of color. In fact, it is known that a good number of whites who participated in the formal antislavery movement were prejudiced against blacks, even to the extent of using the word “nigger.” With the reality of slavery in all of its manifestations ever-present, what was cared about was the looming threat of slavery being imposed on white people. By working to abolish the institution of slavery, slavery in general, the threat of white slavery was directly being addressed. The last two chapters of this book clearly demonstrate that white enslavement was a real issue on the minds of many in the North.
The potential for being mistaken for a white runaway slave certainly explains one aspect of the fear engendered by white slavery. Where did the threat regarding the literal enslavement of Northern white laborers come from? The answer to this question is to be found in the vast unsettled territories of the nation and, with their slave or free status, the potential for a nationalization of slavery. With westward expansion into the free territories, the issue arose as to whether slavery should be allowed there. The politics of the matter heated up during the mid and latter 1850s. In 1858 Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech in which he stated,
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free…. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.In 1860, exactly one year to the day before Fort Sumter was fired upon and the Civil War commenced, an editorial published four years earlier in the renowned Richmond Enquirer was read into the congressional record as being typical of the South’s point of view, casting aspersions on free society and extolling the virtues of slave society.If slavery be not the right, the healthful form of society, it will not endure long. But it has endured already for countless ages, and now covers nine tenths of the world…. Two opposing and conflicting forms of society cannot, among civilized men, coexist and endure. The onemust give way, and cease to exist; the other become universal. If free society be unnatural, immoral, unchristian, it must fall, and give way to a social system old as the world, universal as man.In both quotations, the nation is spoken of as being either all free or all slave, but not both. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, both sections of the country had to acknowledge that in reality, freedom and slavery could not coexist. Lincoln and the Republicans, of course, wanted the nation all free. By keeping slavery from expanding into the territories, all new states to come from those territories would be free states. The slave states would lose political power, and in time, the institution of slavery would become nonexistent. The South, on the other hand, wanted the nation all slave. Slavery would first be established in the territories and then expanded into the free states. Lincoln believed that the nation could become “all slave,” otherwise he never would have said so.
What would it mean for the nation to be all slave? Could it be possible for Southern political power to expand into a national proslavery political power and literally enslave free white Northerners? Free labor earned upwards of a dollar a day; slave labor was valued at 10¢ to 25¢. If slavery were made national, the very real threat existed that many white laborers already living in the territories would be unable to compete with the price of slave labor and would fall into poverty and be sold for debt. Since white laborers unable to make a living would not migrate there, every state to come from the territories would be a new slave state. This being so, proslavery congressional power would greatly increase along with the votes necessary to ultimately allow slavery into the free states, where free labor would again have to compete with slave labor. With the mentality of the country being all free or all slave, it is no wonder that people in the North, particularly the laboring class, felt vulnerable to the idea of slavery being nationalized into an “all slave” nation.
Many in the North held the belief that if slavery were nationalized, at first there would be figurative slavery in the free states, where omnipotent proslavery political power would usurp civil rights and the Northern political establishment. Once done, this in turn would likely evolve into literal slavery, where white people could be enslaved for life. Many contemporary references express the belief, either implicitly or explicitly, that the enslavement of white laborers in the North would ultimately be literal enslavement. The North would negate slavery in the South, by stopping its expansion, or the South would impose slavery on the North. Everything hinged on preventing slavery from expanding into the territories. Plank number 8 in the Republican Party Platform of 1860 stated, “That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom…. We deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.” In Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greeley dated August 22, 1862, he stated, “My paramount object in this struggleis to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” Lincoln was content to leave slavery alone where it already was, but that “the sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ ” That, of course, was a Union with free territories, where free labor would not have to compete with slave labor. The Civil War was fought to preserve the Union, “the Union as it was.”
“Fighting For What?” was one of the subheadings in the first volume of Philip S. Foner’s 5-volume set entitled History of the Labor Movement in the United States. Foner believes and this author agrees that hundreds of thousands of free laborers in the North went to war to abolish slavery; not out of altruism, but in order to ensure freedom for themselves and their loved ones. As Foner’s research on this subject indicates,
The Iron Platform, a New York workingman’s paper, gave in November, 1862, the reason that had compelled it to call for the freedom of the slaves: “There is one truth which should be clearly understood by every workingman in the Union. The slavery of the black man leads to the slavery of the white man…. If the doctrine of treason is true, that ‘Capital should own labor,’ then their logical conclusion is correct, and all laborers, white or black, are and ought to be slaves.”Upon examination of this passage, it becomes apparent that what is being spoken of is not figurative slavery. “Capital should own labor” was a phrase utilized during the presidential campaign of 1860 to denote the distinction between free labor which was hired, and slave labor which was owned. Ownership is literal slavery, chattel slavery. There were many white men in the North who risked their lives during the Civil War because they feared that if the South won and slavery were to be nationalized, slavery could be imposed on them. The foundations for this belief will be explained in detail. Suffice to say here, winning the war would abolish black slavery and the threat of white slavery as well.
David Thelen has said that “the challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present.” To this end, thousands of pieces of literature were perused in the preparation of this volume. Primary sources have been cited wherever possible, and note that many are obscure, having never appeared in any other history book. Such being the case, this bibliography will prove to be a valuable research tool for others who desire to explore the little-known aspects of pre-Civil War history which have been addressed herein. Other explanations for the Civil War have been acknowledged, but the issue of white slavery was also a cause. In an effort “to recover the past and introduce it to the present,” it may be said that the volume now in your hands is a contribution toward filling the void which currently exists regarding this forgotten cause of the Civil War.
Latinos and their Escape Hatches
By William Javier Nelson
(Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)
A short time ago, I told Nathan Douglas and A.D. Powell that I would have some more to say about Latinos.
I will leave it up to others to explain WHY Latinos can and do deny their African ancestry. What I am interested in is letting the secret out (which is what A.D. Powell has been doing for quite some time). Before I go any further, let me add that informing the general public that Latinos have African ancestry is N O T the same thing as saying that they are “black”. It simply means that African ancestry is part of the mix. Period. I may get no further than this point for many North Americans, because there may be a “gene” in many North Americans which prohibits them from conceptualizing a human who possesses partial African ancestry, but who is not “black”. I once delivered an academic paper on this very topic, with extensive documentation.However, the award-winning host, as well as numerous other scholars, started asking me questions about “blacks”, as though what they had heard did not penetrate their heads. Ironically, they all agreed with my premise and conclusions — unfortunately, they just could not imagine a world in which a person of partial African ancestry is not “black”. One woman went so far as to query me about “blacks” who sailed the seas before Columbus, etc. etc.
The following are some figures which represent percentages of population for “New Spain” (the colony that eventually became Mexico) during various times of the Colonial Period:
|These figures are compiled by the historian
Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran
In kindness to the Mexicans, let us assume that they did not initiate a draconian program to root out and slaughter persons of African descent. Yet, if one looks at the population figures of Mexico in the present day, persons of African origin will be conspicuously absent. The answer to the riddle is simple: Africans were absorbed into the population. Moreover, miscegenation never assumed the negative connotations it does in the United States. In addition, Latin Americans have always developed a variety of elastic and non-binding (not to mention subjective) nomenclatures for an assortment of mixed ancestries. Thus a modern Mexican possessing “non-black” features of straight or non-kinky hair and/or olive skin is likely to have an African ancestor going back generations before. The emphasis here is that this ancestry is part of a larger whole. Caribbean Latinos have even more direct experiences with African ancestry. It is not uncommon for a Dominican family, for example, to have members which range over a variety of phenotypes, which could include the “black” one which sets off the red flag to North American eyes — and which would also include the “Ricky Ricardo” phenotype associated with Latinos.
Most Latino immigrants, be they U.S.-affiliated Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican or South American, quickly learn about One Drop — especially if they learn English.
If any Latino has straight or non-kinky hair, he has a pretty good shot at basing his or her brown-skinned complexion on “Indian” ancestry (since he knows that neither the “white” racists nor the “black” inclusionists can rigidly put him in a “box”). Although Indians have certainly been oppressed in the New World, their ancestry has not been as rigidly treated as African ancestry.
The above will not, of course, galvanize legions of Latinos to “step forward” and admit to African ancestry. Most entrants to the U.S. have already doped out that African ancestry is something which precludes being part of the “American Dream”.
North Americans will eventually have to get to the point where they can conceptualize African ancestry as simply a representative of a point of origin (Just like European, Asian, Indian or any other ancestry) — nothing more and nothing less.
African Ancestry in Latinos: DocumentationNo one can say that people in the United States pay any attention to the use of logic and corroboration in the use of “racial” terms. After all, most everyone knows that a good proportion of “American blacks” are really mulattoes — yet most North Americans live in dread of uttering that word. Most North Americans are aware that at least as many “white” people have African ancestry as Indian ancestry [a gentleman by the name of Stuckert wrote an article about African ancestry in the “white” population in which he put the figure in the tens of millions…
Stuckert, R.P.“African Ancestry of the White Population.” OHIO JOURNAL OF SCIENCE 58, no. 3 (1958):155-160.]
yet some people would be sorely put out if that ancestry were to be focused upon.
So it really becomes who has the loudest and most powerful megaphone: and the mainstream media, as well as conventional education and culture, is committed to “black”/”white”/One Drop (regardless of any alternative documentation).
Yet, this is the Interracial Voice — and I am assuming that the readers here pay more attention to “racial” facts than the mainstream media. In that spirit, I am passing along some documentation of:
“African ancestry in Latinos”:
Selected (non-alphabetical) Bibliography:
MESTIZAJE IN IBERO-AMERICA
translated by John Wheat.
Tucsun: University of Arizona Press, 1995.
RACE MIXTURE IN THE HISTORY OF LATIN AMERICA.
Boston: Little-Brown, 1967.
Conniff, Michael & Davis, Thomas J.
AFRICANS IN THE AMERICAS.
New York: St. Martins Press, 1994.
Palmer, Colin A.
SLAVES OF THE WHITE GOD: BLACKS IN MEXICO,
1570-1650. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976.
Klein, Herbert S.
AFRICAN SLAVERY IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Curtin, Philip D.
THE ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE: A CENSUS.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.
Rout, Leslie B.
THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE IN SPANISH AMERICA 1502 TO THE PRESENT DAY.
London: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
van den Berghe, Pierre.
RACE AND RACISM.
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1967
This VERY SHORT list is taken from my article:
Nelson, William Javier. “Africans in Mexico: the Colonial Period.”
SOUTH EASTERN LATIN AMERICANIST 39, no.. 2(Fall 1995):35-44.
The one difference between me and the people who put together documentation listed above, is that the above scholars have usually confined their activities to the restricted environs of classrooms filled with comparative sociology and history students (a very limited audience) and I, on the other hand, am not above disclosing these “secrets” to the general public.
As I indicated before, North Americans associate non-kinky hair with an absence of African ancestry (thus, by inference, “Indian” ancestral presence) in Latinos. It does not matter if the point of origin for the Latino is a “mulatto” country like Cuba or the Dominican Republic (where the African presence is more immediate and numerous) or a “mestizo” country like Mexico (where the Africans have generally been absorbed generations before). I have seen the absolute hypocrisy of Cubans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans explaining to North Americans the African-based richness of salsa and merengue music (with their polyrhythms and call-response) while simultaneously asserting that they are of “Indian” blood.
I would suppose that readers of my messages who present Latinos with this information will be met by the disclaimer that “maybe there is a little African in there somewhere, but MY family is all Spanish and Indian.” As I have said before, there is a way to assert satisfaction and acknowledgement of African ancestry without falling into “black'”/”white”/One Drop — but that is a path of discussion not traveled very much in the United States.
“Amistad”, Vectors, Comfort and Conciliation
By William Javier Nelson
(Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)
Since I am a regular contributor to Interracial Voice with a regular message (eliminate the One Drop Rule or hypodescent as it applies to African Americans), it might come as a surprise to those who read my essays and letters that I very much identified with (and felt proud to have been partially descended from) the African rebels, when I saw the movie “Amistad”.
For those who know me personally, it’s no surprise at all. Acknowledging African ancestry and even following derivatives of West African customs and practices does not automatically make one a fan of the “black”/”white” lunacy which infects the United States. Although one of the Africans in the movie was heard to cry “brother” to one of the U.S. residents with African ancestry, it is likely that the Africans, while growing up in their native cultures, would not have been able to fathom the words “black” or “white” or what they meant. By the way — for me, I was struck by the good-naturedness evident in the smile of Cinque (the African leader).
I am deeply impressed by the ability of North Americans to somehow separate their collective worlds into “black” and “white”. It is as if their common nationality of “American” is secondary. As in many social customs, most of the population would be hard pressed to give rational explanations for this, beyond the superficial ones revolving around “black” rejection of “whites” in certain social situations and/or “white” belief in “racism” or “black” inferiority. Do that many people know that, in the South during the early 1600s, both Europeans andAfricans were often treated as indentured servants? The observations of Kenneth Stampp and others somehow get lost in the rhetoric and dogma of “racial” separatism. Similarly, the genius (geniuses) who decided (long ago) that offspring of Africans and Europeans were to be labeled as though their European parents did not exist are not here to explain their wisdom. So North Americans are just left to deal with the effects (and there are many). North Americans can be likened to the magnetic filings used in high school science classes. When the magnet is pointed one way, the filings group together; when it is pointed another way, they separate. The U.S. population which insists on bifurcating itself into “black” and “white” camps is analogous to the magnet in the second mode. I call this the vectors of “whiteness” and “blackness”, which lead North Americans into artificially induced different directions.
At the core of the acceptance of these vectors lies a certain amount of comfort. I recall once when I took my ex-wife to my native country, the Dominican Republic, she had a delayed-stress reaction upon returning to the United States. Although discrimination based on color, features and hair texture does exist in the Dominican Republic, there is no cut-off point at which the population falls into “black” and “white” groups. Moreover, there is a tremendous amount of “racial/color” ambiguity and cultural overlap. Although my ex-wife is mulatto, she considers herself a “black” North American. As such, she was extremely disoriented in the Dominican Republic because she was not in a position to accurately judge who was “white” or “black” (and thus order her behavior for each group). Clearly, most North American “blacks” and “whites” are ambivalent with the present One Drop system. Although there seem to be mutterings about “racism”, “prejudice” etc., most people are comfortable with self-designations as “white” or “black” and are unwilling to forego allegiance to these bogus “white” and “black” groups and interact as Americans first. The only group significantly uncomfortable in most aspects with One Drop are the people who frequent this website (people like me).
My wife Estela is fond of biblical analogies (“santa” that she is). We have talked at length about what it takes to form a reconciliation. Estela says that present-day adults (full of their “racial” paradigms and feelings) will just have to die out. Makes one think of Moses and the bible. We have talked about the potential residing in folks who presently are not in either “black” or “white” camps (such as Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, etc.). Much of my contribution to Interracial Voice is, in fact, focused on this topic. I, for one, think that demography will do more than any editorial of mine or anyone else’s. There are too many interracial liasons which include “blacks” and “whites”. There are too many blended children being born. There are too many people coming into the U.S. who are not from “black” or “white” source areas. These people have relatively high birth rates. Whether someone formally strikes down the One Drop Rule is secondary to the increasing difficulty in fitting people into monoracial, zero-sum categories.
White Folks — A True Story
By A.D. Powell
“Is the stupid woman crazy or what? How could she do such a thing to an innocent — and perfectly white — baby?
The nurses at a hospital in a large, Northern city were shocked. The woman’s white as anyone else — whiter than many, to tell the truth, and she’s insisting that the baby’s parents be listed as “colored” on the birth certificate! Insane!
The woman herself, like most of her ilk, enjoyed the look of shock on the faces of others when she voluntarily dived from the most “superior” race in the world to the most “inferior” one. True to her type, she had developed a masochistic devotion to her stigma, her inferiority, her taint of “inferior blood.” Just as she hated herself, she had to hate everything that came from her. Later, the child she hated had that birth certificate corrected to “white.” It was easy. Like most of her ilk, the woman and her husband constantly contradicted themselves and married as “white” in a deep South state. But that’s another story.
It’s said that the cross-cultural definition of a slave is “one who has no ancestors.” That was certainly true of this woman. The pictures of her and her brother show blond, blue-eyed “Aryan” children — the kind the German S.S. used to steal in order to breed the “master race.” Instead, they were adopted by a stupid Caucasian woman who believed she wasn’t good enough for her own European ancestry (even as she secretly took pride in it) and her dark mulatto, professional husband. Instead of breeding the “master race,” their destiny would be to “improve” the world’s most “inferior” race with the “superior” blood of that race’s hated but adored enemy. Like other white captives, their “superior” European blood would, they were told, be used to “prove” the “inferior” race was not truly inferior. Of course that’s a contradiction, but no one is supposed to notice that.
Who were her parents? Legend has it that her mother was a Hungarian immigrant. Who was her father? God alone knows, but he MUST have been tainted with the most inferior of all bloods. Otherwise, the adoption agency would NEVER have allowed the adoptive parents to submit white children to the ultimate social injustice. Decades later, contrary to the social workers’ gospel, “white” families delighted in adopting such fair and “tainted” children. They didn’t see anything wrong with them. Social workers from a certain “race” panicked. “Racist” whites who didn’t have sense enough to know how “inferior” certain blood was supposed to be, were taking the “superior” blood an “inferior” race needed to “improve” its stock. Such “racists” had to be stopped and the social workers did. But, back to our story.
“Why did my mother give me up?” She echoed the words of every adopted child from time immemorial.
“Well, I suppose she didn’t want you. You’re tainted with inferior blood, you know. She was too good for you, that’s why you ended up with us.”
The childless Old Lady and her husband had achieved the dream of their mulatto elite caste. As self-styled “superior” members of the “inferior” race and “beautiful” members of the “ugly” race, they could claim as their own the beauty of the “superior” race and plead not guilty (on a technicality) to the dreaded miscegenation. Like other members of their caste, they delighted in introducing the children as their own. “Whites? What whites? Don’t you think WE can produce pretty blond babies too? What do whites have to do with it?” Puzzled “whites” in a large Midwestern city and later in Southern California scratched their heads in amazement. What’s going on here? Non-white minorities who prided themselves on not identifying with a certain race were even more puzzled. “I’d give my right arm to be that white, to trade this dark skin for the whiteness they needlessly repudiate,” said the Mexican, the Filipino, the Asian Indian, the Chinese, etc. “Those people are really stupid!” Wherever the mulatto elite caste and their black masters go, they take pains to teach the doctrine of inferior blood to those who don’t know it. “Excuse me, but I’m not as good as you think I am. I may look white and superior, you see, but I’m unworthy of the honor of my own ancestry because I’m tainted with the blood of an inferior race. You didn’t know that? Happy to keep you informed.” That could be the mulatto elite motto. It’s their religion.
The children began to have real problems, the daughter especially. She often ran away from home. These children were not going to bring glory to the “inferior” race, despite their abundance of “superior” blood. Throughout her life, she was to have temper tantrums and was once institutionalized for mental problems. Who are you? What’s YOUR ethnicity? She had no answer to those questions? The psychiatric report described her as an “inferior” female with “very light skin” as if she were an albino or a genetic freak. Obviously THEY couldn’t cure what ailed her. There were other curious bits of her history. The principal of her Chicago high school has once called her adoptive parents to complain that she was “trying to steal the boyfriends of the Jewish girls.” Historically, Jewish girls aren’t all that “white” and the Third Reich had murdered the relatives of these girls for the crime of polluting a “superior” race with their “inferior” blood. However, the daughter didn’t know that. Without ancestors, without knowledge of herself and others, she was totally disarmed.
For a brief time, the daughter joined the army. There she met a handsome young Caucasian man who was also without ancestors. He was a lieutenant and she was a private. Now, officers aren’t supposed to fool around with enlisted personnel. However, the powers that be on this deep South army base decided to look the other way. It solved an embarrassing problem. Nevertheless, a certain deep South state recorded the marriage of two white people, nationality “Americans.”
The marriage didn’t last long. The wife was mentally unstable and the husband was ambitious. He would use the military socialism of Uncle Sam (the only “socialism” or handouts considered respectable in the U.S.) to rise in the ranks, get an education, acquire the class status that would supposedly make up for the fact that he had no ethnicity. He had no word that would explain what he looked like and why he was the way he was. The only word that he felt he had permission to use didn’t describe him.
Understand now that the young man could easily have joined the army without this stigma, as could his bride. However, like so many white captives, they could not see the forest for the trees. If no one has ever shown you how to do a simple thing, if you have no role models who can teach you to survive in the world with your dignity intact, chances are you will constantly overlook opportunities and snatch defeats from the jaws of potential victories. So it was with our young couple.
The divorce was bitter — even as divorces go.
“The bitch lied to me! She told me she was pregnant, then we married and she really got pregnant. I never wanted to get married!”
The wife screamed, screamed and screamed again.
The husband was still in love with his German girlfriend. They had even had a baby girl who didn’t survive infancy. The wife could never compete with the sweet-tempered “pure” Aryan overseas — even if she had NOT been mentally unstable. Why didn’t he marry the German? Perhaps he was afraid he would be getting above himself.
Our less than perfect couple had their own baby girl. The wife tried to commit suicide several times. She even turned the gas on and tried to kill both herself and the baby. The husband was stationed in the Orient. Neighbors smelled the gas in time and called the cops.
The husband was now stuck with a helpless infant. Men aren’t supposed to take care of infants by themselves. Everyone knows that. What should a man do with a baby? Dump it on his mother! He headed South on a Delta airplane (what else?). The stewardesses and all the other women he encountered were charmed by the handsome young lieutenant with the cute little baby and no woman to help him.
After a year or so, a nasty custody battle followed. It took a lot for a mother to lose a custody battle in those days. You had to be mentally unstable AND whore around. Actually, it was not the wife who really wanted the toddler. It was her adoptive mother who wanted another cute, blond kid to show her relationship to the “superior” race without being brave enough to proclaim it.
Now the young ex-husband might have been forgiven for leaving his child with his mother for a short time. But he was busy with his army career, his travels and his girlfriends. He left the child in hell. No one except a white man with no ancestors would have been so senseless and ignorant.
To fully tell this story, we should probably go back into the 19th century. The young father never knew his grandparents. Indeed, there was a tacit but firm communication that he was not to ask about his father’s background, nor about the many relatives who seemed to have “disappeared” without a trace. Intellectually, he knew that he was a descendant of the European race, but that race and those ancestors were too good for him. It’s a common idea, and many who claim to be crusading against “racism” are still fanatical proponents of it because it caters to the inferiority complex of a certain politically powerful but socially insecure group of people.
By the time the child reached school age, purgatory had turned into hell. The young father forgot the torments he himself had suffered and did not realize how much worse it would be for his child, being both female and with almost no children like herself left in the town. What makes it even worse is the fact that it was all so unnecessary. The child could have lived with him on military bases with other dependents in a somewhat civilized environment, instead of enduring years of the following:
“What that white gurl doin here?”
“Let’s beat up the white girl!”
“White people ain’t no good! Dey crackers, y’all.” It would have been better if the child had at least been acknowledged as part of the race for whose sins she was being tormented. Is it surprising that later in life she developed a special contempt for those who try to deny that such hatred is INTERracial. Inwardly, she knew she did not belong to this race or this people. She always knew that one day she would leave it and go where she belonged. It is common to hear both liberals and conservatives worrying about white children losing their racial identity in predominately black schools. Curse them! Did they ever worry about the white captives and the deliberate attempts to destroy THEIR white racial identity? Let the “pure” kids suffer!
The teachers, like most adults, tried to ignore reality. When the children asked why a child of the hated enemy was amongst them, the teachers gave vague replies such as “Well, not everyone’s exactly the same color.” The teachers, being educated, knew what the children did not. “White” people may be their enemy, but it was an “honor” for their “inferior” race to assimilate as much of the enemy’s blood as possible. It was a source of beauty and intelligence.
Black hatred for whites is strongly coupled with black lust. The child experienced both. She was very lucky she wasn’t sexually raped, though she and all white captives are ethnically raped and racially raped. This kind of rape involves having an identity that is not truly yours forced upon you against your will. It involves the assumption that you have a moral obligation to be used as a source of European breeding stock in order to “improve” an “inferior” race. Indeed, that is the source of the Negro and mulatto elite outrage against so-called “passing.” The rape victims are escaping from their tormentors; the white slaves are escaping from their black masters; “superior” white blood is like genetic gold and they are being “robbed” of it.
It’s common for liberals to say that only dumb crackers think that black males lust after white women. Yes, they often do. The worse ones, however, are those who plead “not guilty” to the dreaded miscegenation by the technicality of the “one drop” myth. Show us a Southern town where people haven’t heard versions of the following:
“Yeah, I wants to marry me a Creole. They got that long pretty hair. I don’t want no nappy-headed nigger woman.”
“I wants me a high yella. It just like f—king a white woman.”
If the cracker boys come around and demand, “Nigger, what you doin with that white woman?” the nigger can just say:
“Lordy, boss, dis gal ain’t white; she inferior like I is.”
“Oh, sorry, nigger.”
“Damn, fellas, that sure is a pretty white girl. It don’t seem right.” You see, even the people who supposedly created the “one drop” myth (actually, elites did) are puzzled and disturbed by its contradictions.
There is, of course, a more refined version of the above that may be called the racial trophy wife syndrome. In those cases, more refined, intelligent black males seek out mulatto and creole white females as “beautiful” appendages to professional success. It is understood that “white” is beautiful and “black” is the opposite. The also get to deny that they are committing “miscegenation.” This may be the real reason that their intelligentsia, who claim the moral right to tutor America on what is and is not “racism,” fight like hell to maintain and perpetuate a “one drop” myth that condemns their genes as the most inferior, damning and undesirable on God’s earth. What is even more hypocritical is the fact that these same people often condemn those who make “official” interracial marriages as lacking in “racial pride.” They are really projecting their own racial inferiority complex onto others. The Indian and the Asian have more sense and more self-esteem. They do not attempt to claim people who are obviously not theirs, nor do they write and speak in favor of doctrines based on the assumption of their inferiority. This is why you will never see a “Bell Curve” revelation of the “inferiority” of American Indians despite their pitiful performance in schools and universities. The open acknowledgment of Native American ancestry in “whites” makes that option politically unfeasible. One would think the Negro and mulatto elites would learn, but they are wedded to the fear that they might really be biologically inferior and “white blood” will somehow protect them against the day. Why do you think the NAACP really panicked when the multiracial category was proposed? Voting rights? Bull! They feared losing “superior” white breeding stock and the intelligence and (female) beauty that supposedly comes with “superior” white blood.
The black and mulatto elite intelligentsia get the Northern liberals to cry and feel guilty over the alleged rapes they suffered during slavery. For those of you who claim that personal experience is always superior to historical research, let us say that personal experience would dictate that the Negro was “honored” not “raped.” Outraged? Many peoples have been raped throughout history. That is nothing new. What is special about the Negro is the way he came to prize the blood of the people he hated. No one fights to preserve a shame; they do fight to preserve an honor. That is why the Negro and his mulatto and white slaves foam at the mouth like rabid dogs at the thought of captives escaping (i.e., “passing”) . They fear the loss of “superior” blood. If the black and mulatto elite intelligentsia were honest in their inferiority complex, they might propose the following monument, to be placed next to those omnipresent Confederate memorials in every Southern town:
To the Unknown Rapist
Whose Superior Blood Gave
Intelligence and Beauty to
A Grateful and Inferior Race Sure, it’s sick but it’s honest.
Meanwhile, the child retreated into an inner world of books, music and solitude. Her culture was not theirs, even as her race was not theirs. One day she would escape.
Some Books and Articles Your Librarian Didn’t Tell you About!
“White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana” by Virginia R Dominguez, 1986 — Rutgers University Press.
Dominguez is one of the few serious researchers in the area of racial mixture and white racial identity. She shows the importance of individual choice in overcoming the legal manipulations and bogus statutes of the power elite. She is also one of the few scholars honest enough to see the connection between the Hispanics and non-Hispanics of interracial ancestry. Indeed, she notes that the use of the term “Hispanic” as a racial category is designed to help government avoid dealing with the reality of racial intermixture.
“The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creoles of Color” by Gary B. Mills — Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
Mills shows the higher than expected status that mixed-blood Creoles had in antebellum Louisiana (as does Dominguez in White by Definition). Remember that whenever you hear references to “black” plantation owners in the antebellum South, someone is trying to steal history from racially mixed people (mulattoes, quadroons, etc.) and give it to blacks.
“Miscegenation and the Free Negro (sic) in Antebellum ‘Anglo’ Alabama: A Reexamination of Southern Race Relations” by Gary B. Mills in The Journal of American History, Vol. 6, No. 1, June 1981. Pp. 16-34.
Check pages 27 through 31 of this long articles and you will see where Mills shows that families of known racially mixed ancestry moved from “colored” to “white” status within a generation or two with the knowledge and consent of the white community. This information totally contradicts the myth of “passing.”
“Race and Kinship in a Midwestern Town: The Black (sic) Experience in Monroe, Michigan, 1900-1915” by James E. DeVries — University of Illinois Press.
DeVries plainly states that the white community of Monroe, Michigan accepted the mobility of part-black whites into the white community. This again contradicts the “passing” myth. DeVries, however, is too much of a “liberal” racist to admit that and offend black elites. He even goes so far as to suggest that the white community of Monroe was “racist” for accepting part- black whites into the white community. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
A quote from the book: “Crossing over was not the silent mechanism that some historians have indicated. It involved not only racial heritage but, ironically, family and personal identity. Could an individual known to have an African ancestry be regarded and defined as white? Yes, the interracial backgrounds and unions off the Fosters and Duncansons were matters of public knowledge. Each of the families had a long, continuous heritage in Monroe, and descendants residing in the community today beat no stigma of race and are generally viewed as Caucasian.” (P. 150)
“Black (sic) Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South” by Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roark — W W. Norton and Company.
Johnson and Roark found that a “white mulatto” member of a “free colored” plantation-owning family served in the Confederate Army with the full knowledge and acceptance of the white community. “White” status seemed to be more closely related to loyalty issues rather the strict “purity.” (p. 307).
RACIAL/ETHNIC GROUPS WHO ALSO FACED THE “ARE THEY WHITE, COLORED OR WHATEVER?” QUESTION. IN OTHER WORDS, THE PEOPLE MIXED-RACE ANGLOS ARE ALWAYS ACCUSED OF “PASSING FOR” ARE MIXED TOO.
“Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986” by David Montejano — University of Texas Press, Austin.
Montejano describes the great inconsistencies in defining Mexicans as either “white” or a separate “race.” Mexican-Americans faced segregation similar to a Jim Crow system. The recent PBS series Chicano! also illustrates this fact. The existence of a racially mixed ethnic group with numerous racial phenotypes and class distinctions confounds the efforts of white elites to establish clear racial boundaries. Mexicans are a mixture of Indian (predominately), Spanish and black (from the slaves brought to colonial Mexico by the Spanish). Though they usually fail to mention the third element in their ancestry, many Mexicans have clearly Negroid facial feature and hair texture.
“Colored and Catholic: The Lebanese in Birmingham, Alabama” by Nancy Faires Conklin and Nora Faires. In “Crossing the Waters: Arabic -Speaking Immigrants to the United States Before 1940” edited by Eric J. Hooglund — Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
This article relates the efforts of Lebanese immigrants in Alabama to establish “white” status and make themselves an exception to the Jim Crow laws. The Lebanese were too dark for their claim to “white” status to go unquestioned. You might say they were unknowing victims of the degradation of “Anglo” mulattoes.
“Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans” by Ronald Takaki — Little, Brown and Company.
Takaki states that “In 1909 federal authorities classified Armenians as “Asiatic” and denied naturalized citizenship to Armenian immigrants.” Armenians had to go to court to have themselves declared “white.” South Asians also were also denied “white”status due to their dark skin colors (despite the efforts of Anthropologists who claimed that skin color in “Caucasians” range from very pale to very dark brown or almost black).
“Pocahontas: The Evolution of An American Narrative” by Robert S. Tilton — Cambridge University Press.
Tilton explores the role of Pocahontas and the “Indian Princess” legend in creating white elite identity and legitimizing the stealing of Indian lands. The claim of descent from an Indian Princess is very popular among many whites. Tilton argues that is a way of saying that we didn’t steal the land but inherited it.
Here’s another interesting quote from Tilton:
“…for many base wretches amongst us take up with negro women, by which means the country swarms with mulatto bastards, and these mulattoes, if but three generations removed from the black father or mother, may, by the indulgence of the laws of the country, intermarry with the white people, and actually do every day so marry. Now, if instead of this abominable practice which hath polluted the blood of many amongst us, we had taken Indian wives in the first place, it would have made them some compensation for their lands. …We should become rightful heirs to their lands and should not have smutted our blood…”
The Rev. Peter Fontaine of Virginia, 1757.
“Mixed-Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Charles Curtis and the Quest for Indian Identity” by William E. Unrau — University Press of Kansas.
Unrau relates how mixed blood or “white Indians” were promoted by government as a “civilizing” influence on real or full-blood Indians. Charles Curtis is often listed as an “Indian” (1/8) Vice President of the U.S., but he was fully “white” in every caste or social sense. We should ask what is the difference, if any, between a “mixed blood Indian” and a part-Indian “white?” What is the role of a “mixed” elite (for either Indians or blacks) in reinforcing ideas of white superiority and institutions of white supremacy? Indeed, whenever blacks insist on claiming people who aren’t of Negroid phenotype for their “race” aren’t they really expressing an inferiority complex and a tacit belief that their genetic stock needs to be improved with the blood of their hatred but adored white “enemy?”
WHEN JESUS CAME, THE CORN MOTHERS WENT AWAY: MARRIAGE, SEXUALITY AND POWER IN NEW MEXICO, 1500-1846. By Ramon A. Gutierrez (Stanford University Press, 1991),
This is an excellent study of racial intermixture in New Mexico under colonial Spanish rule and the early days of the Mexican republic. Check out this passage regarding the origin of the word “mulatto”:
“Professor John Nitti of the University of Wisconsin’s Medieval Spanish Dictionary Project informs me that the word `mulato’ initially meant a racial mixture of any sort. Offspring of Spaniards and Moors were known as `mulatos’ in medieval Iberia, as were later mixtures between blacks and Indians, and between Frenchmen and Indians. Eventually `mulato’ came to mean specifically a mixture between a black and a white. `Mulato’ appears in New Mexican church records, though there is no evidence that the individuals classed as such had any black African ancestry”
Here’s a passage that reminds us of many of today’s Latino leaders:
“Don Pedro Pino, New Mexico’s representative to the 1812 Cortes at Cadiz, reported to that assembly that `In New Mexico there has never been any caste of people of African origin. My province is probably the only one in Spanish America to enjoy such distinction.’ Don Pedro was patently wrong, but advanced the claim to validate a myth he wished to perpetuate, namely that New Mexico’s nobility had preserved their honor and racial purity over the centuries.”
SLAVES WITHOUT MASTERS: THE FREE NEGRO IN THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH. By Ira Berlin (Vintage Books, 1974).
This book SHOULD be called “THE FREE MULATTO OR MULTIRACIAL…” However, Berlin would never have won the National Historical Society Book Award if he had been that honest. Most of the “free colored” caste could be called multiracial as opposed to “black.” The best thing about Berlin’s book is how he details the antebellum laws that acknowledged varying admixtures of black ancestry in the white population (as opposed to the “one drop” rule that really had its origins in the 20th century). Here’s an interesting passage:
“Fearful of pushing too many persons of both colors to the wrong sides of the color line, the South Carolina legislature never legally defined the Negro and left the problem of distinguishing between mixed-bloods and whites up to the courts. South Carolina jurists generally drew the line between white and black at somewhere between a quarter and an eighth Negro ancestry, but they also made legal passing contingent on social acceptability as well. .. Allowing the question of whiteness to turn on public acceptance as well as genealogy enabled many well-placed whites to free their mulatto children from their proscribed status.”
MEXICAN AMERICANS: LEADERSHIP, IDEOLOGY, & IDENTITY, 1930-1960. By Mario T. Garcia. (Yale University Press, 1989).
A really interesting history of Mexican American political leadership and its quest to fight racial discrimination against Mexican-Americans while pretending to be a pure “white” ethnic group. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) constantly went to court arguing that position. However, you’ll never see them denounced for “passing” by black or liberal elites.
SLAVES OF THE WHITE GOD: BLACKS IN MEXICO, 1570-1650. By Colin A. Palmer (Harvard University Press, 1976).
The author details the black slavery in Mexico and the ancestry that Mexicans and Mexican-Americans pretend doesn’t exist.
BETWEEN RACE AND ETHNICITY: CAPE VERDEAN AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS, 1860- 1965. By Marilyn Halter (University of Illinois Press, 1993).
Struggle of Cape Verdean (Portuguese/African) Americans to establish their identity in the United States and their relationship with “white” (still pretty dark) Portuguese.
THE MELUNGEONS, THE RESURRECTION OF A PROUD PEOPLE: AN UNTOLD STORY OF ETHNIC CLEANSING IN AMERICA. By N. Brent Kennedy with Robyn Vaughan Kennedy. ( Mercer University Press, 1997).
The origins, persecution and re-emergence of a Southern multiracial ethnic group. Kennedy provides fascinating accounts of the politics of racial classification.
CREOLES OF COLOR OF THE GULF SOUTH. Edited by James H. Dormon. (University of Tennessee Press, 1996).
How multiracial Creoles have maintained their ethnic identity despite oppression.
THE SHADOW OF BLOOMING GROVE: WARREN G. HARDING IN HIS TIMES. By Francis Russell. McGraw-Hill, 1968).
This book is interesting to students of racial classification because of the racist smear campaign conducted during Harding’s presidential campaign in 1920 – that he was part Negro. Russell provides fascinating detail on this campaign, an issue that the Harding family is still sensitive about. Harding won anyway.
THE SWEETER THE JUICE: A FAMILY MEMOIR IN BLACK AND WHITE. By Shirley Taylor Haizlip. (Simon and Schuster, 1994).
Haizlip starts out as a devoted believer in the “one drop” myth who wonders why she and her mother are the only “white” members of her “black” family. She decides to trace her mother’s missing relatives, imaging them to be “blacks” who are “passing” as white. She’s forced to change her mind as she encounters white relatives who remain “white” despite the revelation of their partial black ancestry. Haizlip herself moves more toward a multiracial as opposed to a purely “black” identity.
THE LIVES OF JEAN TOOMER: A HUNGER FOR WHOLENESS. By Cynthia Earl Kerman and Richard Eldridge.. (Louisiana State University Press, 1987 — 1-800-861- 3477).
Falsely labeled as a “black” author because of his book of poetry and short stories, CANE (which deals almost exclusively with multiracial people), Toomer fought a life-long battle to be recognized for what he truly was. His theories of a “universal man” beyond racial demarcation makes him an important dissenting voice against the hypodescent status quo.
Also see The Jean Toomer Pages
DESEGREGATING THE ALTAR: THE JOSEPHITES AND THE STRUGGLE FOR BLACK PRIESTS, 1871-1960. By Stephen J. Ochs. (Louisiana State University Pres, 1990).
Readers should know that there is a movement among black and liberal American Catholics to create a “black Catholic” history that rightfully belongs to multiracial Americans. Louisiana Creoles are the victims of this attempt to create “black” Catholics, but the most prominent victims are three brothers born to an Irish-American father and a mulatto mother in antebellum Georgia. James Augustine Healy was bishop of the diocese of Portland, Maine from 1875 until his death in 1900. Patrick Francis Healy served successively as professor, prefect of studies, vice-rector, and, from 1874 to 1882, as rector of Georgetown University. Alexander Sherwood Healy served as rector of Holy Cross Cathedral and, for a few months before his death in 1875, as pastor of St. James Parish in Boston. Ochs admits that the Healys did not identify with blacks but with their Irish heritage and were not considered “black” by others. Indeed, not only were the Healy brothers only one-quarter “black” and of caucasian phenotype, but it was their Irish father who reared them as Catholics and paid for the educations that allowed them to rise to such high positions in their Church. Nevertheless, hypodecent fanatics like Ochs claim that “blacks” deserve all the credit.
THE MISSISSIPPI CHINESE: BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK by James W. Loewen. (Waveland Press, 1988).
Loewen describes how the Chinese moved from “colored” to “white” in Mississippi by agreeing to the demands of the white elite that they cut all ties with part-black Chinese and those married to “colored” wives. You’ll never see the Chinese denounced for “passing” in black or liberal publications.
CHINESE IN THE POST-CIVIL WAR SOUTH: A PEOPLE WITHOUT A HISTORY. By Lucy M. Cohen. (Louisiana State University Press, 1984).
How the Chinese used their in-between status to intermarry with both whites and “colored” in the South.
WHITE BY LAW: THE LEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF RACE. By Ian F. Haney Lopez. (New York University Press, 1996).
How is “white” defined in the U.S.? The definition varies tremendously. Lopez concerns himself mainly with immigration issues and how East Asians, South Asians, Latinos, Armenians, Arabs and others made legal efforts to prove themselves “white” in order to gain U.S. citizenship.
MAKING ETHNIC CHOICES: CALIFORNIA’S PUNJABI MEXICAN AMERICANS. By Karen Isaksen Leonard. (Temple University Press, 1992).
When men from India’s Punjab province were not allowed to bring women with them from India due to racist immigration laws, they intermarried with Mexican women. A multiracial Punjabi-Mexican American ethnic group was the result.
ON GOLD MOUNTAIN: THE ONE HUNDRED-YEAR ODYSSEY OF MY CHINESE- AMERICAN FAMILY . By Lisa See. (Vintage Books, 1996).
The author describes how her multiracial Chinese and European American family thrived in Los Angeles, California despite anti-miscegenation laws. Marriages between family members of Chinese ancestry and “whites” were conducted in nearby Mexico and then the couples moved back to California. California obviously did not prosecute couples who evaded its anti-miscegenation laws the way Southern states did.
THE TEMPLE BOMBING by Melissa Fay Greene (Addison-Wesley Publishing Compnay, 1996).
The title refers to the infamous bombing of Atlanta’s oldest and most prominent synagogue on October 12, 1958 by white supremacists. However, the books is also a social history of Southern Jews, their marginal position in Southern race relations, and their constant fear that their “whiteness” (the “passing” theme) could be challenged.
SCENES IN RED, WHITE AND BLACK: THE EUGENIC ASSAULT ON AMERICA by J. David Smith. (George Mason University Press, 1993).
Smith shows the 20th century link between anti-miscegenation laws and the eugenics movement. Forced sterilization of the institutionalized, racial registration and restricting miscegenation were all linked to the idea of “improving” the [white] gene pool. The best part of the book is the hidden history of the minority of fanatical racial purists who wanted to ban all non-caucasian ancestry (with the exception of small amounts of American Indian ancestry possessed by white elites such as the descendants of Pocahontas) from the white “race.” Special emphasis is placed on Virginia and the men whose names are unknown but should go down in infamy: Walter Plecker (who headed Virginia’s bureau of vital statistics and delighted in hunting down “impure” whites and Indians) and Virginia aristocrat John Powell of the Anglo-Saxon Clubs. Showing the link between black nationalism and white racism, Smith details the friendship between John Powell and Marcus Garvey (both believed in promoting racial purity).
THE RAMAPO MOUNTAIN PEOPLE. By David Stephen Cohen. (Rutgers University Press, 1974).
Also called “Jackson Whites,” this is the story of a multiracial community of Dutch, Indian and black ancestry that has existed since colonial times.
AMBIGUOUS LIVES: FREE WOMEN OF COLOR IN RURAL GEORGIA, 1789-1879. By Adele Logan Alexander. (University of Arkansas Press, 1991).
While the author slavishly subscribes to hypodescent, she provides good historical detail on how the privileged social and educational opportunities of Southern multiracials were due to their often close ties with whites fathers and other relatives (as opposed to the myth of the callous white rapist slavemaster “breeding” more slaves). These privileges created the myth that mulattoes and mixed-whites were the “flower of the colored race.” These “mulatto elites” filled the “Negro” colleges and universities and reinforced the idea that intelligence comes from “white blood.” When you recognize this history, you can see why the NAACP makes the ridiculous claim that losing non-blacks to a “multiracial” category will somehow destroy all the progress that “blacks” have made. Many of them probably still have the tacit belief that intelligence comes from “white blood.”
WOMEN OF COLOR, DAUGHTER OF PRIVILEGE: AMANDA AMERICA DICKSON, 1949-1893. By Kent Anderson Leslie. (University of Georgia Press, 1995).
This book should be read with AMBIGUOUS LIVES. The biography of an “elite mulatto lady” who inherited her white father’s plantation and became the richest “colored” woman in the U.S.
INDIAN SLAVERY IN COLONIAL TIMES WITHIN THE PRESENT LIMITS OF THE UNITED STATES by Almon Wheeler Lauber (reprinted 1970 by Corner House Publishers).
This work, originally published in 1913, proves that extensive Indian slavery existed side-by-side with Negro slavery in colonial America in virtually all the colonies.
LUMBEE INDIAN HISTORIES: RACE, ETHNICITY AND INDIAN IDENTITY IN THE SOUTHERN UNITED STATES. By Gerald M. Sider. (Cambridge University Press, 1993).
The history of the Lumbee Indian tribe of North Carolina (now officially the largest Indian tribe east of the Mississippi) should be required reading for the study of racial intermixture in the United States. Listed as “free colored” (a generic term for “non-white”) during the antebellum period, they fought a long and constant battle against the state of North Carolina for the right to call themselves “Indians” instead of “Negroes.”
POWHATAN’S MANTLE: INDIANS IN THE COLONIAL SOUTHEAST. Edited by Peter H. Wood, et. al. (University of Nebraska Press, 1989).
This book also deals with Indian slavery. Important mention is made of uneven sex ratios among Indian and early black slaves, with women predominating among the former and men among the latter. Black and Indian intermixture probably far outnumbers black-white intermixture. Colonial merchants waged slave-raids against Indian tribes and “An inestimable number of Indains from many tribes found themselves either being shipped away as slaves from colonial ports or working as slaves in and around them.”
THE ONLY LAND THEY KNEW: THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS IN THE OLD SOUTH by J. Leitch Wright, Jr. (The Free Press, 1991).
Emphasis on Indian slavery and intermixture with whites and blacks.
SOUTHEASTERN INDIANS SINCE THE REMOVAL ERA. Edited by Walter L. Williams (University of Georgia Press, 1979).
Good essays on the history of the Lumbees of North Carolina, the Houma of Louisiana, the Catawba of South Carolina and the Indians of Virginia in their struggle for ethnic survival and dignity within a white/black Jim Crow dichotomy.
SLAVERY AND THE EVOLUTION OF CHEROKEE SOCIETY, 1540-1866. By Theda Perdue (University of Tennessee Press, 1979).
THE CHEROKEES: A POPULATION HISTORY. by Russell Thornton (University of Nebraska Press, 1990).
CREEKS AND SEMINOLES. By J. Leitch Wright, Jr. (University of Nebraska Press, 1986).
The three books listed above contain important information on the social and legal implications of Cherokee intermixture with whites and blacks.
THE DEATHS OF SYBIL BOLTON: AN AMERICAN HISTORY by Dennis McAuliffe, Jr. (Times Books, 1994).
This book provides valuable information regarding the legal status and psychology of mixed-blood “white” members of Indian tribes. The author, a journalist, started out by investigating the death of his maternal grandmother, who was part-Osage Indian and an enrolled member of the tribe. Concentrate on the history and ignore the author’s attempt to impose a “one drop of Indian blood” rule on himself and his family – using the “one drop of black blood” myth to justify it. I note that in the many book reviews that appeared when the book was first published, McAuliffe’s historical research was praised but no one took his claim of being a white “Indian” seriously – quite the opposite of what happens when whites claim to be “black” (e.g., Gregory Howard Williams).
THE LIFE OF OKAH TUBBEE. Edited by Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. (University of Nebraska Press, 1988).
This book is an introduction to the autobiography of a Choctaw Indian who was enslaved as a child. The book is marred by Littlefield’s racist introduction, in which he insists on referring to Tubbee as a “black” passing for “Indian.” Littlefield claims that Tubbee was born to a black slave mother and a white father who emancipated the mother and two older children (who later became prosperous members of the “free colored” community but kept Okah Tubee (then called Warner McCary) as the slave of his own mother and siblings. Littlefield, in his devotion to hypodescent, does not want to consider that Tubbee was most likely a Choctaw slave trying to claim his lost heritage.
LONG LACE; THE TRUE STORY OF AN IMPOSTER. By Donald B. Smith. (University of Nebraska Press, 1982).
This story is fascinating history as long as you ignore the racist (“black” passing for Indian) remarks of the author. Long Lance (born Sylvester Long) was born in North Carolina of Indian, white and black ancestry. If his ancestry had been Indian and white only, Smith would praise him to the skies for seeking out his Indian heritage. Smith, however, insists throughout the book that Long was only good enough for his small amount of black ancestry. Long Lance launched a career as a journalist and gained fame as a provocative writer and eloquent speaker for the cause of the North American Indian.
THE LUMBEE PROBLEM: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN INDIAN PEOPLE by Karen I. Blu. (Cambridge University Press, 1980.)
How the multiracial people now called the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina fought the state’s attempts to classify them as “Negroes” and finally achieved recognition as Indians. Fascinating details on how Robeson County depends upon associations and social ties to “define” people since phenotype and “black blood” cannot be depended upon to determine racial classification in the county.
AFRICANS AND NATIVE AMERICANS; THE LANGUAGE OF RACE AND THE EVOLUTION OF RED-BLACK PEOPLES. By Jack D. Forbes. (University of Illinois Press, 1993).
Forbes, a prominent scholar of Native American studies, explores the evolution of racial terminology and the changing meanings of racial terms such as “black,” “mulatto,” and “mestizo.” Forbes emphasizes the constant racial mixing that has occurred throughout the centuries between Native Americans, Africans and Europeans.
POCAHONTAS’S PEOPLE: THE POWHATAN INDIANS OF VIRIGNIA THROUGH FOUR CENTURIES. By Helen C. Roundtree. (University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).
What is especially interesting to students of racial classification is how Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (its infamous “one drop” law) was used to persecute Native Americans.
MANY TENDER TIES: WOMEN IN FUR-TRADE SOCIETY, 1670-1870. By Sylvia van Kirk. (University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).
THE NEW PEOPLES; BEING AND BECOMING METIS IN NORTH AMERICA. Edited by Jacqueline Peterson and Jennifer S.H. Brown. (University of Nebraska Press, 1985).
The two books listed above are excellent histories of the origins, flowering, persecution and resilience of Metis (European and Native American) society in both Canada and the northwestern U.S.
ROBERT STAFFORD OF CUMBERLAND ISLAND: GROWTH OF A PLANTER by Mary R. Bullard (University of Georgia Press, 1995).
Robert Stafford was a wealthy Georgia planter who had several children by mulatto women and provided handsomely for them. The book provides fascinating information on how wealth could socially “whiten” people of known multiracial ancestry.
POOR RELATIONS; THE MAKING OF A EURASIAN COMMUNITY IN BRITISH INDIA 1773-1833 by Christopher Hawes (Curzon Press, 1996; may be purchased from University of Hawaii Press).
The Anglo-Indians were created by intermarriage and mating between British soldiers and Indian women. As early as the 1830s, Eurasians (later called Anglo-Indians) already exceeded the number of British civilians in colonial India. At the time of India’s independence, they outnumbered ALL British residents. Yet, there has been little historical attention to the development of this mixed-race community, the problems which it faced (social, economic and attitudinal) nor to the questions which its rise posed to British authority.
Hawes describes how the mixed-race experience in India is typical of the “European colonial adventure” worldwide. The social and legal experiences of mixed-race people is influenced by class status (especially the father’s status), birth within marriage versus the stigma of bastardy (British discrimination against people born outside of wedlock was especially harsh), and the conflict between the law and family ties.
Hawes’ research shows that the British as individuals had no real qualms about interracial marriage and, contrary to the hypodescent rule, wanted their biracial offspring to be British. The problem lay with British elites whose devotion to the new “scientific” racist doctrines resulted in oppression typical of the mixed-race experience:
a) The mixed-race communities are utilized to maintain colonial authority but denied the highest offices reserved for “pure” whites (with a few exceptions for multiracial persons of great wealth).
b) The colonial power fears that the mixed-race community will present a challenge to “white” authority and blur the lines between the “superior” European and the “inferior” non-European.
c) The mixed-race community (especially its educated elites) maintains its ambition to be treated as part of the European caste, but is subject to laws that prevent a full identification with the ruling nation to which it is bound by blood and culture.
“Eurasian populations…undermined, in the most public manner possible, concepts of colonial rule which depended ultimately on maintaining the illusion of the racial superiority of white European males. The consequent dilemma for Eurasian populations was how they might identify fully with their parent colonial societies, on which they were economically dependent and to which they were culturally bound. They shared in what has been termed the `imagined community’ of nationalism as fully as their European fathers and forefathers, but were denied participation on equal terms. In turn the predicament of colonial authority was how far should it go in acknowledging its children of mixed race. In practice it seems that there was an uneasy compromise in colonial societies between disavowal and acceptance. Parental responsibility and considerations of Eurasian utility to the regime were in tension with concepts of Eurasian political unreliability and the damage which full acceptance might do to perceptions of white prestige.”
DEGAS IN NEW ORLEANS: ENCOUNTERS IN THE CREOLE WORLD OF KATE CHOPIN AND GEORGE WASHINGTON CABLE. By Christopher Benfey (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
Benfey spends less time on the famous French painter Edgar Degas and the alleged influence that New Orleans and his Creole relatives had on his work than he does in relating the story of one of Degas’ relatives: a brilliant “quadroon” engineer named Norbert Rillieux who invented an efficient steam-driven apparatus for refining sugar.
When you ignore Benfey’s racist use of the term “black” to describe people who are far from it, you find important information about the privileges and oppressions experienced by mixed-race Creoles in 19th century New Orleans. Rillieux (who is often falsely listed as a “black” inventor) was a highly respected professional whose predominate white ancestry allowed him to utilize his talents in a way that would not have been possible if he had been black.
One of Rillieux’s close friends and major supporter in Louisiana sugar circles was Judah P. Benjamin, the Jewish Confederate luminary who later served as Jefferson Davis’s Secretary of State. In a nice touch of irony, Benfey compares the image of the “mulatto” in American literature with than of the “Jew” in European literature:
“Almost white, almost free, `oriental,’ and effeminate, at once wealthy and a social pariah, the free man of color in his literary depictions occupies much the same place as the Jew in literary Europe. (The first article of the eighteenth-century `Code Noir,’ or Black Code demanded the expulsion of the Jews from New Orleans.) Jews and free men of color were difficult to detect; they often LOOKED like white citizens, and passed for such. It was against the radical `otherness’ of Jews and free people of color that the proper Englishmen and proper Louisiana Creoles respectively sought to define their own uneasy identity.”
A Brief History of the Color Line
By Frank W. Sweet
(Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)
Most of us unwittingly suffer from a fallacy which historians call “presentism.” We assume that folks in other places or other times shared our beliefs. We imagine that America’s odd racial attitude is global. We suppose that the “race” notion has persisted for thousands of years. In fact, North America is unique and the very concept of “race” was invented around 1676. How did Americans manage to paint ourselves into such a strange corner?
To illuminate the past, scholars define “the race notion” as the existence of a color line — an endogamous, impermeable social boundary. Endogamous means that folks do not marry across the line. Whether this is enforced by law (as in most of the United States before the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia, 1967) or by social pressure from family and peers (as in all of the United States today) is irrelevant; the Black community is endogamous. Impermeable means you cannot switch sides. You are expected to die on the side of the color line where you were born. Again, whether fair-complexioned Americans of part-African descent are dissuaded from re-labeling ourselves White by law or by social pressure is unimportant; Americans seldom change caste.
Three features of the U.S. color line are historically important: how strong it has been, where it has been located along the complexion spectrum, and whether there was one line or two. This article sketches the history of these features. It uses the past to shed light on the present. It concludes by plugging the author’s books. Fair warning: it advocates no ethical or political position regarding the “race” notion; it is purely informative. So if you seek solutions, stop reading now. But if you are curious how we got into this predicament, read on.
How Strong Was The Color Line?
Consider endogamy. Today, about 60 percent of U.S. Hispanics marry non-Hispanics. The exogamy rate (the opposite of endogamy) of Native Americans is 54 percent. Irish-, German-, and Polish-American exogamy is at 50 percent. About 45 percent of Italian- and Japanese-Americans out-marry, and 40 per cent of Jews marry Christians. In contrast, African-American exogamy is a tiny 3.5 percent as of the 1990 census, and even this negligible rate is a recent historical maximum. From 1880 through 1970, Black exogamy languished below one percent.
Or consider impermeability. Today, the number of U.S. citizens born into Jewish, Hispanic, Native American, Irish-, German-, Polish-, Italian-, or Japanese-American families who switch to census-reporting themselves as vanilla non-ethnic adults also ranges from 40 to 60 percent. But only 2.1 percent of Black Americans switch to labeling themselves White in adulthood.
These numbers come from easily available census data. For references, see this article’s last paragraph. What’s more, since the census is constitutionally mandated, similar numbers are available from 1790 and state-collected data go back even further.
Looking into the past, we find that endogamy and permeability moved in precise lockstep over the years. They rose and fell together because they quantify the same social phenomenon — the strength of the color line. They measure how fiercely Americans believe in our odd “race” notion.
The first surprise is that the color line was weaker before the Civil War. Intermarriage was higher, and fair-complexioned biracials were knowingly accepted as White at a higher rate than ever again. (Census numbers apply to free U.S. citizens of part-African descent — about 400,000 in 1860 — and not to slaves because slave marriages were illegal. But then, slavery per se is ancient and tangential to the modern “race” notion.)
The second surprise is that the color line was nonexistent before 1670, it peaked in the 1720s, fell to a minimum in the 1790s, rose again to near-Jim Crow level in the 1820s, fell to a minimum around the Civil War, rose to its most extreme manifestation in the 1920s, and recently fell to a 1990 minimum. In other words, since its invention, the “race” notion has waxed and waned regularly in a hundred-year cycle.
Tracking the strength of the color line is not mere ivory-towerism. Other race-inspired phenomena like genocide, lynching, and Black/White ratios of segregation, crime, income, education, even intelligence precisely follow the rise and fall of color line endogamy and impermeability. For example, the Black/White ratio of wealth in 1666 Virginia — before the color line was deliberately invented — was closer to parity than today’s national figure.
Social historians study the color line as well as its consequences for two reasons. First, with a little instruction anyone can measure it from publicly available census data. Second, it avoids the focus-blurring plaint that, “cruelty, injustice, oppression, and hatred have always been endemic,” by answering, “true but irrelevant; we are concerned only with damage caused by the race notion.” For example, as defined above (endogamy, impermeability), the Muslim world and Latin America lack color lines. Indeed, dozens of nations in both hemispheres imported millions of African slaves. All but one totally absorbed their former slaves by intermarriage soon after freeing them. Yet no one would claim that those places are Eden today.
Today, “race” enthusiasts of every shade and party demand a government-enforced label in order to detect incidents of bigotry. One may examine their logic under the historical lamp that it is precisely by teaching our children to recognize and shun the Other that we bequeath such incidents into each new generation.
Where Was The Color Line Along The Complexion Spectrum?
The one-drop rule is not global. It is unique to North America. For example, England’s highest social level welcomed Afro-European intermarriage as late as 1761. King George III’s wife of more than 50 years, Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he wed that year, was openly biracial, a dark-complexioned noblewoman descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, of the Afro-European branch of the Portuguese Royal House. Her biracial features are clear in contemporary portraits, the most famous being the one by Sir Allan Ramsay. Queen Victoria was her granddaughter. Two centuries later, during Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation, the Royal Household referred to the present queen’s African bloodline in a white paper it published defending her position as head of the Commonwealth. Every knowledgeable Briton knows of the present Queen’s African ancestry. Yet none considers her (or her ancestors Queen Victoria or Queen Charlotte, for that matter) to be “Black.”
For that matter, every Spaniard and Portuguese alive today carries eight-to-ten percent African genes from the approximately 100,000 sub-Saharan slaves who were imported between 1490 and 1590, and who were promptly assimilated into the Iberian melting pot. Yet most upper-class Latins consider themselves lily white nonetheless. In short, outside North America, even in countries that have a form of “race” notion, you are what you appear to be.
The one-drop rule is not old. It was not invented to support slavery. It spread across the United States after 1880. Slavery was 30 years dead when Southerners learned it from Yankees.
For example, antebellum South Carolina had a sharp color line. Passing and miscegenation were serious social transgressions. But the color line was shifted far to the dark end of the complexion spectrum. You were accepted as legally White in every way if you were reasonably pale and had “good hair,” no matter your parents’ appearance. Indeed, it was the upper-crust Brown Fellowship Society of Charleston who, in the 1760s, invented the grocery-bag rule of today’s Black elite (to be admitted, the skin of your forearm must be lighter than Kraft paper). As of 1830, 474 South Carolina biracials owned 2,794 slaves, about one South Carolina slave in a hundred. These legally White but genetically mixed slaveowners fought to preserve their way of life. Some were Confederate officers in the Civil War. Their sons and nephews served in the ranks.
One of history’s ironies happened in 1895, when South Carolina’s post-Reconstruction Constitutional Convention adopted the Jim Crow one-drop rule. Then, a hundred wealthy families were ripped apart by being re-labeled Black overnight when the color line shifted. Amid tears, knowing they would never see each other again, light complexioned former slaveowners passed into the White world. Their darker brothers, sisters, and cousins merged into today’s African-American community. One does not know whether to weep at their calamity or consider it just retribution. Either way, one suspects that opponents of a “multiracial” census “race” today may fear another family-destroying color line shift (but in the opposite direction).
Was There One Line or Two?
The United States is unique among former British or French colonies in having just one color line. Like the Spanish and Portuguese, British and French colonies were unable to periodically repopulate their European slaves as often as they could acquire new Africans. But neither France nor England had Iberia’s tradition of assimilation. So planters were encouraged to marry slave women, expand the growing biracial population, and select their own children as yeomen. They thus created the three-caste societies common to most colonial empires — White rulers, Coloured or biracial yeomen, and Black peasants.
For example, contrast the single U.S. color line with the two lines of apartheid South Africa. There, everyone had to carry identification papers indicating “race” as officially determined by the local Race Classification Board. Although the bureaucracy was cumbersome and inconsistent, it enabled change. Different members of a family were often classified differently and some people changed more than once. South Africans often requested reclassification and could appeal local decisions to the national Population Registration Board, thence to the Supreme Court. Like U.S. draft boards of the 1970s, South Africa’s local Race Classification Boards reflected local public opinion and often found it helpful to cooperate with those wanting to upgrade from Negro to Coloured or from Coloured to White. For example, school principals of White schools could keep up enrollments (and funding) by getting some Coloured children reclassified as White. But if they pushed too hard, they risked having the whole school reclassified as Coloured.
Antebellum Louisiana also had three “races” separated by two lines. A typical colonial system had emerged in Louisiana by 1780: a few White Europeans, a large majority of biracial Creoles, and a population of Black former slaves. It superficially resembled Haiti or Jamaica. Like South Africa a century later, but in contrast to the West Indies, Louisiana’s castes were relatively permeable. As Black descendants of former slaves ascended the economic ladder they were accepted into the Creole community. Similarly, impoverished planters fleeing the bloody chaos of Haiti’s 1791-1806 revolution descended into Louisiana’s middle caste. Within their own group, the Creoles developed a social system resembling that of pre-Reformation Europe: a social hierarchy based on religion, breeding, and wealth, with little significance given to shades of skin color among themselves. Many were powerful slave owners whose customs forbade intermarriage with free Blacks (former slaves). They founded the earliest “blue-vein” societies for Afro-Europeans of preponderantly European appearance.
The wealth, social standing, education, and unique history of the Creole community set it apart from other Americans of part-African descent. They identified more with European than with American customs. Most spoke only French and many enrolled their children in private academies in Brussels or Paris. As aristocrats, they were acutely self-conscious of a military tradition dating back to when they had helped Andrew Jackson win the 1814 Battle of New Orleans. As of 1830, 967 of them owned 4,382 slaves, about one Louisiana slave in twenty-five.
Incoming Americans gradually eroded Louisiana’s three-caste society after the U.S. acquisition in 1803. Before the Civil War, English-speaking slaveowners passed laws labeling dark-complexioned Creoles as “free blacks.” After the war, Reconstruction governments enforced those laws against desperate Creole resistance. The second color line, the Creole-Black boundary, gradually shifted towards paleness. By Jim Crow times, the two color lines had merged and Louisiana adopted the now-national one-drop rule. In short, the Louisiana Creoles tried to regain their old political power after Reconstruction’s collapse. They failed. And yet, to this day a handful of the older ones, especially in the bayous, still call themselves “gens de couleur libre” (free people of color) and resent being called either White or Black.
Again, we must not lose sight that biracial Creole planters were as ruthless in exploiting their slaves as any biracial Spanish or Portuguese grandee. Whether you think their culture’s destruction just or tragic, merely knowing about it makes it easier to understand opponents of a “multiracial” census category who fear the creation of another federally sponsored “race.” After all, very dark Louisianans suffered under two oppressors, not one.
Readers interested in the history of the U.S. “race” notion may wish to acquire some of the author’s booklets on the subject. These titles contain far more detail than the brief sketches above. More importantly, they contain hundreds of well-referenced footnotes and each offers a bibliography of scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. The booklets are available online at www.backintyme.com/books2.htm or from Amazon.com. They are also sold at numerous historical site and museum gift shops in Florida, or can be borrowed from many libraries (the Miami Dade Public Library has multiple copies).
Frank W. Sweet is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He recently retired from a lifelong career in electrical engineering as a computer scientist. He has earned a master’s in Civil War studies at American Military University in Manassas, Virginia and is now working on his doctorate. A well-known nineteenth century living history interpreter, he is the author of numerous booklets currently sold at museum and state park gift shops throughout Florida. His two areas of interest and expertise are (1) military tactics of the Civil War and (2) antebellum race relations. He lives with his wife (also a re-enactor) in Palm Coast, Florida. Their web site is at www.backintyme.com.
A political alliance between ALL multiracial/multiethnic individuals!?
By A.D. Powell (A.D. Powell’s assessments should be required reading for “blacks,” academicians, “white” “liberals” and especially Latinos. Eloquently stated and entirely necessary. –William Javier Nelson, author of the “Racial Definition Handbook”)
An alliance between all groups and individuals who have suffered because of the refusal of government elites to recognize the legitimacy and normalcy of interracial ancestry is certainly desirable. The obstacles to such an alliance, however, are cultural and political and these differences must be aired.
The main victims of “one drop” mythology have been the mixed-blood descendants of “whites” (however that is defined) and those blacks from the American ethnic group that was formerly enslaved in the United States (predominately in the South). While Southern elites took pains to stigmatize intermixture in order to confirm their doctrine of black racial inferiority, most of the propaganda promoting the “one drop” mythology has come from black and mulatto elites and their “white liberal” allies. Unlike avowed racists, they stressed their supposed belief in racial equality while expressing absolute panic at the thought of “white blood” escaping from the Negro “race.” The tacit assumption was that “white blood” was the source of intelligence and beauty (especially beautiful women) and that mulattoes and creole whites would perform great deed in the name of the Negro, thereby “proving” that race’s equality with whites. The latter statement is a contradiction, but human beings are nothing if not contradictory.
Enforcing the “one drop” mythology has, ironically, depended almost totally on self-policing. Not even the dreaded South had a system designed to “hunt” impure whites as the Nazis hunted Jews. Racial classification trials tended to focus more on “reputation” rather than proof of “impurity.” Southerners may have been racists, but they were not total fools. They knew well that “the tarbrush” could happen to any white person, and it was best to not look too far into another white’s background. The task of truly policing “white purity” fell to the black and mulatto elites. It was their job (which they performed with great enthusiasm) to scare mulatto and creole whites within their families into thinking that the entire white race had met and blackballed them from the fraternity. Novels and films that condemn “passing” (a racist term implying that the offender is destroying white “purity”) are inevitably produced by blacks and mulatto elites (mulattoes who consider themseves the elite of a “race” that includes blacks).
In contrast to the above, the government has gone to great pains to hide the tri-racial ancestry (Indian, black and white) of Latinos. The Census Bureau was ordered to classify them as white (regardless of looks or genetic background), and they were not segregated in the armed forces (despite skin colors as dark as that of any black). Despite these privileges obtained from the federal government (which didn’t want to admit that Latin America is racially mixed), Mexicans and Puerto Ricans were discriminated against by ordinary people and local governments (which refused to ignore their dark skin). Latino elites have often looked the other way when the “one drop” myth is being discussed, pretending that they aren’t involved (Ray Suarez of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” is a Puerto Rican (i.e., mulatto) and a prime offender). Also, most Anglos of mixed ancestry don’t get to meet Latinos and see the “one drop” myth being openly violated.
Indian/white intermixture has an inherent contradiction. We have all seen Westerns in which the “half-breed” is denigrated and the Indians alone are described as his/her “people.” However, we also know that many “whites” openly proclaim Indian ancestry (Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Will Rogers, Burt Reynolds, Cher and many, many others) while claiming total membership in the white “race.” Such people have often discriminated against Indian/black or Indian/black/white people by banning the latter from tribal memberships. The “white Cherokees,” for example, brought slavery to the Cherokee nation in order to have workers for their plantations and banned Cherokees mixed with black from the nation. They also were enthusiastic supporters of the Confederacy whose states had kicked their tribes out of the Southeastern U.S. Whenever you hear Cherokees whining about the “Trail of Tears,” remind them of this!
The truth is that most Americans are not concerned with “racial purity” but government elites are concerned with promoting the myth that they are. Latinos and Arab-Americans often clearly show black ancestry but are not forced to call themselves “black.” I have seen many Italians, Jews, Greeks, etc. who are supposedly of “pure” European descent but look like mulattoes. Europe itself is not “pure,” especially Southern Europe. If you remind academic and political elites of this, they will quickly change the subject because they know they are lying when they claim a “white” consensus for the “one drop” mythology. Indeed, if black elites stopped advocating “one drop” mythology, I give it a year to disappear altogether!
In summary, an alliance between all “mixed” groups is necessary and can come about if some individuals take the lead. However, they must all denounce “one drop” mythology, white racial “purity,” and show solidarity with each other.