Imitation of Life (“Interracial Voice” column)
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“Imitation of Life” (1934), A Window on “Passing” Or Who is “White”?
By George Winkel
“Passing,” in the motion picture, Imitation of Life (1934), based on Fannie Hurst’s novel, provides a revealing window on “race” in America.
I think the controversy over so-called “passing” (i.e., for a “white” person) is central to understanding “race” in America. For a silly suggestion with no reality at all, “race” has wreaked unbelievable harm for a much longer time than the 200 years of our American post-colonial history. And “race” runs on amok, threatening this century, too, with its hypnotic defamation, its seductively suggesting that something sinister lurks in human racial heredity, more than meets the eye. I hope the following will help to deconstruct “race,” by shedding light on it from a viewpoint too often obscured in a moralizing fog of self-righteousness and recrimination.
I think Susan Courtney’s Genders discussion, below, of the movie censorship dilemma created by the character Peola for the 1934 motion picture, Imitation of Life, is one starting point for discussing “passing.”
As Ms. Courtney’s Genders (No. 27, 1998), “Picturizing Race” essay shows, the former Hollywood Production Code Administration’s (PCA) commitment to preventing any depiction of “white” interracial sex on screen (1927-1956) was challenged by novelist Fannie Hurst’s Peola character. In the Imitation of Life movie, Peola (played by “black”-identified actress, Fredi Washington) “passed.” And 1930’s era censors experienced utter confusion simply identifying Peola. Was she a “white-looking” “black” girl wishing she were “white,” who became “white,” if only for a while? Or was she just one of two Negroes? It seemed that regardless how perfectly archetypally “white” Peola may be, she could be identified by the morality gatekeepers only as a type of Negro. Peola’s mother in the movie was prominently “black.” But under the late “One-Drop Rule’s” tyranny (i.e., the persistent, moribund, militant myth that any “black” ancestry makes one sub-Saharan African — hereafter African, unless otherwise indicated), it inevitably would be the same all over again for any “white” child of Peola’s. “One-Drop” made no exceptions for either remoteness or hue of any “black” ancestry. In principal “black” identity could never “wash away,” since “black” people can “be any color.”
What was the nature of the abhorrent thing?
Clearly, it was not merely a tinge of dark complexion which 1930’s “white” America abhorred in “passers” such as Peola. Indeed, she was comely and white, not dark at all. As we shall see, it was this lack of “warning” from Peola’s perfect-looking “whiteness,” rendering her especially “dangerous.” And Peola “passing,” not wearing her “blackness” reassuringly on her sleeve, so to speak — as we shall see — evoked strange, troubling apprehensions.
As the Courtney essay shows, movie censors in the 1930’s resented even acknowledging the possibility of “white” interracial sex. Marriage was irrelevant. Thirty of 48 U.S. states then prosecuted such pairings as a felony, anyway. The values of the day stipulated that “white” interracial sex — more to the point — procreation, was a highly sensitive moral issue. One PCA researcher noted his finding no information, because, he concluded, the subject had always been “taboo.” “Black”/”white” interracial sex, procreation, was the most abhorrent of all. Therefore, the PCA censors, reflecting “white” America, were deeply troubled by Peola’s mere existence regardless the movie story line emphasized that her father had been a “very light-skinned black man.” And again the censors squirmed over the fictional, unseen father, too, because ultimately he had acquired his “lightness” from some “white” fictional ancestor. The powerful Universal Studios producing Imitation of Life (based on Ms. Hurst’s 1933 best-seller novel by that name) offered, in its negotiations, to present Peola as a genetic freak, with an offer of proof it was not medically impossible for a “white” child to emerge from a line of “blacks.” (That idea was dropped!)
“[T]he action of the negro girl appearing as white … has a definite connection with the problem of miscegenation,” a memo recording a meeting between Universal and PCA representatives concluded.
Clearly, everyone producing, reviewing, and ultimately watching the film knew, whether they wanted to face it or not, Peola’s “white” skin resulted from someone’s “miscegenation” — from the forbidden “black”/”white” interracial sex and procreation “problem.”
What was the “problem”? Marriage, as said, was harshly criminalized as a deterrent to interracial procreation, as was fornication. So, although Imitation of Life depicted no forbidden romancing or “miscegenation” per se, Peola with her “black blood” physically embodied the true object of the disgust, revulsion, or morbid fear underlying both the felony anti-miscegenation laws and movie censorship of the time. In a penultimate sense then, young Peola was the “thing” which censors attempted to protect “white” moviegoers’ sensitivities from, in the name of film morality and decency. Few decency limits today approach this intensity of public unacceptability short of filming actual murder, animal torturing, and child pornography.
Why was African ancestry so dreadfully reviled?
From the middle eighteenth to twentieth centuries, encompassing the time when Imitation of Life was made (1934), it was popularly believed the “white” and “black” “races” occupied “top” and “bottom,” respectively, of separate zoological racial “types” in a top-down design, or some evolutionary “ladder.” In a paradigm of intra-human social “speciation,” racial “inequality” was an article of faith (rationalizing clearly a caste system). Analogies in Nature abounded. Two or more subspecies of most wild mammals had been identified. And valuable, prize-winning, artificially pure-bred animals defined the cheapness of mongrels and mutts. Man domesticated his distinct breeds of livestock. Purposely bred animals clearly demonstrated inequality of coat (e.g. sheeps’ wool) or of inbred behavior (e.g., sheep dogs), reflecting the breeder’s craft. Just so, a Virginia superior court judge, writing 25 years later, seemingly comprehended God as a pastoral breeder of people:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such [interracial] marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
(Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 3 (1967) — hereafter Loving.) “White” supremacy dogma credited “racial purity” with warrior fighting spirit, intelligence, and inventiveness — especially powers of self-government and civilization. Bigots touted this flagrantly, although Christian tradition and human decency discouraged most “white” Americans from displaying blatant racism. The point is that people’s beliefs and attitudes inevitably were poisoned by the “Jim Crow” machinery of segregation dangling from the stringent anti-miscegenation laws exhorting them to maintain the purity of “their” Caucasian “white race.”
In retrospect it is not clear how much of the blame for Jim Crow “white” racialism belongs at the feet of rank and file “white” people, even their popular leaders’ feet. This uncertainty was broached in Imitation of Life, when Peola’s mother, Delilah, seemed unable to fix blame for the “mean,” “cruel” identity burden her daughter was obliged to accept — as when the “white” woman, Bea’s, daughter, Jessie, called Peola “black,” and made her cry:
“It ain’t [Jessie’s] fault Miss Bea. It ain’t your’n and it ain’t mine. I don’t know exactly where the blame lies.”
However, medical doctors and scientists of the period who should have known better failed to lead anyone away from racialism. (They had to know better — 18th century inventors of “race” had known better. Buffon, Blumenbach, and Camper each clearly urged their readers not to take too seriously the human classifying exercises. Enlightenment scientists were not apparently racist, but they are faulted for “leaving that door ajar.”) To the contrary, from the ranks of the scientifically educated came some of the very gravest offenders, pushing racist eugenic racial “purification” agendas. There clearly were blameworthy promoters of “race” mythology and “anti-miscegenation.” (Compare modernly the heartless Serb “ethnic cleanser” Slobodan Milosevic — previously a psychiatrist. A long, sad litany of modern scientists’ names are soiled by their connection with “race”-intelligence “bell curve” claims. E.g., see Dr. J. Philippe Rushton, U. of Western Ontario psychologist, defending “biological race.”)
America’s mesmerized belief in the reality of “race” had sad consequences. The postbellum ninteenth-twentieth century Jim Crow discriminatory laws and customs methodically carried out a logical purpose. They maintained racial segregation in the South, where most “blacks” then lived, in order to eliminate or at least structure interracial contacts. The Jim Crow segregation mentality was in full swing in 1934 when Imitation of Life was made.
I think the pronouns “we” and “they” underlay “white” racism. “White” America repeatedly through history had difficulty digesting the different immigrant waves from Europe (Irish, Polish, Italians, Greeks Armenians, Jews, etc.), due to defensively interpreting the meaning of “we,” identifying who was also of the “white race.”
Thanks to the spurious little zoological “race” labels European thinkers pinned on Mankind in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, “whites” effectively were color-struck — prevented from seeing people like themselves over the metaphysical, separating “race lines.” “Whites” found it easier, under the “us or them” “race” paradigm, to accept chocolatey Arabic or Hindu alien immigrants from far corners of Blumenbach’s Caucasian “geographic race” map (or Latinos denying any “black blood”), than to share school classrooms with “white” or “black” fellow Americans “tainted” “non-Caucasian” by “one drop” of the “awful” sub-Saharan “blood.” This could only be explained as social speciation, mapping an outlandish conception of geographic “race” zoology. Other evidence abounds that this surreal vision of defending the “refined,” “supreme white” gene pool from zoological vandalism (i.e., as if “white” was being defaced or debased by pilfering inferior polluters, greedily trespassing from beyond the racial “dividing line” where they belonged, allegedly) both defined “whiteness” and charged its xenophobia. What else might explain some hospitals into the 1940’s keeping donated blood supplies, even mother’s milk, carefully segregated by “race”?
This is why I think abhorrence of “race mixing” — morbid fears around race zoology — ultimately drove America’s historical racism. Even colonialist avarice sought out the exonerating benediction of racial superiority. “Whites,” by 1930, as will be explained, felt the fitness (purity) of their bloodline was threatened, and they had gotten themselves in the position where their ethnic identity was defined by purity. The key to “white” attitudes then was the perceived “inequality” in competing human “types” — “us or them” — siege bunker mentality. (Compare the plight of so-called “triracial isolates,” protesters often identifying “white.” In remote Appalachia they suffered inbreeding diseases, resisting racial integrity laws declaring them “black.”) Of course, “inequality” would have been an unthreatening non-issue were “black” and “white” human beings not the same species, and hence perfectly fertile and fecund in one another’s arms.
“White” people were afraid.
“White” people’s whipped-up revulsion at interracial sex and procreation took corporeal form in their vehement objection, in that period, to “passing.” They clearly were afraid. “White” people feared infiltration of their community by undetected “carriers,” such as young Peola, having flowing in her lovely veins the dreaded “black” racial inheritance “gene” from sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, “whites” feared “victimization” by unknowingly marrying a “tainted” person such as Peola, “passing.”
This fear of “genetic victimization” by intermarriage with a “white Negro,” such as comely Peola, underlay “whites'” abhorrence of “passing.” Mulatto and Creole populations had been an American presence for centuries. Most were descendants of generations of “white” planters’ intercourse with female slaves. One demographic consequence had been a slight broadening of the legal definition of “white” person in the states of the antebellum South. State laws varied, but generally, free persons with less than a fractional one-eighth, sometimes more, of African “blood,” had for years qualified as legally “white” persons in the South. Even more “white” tolerance for Indian “blood” was the rule, and some “part-blacks” had segued into that in-between caste racial identity. Although “white” social intolerance of any ancestral “colored blood” — the run-up to a “one-drop rule” — had mounted since the 1890’s, the state blood-quantum statutes continued functioning as transracial conduits — if narrow ones — into the 1920’s. Consequently, no one knew how much “black blood” had quietly back-flowed through these old statutory conduits, “passing” legally into “white.” Growing alarm about “white” racial integrity had both inspired and been further raised, too, by the outrageously racist 1915 silent film, Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith. The uproar over the film had led to the PCA’s 1927 rule banning portrayal of interracial sex in film. Concern for “white race” protection had reached fever pitch in the 1920’s. This, as said, was what enactment of Racial Integrity-style anti-miscegenation laws (Va., 1924), and the Jim Crow era, were all about. The unthinkable abhorrence of “black blood” (e.g., lurking in one’s spouse, children; God forbid in oneself!) stemmed from hoary pseudo-science superstitions about human genetics — namely, belief in the reality of “race.” (That’s another thread, but consider the false breeding kennel analogy mentioned above — especially the absence of any kennel “walls” ever separating human breeding populations.) To explore the personal insecurity and horror which “passing” presented to “whites,” suggested reading is Mark Twain’s 1894 novel The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. (Note that the central character in the novel discovers “black” blood is in his own veins, a realization which in his case is truly nightmarish. Afterward, read these original manuscript lines which Mark Twain omitted from the published novel. Why did he delete them?) These were the associations so troubling that the 1930’s PCA film censors tried earnestly to protect the sensibilities of “white” moviegoers from the distress of seeing them personified on film by little white Peola.
The “passing” controversy continues.
The “passing” “black” taboo still is with us, as socialite Ms. Jillian Sim’s self-expose, “Fading To White,” shows. Sim’s story (i.e., her ancestors’) reminds us that “passing” is not typified by Mulattos and so-called “light-skinned blacks.” “White”-identified people may or may not know of a “black” ancestor. They may not have heard of the “one-drop rule.” They may be unsure what the term Mulatto means. (Caribbean pirate? That’s what I thought before IV.) Such “white” “one-droppers” cannot be accused of disloyalty for “running away from blackness” that they never had, or of “acting” what they are — “white.” (E.g., see “black”-identified journalist, Lonnae O’Neal Parker reluctantly accepting that her cousin Kim is a “White Girl”.) But what continues “tainting” African ancestry so that people still hide it? Do the same incentives and dreads surround “passing.” Or are different ones working now?
There has been a sea change since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision, Loving v. Virginia, supra, 388 U.S. 1. Loving overturned all the anti-miscegenation laws, and created a new constitutional right to marry interracially. In creating a new fundamental freedom of marriage right, the High Court overturned the “One-Drop” rule, too. In fact the sweeping Loving opinion overturned the whole notion of ancestral “blood”-defined “race” for purposes of abridging anyone’s freedom to marry. Sexual access/restriction seems to be so central to the “race” concept that one might argue Loving invalidated “race” altogether.
In the wake of the Loving sea change “black” people (nowadays, African Americans), object more vehemently to “passing” than do “white” people. Polls indicate that only around 30 percent of the “whites” in traditionally racist southern states still oppose “black/white” interracial marriage. We don’t know whether this minority would also feel victimized married to a “passer.” (Do “whites” still regard “black” as meaning “one-drop” of African ancestry? Or do they only recognize a “black” “visual race” — the Canadian term?) But regardless how “whites” might object, they have no legal protection anymore in the wake of Loving. “Whites” since Loving are completely exposed to social climbers concealing “black” ancestry — to the “passing hazard,” Peola embodied. It stands to reason, “white” people’s opposition to “passing” has dwindled. Their “purity” means far less to them than it did in the 1930’s. They can do little to “protect” it. “Race” now is deemed a “suspect classification,” so that any law or remedy based on “race” must pass “strict scrutiny” constitutionality review. (Translation: Even rabid, dangerous, white supremacists recognize they’re “doomed.”) “Black” people in the 1930’s, by contrast, seemed more tolerant of “passing.” Perhaps they saw righteousness in such under-cover sorties against the blatant Jim Crow racial discrimination legally directed against them then. In this new century will the “white” people begin actively concealing “the passers,” protecting such persons (e.g, the late Anatole Broyard) from the vehement denunciations by Soul Patrol Black Nationalists, seeking to “out” “passers” — trying to Shanghai them into accepting “black,” uprooted African identity?
Distinguishing “passing” from purportedly “pure white” racial identity in the post-Loving world becomes difficult, an exercise in vagueness. Peola, in the movie, Imitation of Life, earned herself undying theater audience scorn by disowning her “black” mother (who consequently died of a broken heart), so Peola could “pass.”
“You mustn’t see me, or own me, or claim me or anything. I mean, even if you pass me on the street, you’ll have to pass me by.”
Before Loving, “passing” required breaking all “black” family ties. Racial integrity laws, such as Virginia’s, made failure to disclose “black” ancestry on marriage license applications a felony. Separate facilities were set aside for “Colored” (separate restrooms, drinking fountains, seating, etc., per Jim Crow), and “white” people discovering a “passer” in their midst could turn vicious. (Lynchings occurred in the 1930’s South.) “Passing” in those days was dangerous. Cutting all “black” family ties, as Peola did, was a necessary prelude to emerging with a new identity as a “white” person. But such sacrificial melodramatics are no longer necessary, since Loving. Risks now associated with “passing” are trivial compared to Peola’s. “Passing” now is merely a “white” identity choice, in fact. No longer does it need to be a family tragedy. Moreover, without the stringent concealment of “black” ancestry required in Peola’s day it is unclear when the word “passing” even applies anymore. Is it “passing,” for instance, to conceal one’s ancestry from “black” Soul Patrol if the “white” neighbors know it, or if they simply don’t care?
“Black” people denounce “passing” nowadays, excoriating the Peola-style break with family. But as said, since Loving that is an obsolete argument. For instance, Ms. Lonnae O’Neal Parker’s “White Girl” cousin Kim, mentioned above, had grown up regarding herself “white.” Her “black” father, Ms. O’Neal Parker’s maternal uncle, had never questioned Kim’s “white” identity. In fact, “we’ve never had a conversation about race in my house,” she said casually. (Not unusual for “white” families, I might add.) But there clearly was no cutting family ties. Kim knew who she was. For example, she described sucking in her lips underneath a menacing KKK poster in a schoolmate’s home as little Kim nervously hid her “blackness” from the other child’s “racist” dad. All of Ms. O’Neal Parker’s “black” consciousness indoctrination efforts (A. Haley’s “Roots” on videotape, etc.) were to no avail. Cousin Kim proceeded right on self-identifying “white,” notwithstanding everyone in her “white” hometown knowing her daddy was “black.” Kim’s case shows clearly, “white” people can no more force an identity upon someone against their will than “black” people can; and noncommittal “whites” are less likely to even try. It follows, the true reason for “black” objection to “passing” now is political (even tribal). It boils down to: “You’re either with us or you’re against us!” (The tenor of O’Neal Parker’s article suggests these words hovered on her lips.) Mulattos and multiracials striving to build their new identity are targeted too, for the same reason. It is apparent that “black” people, having found opportunities for growing political power on the agar slant of their “race,” are eagerly organizing, rounding up “black troops,” and pressing onward their campaign.
“Passing,” in 1934, when Imitation of Life was made, was a violation of the “one-drop rule” — a felony in 30 states if intermarriage with a “white” person resulted. “One-Drop’s” ban on “passing” ostensibly protected the racial “purity” of Caucasian “whites” from “white Negros” like Peola — from anyone “tainted” with even “one drop” of “black blood” (i.e., African ancestry, however remote). The U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving, in 1967, overturned “race”-based marriage prohibitions altogether. Loving expressly overturned “One Drop’s” ban on “white” interracial marriage, which at the time of the opinion was the “one drop” racial definition’s only remaining lawful purpose. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment-enforcing civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965 already had presumptively invalidated “race” as legal ground for discriminating everywhere but the marriage alter/bed.
Continuing to apply the “one-drop rule,” as “black” nationalists insist society demands, means that the overwhelming majority of African Americans today are “passing” — identifying “white.” This conclusion follows from data presented by Slate staff writer, Brent Staples. Staples described research done in the 1940’s by Ohio State University sociologist, Dr. Robert Stuckert, whose report was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court with the Loving brief. Stuckert’s results had shown that by 1950 more than one in five (21%) of “white” Americans had African ancestry within four generations (approx. 100 yrs. past), due to more than 330 years’ intimate contacts (and “passing”). California’s Supreme Court saw the wisdom of calling off the criminalizing of interracial marriage (Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711 (1948)), and by 1950 — 16 years after white “black” Fredi Washington played Peola, in Imitation of Life — Dr. Stuckert had shown that the “One-Drop” “anti-miscegenation” laws had failed. He predicted the proportion of “white” people with “black blood” (1/5 in 1950) would increase in following generations. (By population math, “pure whites'” chances of marrying a “passer” are doubled almost, with each generation.) That was half a century ago (4/5 today?). So — must the U.S.A. come out an African country (“black”); or can’t we all just “pass” for “white”?
Appendage (Dated 03-06-01):
Challenging the “Passing” Allegation
The “passing” allegation has problems.
What is “passing” exactly? And how exactly will a person go about announcing his “blackness,” which will avoid the charge of “passing”? Are “Bubba” at the gas station, or the taxi-cab driver ignoring Tiger Woods the opinion leaders on this? Is everyone answerable for what the least observant, least read observer, “black” or “white” might be mistaken about?
Who “passes”? Is knowledge of ancestry required? If knowledge is a requirement, then are “white” people who are ignorant of their “black” ancestry putatively “pure white” — or should they be called something else? Can someone “be white” because they simply are and always were “white,” notwithstanding they always knew of the drop of Indian “blood” in the family, too — or maybe even another “color drop” of “blood”?
How culpable is conscious denial of known “black” ancestry outside of the family. What distinguishes denial from nondisclosure? Does any disclosure morally need to be made to non-family members “white” or “black,” anyway?
How culpable is nondisclosure of “black” ancestry inside the family — to one’s spouse or children? When, exactly must disclosure be made? Says who?
Surely children should know their whole family — all their heritage. But is it anyone else’s business if parents choose not to tell their children about certain ancestors? Is there possibly a best time, place, or circumstance when “white”-living people should disclose “black” ancestry to small children, who are apt to spread the remarkable news to neighbors? (This I’ve seen.) Might disclosure to children be best left to their parents’ discretion?
Anatoly Broyard, the late N.Y. Times book critic, drew posthumous criticism for “passing,” for his not even sharing knowledge of his “black” ancestry with his children — not until he was on his death-bed, that is. He chose his time. He did disclose.
Jillian Sim unhesitatingly tarbrushed all her dead ancestors “black” upon discovering that her long-dead great-grandparents had crossed the “color-line,” and “passed” (and Sim’s grandmother, too, had just passed away without disclosing what she very recently had uncovered). Two of three generations preceding Sim had died without disclosing the “family secret” of “black” ancestry to their descendants. Sim’s grandmother, father, herself, and now her children, too, all had been living as “white,” unware of their seeming descent from one of Thomas Jeffeson’s “black” slaves (although not from Thomas himself, or Sally Hemings). Moreover, at least three “white” spouses had innocently married into Sim’s family. The widening circle of affected parties was not limited to Sim’s children (i.e., Sim’s grandfather, mother, and her own husband, all three presumably “pure white” partners, were unaware too).
Broyard, and Sim’s grandmother, too, apparently both held off disclosing “black” family ancestry to their descendants, although Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), had long since decriminalized “black blood.” However, before Loving — during Sim’s father’s generation and at all times before — anti-miscegenation laws gave “passing” parents a felony-imprisonment incentive to spare their children the incriminating knowledge of their “black blood taint.” (I.e., the common law mens rea doctrine was a defense to anyone honestly ignorant that they or their spouse were “One-Drop” “black.”) Loving was a case of a “white” husband prosecuted together with his “black” wife for “miscegenation.” The Loving married couple never “passed.” But their case demonstrates the powerful former incentive which existed for persons living as “white” to “pass” totally — conceal from their spouse and/or children, everyone — and die with the secret! That dismal legal disincentive was entirely eliminated by the Loving decision. Loving legalized all interracial marriages, including those contracted with/by “whites.” Loving thereby lifted the threats of the marriage’s being voided by operation of law (turning the children into bastards), and potential felony criminal prosecution formerly hanging over “passers,” all their descendants, and all existing and future “white” spouses marrying into the family forevermore. It was a nightmare! Perhaps not everyone fully realizes it is over now. (No “minority” rights org ever supported or publicized Loving. As if taking a cue, media never publicized Loving beyond quietly producing a 1996 cable-movie.)
Moreover, arguably Loving has not yet fully socially decriminalized “black blood,” or lifted quite all disincentives for treating it as a family secret. The condemnation of Broyard, and the public tarbrushing of Sim’s ancestors is an object lesson not lost on others. Seemingly, the business of closing the deep wounds cut in families by “One-Drop” “race” definitions and “anti-miscegenation” laws is delicate surgery best left to the families themselves. They are the only ones to decide when to disclose to the children. Moralizing outsiders raising a ruckus, as in Broyard’s case, will only drive this sort of family secret back underground.
I think it is tragic each time “black” ancestors are forgotten — lost — as families move into the American mainstream. I enthusiastically support Sim’s resuscitating her own “black” family roots. I fault only her action publicly tarring her deceased grandparents socially — as dead niggers, guilty of “passing” — Sim reincarnated hypodescent and “One Drop.” And has Sim not thus imposed an awful consciousness of duty on her own children, such that in good conscience they cannot marry “white” sweethearts now without first baring this “loathsome family secret” to their betrotheds?
If “black blood” in a family is the important fact demanding disclosure that Sim, and also Broyard’s irate attackers say it is, then aren’t the “white” betrothed, the spouses-to-be, first in right before the children — indeed senior to everyone else’s right to know? Doesn’t a weighty principle of justice give innocent “white” betrotheds a far higher right to hear the “nigger blood” confession than anyone else has? Basic equity dictates that an innocent “white” person must be allowed to knowingly consent to marry into such a “tainted” family, and produce “tainted” offspring of their body — or not. Don’t innocent parties deserve the right to decline to parent “tainted” children with before them whole lifetimes to learn their ancestral “taint,” which they can do nothing to expunge — nothing, that is, except covertly “pass” — try to take the secret with them to their grave forever (e.g., Sim’s 2 generations of grand ancestors). Does that not give an innocent “white” betrothed a senior right to know, and choose or reject burdening his/her own descendants with this “black blood taint” forevermore? (But hasn’t Sim’s “white” husband involuntarily fathered such “black” children by Sim?)
I think the interest of betrotheds and children certainly is greater than any “black” polity’s interest in its census count. Of course, betrothed should be forthcoming. I believe in their sharing everything with one another. Is “white” blood in a “black” family equally momentous then, needing the same full disclosure treatment too? Why not? Is there any medical reason for “black,” or any mere racial ancestry to be disclosed prenuptially? I doubt it. I think nothing substantive, nothing but mere social prejudice inflates “black” ancestry (whatever that is). If prenuptial disclosure of “black” blood” is morally mandatory (and as explained above, there’s no higher entitlement to hear of it than an innocent outsider betrothed’s), then is there any limit to the number of other “bloods” and ancestries which all must come gushing out, and be disgorged onto the appalled “white” betrothed at the time of the great letting-it-all-hang-out antenuptial disclosure of awful family secrets?
Finally, I demand to know what is so special about “black blood,” now 34 years after Loving? Loving eliminated “One Drop,” which first and foremost was “white” America’s government meat guarantee of racial “purity.” (See id, p. 5, fn. 4.) Loving served notice 34 years ago, INvalidating our damned government-certified, doggie-style “white” pedigree — it is uninspected, unprotected. Aren’t we all presumptively “impure whites”? (Cf., Latinos.) What is there to protect anymore?