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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Loving Day, Part 2

Please see this post and associated comments for background... Picking up on where I left off on my criticisms of the Loving Day celebrations, I wanted to add a second perspective to my argument. Loving Day is being heralded as a time of festivities commemorating the time when interracial marriages were made legal throughout the United States. In actuality, this is a misnomer; Loving Day commemorates the time when interracial marriages between minorities and Whites was made legal. Prior to 1967, there is a long history of intermarriage between members of oppressed minority communities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before and during slavery, there are numerous documented instances of Native Americans marrying Blacks (some escaped slaves, others given their freedom by marrying their American Indian owners, as further explained by this ColorQ article -- incidentally, I'm not a huge proponent of ColorQ and I haven't had the time to check these references, but I do have separate offline references that were my inspiration for this post and which support much the information in these articles, so forgive my ColorQ linking). Although disdained by White Americans, intermarriage between Blacks and Native Americans was nonetheless legal, producing a sizeable portion of today's African American population who possess "Indian blood". Similarly, due to the history of imported male labour from the East, many landed Asian American "coolies" intermarried with local women. Filipino sailors who arrived on the American continent in the 16th century legally married local Native American or Mexican women. Later, Chinese labourers who arrived in American in the 19th century to work the plantations married local Native Americans. This article (also from ColorQ) recounts the story of a Chinese labourer in Louisiana who married an American Indian woman in the late 1800's. A similar pattern is seen with Asian Indian male labourers who intermarried with local Latina women creating a sizeable multiracial community. In other words, prior to 1967, intermarriage between some races was (more or less) legal. Intermarriage between a racial minority and a White person was undoubtedly illegal. While anti-miscegenation was considered illegal and considered to apply to all intermarriage, it was largely enforced only to prevent a blending of the White bloodline with "lesser races", as can be seen with the seeming obsession that White America had with Black (male) sexuality. Intermarriage between Blacks and Native Americans or Asian Americans and Latinos was frowned upon but was rarely addressed in court. Even in some states with anti-miscegenation laws on the books, the law was popularly considered to address only Black/White pairings; Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous "Siamese twins" who popularized the term, married White sisters in North Carolina in 1863, when North Carolina still had strong anti-miscegenation laws. So, June 12, 1967 doesn't mark the day in which interracial relationships were legalized, it marks the day when Whites finally relinquished their legal hold against the few Whites within their population who would want to marry a non-White (or specifically Black) partner. And consider also the history of interracial relationships and the Loving case. In Loving v. Virginia, it cannot be ignored that the couple in question is a White man and a Black woman. This fits into a long history of White male bravado and sexuality when it comes to sexually colonizing women of other races. During slavery, White male plantation owners regularly raped their Black slaves with little societal consequence. White males were able to hire Asian American prostitutes without impunity. That the Supreme Court ruled that a White man should be able to marry a Black woman cannot escape some criticism: it fit the acceptable history of White male dominance and ownership. (This in no way means I have any idea what the Loving couple's relationship was privately like; I am merely pointing out why their relationship was more acceptable than most interracial relationships). Despite this history of sexual colonialization and dominance, remember, too, that after the Loving couple won their case, they still lived in exile from the White community. They were forced to move to D.C., ostracized from White society's acceptance. Though the legal books had been ammended to allow for intermarriage between a White man and a Black woman, socially, Richard Loving was considered to have, for the most part, transracialized into the "lesser" Black community. He was no longer wanted by his White counterparts. When considering the sexual dynamics of the Loving case, consider also that only a decade prior, in 1955, Emmett Till was murdered for merely winking at a White woman. Even today, we have several cases of Black men being ostracized, personally and professionally 'lynched', and even murdered for daring to carry on a sexual relationship with a White woman, while White men who intermarry with women of any other race is largely accepted by both the White and non-White communities. To me, the Loving case is not cause for unambiguous celebration. While it pays to remember anti-miscegenation laws and to appreciate the final nail in the legal coffin of anti-miscegenation laws, I don't need a day of masturbatory self-congratulation and nigh-racist praise for interracial couples to remind myself of the prejudices of the past and today. And to choose the day when Whites finally made it legal for them to intermarry is to put a "Caucocentric" (for lack of a better term) spin on the history of miscegenation and to further support a Black/White paradigm for understanding racial politics that denies the presence of other races.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: white man - black woman pair (vs. black man - white woman pair)

Lawyers interested in challenging a statute often go for the most "attractive" client for a test case, and it is perfectly possible that a lawyer would choose the socially more acceptable at that time combo of white man + black woman, while intending that the repeal of the statute would benefit both combos. On the other hand, the lawyer might just choose the most motivated coooperative client for a test case. I don't know much about the legal details of the case, whether the Lovings chose and paid for lawyers to the SCOTUS level, or whether they sought free help from civil rights organization lawyers at some point on the case's crawl up the appellate chain.

Rosa Parks wasn't the first to refuse going to the back of the bus, but she was the first woman the local civil rights organizations and community were willing to back up. The two prior refusing people were unwed mothers or had a criminal record or some such "less than reputable" history. Parks was well-known to the community, a part of the local civil rights activist community, and eminently respectable and dignified.

NancyP

6/14/2006 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous gatamala said...

jenn

great post - if we could fuck racism away there wouldn't be any!!!

6/15/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the double standards of anti-miscegenation laws, when a white man could fuck any woman of color they wanted but a man of color would get LYNCHED if they even winked at a white woman.

Does the "ideal" interracial relationship HAVE TO BE WITH A WHITE MAN (or, to a lesser degree, a white woman)? argh! I'm sure there ARE white men who have soul and are conscious of their racial/gender/hetereosexual/patriarchal priviledges, but that's as rare as finding a dodo egg at a Wal-Mart and using it to make your breakfast.

It's even worse when men of color internalize the Anglo construct of Orientalism/exotification of women of color.

6/16/2006 03:26:00 PM  

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