When Are Irish-Americans Not Good Enough to Be Irish-American?”Racial Kidnaping” and the Case of the Healy Family
By A.D. Powell
Consider the following family history:
Michael Morris Healy, an Irish immigrant, arrives in the United States around 1815 and establishes a plantation near Macon, Georgia. Healy and his mulatto common-law wife, Eliza Clark Healy, have 10 children. All of the children are sent North to be educated, baptized as Catholics, and leave any social disabilities of Georgia behind them. The children achieve great success as Irish-Americans:
- James Augustine Healy became Bishop of Portland, Maine
- Patrick Francis Healy became the rector then President of Georgetown University (1873-1881).
- Michael Morris Healy, Jr. joined the United States Revenue Cutter Service, becoming a celebrated sea captain, the sole representative of the U.S. government in the vast reaches of Alaska.
- Alexander Sherwood Healy also became a priest, director of the seminary in Troy, New York and rector of the Cathedral in Boston
- Three sisters became nuns, one a Mother Superior.
Now, it must be emphasized that the Healy offspring were accepted as Irish American and “white” (whatever that means). The positions they obtained could not have been theirs if they had been black or even dark-skinned. Many other “white” people who knew about the Healys’ mixed-race origins accepted them as Irish-Americans. Are the Healys therefore entitled to be counted among the ranks of Irish-Americans and included in Irish-American history?
Not according to “black” elites and their “white liberal” allies. Years after their deaths, the Healy family is being claimed as “black” because of their achievements. As in the case of Anatole Broyard, the late New York Times book critic and essayist, if they can’t claim you when you’re alive and fighting, the hyenas try to “kidnap” your memory after you’re dead. James and Francis Healy have been betrayed by the Catholic Church they served so faithfully because insecure “black Catholics” want to claim “trophy” clergymen of high rank despite the fact that discrimination and lack of educational opportunities prevented real “blacks” from creating an impressive “resume” in the 19th century. James Healy is now being described as the first “black” American to be ordained a priest and the first “black” bishop. Georgetown University now claims that Francis Patrick Healy (photo right) was the first “African American” president of a predominately “white” university and the first “black” to obtain a PhD.. Some gratitude the Catholic Church has shown! It has insulted the memory of James and Francis Healy by effectively stating that they were not good enough for their Irish-American heritage but only fit to “improve” the “black race” with their “white blood.” The Healys must be turning over in their graves!
Captain Michael Morris Healy’s memory was recently tarnished by the United States Coast Guard, which named an Icebreaker, the U.S.C.G.C. HEALY (launched in 1997) after him. Normally, it is a great honor to have a ship named after you. It is an insult, however, when the ship is named after you so the U.S. Coast Guard can honor a “black” hero who was really Irish-American, at least 3/4 white, and identified as both white and Irish. In this case, someone told a group of black schoolkids at Virgil Grissom Junior High School in Queens, New York that they had a “black” hero in Captain Healy. The black kids initiated a letter-writing campaign to get the Coast Guard to name a ship after Michael Healy. Now, these kids may be flattered by the idea that a person of obvious Caucasian phenotype shares their “race,” but it is in fact a racial insult they are incapable of recognizing:
- The Healy family’s achievements do not show what “blacks” could do in the 19th century because they were NOT BLACK.
- The overwhelmingly European ancestry of the Healy family does not “prove” the biological equality of “blacks.” People will tacitly assume (as they always have) that “superior white blood” gave them their intelligence.
A prime example of the “liberal racism” that condemns the Healys as “black” on the basis of the “one drop” myth while pretending to be anti-racist and sympathetic, is “Racial Identity and the Case of Captain Michael Healy, USRCS,” by James M. O’Toole, director of the archives program at University of Massachusetts, Boston.. (Quarterly of the National Archives & Records Administration, Fall 1997, vol. 29, No. 3)
O’Toole begins with a confrontation between Captain Healy and two sailors he was disciplining. He notes that they called him a “God damned Irishman.” O’Toole is very upset that the sailors didn’t call Captain Healy a “nigger.” This seems to him the only natural thing to call Captain Healy. O’Toole throughout the article, projects his own racism and devotion to the “one drop” myth on 19th century Americans who obviously didn’t share his devotion to white racial “purity.”
O’Toole’s racist devotion to the “one drop” myth blinds him to racial reality in the 19th century. He assumes that the “one drop” myth was law and universally accepted by “whites.” It wasn’t. Any research into racial classification laws in the 19th century would have shown him that various degrees of “negro blood” were accepted into the “white race,” even in the Deep South. Also, the combination of a person’s looks and the reputation he had established were all taken into consideration in determining whether one was “white” or not. It is obvious that Captain Healy and his siblings succeeded in establishing themselves as second-generation Irish Americans. O’Toole cannot bear this and insists that the Healy siblings were really “African Americans.” He also calls their mother, Eliza, an “African American” even though her ancestry was at least half European.
O’Toole also claims that all “whites” believed in “mulatto inferiority” or the doctrine that mixed-race people are biologically inferior to BOTH or ALL “pure” parental groups. He is too ignorant to understand that this doctrine was created as a defense of slavery by pro-slavery intellectuals who wanted to counter the Northern anti-slavery argument that, if slavery is justified on the basis of “race,” then “white” slaves should be automatically free because the negro racial “taint” had been effectively bred out of the line. Lawrence Tenzer explains the origins of this doctrine very well in his book The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue. O’Toole would do well to sit at Tenzer’s feet and learn something. O’Toole follows the usual liberal excuse of claiming that “society” defined the Healy family as “black,” but expresses wonderment at the fact that “whites” who knew about Captain Healy’s mixed ancestry still treated him as “white.” O’Toole is amazed that establishing a “white” identity was so easy for the Healys:
The apparent ease with which they made the transition from black to white is striking. Hell, any white-identified multiracial could have told him that! First, they didn’t start out as “black.” All things would be made clear if he would stop listening to and promoting “black” propaganda. O’Toole is racist because he accepts the myth that the Healys’ real identity was “black” and that they were only “passing” for white and Irish American. Even though, like so many liberals, O’Toole acknowledges that “Group boundaries are more fluid than we often suppose,” he clearly accepts and endorses the “one drop” myth, passing it off as biological and social reality:
Where the Healys are remembered today, it is as African Americans; several of them are now celebrated as the “first black” achievers in their fields. They themselves, however, recoiled from such an identification. Wherever possible, they sought a white identity…
This may seem surprising or even disappointing to us…
Why should it be “surprising” or “disappointing” to anyone? The Healys embraced the identity that they believed best defined them. The Irish American identity certainly described the Healys well – far better than any false “black” identity. Does O’Toole really believe that the “white race” is “pure” or totally free from the “taint” of the “race” in whose equality he professes to believe? O’Toole also accepts the “liberal” nonsense that a “white” identity is merely an attempt to escape from “racism” and that the Healys would have cheerfully accepted a “black” identity if there had been no anti-black discrimination. Tell me, in a world free of anti-Semitism, would Jews voluntary call themselves “non-Aryans” or “kikes” or any other term invented to degrade them? Of course not; the question would be considered ridiculous. Why, therefore, do liberal and “black” elites insist that, in a prejudice-free world, people would cheerfully accept a racially degraded identity for themselves. Such idiocy constitutes a total rejection of logic.
Captain Healy married Mary Ann Roach, herself the daughter of Irish immigrants. O’Toole’s racism keeps him still amazed that a “white” identity was passed on to their son:
He repeatedly referred to white settlers [in Alaska] as “our people,” and was even able to pass this racial identity on to a subsequent generation. His teenage son Fred, who accompanied his father on a voyage in 1883, scratched his name into a rock on a remote island above the Arctic Circle, proudly telling his diary that he was the first “white boy” to do so.
Imagine that! O’Toole can’t understand how a boy with a white-identified Irish quadroon father and a “pure” Irish mother could presume to call himself “white” instead of some “black” nonsense. O’Toole appears to be really concerned about those polluting “black drops” contaminating his “whiteness.” He apparently doesn’t want to share his Irish American identity with people contaminated by the blood of the “race” he claims to champion.
O’Toole acknowledges that Captain Healy experienced prejudice for being Irish and Catholic, but he seems to be so disappointed that the “nigger” insult never pops up to put the uppity quadroon in his place. Indeed, O’Toole’s liberal racist contention that the Healy family’s Irish Catholic identity was mere social climbing to escape discrimination is even more ridiculous when you realize that, in the 19th century, both Irish and Catholics faced massive discrimination. If the Healys wanted to social climb, they could have become white Protestants.
The “racial kidnaping” of the Healy family is an important example of why the “liberal racist” assumption that a publicly-identified European heritage is somehow “too good” for those non-Hispanics “tainted” by “black blood” must be openly and defiantly challenged. We must end this racial “rape.” If the Healy family can be violated in death, it can happen to anyone.
The Multiracial Activist
by A.D. Powell
writer for Interracial Voice
Presented at Fifth Union, June 18, 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 Times book 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 id 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 Voice and 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’s Nightline 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 in The 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
- lied about who he was
- concealed his race
- faked being 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 20thcentury 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 19thcentury 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 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 20thcentury, 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.
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Channing, Carol. Just Lucky I Guess: A Memoir of Sorts. Simon & Schuster, 2002.
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From Interracial Voice:
From The Multiracial Activist
From The Washington Post
Copyright © 2004 A.D. Powell. All rights reserved.
Mixed-ish” is a show designed to actually denigrate biracial identity. We are told at the beginning that the parents were “hippies” and lived with the kids on a commune where, according to eldest daughter Rainbow, she did not know about “race” or popular culture (even TV or movies). The implied message is that official interracial couples are unrealistic and don’t know what they are doing. It also feeds into the “What about the children?” argument against interracial marriage by making the kids totally clueless about American society. They also have the parents giving their kids stupid names like “Rainbow” and “Santa Monica.”
The black aunt in the show heavily pushes a pro-black identity agenda with no one pushing back. The kids have referred to themselves as “black” but nothing else. The white father is a feckless, unemployed college dropout while the black mother has a law degree from Berkeley. This feeds into the stereotype that only “inferior” whites would marry a “black” and even a “superior” black can only get the lowest “white” for a spouse.
The Oct. 29, 2019 show claimed to condemn “tokenism” but in reality endorsed the racist idea that mixed-race part-black people should be “superior blacks” (in contrast to the “inferior” real ones?) in order to “prove” to “whites” that “blacks” are not “inferior.” The “white girls” presented as the villains of that episode received a bum rap. They are condemned for liking Rainbow because she is culturally white and similar to them. Rainbow’s black aunt them guilt-trips her into accepting the racist myth that whites should view all “blacks” as the same. The poor fool Rainbow then drags a sullen, white-hating, black girl to the white girls and insists that they be “friends” with the girl (who clearly does NOT want to be friends with them). The writers make it clear that the white girls are supposedly guilty of “racism” for finding the friendly, culturally white and biracial Rainbow a better social choice than a ghetto-type black for whom all whites are “the enemy.” Those familiar with black behavior towards mixed-race, part-black people will recognize in this episode the obsessive black racial jealously that makes many of them wild with anger at the thought of mixed-race people being “better” than they are or deemed more attractive by whites and others. Going back to antebellum times, blacks love to condemn whites for “racism” when they give preference to the mixed-race (who are, after all, their kin) and (self-righteously) when they don’t. Nearly every mixed-race girl who has had to go to school with blacks has been accosted by jealous, violence-prone black girls with the accusation, “You think you’re cute!” We know what is happening when the “Rainbow” character in “Mixed-ish” is condemned for the advantages her white ancestry and culture have given her AND expected to defend and rehabilitate the reputation of blacks who have no intention of lifting a finger to improve themselves.
The November 12, 2019 episode of “Mixed-ish” had another foolish “moral.” When white Grandpa Harrison Jackson invites the family to his country club, the children and adult relatives are enjoying themselves when Rainbow and her black Aunt DeeDee (of the ghetto mannerisms) are questioned by security employees regarding their presence at the club. Grandpa quickly confirms that they are his guests and it is all a misunderstanding. No problem. That is how civilized people handle conflict. They try to smooth over misunderstandings and not create a scene. However, the writers hypocritically condemn Grandpa Harrison for NOT making a scene (as ghetto Aunt Dee wished to do) and white hippie Dad makes the “moral” decision that the family will never return to the country club despite the fact that the children were enjoying themselves. What is especially ridiculous here is that earlier in the episode the parents were boasting about having participated in lunch counter sit-ins for integration and “marching with Dr. King.” Needless to say, those political activities involved going where they were not wanted AND being willing to face insults and violence. Yet, a polite and non-violent encounter with some of the club’s security employees outrages hippie Dad so much that he vows never to return to the “all white” club with his family. What kind of integration is that? What kind of cowardice is that? Later, Grandpa Harrison is pressured by his son to resign from the club. What does that accomplish except keeping the club all white?
Oh, yes. We are also told in that episode that hippie Dad Paul gave Rainbow her mother’s surname of Johnson because he wanted to “prove” he’s a “feminist.” The real message he’s sending to the public, especially in view of Rainbow’s mulatto status, is one of bastardy for his child. That is actually far more “racist” than anything Grandpa did.
Once again, “Mixed-ish” presents totally ridiculous and convoluted moral values. The November 19, 2019 episode resurrects the “one drop rule” nonsense that mixed whites “tainted” with any of the dreaded “black blood” are really “secret blacks” and unworthy of the great honor of their own European ancestry. The audience is told that every black-blood-tainted mixed white has some kind of moral obligation to make a public announcement of it. Why? Forced identification is a mark of inferiority. Hollywood is overflowing with people who don’t care to publicize their “inferior” Jewish, Slavic, Hispanic, Asian, etc. ancestry. Talk about hypocrisy! Are the black and black-identified idiots still too stupid to understand that calling a person who “looks white” a mere “secret black” who is only “passing as white” is a validation of black genetic inferiority? They can’t proclaim themselves as good as whites while using their power to claim mixed whites and other non-blacks for their “race.”
Make no mistake. “Mixed-ish” is NOT a celebration of being racially mixed. It is thinly disguised pro-hypodescent* propaganda.
Is Rachel Dolezal a war criminal? If she were, you can bet the farm that the outraged blacks, pretend blacks (mulattoes and quadroons) and white liberals who denounce her for “passing for black” would have forgotten about her and moved on by now. Instead, the former Spokane, Washington NAACP leader is a prime example of how rather unimportant actions by those who have a history of “white” identification or classification are redefined by racial pundits as the moral equivalent of Ku Klux Klan lynchings. Nearly all Dolezal’s attackers insist that there is a clearly defined and impenetrable barrier between the so-called white and black “races.” They rarely bother to clearly tell their readers who is and is not “white” or “black.” They presume that every member of their audience is just supposed to “know.” The denunciations of Rachel Dolezal fall into roughly three categories:
1. Dolezal has no right to call herself “black” because she does not (or did not) “look black” and can exercise the “privilege” of going back to being “white” at any time. So is everyone who looks white and identifies as black a fraud or crazy fool? Often the latter are declared heroes of the “black race.” There is a clear double standard here. You can google the term “passing for white” and be deluged with denunciations of part-black white people who dared to call themselves white because they actually looked white. Nearly all these denunciations come from people who identify themselves as “black” or the white liberal allies of blacks. The very fact that Rachel Dolezal felt compelled to physically change her “racial” appearance from “white” to “mulatto” in order to “pass” as someone who might be acceptable to middle-class blacks and white liberals as “black” supports the rational argument that the part-black whites who identify as white (Anatole Broyard, Captain Michael Healy, Eston Hemings Jefferson, Belle Da Costa Greene, Anita Hemmings and many others) are moral and rational in their choice — far more so that those of the same or similar racial makeup and phenotype who choose to call themselves “black” or pretend that they had no choice in the matter (Mat Johnson, Michael Sidney Fosberg, Soledad O’Brien etc.). Indeed, there is a long history of, especially with the rise of the post-Civil Rights “Black Power” movement, coercing mixed whites and light mulattoes to change their racial appearance in order to please or fit in with blacks:
Afros have “saved” many of the young light-skinned colored Creoles who choose now to identify themselves as black and disavow any connection with colored Creole society. The Afro has become symbol of their social and political affiliation. So keen was the criticism of Creoles by non-Creole blacks, especially in the early 1970s, that light-skinned teenage boys whose hair was straight began to put vinegar on their hair to make it kinky. A couple of young informants swear that several of their friends are beginning to grow bald, and they attribute this loss of hair to their frequent shampooing with vinegar. Afros may be the current hairstyle among black Americans, but among young male colored Creoles they are political symbols, too. It is no accident that seventy-eight of the eighty-five thirteen-, fourteen-, teen-, and fifteen-year-old boys who were confirmed at Corpus Christi parish in the heart of the colored Creole community on May 20, 1977, light- and dark-skinned alike, had Afros.
Virginia Dominguez. White By Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana (Kindle Locations 1919–1924). Kindle Edition.
The next question to ask ourselves is why, if Dolezal is wallowing in a supposedly immoral “white privilege” that can be assumed or jettisoned at any time, part-black folks with the same “white privilege” aren’t condemned for calling themselves “black” as well:
I was told the fourth interview I would be doing was going to air on MSNBC-BLK, which focused on Black issues and targeted millennials. I went in with the hopeful idea that it might be like having a conversation with my students, but it was just more of the same. As I took a seat on an uncomfortable stool, an animated light-skinned Black woman named Amber Payne started asking me questions. I noticed that we were nearly the same complexion and her hair wasn’t all that much different than mine, falling in a loose, wavy pattern with very little curl. If she’d run a flat-iron down her hair, she could have easily passed for Italian. Surely with her ethnically indeterminate appearance she would be a bit more understanding, I thought. After all, most of those who had reached out to me to express their support were people stuck somewhere in the middle of Black and white. Darker Black women, on the other hand, had become one of the primary voices of opposition against me, calling the way I identified “the ultimate white privilege.”
Dolezal, Rachel. In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World (pp. 238–239). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
2. Dolezal has no “black experience” or has never experienced “racism.” The terms “black experience” and “racism” are not defined and seem to mean whatever each accuser wants them to mean. I have often heard the argument from black-identified “one drop” advocates and their allies that if one is “raised black” (undefined), one has some kind of moral and/or legal obligation to identify as “black.” This makes as much sense, to me, as saying that if you were raised with child abuse, you have an obligation to pass along the abuse to your own children. Despite, Dolezal’s “pure white” parents, she was reared with adopted black and mulatto siblings, married a black man and bore mulatto children. She’s been living a far “blacker” life than Soledad O’Brien (rich white husband and very white children), Lacey Schwartz (reared as white and Jewish), or Michael Sidney Fosberg (reared as white and Armenian-American until discovering his “black blood” in adulthood) and so many more. What is even more ludicrous is the accusation that Dolezal only identifies with blacks in order to reap financial benefits. Hell, people like Lacey Schwartz, Michael Sidney Fosberg, Mat Johnson, Soledad O’Brien, Sil Lai Abrams and many more have capitalized on presenting themselves as exotic, passable or born-again “blacks.” Dolezal hasn’t yet come close to them in terms of reaping the black gold of hypodescent:
Many people simply couldn’t fathom how someone who was born into the racial category known as white could ever feel Black or why that person would want to be viewed that way. They presumed I identified as Black to advance my career or make more money, and the press seemed happy to play along. There was never any mention of the fact that two of the four jobs I’d had were unpaid, that one of the paid ones barely covered the electric bill, and that the other provided only enough income to pay the rent and buy groceries. My income had always hovered around the poverty line, and in that regard I was not unlike many other Black women in the United States, who, studies have shown, make 16 percent less in the workplace than white women do.
Dolezal, (p. 245).
Morever, Dolezal’s sanity has been questioned. Who would be crazy enough to identify with blacks if they don’t have to? Well, why aren’t black-identified whites like Mat Johnson or Michael Sidney Fosberg condemned as equally insane since their claim to blackness can be easily shed?
Same opinion shares The Huffington Post’s culture writer, Zeba Blay. According to her, Dolezal’s life in comparison to Caitlyn Jenner is “an insult to Jenner’s personal struggle” (Blay, 2015). She also notes that Dolezal’s lies and “pretending” to be black “hijacked the conversation about race, during a week where the nation was focusing on police brutality in McKinney, Texas” — when white policeman “violently restrains, then sits on top of an unarmed, 15-year-old, bikini-clad black girl” (Blay, 2015). Blay also suggests that Dolezal is delusional and mentally ill. Moreover, she points out that Dolezal retains her privilege; “she can take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being black” (Blay, 2015). Blay same as Kinouani (2015) states that Rachel Dolezal’s blackness is a costume that she can put on anytime she wants, meanwhile Bruce Jenner transformed into Caitlyn in order “to live” and not being interesting, which may suggest that Dolezal transracial affair could be caused by her need to get attention.
Borawska, Sonia. Rachel Dolezal Affair: race, identity and representation of women in the news. : Comperative analysis between media coverage of Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner (Kindle Locations 105–113). Kindle Edition.
3. Dolezal is not “genetically African American” or has no known or traceable “black” or sub-Saharan African ancestry. Of course, the world has an abundance of people with African ancestry who DON’T identify with blacks at all. Latinos fall into this category, especially nationalities like Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Arabs, especially North Africans, also fall into this “black ancestry” category, yet the U.S. Government has taken great pains to have them officially classified as “white” for census and affirmative action purposes. Dolezal’s accusers are clearly trying to imply that (minus Latinos and Arabs) there is a “one drop rule” for defining “African American” and that Dolezal lacks the fatal “drop.” This alone is supposed to make her “white.” Now suppose Dolezal had the fatal “drop” but wanted to identify as “white.” The same pundits who ridicule her for darkening her skin and kinking up her hair would praise her for it. Indeed, while Dolezal is promoting the popular academic idea that “race” is a “social construct,” her detractors are openly claiming that “race” is biological, no ifs, ands, or buts. I have studied this issue of “black blood” and white racial identity for decades, and it is clear to me that the excuses made for separating the so-called “pure” or black-blood-free white from the “tarbrushed” while is based on nothing more than a fight to keep alive the old stigma of “Negro blood.” Culture, looks, etc. are all excuses to fool the gullible. Furthermore, the people who want the stigma of “black blood” and its twin “white purity” to continue, are more likely to be black-identified and middle-class:
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’s Nightline 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 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 in The 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.
Powell, A.D., Passing For Who You Really Are: Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness (Kindle Locations 303–315). Backintyme. Kindle Edition.
The black-identified elite’s insistence on promoting the “one drop rule” and demonizing all who oppose it has permeated white liberalism. Indeed, many white liberals have therefore become more racist than the more conservative whites they love to despise. The “one drop rule” allows them a chance to be “liberal” and white purity-loving racists at the same time — all with the permission of “blacks.”
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.
Powell, A.D..(Kindle Locations 388–400).
It is no wonder that liberals are having a field day crucifying Rachel Dolezal. She is the great white sacrificial lamb, proving that they are not “racist” because they are following the lead of blacks. Black condemnation of Dolezal also reassures white liberals that they are fundamentally different from (and therefore superior to) the “race” they claim to champion. Indeed, they exercise the ultimate “white privilege” by acting as if they have no obligation to think for themselves on racial issues but need only follow the lead of certain blacks:
Liberal white folks who were happy to repudiate their white privilege were just as happy to throw me under the bus. From what I’ve observed, white liberals tend to believe that whatever they read in The Root or Huffington Post’s “Black Voices” section represents the perspective of the entire Black population and that to hold any other view would be racist. For them, being called racist is the ultimate taboo, and mimicking the viewpoints espoused by these mainstream Black news sources presents a safe and defensible path for someone who hasn’t experienced racism as a lived experience. By accusing me of being a cultural appropriator and a fraud, countless white liberals, including the “antiracist essayist” Tim Wise, were hoping to prove they weren’t racists but rather white allies.
Dolezal, Rachel.(p. 248).
I personally don’t care what Rachel Dolezal calls herself. What I do care about is that the “one drop rule,” which has no basis in law and is mainly enforced by the inflated moral authority of the black and black-identified elites, be recognized as the immoral and racist monstrosity that it is. I want an end to the demonization of fellow mixed whites as “passing for white” when we are really “passing” for what we truly are. Dolezal accidentally became a target of hypocritical and near-universal scorn because the advocates of the “one drop rule” feared that her alleged blackness minus the fatal “one drop of black blood” would be a further nail in the coffin of extreme hypodescent. Call Rachel Dolezal “black” if that’s what she wants, but call Anatole Broyard “white.” Do you get the picture?
A.D. Powell, former columnist for the web sites “Interracial Voice” and “The Multiracial Activist,” is the author of “Passing” for Who You Really Are: Essays in Support of Multiracial Whiteness and a self-taught historian of “mixed race” issues.
Why would Northern whites oppose slavery while rejecting racial equality for blacks? This is a question one reads constantly in Civil War scholarship. However, the answer is obvious if one is willing to address taboo and “politically incorrect” subjects — “white” slavery and racial mixture. Obviously, the answer to this question also demands that historians acknowledge and deal with another forbidden subject — the definition of “white” and the impossibility of distinguishing the “mixed race white” from the “pure white.” Equally taboo is dealing with the fact that, to most “whites,” a fellow “white” is defined by looks and not racial “purity” or freedom from the dreaded “black blood.” Now, how did this belief on the part of Northern “whites” contribute to the Civil War?
The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue by Lawrence R. Tenzer, Scholars Publishing House, 1997, shows how the whiteness of some slaves increased the fear and hatred of slavery in Northerners because of the possibility that any white person could be seized and taken South — especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Tenzer states:
If “cause” can be defined as any political or social dynamic which exacerbated the tension between the North and South, then white slavery certainly qualifies because it contributed to the deep-rooted friction which existed between the free and slave sections of the country. Lincoln himself made references to slavery “regardless of color.” The facts presented in this thoroughly researched text prove that white people were slaves in the American South and that white slavery was indeed a cause of the Civil War.
Tenzer is careful to define his terms. “The South” refers to the slavocracy — the political power which governed the slave states — not the Southern people in general. This definition embodies an important point. There were many poor and nonslaveholding whites throughout the Southern states who had no influence on proslavery politics… The oligarchy of Southern politicians and their slave holding allies were the power of the South, what came to be known as the “slave power.” This is great. Tenzer puts the blame were it lies. Too many historians engage in lazy, meaningless and inaccurate racial generalizations such as “Whites decided that…” or “Whites believed…” Which “whites”? Indulging in collective guilt lets the guilty people off the hook
What Separates the “Mulatto” from the “White”? Can Slaves Be “White”? Can “Whites” Have “Negro blood”?
The status of children born of white fathers and black or mulatto slave mothers was a pressing issue. The English Common Law said that a child follows the status of the father. However, that would mean that the issue of a female slave was not her master’s property — in the way that the issue of female livestock were his property. In 1662 the Southern colony of Virginia was the first to pass legislation which attempted to regulate interracial fornication and marriage as well as the status of the mixed-blood children of slave mothers. Going back into classical Roman history, it confirmed the legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem, which held that the child follows the status of the mother. This early legal precedent had far reaching effects.
Tenzer emphasizes the fact that “negro blood” by itself did not make anyone a slave. It was the maternal descent of the partus rule that enslaved a person — if the maternal slave line was unbroken by legal manumission. A slaveholder could, legally, have more “negro blood” than his slave. A legal “white” man could have more Negro blood than a so-called “light mulatto” who would be legally “white” if he were manumitted. The latter was possible because the general Southern rule was to establish one-eighth or less Negro blood as the dividing line between “white” and “mulatto”. Even this could be modified by such things as reputation, acceptance by the local “white” community, property ownership, etc. Hard as it may be for persons raised on “one drop” mythology to believe, a person classified as a “mulatto slave” would, if manumitted and one-eighth or less “black,” legally become a free “white” person rather than a “free colored.” As Thomas Jefferson, himself the reputed father of “white slaves,” states:
Our canon considers two crosses with the pure white, and a third with any degree of mixture, however small, as clearing the issue of the Negro blood. But observe, that this does not reestablish freedom, which depends on the condition of the mother, the principle of the civil law, partus sequitur ventrem being adopted here.
The South is caught in a major contradiction here. She has justified slavery on the basis of the alleged inferiority of the “negro race” but also implements the partus rule, while effectively enslaves people who are not only not “black” or “negro” but even “white.”
If Slavery is Justified on the Basis of “Race,” Shouldn’t White Slaves Be Free? The Importance of White Slavery in Securing Support for the Abolitionist Cause
Many anti-slavery people argued that, if the South justified slavery on the basis of “race,” then the loss of blackness justified a slave’s freedom. This was a direct attack on the legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem. “White Slavery” was essentially a godsend for the abolitionist movement. It created an antipathy toward slavery that would not have been as widespread had all slaves been “black” or even dark-skinned. Moreover, with the uncomprehending assistance of the South herself, the movement was able to show white Northerners that they themselves were in personal danger from slavery. If the South would enslave its own “white” children, what wouldn’t they do to the hated Yankees, “white” or not?
The term “white slave” was frequently used in 19th century abolitionist and Republican literature. There was also a recognition that being “mixed race” and “white” were not mutually exclusive. The term “white mulatto” was frequently used to describe a combination of mixed racial descent and Caucasian phenotype. Anti-slavery activists encouraged novels and stories about “white slaves” in order to gain the empathy of Northern readers. The “tragic mulatto” stereotype has its origins in novels about “white slaves.”. Up through 1861, no less than 17 novels utilized a “white slave” theme. One of the most popular plays was The Octoroon. Indeed, it was scheduled to be performed at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. the day after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The first anti-slavery novel, published in 1836, was about a white slave — The Slave: or Memoirs of Archy Moore by Richard Hildreth. After the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, the novel’s title was changed to The White Slave: or, Memoirs of a Fugitive. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (which Lincoln credited with helping to start the Civil War) utilized “white slave” characters. Furthermore, “Yankee” and foreign visitors who traveled to the South expecting to see black slavery were shocked and appalled whenever they saw slaves as white as any other “white.” Indeed, this was usually the aspect of Southern life that left the greatest impression on them. If they talked or wrote about nothing else in Southern life, they took pains to mention the “perfectly white” slaves they saw in the slave states. Northern whites were being constantly exposed to this type of literature.
The “Slave Power” Responds: Slavery Is A Positive Good — and Not Dependent Upon Race or Color
The defenders of slavery reacted with the usual extremism, claiming that slavery was a good thing regardless of the race of the slaves, often pointing out the allegedly superior material conditions of Southern slaves to Northern laborers. Indeed, abolitionists had only to quote Southern newspapers and political literature to make their point.
George Fitzhugh was one of the most important intellectual defenders of slavery. His Sociology for the South, or the Failure of Free Society (1854), was quoted extensively in the election campaign of 1856 and anti-slavery literature in general:
- Make the laboring man the slave of one man, instead of the slave of society, and he would be far better off.
- We do not adopt the theory that Ham was the ancestor of the negro race. The Jewish slaves were not negroes; and to confine the jurisdiction of slavery to that race would be to weaken its scriptural authority for we read of no negro slavery in ancient times. SLAVERY BLACK OR WHITE IS NECESSARY.
A South Carolina newspaper was widely quoted in abolitionist literature:
The great evil of northern free society is that it is burdened with a servile class…Slavery is the natural and normal condition of the laboring man, whether WHITE or black. The great evil of Northern free society is that it is burdened with a servile class of MECHANICS and LABOURERS, unfit for self government, yet clothed with the attributes and powers of citizens. Master and slave is a relation in society as necessary as that of parent and child; and the Northern States will yet have to introduce it. Their theory of free government is a delusion.
The Richmond Enquirer made the South’s position plain:
While is far more obvious that negroes should be slaves than whites…yet the principle of slavery is itself right and does not depend on difference of complexion.
What could be clearer to Northerners? The South not only defended the principle that it is right to enslave people of any race or color, it proudly proclaimed its contempt for free labor, free society and the egalitarian principles of republicanism that most Northerners held sacred.
Would the Southern “Slave Power” Enslave Free Northern Whites?
Why Northern Whites Had Reason to Fear the South
Anti-slavery activists were quick to point out that slavery endangered poor white Northern laborers. If Northerners were made slaves to Southern political power, then the next logical step would be the actual enslavement of free white people, especially those of the laboring class who were poor and vulnerable. Republican literature of the antebellum period constantly warns against “white slavery,” and the South’s barely hidden wish to eventually take over the entire country and expand the slave system to include Northern white laborers.
Many Northerners strongly believed that figurative white slavery would lead ultimately to literal white slavery for the free states. The proof of this was not only Southern political power at the federal level but the proved willingness of the Slave Power to put the sanctity of slave “property” above ties of race and kinship.
The abolitionist press played up the issue of white persons being kidnaped, and with good reason. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 provided for no protection against false identification. There was no formal hearing, no due process of any kind. The accused “slave” had no time to summon witnesses to vouch for his or her identity. In the case of a child claimed as a slave, this helplessness was even greater. Add to this the outrageous fact that the commissioner charged with determining the identity of the accused fugitive received double his fee if he found in favor of the slave-catcher. Bribery was built into the law. In response, Northern states passed a series of “personal liberty” laws to provide due process to accused slaves and nullify the effects of the federal law. Pro-slavery forces reacted with outrage to this assertion of “states’ rights.”
It is amazing to discover how much the issue of “white slaves” and “white slavery” were part of the antebellum political agenda. It is rarely mentioned today. Tenzer quotes from historian Russel B. Nye:
If slavery was a positive good, and the superior political, economic and social system that the South claimed it to be, it seemed reasonable to expect that the next step would be an attempt to impose it upon the nation at large for the nation’s own good…It was easy, said the abolitionists, to take one more step, to show that if slavery were the best system for inferior races, it was also the best for inferior classes, regardless of race.
In 1858, Congressman Philemon Bliss of Ohio predicted the enslavement of free “white” labor if the South could not be checked:
The more honest advocates of slavery have already repudiated the idea that it should be the sole condition of any race, and many of them would impose it upon all hand laborers. Free labor would have to compete with slave labor and could not survive.
Editorials like this one from the 1856 Marshall Statesman (Michigan) were common:
The doctrine of white slavery is now openly broached South of the Potomac. This is no more than could be expected, because the difference in color, especially in Virginia, is so slight that sometimes it is absolutely impossible to tell whether an individual has any African blood in his veins or not….hence rises this new doctrine …SLAVERY BLACK OR WHITE, IS RIGHT AND NECESSARY.
In 1856 The Anti-Slavery Bugle predicted the eventual enslavement of “white” immigrant labor:
What security have the Germans and Irish that their children will not, within a hundred years, be reduced to slavery in this land of their adoption?…Is color any protection? No indeed.
It is relevant here to report an incident from another book, Blood and Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest by Donald S. Frazier because it perfectly exemplifies the proslavery contempt for labor, free society and “social inferiors.” In 1856, Philemon T. Herbert, a Democratic Congressman from Texas, shot and killed the Irish headwaiter at Willard’s Hotel in Washington, D.C. for refusing to serve him breakfast after the posted time. This incident was widely publicized during that election year as evidence of Southern or proslavery contempt for all working people — white or otherwise. In the South itself, Herbert was hailed as a hero who acted exactly as a Southern gentleman should. He avenged an “insult” to his “honor” and put an “inferior” in his place. Add to this incident the even more infamous 1856 case of antislavery champion Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts being almost clubbed to death in the Senate chamber by South Carolina Congressman Preston S. Brooks (another matter of Southern “honor”) and you can see how the North came to increasingly view the Southern “Slave Power” as fanatical and contemptuous of the rights of others — even “whites.”
In 1862 The Iron Platform, a New York workingman’s paper, knew what was really at stake during the Civil War.
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, whether white or black, are and ought to be slaves.
Was the North Paranoid About White Slavery? Was the Threat to Northern Whites Real?
The North has good reason to fear the kidnaping of “whites” into slavery. The average “white” Southerner was quite poor. Hundreds of thousands of families lived on less than $100 per year. Even skilled laborers averaged no more than $600 or $700 a year. Consider then that the average price of a slave in 1850 was $400, more money than many ordinary people would earn in a year. The 1850s saw a rapid growth in slave prices, with many slaves being worth well over $1,000 or even $2,000. How many men would not be tempted to make a little kidnaping expedition to the North? And, if you found a person who looked like the “light mulatto” slave you were chasing, would you really care whether the suspect was indeed the fugitive or even a “pure” white when you have so much money to gain?
We must also consider the fact, that contrary to the neo-confederate view that the “War Between the States” was fought to free Southern states from the “tyranny” of the federal government, the antebellum period was characterized by Northern states asserting their rights and sovereignty against a proslavery federal tyranny. In addition to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, the North felt the power of the South and the tyranny of proslavery forces in these ways:
- From 1836 to 1844 pro-slavery forces in the House of Representatives passed and implemented the so-called “gag rule,” a nullification of the First Amendment right of free speech whereby antislavery petitions to Congress were no longer heard.
- From the 1830s until the Civil War, the Southern pro-slavery forces censored the United States mail. Postmasters were forbidden to deliver antislavery literature into the slave states.
- In 1845 Texas was annexed as a slave state.
- In 1846 the Wilmot Proviso, which would have banned slavery from the territories acquired in the Mexican-American War was defeated by proslavery forces in Congress.
- The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 negated the Missouri Compromise and made slavery possible in any of the territories. New states that came from the territories could easily become slave states, thereby increasing Southern power.
- A proslavery U.S. Supreme Court existed from the 1840s until the Civil War.
Who could doubt that the South had the political power and will to eventually nationalize slavery and augment its slave population with the laboring classes of the free states?
The Theory of Mulatto Inferiority — The Slave Power’s Answer to the Charge of White Slavery
The abolitionists’ challenge to the “Slave Power” regarding “white slavery” had to be answered. It was answered with the theory of “mulatto” inferiority.” This is not the racist belief with which most of us are familiar — the idea that mixed-race people are “superior” to the “pure black” but “inferior” to the “pure white” depending upon the degree of “white blood.” No, this theory’s racism was infinitely greater. It was based upon the assumption that “whites” and “blacks” are like two different species and their mixed-race offspring were sterile, degenerate, and inferior to both parental “races.” What made the “mulatto” and mixed “white” far more threatening to slavery than the “black,” was the higher regard in which they were held by “whites” in general. Indeed, Tenzer notes that from the late 1700s onward, many observations were made about mulattoes being very physically attractive and intelligent. Here are just two of several such quotes from The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War:
English traveler Edward S. Abdy, 1835 recalled:
the dread that the species will be deteriorated by “crossing the breed”; though every one knows, who is capable of comparing forms and figures, that the finest specimens of beauty and symmetry are to be found among those whose veins are filled with mixed blood.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said in 1811:
It is possible, the strength of the intellects may be improved in their original conformation, as much as the strength of the body, by certain mixtures of persons of different nations, habits, and constitutions, in marriage. The mulatto has been remarked, in all countries, to exceed in sagacity, his white and black parent.
Tenzer notes that historian Robert Brent Toplin researched the attitudes of whites toward mulattoes in the South during the period from 1830 to 1861. He has concluded that in addition to often being thought of as physically attractive and intelligent, they were frequently taught skills and given extraordinary responsibilities. Note that while it was considered a great insult to call a “white” person a “mulatto” (Many “whites” sued in court and won large judgements against people who called them “mulatto” or challenged their legal standing as “whites”), there was still a common belief that the mulatto was very much like the “white,” — especially if he or she “looked white.”
Many influential people such as Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, proslavery writer William Gilmore Simms and Congressman James M. Ashley of Ohio believed that the “black race” was destined, through amalgamation, to eventually disappear into the “white race.”
The proslavery intellectuals had to counteract these positive attitudes. Tenzer describes their dilemma very well: In order to keep the institution of slavery intact and not allow any part of it to be compromised, the South had to find a way to defend the enslavement of all mulattoes, regardless of the degree of admixture. This was done with theories which attacked the idea that mulattoes were approaching conformity with whites.
The father of the theory of “mulatto inferiority” was Dr. Josiah Clark Nott of Mobile, Alabama. His theory was first published in 1843 in an article for the American Journal of the Medical Sciences entitled “The Mulatto a Hybrid — probable extermination of the two races if the Whites and Blacks are allowed to intermarry.” A reprint appeared shortly after in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. He introduced the theory of “mulatto sterility” into the “scientific” community, and his theory has been quoted by “anti-miscegenation” judges and lawmakers until the end of the Jim Crow era.
One may ask how anyone could believe such a preposterous “scientific theory,” since anybody who lived near mulattoes could see that they reproduced just as well as “whites” or “blacks.” Tenzer explains:
Of course mulattoes produced children like everyone else, so the sterility theory incorporated the idea that fertility deteriorated through subsequent generations with sterility being the inevitable end. Nott conceived of mulattoes as having weak and frail constitutions, high mortality, and infertility. The more white admixture mulattoes had, the greater their physical problems. According to Nott’s theories, light mulattoes could never approach being white because blacks and whites were two different species…
In other words, Nott claimed that this alleged degeneration and infertility only occurred with white intermixture. He had no objection to these “hybrids” mating with blacks, nor did he concern himself with any of this alleged infertility in mulatto/black matings. Nott’s purpose was to defend slavery by denying the abolitionists’ contention that white people were being enslaved:
It has been asserted by writers, that when the grade of Quinteroon [one-sixteenth black — a cross between a white and an octoroon] is arrived at, all trace of black blood is lost, and that they cannot be distinguished from the whites. Now if this be true, most of the Mulattoes must cease to breed before they arrive at this point of mixture; for though I have passed most of my life in places where the two races have been mingling for many generations, I have rarely if ever met an individual tainted with black blood, in whom I could not detect it without difficulty. These higher grades should be extremely common if the chain were not broken by death and sterility. How else can the fact be accounted for?
The obvious answer is that the offspring of the “higher grades” were socially and legally integrated into the “white race.” Remember that while Nott is writing this idiotic “theory,” the laws of most Southern states allowed people with more “black blood” than a “quinteroon” to become legal “whites.” This was, of course, a silent process not boasted of in Southern writing. But, since there was still a stigma attached to publicly acknowledging “black” ancestry, these “whites” would not identify themselves as being of mixed ancestry or protest this new stigma. Thus, Nott and his ideological confederates were free to publicize their lies without the “proof” of their nonsense being presented to the public.
Tenzer also relates how the 1840 U.S. Census was used as “proof” of mulatto “inferiority” by the creation of bogus “insanity” rates in the predominately mulatto “free colored” population compared to the slave population. The “sterility theory” was “supported” by pointing out the supposedly higher fertility of slaves compared to free mulattoes, totally ignoring factors such as the illegal slave trade from Cuba and Africa, the kidnaping of free people into slavery, and the deliberate breeding of slaves. These factors bore the primary responsibility, in that order, of augmenting slaves numbers beyond a natural rate of increase. We might also add that free people often have schooling, work or travel ambitions that cause them to postpone starting families. Slaves would generally have no reason to postpone reproduction and would be actively discouraged from doing so by their owners.
Tenzer reminds us that, ridiculous as Nott’s ideas were, they were perpetuated by men who were educated and sophisticated in promoting racist doctrines. When a theory of “mulatto inferiority” appears in the “best” of the “scientific” journals, who is an “uneducated” lay person to question it? “Science” was effectively used in the service of politics and the defense of slavery. Tenzer effectively summarizes the hypocrisy here:
According to Southern laws, those who were free and less one-fourth or one-eighth black were legally defined as white people; those who were slaves and had any admixture of white and black blood whatsoever were physiologically considered frail and sterile hybrids…who were subject to insanity if freed from slavery.
The refusal to admit that “Negro blood” was and is entering the “white race” is still a tacit understanding among both Southern and Northern elites. It is a small wonder that the “white slavery” issue is rarely addressed in modern history classes and academic literature.
The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War inspires us to ask questions that most American historians are afraid to ask:
- Would the Civil War have occurred if the existence of “white slaves” had not brought home to Northern citizens the great danger that slavery posed to a free society?
- Why are racial mixture and mixed-race people relegated to the margins of American history when knowledge of their origins and legal status are essential to understanding the tensions between North and South that led to the Civil War?
- Why is the anti-slavery movement presented to modern students as merely an altruistic concern for “blacks,” with no mention made of the threat to all poor and working class “whites” and “free society” in general?
- If slaves could be “white,” and legal “whites” could be partially “black,” are they not part of “white” or European American history and populations and not just some “exotic” variety of “African Americans”?
It is no accident that The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War has not received the attention it deserves. The lack of respect for “mixed race” history within American history reflects the lack of respect for, and recognition of, mixed-race people in general. The Civil War is one of the most popular subjects in American society. It is time for us to remind Americans of its “forgotten” cause.
This is the kind of book that should be assigned in all the university classes that pretend to be about “mixed race studies.” The novel is very true to life about the realities and trials of the whiter mixed-race [part-black] people growing up in small Southern towns in which they are expected to pretend to be some variety of “light-skinned” Negroes/blacks or whatever without ever being so indecorous as to publicly declare themselves to be of mostly white ancestry — no matter how obvious. Some of the things you will never see in junk books written by one-drop apologists like Danzy Senna are: the unease of knowing that you’re being lied to about your “race”; the understandable tendency of whiter mixed-race people to band together in school; the fanaticism of blacks (especially those with mixed-white relatives) in insisting that the “one drop” nonsense be honored and upheld (even though it is based on the presumption of THEIR supposed genetic inferiority); the ignorance of most whites about the “one drop rule,” despite black claims to the contrary. The book is also very realistic in showing how anyone who moves away from the South’s black/white dichotomy into the melting pot of New York City has to have a “racial” revelation — especially if they’ve been victims of “one drop” or other types of hypodescent. Puerto RIcans and Dominicans who have obvious “black blood” (But it’s not supposed to count!”), Indians as dark as most of the people who are supposed to be “black” — all those urban realities have to change anyone who is not totally dense or ideologically rigid.
As for those people who will argue that the protagonist can’t possibly be racially different from his black mother (even though they are literally like day and night, respectively), you will no doubt find that none of them have a problem with mulattoes (a la Lacey Schwartz) and quadroons (a la Michael Sydney Fosberg) who “grow up white” and declare themselves “black” as adults based on their ignorant assumption that the “one drop” myth legally and/or morally obligates them to do so.
The best part of Bliss Broyard’s book is her description of the dying Louisiana Creole culture and ethnic identity. Even Bliss realizes that the Creoles are not “black” or “African American,” but she is not consistent in separating the two identities, often using the word “black” when she should say “Creole.” Of course, her miseducation in forced hypodescent and the “one drop” theory by her newly discovered black-identified Broyard relatives had a lot to do with that. Creoles have been subjected to what one might a call a “documentary genocide” (to use the phrase coined by Brent Kennedy, author of The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People : An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America). Since the Jim Crow period, both whites and blacks in Louisiana have worked to destroy the unique Creole ethnicity and forcibly assimilate them into the “Negro/black/African American” fold by simply refusing to recognize Creoles as anything but “Negroes.” The Creole relatives Bliss encounters are thus divided into those who identify with the “white race” and those who believe all Creoles are part of the “black race.” Bliss, as a liberal, sensitive white girl, tends to automatically give more credibility to the “black” side of the family, even when common sense should tell her that they have only internalized an inferiority complex that makes them think they are unworthy of being anything but “black.” Some great books on this documentary genocide are: White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana by Virginia R. Dominguez, Passing for Who You Really Are by A.D. Powell and Legal History of the Color Line: The Rise And Triumph of the One-drop Rule by Frank W. Sweet.
Bliss disappointed me greatly by seeming to buy into the old canard that there is something immoral about a person with even a small amount of “black” ancestry identifying himself as “white.” Hello, Bliss. Have you heard of Latinos and Arabs? They are almost always partially of sub-Saharan African ancestry but don’t call themselves “black.” Most of them identify as “white” on the census and other forms. You lived in New York City, which has more “mulattoes” than New Orleans. However, because they are also Puerto Ricans, their “black blood” doesn’t count? Why?
Many reviewers in the media have painted Anatole Broyard as a villain who deprived his children of some kind of wonderful heritage. I side with Anatole. First, he was not “black” and he would have been guilty of emotional abuse if he had taught his children to embrace a false racial identity invented as a stigma. A few say that he should have taught them about their wonderful Creole heritage. Why? It is a dying ethnicity and its people are being assimilated by force into the “black” fold. Creoles either go as “black” or “white.” The few remaining Creoles who seek an in-between path are dying out and have no political power. I also noted, from reading the book, that Bliss is a very emotional, impressionable person. She was too full of liberal guilt and easily enamoured of anything “black.” I shudder to think how she would have reacted as a teenager or child. Her brother Todd seems to be far more stable. There is no evidence that the great revelation that his father was “tarbrushed” caused him to change his identity or indulge in racial angst.
Bliss inadvertently proved her father innocent of an infamous canard invented by the notorious “one drop rule” advocate Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates had falsely accused Broyard of “abandoning” a supposedly “black” Puerto Rican wife and daughter in order to encourage others to hate him. Bliss interviewed the first Mrs. Broyard, Aida Sanchez, and found out that not only was Aida proudly white-identified, she considered Anatole and her in-laws to be white as well. Aida chose to leave Anatole because he refused to get a regular job and preferred to hang out at his bookstore with his intellectual friends. She took their daughter, Gala, and moved to Texas. Needless to say, Texas was a Jim Crow state at the time and Aida and her daughter identified as white. It is strange that Bliss has gone out of her way to track down and publicize distant black-identified Creole cousins but NEVER mentions her half-sister. Obviously, Gala is white-identified and that does not fit into the new “black” agenda of her half-sister Bliss.
There is a scene in the book where Alexandra Broyard (the supposedly “pure white” Norwegian-American mother of Bliss and Todd) discovers that she has partial Native American ancestry. It is interesting to her, but she has no plans to change her identity or even check more “race” boxes on those omnipresent forms. She is like most white Americans in that regard, since American Indian ancestry is not presented as a source of genetic inferiority that destroys forever one’s European heritage or right to call oneself “white.” Shouldn’t “black” ancestry in white people be decriminalized and treated like American Indian ancestry?
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>