One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life–A Story of Race and Family Secrets by Bliss Broyard

Commentary on Bliss Broyard and the “One Drop” Myth

January 8, 2009 at 1:33am

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 The best part of Bliss Broyard’s latest 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 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 andLegal 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 live 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” as a grown woman. 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.

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 og 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?

Why Be “Black”? By William Javier Nelson

Why Be “Black”?
By William Javier Nelson

The reader with a long memory may recognize here some things I got to at an earlier point in time. Bear with me.

One of the most enjoyable work-place experiences I ever had was at the Centro Cultural Dominico Americano (called the “Dominico” for short) in 1989. There, a group of young Dominican instructors (myself included) who happened to speak English taught a series of classes to Dominicans of various ages and skill levels who wished to learn and improve upon their English.

And what a varied group of instructors it was!

There was a 40-ish woman who had spent her adulthood as a U.S. suburban housewife. There was a young Brooklynite whose New York accent (when he was speaking English) and jokes often brought down the house. There was myself, who grew up almost entirely with “white” North Americans and whose childhood was like Wally Cleaver’s and Eddie Haskell’s. There was a humble Dominican from the country-side whose kindness and patience was etched on his face. There was a haughty and arrogant-looking man (inside, however, he was a pussycat) who would make it a point to drive up to the Dominico in his cream-colored Peugeot. And many others just as varied. In spite of our differences, we partied together a lot. Why? Because, aside from the fact that we all spoke English, there was another very powerful thing which made us have something in common: our Dominican culture and nationality.

What did that mean? It meant that our parties had plenty of merengue music. It meant that our feasts and dinners had plenty of Latino dishes like mondongo and sancocho and things like chicharrones de pollo. IT meant that we danced a lot at our parties, instead of stand around and talk. It meant that, although we spoke English, we could — all of us — slip into Dominican rapid-fire Spanish (complete with missing “s” letters at the ends of words) at a moment’s notice. It meant that we couldall recall what “el 27 de Febrero” meant and say it with pride.

What does the above have to do with my original question: “Why be ‘Black’?”

Hold on.

I have been reading posts and essays from “blacks” on Interracial Voice for over five years now. There has been a strain common in many of their letters. And this strain is one in which a “black” identity is encouraged for mixed-race persons with African ancestry. What do they use to support this argument? {Drum Roll, please]

Here is the logic used:

“Society will see you as ‘black.'”

There are many ways in which this logic has been expressed. Universally it has been couched in the language of rejection, oppression and hurt. Universally it has made the basis of one’s membership in the “black” group the reaction by some rejecting “white” outsider.

Has there been any thread of logic advocating “blackness” for mixed-race persons because of something positive and unifying?


Now scroll back up to the group of instructors at the Dominico. And ask us,


Until “black” posters to Interracial Voice fundamentally grasp the differences between:

(a) what united those English teachers back in 1989 in the Dominican Republic, and
(b) the rationales they have used here on Interracial Voice for asserting “black” identities for mixed-race persons,

they will continue to “not get it” as to what we are all about.

Now, I don’t expect to “convert” any “black” One-Droppers out there in cyberland. However, they may be better advised to attempt to change tactics. Why not offer an appeal to “blackness” based not on the rejections of “whites” but rather some cultural/social/linguistic things (like perhaps blues, jazz, church, folklore, etc.).

That’s what makes Germans Germans.
That’s what makes Mexicans Mexicans.
That’s what makes Chinese Chinese.
That’s what makes Egyptians Egyptians.
That’s what makes Jamaicans Jamaicans.

Now if this is not possible, then we have some exciting (and disturbing) new avenues for discussion.

William Javier Nelson, Ph.D.

Brief bio:
William Javier Nelson, Ph.D. teaches in the adult education program at Shaw University. He is a native of the Dominican Republic and performs (African-derived) salsa and merengue music with the musical group FUSION CARIBE.  (Originally published in “Interracial Voice”)

Anatole Broyard, Bliss Broyard and the “One Drop Rule”

Anatole Broyard, Bliss Broyard and the “One Drop Rule”

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Bliss Broyard could have effectively destroyed the “one drop” myth if she had stood up for her father (who had far more right to call himself “white” than Obama has to call himself “black”).   Instead, she chose to ally with the foremost advocate of the “one drop” myth (forcing a “black” racial classification upon predominately white or otherwise nonblack people), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (“Skip” Gates).  Too many “blacks” like Gates have a barely concealed belief that “white genes” must be forced into the “black race” if said “race” is to “prove” itself equal to “whites.”  Note the contradiction there, but “blacks” like Gates are never called on it.  Furthermore, the obvious “black genes” in Hispanics and Arabs are tacitly ignored.  No one wants to insult them by pointing out their kinship with the “blacks.”  Bliss Broyard herself noted that her father’s first wife, a Puerto Rican (wrongfully identified as “black” by many black writers), considered herself, her husband and in-laws to be “white.”  Sounds good to me.  If Obama can claim that he is “black” because he “looks black,” then anyone who “looks white” is “white.”

“Imitation of Life” (1934), A Window on “Passing” Or Who is “White”? By George Winkel

Imitation of Life (“Interracial Voice” column)

June 10, 2010 at 9:43pm

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“Imitation of Life” (1934), A Window on “Passing” Or Who is “White”?
By George Winkel

“Passing,” in the motion picture, Imitation of Life (1934), based on Fannie Hurst’s novel, provides a revealing window on “race” in America.

I think the controversy over so-called “passing” (i.e., for a “white” person) is central to understanding “race” in America. For a silly suggestion with no reality at all, “race” has wreaked unbelievable harm for a much longer time than the 200 years of our American post-colonial history. And “race” runs on amok, threatening this century, too, with its hypnotic defamation, its seductively suggesting that something sinister lurks in human racial heredity, more than meets the eye. I hope the following will help to deconstruct “race,” by shedding light on it from a viewpoint too often obscured in a moralizing fog of self-righteousness and recrimination.

I think Susan Courtney’s Genders discussion, below, of the movie censorship dilemma created by the character Peola for the 1934 motion picture, Imitation of Life, is one starting point for discussing “passing.”

As Ms. Courtney’s Genders (No. 27, 1998), “Picturizing Race” essay shows, the former Hollywood Production Code Administration’s (PCA) commitment to preventing any depiction of “white” interracial sex on screen (1927-1956) was challenged by novelist Fannie Hurst’s Peola character. In the Imitation of Life movie, Peola (played by “black”-identified actress, Fredi Washington) “passed.” And 1930’s era censors experienced utter confusion simply identifying Peola. Was she a “white-looking” “black” girl wishing she were “white,” who became “white,” if only for a while? Or was she just one of two Negroes? It seemed that regardless how perfectly archetypally “white” Peola may be, she could be identified by the morality gatekeepers only as a type of Negro. Peola’s mother in the movie was prominently “black.” But under the late “One-Drop Rule’s” tyranny (i.e., the persistent, moribund, militant myth that any “black” ancestry makes one sub-Saharan African — hereafter African, unless otherwise indicated), it inevitably would be the same all over again for any “white” child of Peola’s. “One-Drop” made no exceptions for either remoteness or hue of any “black” ancestry. In principal “black” identity could never “wash away,” since “black” people can “be any color.”

What was the nature of the abhorrent thing?

Clearly, it was not merely a tinge of dark complexion which 1930’s “white” America abhorred in “passers” such as Peola. Indeed, she was comely and white, not dark at all. As we shall see, it was this lack of “warning” from Peola’s perfect-looking “whiteness,” rendering her especially “dangerous.” And Peola “passing,” not wearing her “blackness” reassuringly on her sleeve, so to speak — as we shall see — evoked strange, troubling apprehensions.

As the Courtney essay shows, movie censors in the 1930’s resented even acknowledging the possibility of “white” interracial sex. Marriage was irrelevant. Thirty of 48 U.S. states then prosecuted such pairings as a felony, anyway. The values of the day stipulated that “white” interracial sex — more to the point — procreation, was a highly sensitive moral issue. One PCA researcher noted his finding no information, because, he concluded, the subject had always been “taboo.” “Black”/”white” interracial sex, procreation, was the most abhorrent of all. Therefore, the PCA censors, reflecting “white” America, were deeply troubled by Peola’s mere existence regardless the movie story line emphasized that her father had been a “very light-skinned black man.” And again the censors squirmed over the fictional, unseen father, too, because ultimately he had acquired his “lightness” from some “white” fictional ancestor. The powerful Universal Studios producing Imitation of Life (based on Ms. Hurst’s 1933 best-seller novel by that name) offered, in its negotiations, to present Peola as a genetic freak, with an offer of proof it was not medically impossible for a “white” child to emerge from a line of “blacks.” (That idea was dropped!)

“[T]he action of the negro girl appearing as white … has a definite connection with the problem of miscegenation,” a memo recording a meeting between Universal and PCA representatives concluded.
Clearly, everyone producing, reviewing, and ultimately watching the film knew, whether they wanted to face it or not, Peola’s “white” skin resulted from someone’s “miscegenation” — from the forbidden “black”/”white” interracial sex and procreation “problem.”
What was the “problem”? Marriage, as said, was harshly criminalized as a deterrent to interracial procreation, as was fornication. So, although Imitation of Life depicted no forbidden romancing or “miscegenation” per se, Peola with her “black blood” physically embodied the true object of the disgust, revulsion, or morbid fear underlying both the felony anti-miscegenation laws and movie censorship of the time. In a penultimate sense then, young Peola was the “thing” which censors attempted to protect “white” moviegoers’ sensitivities from, in the name of film morality and decency. Few decency limits today approach this intensity of public unacceptability short of filming actual murder, animal torturing, and child pornography.

Why was African ancestry so dreadfully reviled?

From the middle eighteenth to twentieth centuries, encompassing the time when Imitation of Life was made (1934), it was popularly believed the “white” and “black” “races” occupied “top” and “bottom,” respectively, of separate zoological racial “types” in a top-down design, or some evolutionary “ladder.” In a paradigm of intra-human social “speciation,” racial “inequality” was an article of faith (rationalizing clearly a caste system). Analogies in Nature abounded. Two or more subspecies of most wild mammals had been identified. And valuable, prize-winning, artificially pure-bred animals defined the cheapness of mongrels and mutts. Man domesticated his distinct breeds of livestock. Purposely bred animals clearly demonstrated inequality of coat (e.g. sheeps’ wool) or of inbred behavior (e.g., sheep dogs), reflecting the breeder’s craft. Just so, a Virginia superior court judge, writing 25 years later, seemingly comprehended God as a pastoral breeder of people:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such [interracial] marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
(Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 3 (1967) — hereafter Loving.) “White” supremacy dogma credited “racial purity” with warrior fighting spirit, intelligence, and inventiveness — especially powers of self-government and civilization. Bigots touted this flagrantly, although Christian tradition and human decency discouraged most “white” Americans from displaying blatant racism. The point is that people’s beliefs and attitudes inevitably were poisoned by the “Jim Crow” machinery of segregation dangling from the stringent anti-miscegenation laws exhorting them to maintain the purity of “their” Caucasian “white race.”
In retrospect it is not clear how much of the blame for Jim Crow “white” racialism belongs at the feet of rank and file “white” people, even their popular leaders’ feet. This uncertainty was broached in Imitation of Life, when Peola’s mother, Delilah, seemed unable to fix blame for the “mean,” “cruel” identity burden her daughter was obliged to accept — as when the “white” woman, Bea’s, daughter, Jessie, called Peola “black,” and made her cry:

“It ain’t [Jessie’s] fault Miss Bea. It ain’t your’n and it ain’t mine. I don’t know exactly where the blame lies.”
However, medical doctors and scientists of the period who should have known better failed to lead anyone away from racialism. (They had to know better — 18th century inventors of “race” had known better. Buffon, Blumenbach, and Camper each clearly urged their readers not to take too seriously the human classifying exercises. Enlightenment scientists were not apparently racist, but they are faulted for “leaving that door ajar.”) To the contrary, from the ranks of the scientifically educated came some of the very gravest offenders, pushing racist eugenic racial “purification” agendas. There clearly were blameworthy promoters of “race” mythology and “anti-miscegenation.” (Compare modernly the heartless Serb “ethnic cleanser” Slobodan Milosevic — previously a psychiatrist. A long, sad litany of modern scientists’ names are soiled by their connection with “race”-intelligence “bell curve” claims. E.g., see Dr. J. Philippe Rushton, U. of Western Ontario psychologist, defending “biological race.”)
America’s mesmerized belief in the reality of “race” had sad consequences. The postbellum ninteenth-twentieth century Jim Crow discriminatory laws and customs methodically carried out a logical purpose. They maintained racial segregation in the South, where most “blacks” then lived, in order to eliminate or at least structure interracial contacts. The Jim Crow segregation mentality was in full swing in 1934 when Imitation of Life was made.

I think the pronouns “we” and “they” underlay “white” racism. “White” America repeatedly through history had difficulty digesting the different immigrant waves from Europe (Irish, Polish, Italians, Greeks Armenians, Jews, etc.), due to defensively interpreting the meaning of “we,” identifying who was also of the “white race.”

Thanks to the spurious little zoological “race” labels European thinkers pinned on Mankind in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, “whites” effectively were color-struck — prevented from seeing people like themselves over the metaphysical, separating “race lines.” “Whites” found it easier, under the “us or them” “race” paradigm, to accept chocolatey Arabic or Hindu alien immigrants from far corners of Blumenbach’s Caucasian “geographic race” map (or Latinos denying any “black blood”), than to share school classrooms with “white” or “black” fellow Americans “tainted” “non-Caucasian” by “one drop” of the “awful” sub-Saharan “blood.” This could only be explained as social speciation, mapping an outlandish conception of geographic “race” zoology. Other evidence abounds that this surreal vision of defending the “refined,” “supreme white” gene pool from zoological vandalism (i.e., as if “white” was being defaced or debased by pilfering inferior polluters, greedily trespassing from beyond the racial “dividing line” where they belonged, allegedly) both defined “whiteness” and charged its xenophobia. What else might explain some hospitals into the 1940’s keeping donated blood supplies, even mother’s milk, carefully segregated by “race”?

This is why I think abhorrence of “race mixing” — morbid fears around race zoology — ultimately drove America’s historical racism. Even colonialist avarice sought out the exonerating benediction of racial superiority. “Whites,” by 1930, as will be explained, felt the fitness (purity) of their bloodline was threatened, and they had gotten themselves in the position where their ethnic identity was defined by purity. The key to “white” attitudes then was the perceived “inequality” in competing human “types” — “us or them” — siege bunker mentality. (Compare the plight of so-called “triracial isolates,” protesters often identifying “white.” In remote Appalachia they suffered inbreeding diseases, resisting racial integrity laws declaring them “black.”) Of course, “inequality” would have been an unthreatening non-issue were “black” and “white” human beings not the same species, and hence perfectly fertile and fecund in one another’s arms.

“White” people were afraid.

“White” people’s whipped-up revulsion at interracial sex and procreation took corporeal form in their vehement objection, in that period, to “passing.” They clearly were afraid. “White” people feared infiltration of their community by undetected “carriers,” such as young Peola, having flowing in her lovely veins the dreaded “black” racial inheritance “gene” from sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, “whites” feared “victimization” by unknowingly marrying a “tainted” person such as Peola, “passing.”

This fear of “genetic victimization” by intermarriage with a “white Negro,” such as comely Peola, underlay “whites'” abhorrence of “passing.” Mulatto and Creole populations had been an American presence for centuries. Most were descendants of generations of “white” planters’ intercourse with female slaves. One demographic consequence had been a slight broadening of the legal definition of “white” person in the states of the antebellum South. State laws varied, but generally, free persons with less than a fractional one-eighth, sometimes more, of African “blood,” had for years qualified as legally “white” persons in the South. Even more “white” tolerance for Indian “blood” was the rule, and some “part-blacks” had segued into that in-between caste racial identity. Although “white” social intolerance of any ancestral “colored blood” — the run-up to a “one-drop rule” — had mounted since the 1890’s, the state blood-quantum statutes continued functioning as transracial conduits — if narrow ones — into the 1920’s. Consequently, no one knew how much “black blood” had quietly back-flowed through these old statutory conduits, “passing” legally into “white.” Growing alarm about “white” racial integrity had both inspired and been further raised, too, by the outrageously racist 1915 silent film, Birth of a Nation, directed by D.W. Griffith. The uproar over the film had led to the PCA’s 1927 rule banning portrayal of interracial sex in film. Concern for “white race” protection had reached fever pitch in the 1920’s. This, as said, was what enactment of Racial Integrity-style anti-miscegenation laws (Va., 1924), and the Jim Crow era, were all about. The unthinkable abhorrence of “black blood” (e.g., lurking in one’s spouse, children; God forbid in oneself!) stemmed from hoary pseudo-science superstitions about human genetics — namely, belief in the reality of “race.” (That’s another thread, but consider the false breeding kennel analogy mentioned above — especially the absence of any kennel “walls” ever separating human breeding populations.) To explore the personal insecurity and horror which “passing” presented to “whites,” suggested reading is Mark Twain’s 1894 novel The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson. (Note that the central character in the novel discovers “black” blood is in his own veins, a realization which in his case is truly nightmarish. Afterward, read these original manuscript lines which Mark Twain omitted from the published novel. Why did he delete them?) These were the associations so troubling that the 1930’s PCA film censors tried earnestly to protect the sensibilities of “white” moviegoers from the distress of seeing them personified on film by little white Peola.

The “passing” controversy continues.

The “passing” “black” taboo still is with us, as socialite Ms. Jillian Sim’s self-expose, “Fading To White,” shows. Sim’s story (i.e., her ancestors’) reminds us that “passing” is not typified by Mulattos and so-called “light-skinned blacks.” “White”-identified people may or may not know of a “black” ancestor. They may not have heard of the “one-drop rule.” They may be unsure what the term Mulatto means. (Caribbean pirate? That’s what I thought before IV.) Such “white” “one-droppers” cannot be accused of disloyalty for “running away from blackness” that they never had, or of “acting” what they are — “white.” (E.g., see “black”-identified journalist, Lonnae O’Neal Parker reluctantly accepting that her cousin Kim is a “White Girl”.) But what continues “tainting” African ancestry so that people still hide it? Do the same incentives and dreads surround “passing.” Or are different ones working now?

There has been a sea change since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1967 decision, Loving v. Virginia, supra, 388 U.S. 1. Loving overturned all the anti-miscegenation laws, and created a new constitutional right to marry interracially. In creating a new fundamental freedom of marriage right, the High Court overturned the “One-Drop” rule, too. In fact the sweeping Loving opinion overturned the whole notion of ancestral “blood”-defined “race” for purposes of abridging anyone’s freedom to marry. Sexual access/restriction seems to be so central to the “race” concept that one might argue Loving invalidated “race” altogether.

In the wake of the Loving sea change “black” people (nowadays, African Americans), object more vehemently to “passing” than do “white” people. Polls indicate that only around 30 percent of the “whites” in traditionally racist southern states still oppose “black/white” interracial marriage. We don’t know whether this minority would also feel victimized married to a “passer.” (Do “whites” still regard “black” as meaning “one-drop” of African ancestry? Or do they only recognize a “black” “visual race” — the Canadian term?) But regardless how “whites” might object, they have no legal protection anymore in the wake of Loving. “Whites” since Loving are completely exposed to social climbers concealing “black” ancestry — to the “passing hazard,” Peola embodied. It stands to reason, “white” people’s opposition to “passing” has dwindled. Their “purity” means far less to them than it did in the 1930’s. They can do little to “protect” it. “Race” now is deemed a “suspect classification,” so that any law or remedy based on “race” must pass “strict scrutiny” constitutionality review. (Translation: Even rabid, dangerous, white supremacists recognize they’re “doomed.”) “Black” people in the 1930’s, by contrast, seemed more tolerant of “passing.” Perhaps they saw righteousness in such under-cover sorties against the blatant Jim Crow racial discrimination legally directed against them then. In this new century will the “white” people begin actively concealing “the passers,” protecting such persons (e.g, the late Anatole Broyard) from the vehement denunciations by Soul Patrol Black Nationalists, seeking to “out” “passers” — trying to Shanghai them into accepting “black,” uprooted African identity?

Distinguishing “passing” from purportedly “pure white” racial identity in the post-Loving world becomes difficult, an exercise in vagueness. Peola, in the movie, Imitation of Life, earned herself undying theater audience scorn by disowning her “black” mother (who consequently died of a broken heart), so Peola could “pass.”

“You mustn’t see me, or own me, or claim me or anything. I mean, even if you pass me on the street, you’ll have to pass me by.”
Before Loving, “passing” required breaking all “black” family ties. Racial integrity laws, such as Virginia’s, made failure to disclose “black” ancestry on marriage license applications a felony. Separate facilities were set aside for “Colored” (separate restrooms, drinking fountains, seating, etc., per Jim Crow), and “white” people discovering a “passer” in their midst could turn vicious. (Lynchings occurred in the 1930’s South.) “Passing” in those days was dangerous. Cutting all “black” family ties, as Peola did, was a necessary prelude to emerging with a new identity as a “white” person. But such sacrificial melodramatics are no longer necessary, since Loving. Risks now associated with “passing” are trivial compared to Peola’s. “Passing” now is merely a “white” identity choice, in fact. No longer does it need to be a family tragedy. Moreover, without the stringent concealment of “black” ancestry required in Peola’s day it is unclear when the word “passing” even applies anymore. Is it “passing,” for instance, to conceal one’s ancestry from “black” Soul Patrol if the “white” neighbors know it, or if they simply don’t care?
“Black” people denounce “passing” nowadays, excoriating the Peola-style break with family. But as said, since Loving that is an obsolete argument. For instance, Ms. Lonnae O’Neal Parker’s “White Girl” cousin Kim, mentioned above, had grown up regarding herself “white.” Her “black” father, Ms. O’Neal Parker’s maternal uncle, had never questioned Kim’s “white” identity. In fact, “we’ve never had a conversation about race in my house,” she said casually. (Not unusual for “white” families, I might add.) But there clearly was no cutting family ties. Kim knew who she was. For example, she described sucking in her lips underneath a menacing KKK poster in a schoolmate’s home as little Kim nervously hid her “blackness” from the other child’s “racist” dad. All of Ms. O’Neal Parker’s “black” consciousness indoctrination efforts (A. Haley’s “Roots” on videotape, etc.) were to no avail. Cousin Kim proceeded right on self-identifying “white,” notwithstanding everyone in her “white” hometown knowing her daddy was “black.” Kim’s case shows clearly, “white” people can no more force an identity upon someone against their will than “black” people can; and noncommittal “whites” are less likely to even try. It follows, the true reason for “black” objection to “passing” now is political (even tribal). It boils down to: “You’re either with us or you’re against us!” (The tenor of O’Neal Parker’s article suggests these words hovered on her lips.) Mulattos and multiracials striving to build their new identity are targeted too, for the same reason. It is apparent that “black” people, having found opportunities for growing political power on the agar slant of their “race,” are eagerly organizing, rounding up “black troops,” and pressing onward their campaign.


“Passing,” in 1934, when Imitation of Life was made, was a violation of the “one-drop rule” — a felony in 30 states if intermarriage with a “white” person resulted. “One-Drop’s” ban on “passing” ostensibly protected the racial “purity” of Caucasian “whites” from “white Negros” like Peola — from anyone “tainted” with even “one drop” of “black blood” (i.e., African ancestry, however remote). The U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving, in 1967, overturned “race”-based marriage prohibitions altogether. Loving expressly overturned “One Drop’s” ban on “white” interracial marriage, which at the time of the opinion was the “one drop” racial definition’s only remaining lawful purpose. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment-enforcing civil rights acts of 1964 and 1965 already had presumptively invalidated “race” as legal ground for discriminating everywhere but the marriage alter/bed.

Continuing to apply the “one-drop rule,” as “black” nationalists insist society demands, means that the overwhelming majority of African Americans today are “passing” — identifying “white.” This conclusion follows from data presented by Slate staff writer, Brent Staples. Staples described research done in the 1940’s by Ohio State University sociologist, Dr. Robert Stuckert, whose report was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court with the Loving brief. Stuckert’s results had shown that by 1950 more than one in five (21%) of “white” Americans had African ancestry within four generations (approx. 100 yrs. past), due to more than 330 years’ intimate contacts (and “passing”). California’s Supreme Court saw the wisdom of calling off the criminalizing of interracial marriage (Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711 (1948)), and by 1950 — 16 years after white “black” Fredi Washington played Peola, in Imitation of Life — Dr. Stuckert had shown that the “One-Drop” “anti-miscegenation” laws had failed. He predicted the proportion of “white” people with “black blood” (1/5 in 1950) would increase in following generations. (By population math, “pure whites'” chances of marrying a “passer” are doubled almost, with each generation.) That was half a century ago (4/5 today?). So — must the U.S.A. come out an African country (“black”); or can’t we all just “pass” for “white”?

George Winkel

Appendage (Dated 03-06-01):
Challenging the “Passing” Allegation

The “passing” allegation has problems.

What is “passing” exactly? And how exactly will a person go about announcing his “blackness,” which will avoid the charge of “passing”? Are “Bubba” at the gas station, or the taxi-cab driver ignoring Tiger Woods the opinion leaders on this? Is everyone answerable for what the least observant, least read observer, “black” or “white” might be mistaken about?
Who “passes”? Is knowledge of ancestry required? If knowledge is a requirement, then are “white” people who are ignorant of their “black” ancestry putatively “pure white” — or should they be called something else? Can someone “be white” because they simply are and always were “white,” notwithstanding they always knew of the drop of Indian “blood” in the family, too — or maybe even another “color drop” of “blood”?
How culpable is conscious denial of known “black” ancestry outside of the family. What distinguishes denial from nondisclosure? Does any disclosure morally need to be made to non-family members “white” or “black,” anyway?
How culpable is nondisclosure of “black” ancestry inside the family — to one’s spouse or children? When, exactly must disclosure be made? Says who?
Surely children should know their whole family — all their heritage. But is it anyone else’s business if parents choose not to tell their children about certain ancestors? Is there possibly a best time, place, or circumstance when “white”-living people should disclose “black” ancestry to small children, who are apt to spread the remarkable news to neighbors? (This I’ve seen.) Might disclosure to children be best left to their parents’ discretion?

Anatoly Broyard, the late N.Y. Times book critic, drew posthumous criticism for “passing,” for his not even sharing knowledge of his “black” ancestry with his children — not until he was on his death-bed, that is. He chose his time. He did disclose.

Jillian Sim unhesitatingly tarbrushed all her dead ancestors “black” upon discovering that her long-dead great-grandparents had crossed the “color-line,” and “passed” (and Sim’s grandmother, too, had just passed away without disclosing what she very recently had uncovered). Two of three generations preceding Sim had died without disclosing the “family secret” of “black” ancestry to their descendants. Sim’s grandmother, father, herself, and now her children, too, all had been living as “white,” unware of their seeming descent from one of Thomas Jeffeson’s “black” slaves (although not from Thomas himself, or Sally Hemings). Moreover, at least three “white” spouses had innocently married into Sim’s family. The widening circle of affected parties was not limited to Sim’s children (i.e., Sim’s grandfather, mother, and her own husband, all three presumably “pure white” partners, were unaware too).

Broyard, and Sim’s grandmother, too, apparently both held off disclosing “black” family ancestry to their descendants, although Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), had long since decriminalized “black blood.” However, before Loving — during Sim’s father’s generation and at all times before — anti-miscegenation laws gave “passing” parents a felony-imprisonment incentive to spare their children the incriminating knowledge of their “black blood taint.” (I.e., the common law mens rea doctrine was a defense to anyone honestly ignorant that they or their spouse were “One-Drop” “black.”) Loving was a case of a “white” husband prosecuted together with his “black” wife for “miscegenation.” The Loving married couple never “passed.” But their case demonstrates the powerful former incentive which existed for persons living as “white” to “pass” totally — conceal from their spouse and/or children, everyone — and die with the secret! That dismal legal disincentive was entirely eliminated by the Loving decision. Loving legalized all interracial marriages, including those contracted with/by “whites.” Loving thereby lifted the threats of the marriage’s being voided by operation of law (turning the children into bastards), and potential felony criminal prosecution formerly hanging over “passers,” all their descendants, and all existing and future “white” spouses marrying into the family forevermore. It was a nightmare! Perhaps not everyone fully realizes it is over now. (No “minority” rights org ever supported or publicized Loving. As if taking a cue, media never publicized Loving beyond quietly producing a 1996 cable-movie.)

Moreover, arguably Loving has not yet fully socially decriminalized “black blood,” or lifted quite all disincentives for treating it as a family secret. The condemnation of Broyard, and the public tarbrushing of Sim’s ancestors is an object lesson not lost on others. Seemingly, the business of closing the deep wounds cut in families by “One-Drop” “race” definitions and “anti-miscegenation” laws is delicate surgery best left to the families themselves. They are the only ones to decide when to disclose to the children. Moralizing outsiders raising a ruckus, as in Broyard’s case, will only drive this sort of family secret back underground.

I think it is tragic each time “black” ancestors are forgotten — lost — as families move into the American mainstream. I enthusiastically support Sim’s resuscitating her own “black” family roots. I fault only her action publicly tarring her deceased grandparents socially — as dead niggers, guilty of “passing” — Sim reincarnated hypodescent and “One Drop.” And has Sim not thus imposed an awful consciousness of duty on her own children, such that in good conscience they cannot marry “white” sweethearts now without first baring this “loathsome family secret” to their betrotheds?

If “black blood” in a family is the important fact demanding disclosure that Sim, and also Broyard’s irate attackers say it is, then aren’t the “white” betrothed, the spouses-to-be, first in right before the children — indeed senior to everyone else’s right to know? Doesn’t a weighty principle of justice give innocent “white” betrotheds a far higher right to hear the “nigger blood” confession than anyone else has? Basic equity dictates that an innocent “white” person must be allowed to knowingly consent to marry into such a “tainted” family, and produce “tainted” offspring of their body — or not. Don’t innocent parties deserve the right to decline to parent “tainted” children with before them whole lifetimes to learn their ancestral “taint,” which they can do nothing to expunge — nothing, that is, except covertly “pass” — try to take the secret with them to their grave forever (e.g., Sim’s 2 generations of grand ancestors). Does that not give an innocent “white” betrothed a senior right to know, and choose or reject burdening his/her own descendants with this “black blood taint” forevermore? (But hasn’t Sim’s “white” husband involuntarily fathered such “black” children by Sim?)

I think the interest of betrotheds and children certainly is greater than any “black” polity’s interest in its census count. Of course, betrothed should be forthcoming. I believe in their sharing everything with one another. Is “white” blood in a “black” family equally momentous then, needing the same full disclosure treatment too? Why not? Is there any medical reason for “black,” or any mere racial ancestry to be disclosed prenuptially? I doubt it. I think nothing substantive, nothing but mere social prejudice inflates “black” ancestry (whatever that is). If prenuptial disclosure of “black” blood” is morally mandatory (and as explained above, there’s no higher entitlement to hear of it than an innocent outsider betrothed’s), then is there any limit to the number of other “bloods” and ancestries which all must come gushing out, and be disgorged onto the appalled “white” betrothed at the time of the great letting-it-all-hang-out antenuptial disclosure of awful family secrets?

Finally, I demand to know what is so special about “black blood,” now 34 years after Loving? Loving eliminated “One Drop,” which first and foremost was “white” America’s government meat guarantee of racial “purity.” (See id, p. 5, fn. 4.) Loving served notice 34 years ago, INvalidating our damned government-certified, doggie-style “white” pedigree — it is uninspected, unprotected. Aren’t we all presumptively “impure whites”? (Cf., Latinos.) What is there to protect anymore?

Pissing on the Graves of Heroes: The Racial Desecration of Calvin Clark Davis

Pissing on the Graves of Heroes
(With the US nearly always at war, this protest is especially appropriate)

By A.D. Powell

Everyone agrees that Calvin Clark Davis of Bear Lake, Michigan was an American hero of World War II. Everyone agrees he deserves to be posthumously honored for his service in helping our nation defeat the murderous, racist tyrannies of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan with The Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Air Medal, and Distinguished Flying Cross. Everyone agrees that the heroic Davis joined the Army Air Force, completing 50 missions against the Japanese. Transferring to Europe at his own request, Davis became a radio operator aboard a B-17 bomber. He died Nov. 30, 1944, along with other members of his crew, while attacking the oil refineries in Merseburg, Germany.

However, his country has chosen to “honor” him by pissing on his grave, labeling him with racist descriptions comparable to the Third Reich’s terminology of “non-Aryan” and “untermensch.”

The war hero Calvin Clark Davis, we are told:

  • “passed for white.” (Traverse City Record-Eagle)
  • He had to “lie about who he was.” (Traverse City Record-Eagle)
  • He “claimed to be white.” (Traverse City Record-Eagle, Chimes, student newspaper of Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI)
  • He “pretended to be white” (BBC News, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, The Holland Sentinel)
  • He “concealed his race” (Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, MI)
  • He was a “light-skinned black man” (Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, MI, Chimes, BBC News, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times)
  • He was one of the “blacks who passed themselves off as white” (Chimes, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times)
  • He “faked being white” (Associated Press, Los Angeles Times)
  • He was a “black man who pretended to be white” (The Holland Sentinel)
  • He was a “light-skinned black” (The Holland Sentinel)
  • He was “African-American” (Traverse City Record Eagle)
  • He was a “‘white’ black airman” (BBC News)

We can thank the Traverse City Record-Eagle (Michigan) for at least using the term “multi-racial” to describe Davis instead of the odious, disgusting racist oxymoron, “light-skinned black.” The multiracial movement is making some progress. Unfortunately, the news sources quoted above almost seem to be in competition as to who can insult Davis (and, by inference, all other multiracial whites) more.

As usual, before we blame “white” racists or “black” ones, the fault for initiating this racist travesty lies with a multiracial person who is devoted to the myth that any amount of “black blood” makes even a predominately European-descended person too inferior for the supposed honor of his own ancestry. Calvin Murphy, a cousin of Davis who never met the man, lobbied U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland and Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, to posthumously “honor” Davis by awarding the medals he earned to surviving family members. However, the “honor” is forever tainted by linking it with a racist description of Davis as “black” — a description he rejected during his lifetime.

The medals were awarded during a “Black History Month” celebration for a man who was not black. Several hundred students attended to be indoctrinated into the mysteries of the “one drop” myth and the implied inferiority of white persons with “black blood.” Rep. Peter Hoekstra thinks that Davis made a “very difficult personal sacrifice” in order to serve his country. No, Rep. Hoekstra isn’t talking about Davis’ combat service or his death in battle. He claims that identifying as “white” was somehow a “very difficult personal sacrifice.” Of course, in Rep. Hoekstra’s eyes, this is only a “sacrifice” for persons tainted with the stigma of partial “black” ancestry (without the “escape hatch” of Hispanic or Arab ethnicity to protect you, of course).

Like the late New York Times book critic and author, Anatole Broyard, Davis was “blackened” after his death. Davis’ case is also comparable to that of another military hero, Captain Michael Healy of the United States Revenue Cutter Service (now the U.S. Coast Guard), a white multiracial Irish-American who was proclaimed an “African American” and “black” decades after his death so “blacks” could claim a hero. Reared in the rural northeastern Michigan village of Bear Lake, Davis was a man of predominately European ancestry living among other European-Americans. He was not treated differently from anyone else. Is it so surprising then, that Davis would identify as “white”? He sure wasn’t black or Negro. Just as in Broyard’s case, ignorant fools claim multiracial whites who identify with their European heritage are passing, lying, pretending, concealing, faking their “true race.” They even try to claim that the victim never considered himself white when all the evidence points in the opposite direction. This is somewhat like saying that a movie star really loves you only she has to hide it from her fans. When an individual does that, everyone agrees he needs professional help. When it’s done in the name of the “black race,” such delusions are presented as both real and noble. You can be sure that the people choosing to “honor” Davis as “black” wouldn’t dare to “insult” a Hispanic or Arab with that word, even if the latter showed buckets rather than undetectable drops of the supposedly super-dominant “black blood.” For some of us, there seems to be no honor in being too American.

In order to please alleged blacks and honor the “one drop” myth of hypodescent so dear to American blacks, Davis has been racially kidnaped and raped — posthumously — in the name of being “honored.” Would any of the people who have so “honored” him dare to “honor” a Jewish-American war hero as a brave “non-Aryan” whose deeds proved the equality of “Aryans” and “non-Aryans”? Of course not! Jewish-Americans are smart enough to recognize the insult in using that racist terminology — no matter how sugar-coated. Honor Calvin Clark Davis the war hero, but don’t piss on his grave by labeling him “black.”

The Problem With Gregory Howard Williams: Poster Child For The “One-Drop” myth Of White Racial Purity

 The Problem With Gregory Howard Williams: Poster Child For The “One-Drop” myth Of White Racial Purity
By A.D. Powell

It is no accident that Gregory Howard Williams, a very white man who proclaims himself to be “black,” has received far more television and newspaper publicity that all the people in the multiracial identity movement put together. Williams, Dean and Professor of Law at the Ohio State University College of Law, is being lionized by black and liberal elites who are presenting his autobiography, Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black, as the ultimate statement on “race” and racial intermixture in the United States.

Williams has appeared on national television programs such as “Larry King Live,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dateline NBC” and ABC’s “Nightline.” His book has even been made into a motion picture for Fox-TV and will soon enter the homes of millions of Americans to preach the gospel of hypodescent and the “one drop of black blood” myth of white racial “purity.” No one who challenges the hypodescent mythology comes close to gaining this kind of extensive publicity. No books that seriously explore the variety of the multiracial experience, such as the anthologies of Maria Root and Naomi Zack, have been promoted by national bookstore chains and reviewed in almost every newspaper in the country.

Williams is a polished orator with an emotional, dramatic delivery. Every guilt-ridden liberal in the audience is moved to tears as he vividly describes:

1- His idyllic “white” childhood in Virginia and the day his “light mulatto” father took Williams and his brother on a bus to Muncie, Indiana and told them that they were really “colored.”

2- How his “white” grandmother called him “nigger.”

3- How Williams and his brother were beaten and rejected because they were too “white” for the blacks and too “black” for the “whites” after they dutifully followed their father’s instructions to identify themselves as “Negroes.”

4- How his father never made more than a thousand dollars a year after returning to Muncie because he was “black.”

5- How Williams swore he would become an attorney and “make something of himself” to prove that “blacks” are not “inferior.”

6- How “society” forced him to be “black” and he “had no choice” once his dreaded black blood was revealed.

But . . . here’s what Williams and his supporters won’t mention:

1- Latinos and other partially African-descended minorities and how they openly “get away” with refusing a “black” identity in a nation where most “whites” are supposedly obsessed with white racial “purity.” Does the presence of Latinos prove that most “white” Americans are NOT obsessed with white racial “purity” and Gregory Howard Williams and his supporters are lying? Williams also describes his “white mulatto” father, Tony Williams, as “passing for” Italian or Greek because of the darkness of these “white” ethnicities. But why are these “white” ethnic groups so dark? Could it be because of their geographical closeness to Africa and their ancestors’ intermixture with Africans? These are questions that Williams and his supporters don’t want anyone to bring before the public.

2- His father’s self-destruction. Why did Tony Williams choose to return to Muncie (the only city where he had left a “colored” reputation) when he had the entire United States to choose from? Wasn’t Williams’ father typical of “black-identified” non-blacks in that he policed himself and his family to enforce the “one drop” myth when no outside force or person could have done it? Williams takes great pains to tell every audience about the time his “white” grandmother called him “nigger” but usually fails to mention that Tony Williams was the first to describe his son in such a disgusting way. Williams loves to tell his audiences that his father was wealthy in Virginia because he was “white” there but never made more than a thousand dollars a year in Muncie because he was “black.” Bull! Tony Williams was a drunk, a wife beater (which is why Williams’ “white” mother took the two younger children and left), a poor businessman (who didn’t know what to do when a nearby military base closed and his tavern began to lose money), a child abuser who took his sons from their home and deposited them in a ghetto slum with his alcoholic mother, and a lazy bum who just decided to stop working and wallow in self-pity. The senior Williams was a “white” man in the 50s when there were plenty of jobs. Hell, coal-black men were making good money in the auto factories and other unionized industries. Tony Williams was not “black” – he was a sick SOB.

3- Williams ignores the role of social identification as opposed to genetics. He called his mother a racist for abandoning him and his elder brother, but doesn’t explain why this “racist” married Tony Williams with full awareness of his mixed ancestry and produced four children with him. Williams doesn’t explain why his mother raised his two younger siblings as “white” even though they had the same paternity and dreaded “black blood.” Williams delights in telling of the privileged summers he spent with his maternal grandparents in Muncie, describing to a tearful audience how his grandparents later rejected him when he became “colored.” Why doesn’t Williams expect us to ask the obvious questions? Since his mixed ancestry (apparently known to all the adults in his family) was acceptable with a “white” identity, it is apparent that the “black” identity came from accepting that designation and acting as an “inferior.” Tony Williams allowed his inferiority complex to “choose” a “black” identity for himself and his minor sons. It is apparent that the cowardice of the mother and grandparents in not rescuing “Greg” and his brother from their abusive father originated in their fear that the boys had accepted the “nigger” identity Tony Williams had chosen for them. If the problem had been Greg’s “black blood,” he wouldn’t have been acceptable before.

By promoting the “one drop” myth of “no choice,” Williams has done far more than any self-described racist to oppress people of mixed racial ancestry who have the “misfortune” to have some traceable black ancestry but do not have the great privilege of being Latinos (an ethnic description which supposedly cleanses the “taint” of “Negro blood”). It is extremely hard to point out the racist nature of the hypodescent myth when people who paint themselves as opponents of racism are the biggest supporters of the myth.

If, for example, anyone uses the word “Aryan” in a racial sense, it’s not only Jews and other groups that were victims of the Third Reich’s genocidal policies that will take pains to set him straight. By contrast, black elites and some of their “white” allies take great delight is assassinating the character of multiracial Caucasians such as the late New York Times book critic Anatole Broyard, describing him as a mere (by implication) “black” who presumed to call himself “white” despite his Caucasian phenotype and predominate European ancestry. Very few people who claim to be anti racist will defend Broyard (and, by implications, all other part-black non-Hispanics who reject a “black” identity) because they dare not contest with blacks regarding what is and is not racist. No self-styled “progressive” or conservative defends “Aryan” racial terminology but many of them defend the “passing for white” myth because they have been exposed to blacks (and those who claim to be “black”) who are its enthusiastic supporters.

Williams is now on the defensive. He claims he is being persecuted by a “multiracial police” out to destroy his “right” to be “black.” Really? When he appeared with Ted Koppel on “Nightline,” Williams claimed he had no choice in being “black.” The “multiracial police” are not supposed to point out this contradiction.

Williams has a right to tell his story or call himself what he pleases, but he has a moral obligation to cease using his story to terrify others into the black fold when they don’t want to be there and don’t HAVE to be there. Williams has a moral obligation to make the following points in all his interviews and personal appearances:

1- No one is legally or socially required to call themselves “black.” The presence of Latinos in this nation is proof that “black blood” does not preclude identification with other racial labels including multiracial, Indian, Asian, mestizo or even that “godlike” appellation “white” (which the blasphemous Anatole Broyards of this country have dared to claim).

2- Williams should cease referring to himself as someone who found out he was truly “black,” or describing his “true legacy” as “poor and black.” He should cease referring to his mulatto or multiracial father as a “light-skinned black” (that is an oxymoron).

Williams is not simply selling his autobiography. He is promoting the “one drop” myth and that is why he has received so much publicity. If Williams had lived the same tragic childhood but ended up calling himself “white,” “multiracial,” or any label other than “black,” do you believe for a moment that he would have received even a tiny fraction of the publicity with which he has been showered? Black and liberal elites know what they’re doing. Williams is a club they use to frighten and beat “white blood” into the “black” fold.

Gregory Howard Williams – a simple black and white mind advocating a simple black and white world. It would be ludicrous if it the stakes were not so high and the suffering so great.

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson.

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.

—- Brewton Berry, “A Southerner Learns about Race,” Common Ground (1942)

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.”

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. The Celtic, 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.”

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.

Jacobson divides the history of whiteness in the United States into three great epochs:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”


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.

–Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, “On the Natural Varieties of Mankind” (1775)

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.

—-Thomas Henry Huxley, “Methods and Results of Ethnology” (1868)

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.

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.


Who is “white” and are there degrees of “whiteness”? Jacobson provides the following case as a major example of the ambiguity of this question:

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.

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:

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. 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.”

We must cease to think of contested whiteness as something from Imitation 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:

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?


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.

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.

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.


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:

  • A spectacular rate of American industrialization, whose voracious appetite for cheap labor encouraged hordes of non-English Europeans to come to the United States.
  • A growing nativist perception of these laborers as a political threat to the smooth functioning of the republic.
  • 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.”

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
  • 1847 (worst year of the Irish Famine) – 234,968 immigrants, of whom nearly half were from Ireland
  • 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.
  • Combined with Italians, Russian Jews and other Europeans, the “white” foreign-born population of the U.S. reached 13.5 million by 1920.

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.”


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.

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.

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:

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”: 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.” 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.

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.


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.

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.


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: 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.” 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.

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’s Counterlife (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.

“It is a racial matter,” she insisted.

“No, we’re the same race. You’re thinking of Eskimos.”

“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.”

“I can’t help it. Some nasty superstitions always tend to crop up when people talk about a Jewish ‘race.'”

“…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.”

“But I am a Caucasian, kiddo. In the U.S. census I am, for good or bad, counted as Caucasian.”

“Are you? Am I wrong?”

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.”

Jacobson summarizes the American Jewish “racial” situation very well:

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.


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:

Among the most important and popular expressions of the rising eugenic view of immigration was Madison Grant’s Passing 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.”

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:

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.”

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.”

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”:

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.”

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.

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.


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.

Jacobson believes that the massive 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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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).


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.

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.

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.

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.”


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:

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.

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!

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:

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.

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.”

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.


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.

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?

Racial Mixture, “White” Identity, and The “Forgotten” (or censored) Cause of the Civil War

Racial Mixture, “White” Identity, and
The “Forgotten” (or censored) Cause of the Civil War

By A.D. Powell

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.

When Are Irish-Americans Not Good Enough to Be Irish-American? “Racial Kidnaping” and the Case of the Healy Family

When Are Irish-Americans Not Good Enough to Be Irish-American? “Racial Kidnaping” and the Case of the Healy Family

May 10, 2014 at 12:28am

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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.