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Interracial Dating 101 -- Miscegenation
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
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PHOTO: Postcard from the 1900s mocking "interracial relationships".

Miscegenation (Latin miscere "to mix" + genus "kind") is the mixing of different ethnicities or races, especially in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations. Interracial marriage or interracial dating may be more common in contemporary usage. While the English word has a history of ethnocentrism, the Spanish and French words, mestizaje and métissage, connote a positive melting-pot of cultures.

Etymological history
"Miscegenation" comes from the Latin miscere, "to mix" and genus, "race". While the etymology of the term is not pejorative, historically, "race mixing" between black and white people was widely taboo, and in much of U.S. South was even illegal when the term was introduced in the U.S. in 1863.[1] The term frequently was used in the context of ethnocentric or racist attitudes and laws against interracial sexual relations and intermarriage. As a result, "miscegenation" is often a loaded word, and may be considered offensive. The comte de Montlosier, in exile during the French Revolution, who borrowed Boulainvilliers' discourse on the "Nordic race" as being the French aristocracy that invaded the plebeian "Gauls", showed his despise for the Third Estate calling it "this new people born of slaves... mixture of all races and of all times".

Miscegenation in the United States
The word miscegenation was used in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet printed in New York City in late 1864, entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro. The pamphlet purported to be in favor of "interbreeding" of "whites" and African Americans until the races were indistinguishably mixed, claiming that this was the goal of the United States Republican Party. The real authors were David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter. The pamphlet soon was exposed as an attempt to discredit the Republicans, the Lincoln administration, and the abolitionist movement by exploiting the fears and racial biases common among whites of the period. Nonetheless, this pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in communities on both sides of the American Civil War by Republican opponents.

The word miscegenation quickly entered the common language of the day and became a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. For a century, it was common for white segregationists to accuse abolitionists, and, later, advocates of equal rights for African Americans, of secretly plotting the destruction of the white race through miscegenation.

One important strategy intended to discourage the practice was the promulgation of the one-drop theory, which held that any person with so much as "one drop" of African "blood" must be regarded as "black." After World War II, white segregationists commonly accused the US Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr., of being part of a communist plot funded by the Soviet Union to destroy the United States through miscegenation. Late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover spent considerable resources of that federal agency in futile attempts to establish a linkage between the civil rights activism of the day and communism.

Anti-miscegenation laws -- United States
In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, many American states passed anti-miscegenation laws, often based on controversed interpretations of the Bible, particularly the story of Phinehas. Typically a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different ethnic groups and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. Sometimes the individuals attempting to marry would not be held guilty of miscegenation itself, but felony charges of adultery or fornication would brought against them instead; Vermont was the only state to never introduce such legislation. The constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama. In 1965, Virginia trial court judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who got married in Washington, D.C., writing:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

This decision was eventually overturned in 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that

Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.

At the time that anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, 16 states still had laws prohibiting interethnic marriage. Those laws were not completely repealed until November 2000, when Alabama became the last state to repeal its law. According to Salon.com:


...after a statewide vote in a special election, Alabama became the last state to overturn a law that was an ugly reminder of America's past, a ban on interracial marriage (sic). The one-time home of George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. had held onto the provision for 33 years after the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Yet as the election revealed -- 40 percent of Alabamans voted to keep the ban -- many people still see the necessity for a law that prohibits blacks and whites from mixing blood.


The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, also known as Hays Code, explicitly stated that the depiction of "miscegenation... is forbidden."

"In Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem," Gunnar Myrdal (1948) ranked the reasons for segregation according to Southern whites in the 1930s and 40s from least to most important: jobs, courts and police, politics, basic public facilities, “social equality” including dancing, handshaking, and most important, marriage. This ranking scheme seems to have been relatively upheld well into the 1960s. Of less importance was the segregation in basic public facilities, which was abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the most important reason for segregation, marriage, was not fully overcome until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down later in 1967.

The number of interethnic marriages in the United States has been on the rise: 310,000 in 1970, 651,000 in 1980, and 1,161,000 in 1992 according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census 1993. Interethnic marriages represented 0.7% of all marriages in 1970 to 1.3% in 1980, to 2.2% in 1992. However, black-white marriages still tend to be the most controversial in the public eye. From a recent poll of 1,314 Americans of all ethnic groups, it was noted that 3 in 10 people are against black-white marriage, but are far more willing to accept white-Hispanic or white-Asian marriages (Ford 2003). Marriage between Whites and Asians, and particularly light-skinned North East Asians such as Chinese, are often looked upon as being the non-controversial interethnic pairing in the United States and is becoming increasingly common. Reasons for this are often cited as being because of the similarity in skin color, and low instances of ethnic strife between Whites and Asians in the U.S. since World War II.

You may read this article in its entirety on the wikipedia.org website


The text of this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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