again i have to ask, what year is this!?

oh, mississippi… you never cease to amaze me!  sure hope to hear about the rest of the results as soon as they’re in.

Poll: 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans want interracial marriage ban

And more of those who oppose interracial marriage have a favorable view of Sarah Palin, a new poll reports

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

The Dem-leaning firm Public Policy Polling has a new survey out that’s sure to raise some eyebrows.

When usual Republican primary voters in the state of Mississippi were asked if they think interracial marriage should be legal or illegal, a whopping 46 percent said it should be illegal, compared to 40 percent who think it should be legal. The remaining 14 percent were unsure.

PPP also breaks down how these voters view the GOP presidential field, with some interesting results. Here’s how those respondents would vote:

As PPP’s Tom Jensen notes, there are some interesting differences between the candidates’ favorability ratings when broken down according to respondents’ views of interracial marriage:

Palin’s net favorability with folks who think interracial marriage should be illegal (+55 at 74/19) is 17 points higher than it is with folks who think interracial marriage should be legal (+38 at 64/26.) Meanwhile Romney’s favorability numbers see the opposite trend. He’s at +23 (53/30) with voters who think interracial marriage should be legal but 19 points worse at +4 (44/40) with those who think it should be illegal

Dustin Ingalls, assistant to the director at PPP, tells me that the firm also asked non-Republican voters the interracial marriage question, and he expects those results will be released sometime in the future. He added that PPP also asked whether respondents believe the right side won the Civil War. Those results should also prove interesting.

 

what year is this!?

oh my jesus… yes, i had to go there.  i keep searching for an indication that this piece was written forty years ago, and only recently re-published just for… fun… or something.  i do think that there are, like, two valid, worthwhile points contained herein… but… um… oriental!?!?  that, of course, is not my main concern here, but it does point to the antiquated lens through which our dear (he does look kind of sweet and it says he volunteers a lot) mr. raiford views the world around him.  i don’t mean to come down on him.  i thank him for the unique opportunity to analyze the old “what about the children?” plea which i rarely see argued under the guise of modern day quandry.

maybe you should take a moment to skip down to the article and then come back to my stuff…  i’m never sure if it’s best for me to put my thoughts at the beginning or not… you’ve been warned… here they come…

first off, i’d wager to say that parents of mixed race children have long questioned the validity of discrete racial categories that require a child to choose.  i’d also wager to say that the white parents have probably had more questions than the black or ‘minority’ ones.  if this article was indeed written in the 21st century, i think it would be more accurate to say that (some fraction of) the rest of the country is finally beginning to question the validity of discrete racial categories.

most off… i cannot even believe that this man, who uses the term oriental multiple times, has the nerve to caution human beings who love each other and dream of starting a family to grow through life with… not to do so because race “matters” and (in his opinion) the children will be confused and unsupported outside of said family.  how about cautioning the rest of the country, those who haven’t caught up with the times, not to be so rigid in their notions of “us” in opposition to “them,” or who belongs with whom and why?  how about saying something to move us toward the idea that we are all fundamentally the same?  we are people.  who seek love and joy and connection.  and any time people are lucky enough to stumble upon those things we should encourage them to leap right in and build something beautiful from there.  which will encourage the rest of us to do the same. which will cause this society in which race matters more than who a person really is to change because the lines are blurred, have been crossed, eventually forgotten.  there you have a solution for the problem of the 6 year old that mr. raiford proposes will be confused and hurt by not belonging to any group outside of the immediate family.

and another thing… hasn’t the recent census informed us that there actually is a viable mixed-race reference group?  the only satisfaction that brings me personally is that it appears to be a necessary step toward the ultimate realization of the human-race reference group.  only one box to check.

to be fair… parts i liked… which really means agree with:

  • When a black and white couple produces a child, the child, by logical extension of definition, is black and white…
  • Race in the United States is a very discrete category. It is not based on any kind of scientific definition. It is based on a draconian sociological one and a divisive political one.
  • The United States has carefully and systematically created a society where race is a tremendously more important determinant of who we are than ethnicity, religion, national origin or personal achievements.

again, i do not mean to bring down a reign of fury on mr. raiford.  i’m truly grateful for the opportunity to blast these notions.  he seems like a nice guy with misguided concerns.  actually with misguided solutions to concerns that are unfortunately still mildly valid as we seem to be in an in between (united)state(s).  in between where we were and where we’re going.

awesome photo unrelated, source/subject unknown

HARD TIMES FOR MIXED-RACE CHILDREN

Written by GILBERT L. RAIFORD

In the pursuit of accuracy and personal pride, interracial parents are beginning to question the validity of discrete racial categories that require their children to designate single-race identification.

On the surface, this is a laudable pursuit and certainly a legitimate one. After all, we do define people as black or white. So, when a black and white couple produces a child, the child, by logical extension of definition, is black and white or neither black nor white. However, this satisfies only the biological, and perhaps anthropological, approach to understanding race.

There is a more compelling reality: Race in the United States is a very discrete category. It is not based on any kind of scientific definition. It is based on a draconian sociological one and a divisive political one. People here are defined as black or white or Oriental. This takes precedence over being defined as Jewish, Jamaican, Cuban, Haitian, Russian, Chinese, French, Catholic, Protestant, etc. The United States has carefully and systematically created a society where race is a tremendously more important determinant of who we are than ethnicity, religion, national origin or personal achievements. Witness the confusion of black Cubans or black Puerto Ricans or the Eurasians.

In the United States, an African-American parent, no matter how fair-skinned, cannot procreate a “white” child. The system does not make exceptions for an African American whose child is the product of interracial coupling. Of course, the reverse is not true for Anglo-Americans. They can have any race of child they want – black, white or oriental. That is the reality of this society.

I write this not at all to chide or even inform interracial parents. They are adults who most likely know a great deal about the race issues and are intellectually and emotionally strong enough to ignore the stupidity that is generated out of personal and institutionalized racism. Their lives together attest to this fact.

But what about the children?

It is not easy growing up black in this society. It becomes considerably more difficult for one who does not know that he or she is black, but is confronted by this sociological fact everyday and in so many ways, some of them hurtful and insidious. No amount of parental love can shield a 6-year-old from the confusion and hurt of not belonging to any group outside of the immediate family. Adolescents are particularly fragile, having to live with this confusion at the very crossroads of their lives when they are struggling to overcome self-doubt and needing to feel good about themselves, needing self-validation – things that one gets from people other than the immediate family, from a reference group. Presently, there is no viable mixed-race reference group. One is forced to choose. Mental health directs one towards choosing a reference group which minimizes our degree of race-mixing and provides us with full membership.

Superimposed on race is ethnicity.  Ethnicity is a reference group. For African Americans, it provides for a very sustaining sense of identity. It is no wonder that people like Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White and Adam Clayton Power, even though white-looking, affirmed their blackness. It was not race that they were affirming, it was ethnicity, the sustaining sentiment which makes being non-white in America palpable and even enjoyable.

Hopefully, the day will arrive when we are no longer a racial society, a society where race does not matter. That day has not yet come. In the meanwhile, I caution interracial parents to consider the consequences of making their child a cause célèbre in search of a miscegenation reference group. Of course, it is important that a child knows the reality of his or her family genealogy and to even embrace it. It is at least equally important that a child is prepared to negotiate life based on the social context of society. Sadly, race matters.

Gilbert L. Raiford is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser. He may be reached at graiford@hotmail.com

no h8

This is so right on!  Thank you, Karen Finney.  I’m so glad my (white)grandparents allowed me in to their lives.  And so are they! It’s the “little” things…

On another note, this sentence, “the very existence of antimiscegenation laws had been enacted for the purpose of perpetuating the idea of white supremacy,” speaks to the very reason I fell down this rabbit hole I’ll now call the mulatto trail.  I realized one day that anti-miscegenation and the one-drop rule perpetuate the idea of white supremacy, and that by subscribing to that antiquated rule I was upholding that ridiculous notion.  The anti-miscegenation thing has legally been eradicated, but ask any interracial couple who has walked down a street together, and I’m sure they’ll tell you that on more than one occasion they’ve been given the evil-eye or gawked as if they were freaks of nature.  Or both.  And as for the one-drop rule, head on over to my youtube channel, scroll through the comments, and you’ll see that it looms large in the consciousness.  And many people don’t seem to be willing to let it go.

California Prop 8 Gay Marriage Ruling a Win For American Values

By KAREN FINNEY

SOURCE

Yesterday’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional reaffirms a long-held American value that no matter how you try to spin it, separate is not equal. While some may not agree with same-sex marriage, history should remind us that our Constitution calls us to recognize that the laws in it apply equally, not to be picked apart to support a political agenda or bias. The arguments being used against same sex marriage are frighteningly similar and equally offensive as those once used against interracial marriage. While a Gallup poll in 1967 found that 74 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage, it’s almost hard to remember just how far we’ve come.

I was 16 years old before I was allowed in my grandfather’s home in Greensboro, North Carolina. That’s how long it took for him to even begin to re-think his shame over having a mixed-race granddaughter. He believed, as did many at the time, miscegenation was wrong on moral and legal grounds. Thankfully for me, my parents disagreed. They were married in New York City and had me despite the fact that it was illegal in their home states of Virginia and North Carolina to do so. Thankfully for our country, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court saw beyond the fear and bigotry of the moment and ruled that antimiscegenation laws violated fundamental American values of Due Process and Equal Protection Under the Law as guaranteed to every American by our constitution.

Just as some used to say that marriage is only valid between a white man and white woman, some now argue that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Arguments have also been made that same-sex marriage dilutes the institution of marriage, just as similar arguments suggested that interracial marriage diluted the white race. My personal favorite absurd justification says that (despite the idea that we are all God’s children and loved equally) gay marriage is against the laws of God and nature. That argument was used by Leon M. Bazile, the judge in the initial case against the Lovings, who said:

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 marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Loving case also recognized that the very existence of antimiscegenation laws had been enacted for the purpose of perpetuating the idea of white supremacy:

There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.

Similarly, as Judge Vaughn Walker today affirmed, denying gay couples the right to marry, not only denies basic civil rights, liberty, and freedom, but also codifies bigotry.

Karen FinneyKaren Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and an independent consultant working with political and corporate clients in the areas of political and communications strategy. She brings over 16 years of experience in national politics and campaigns ranging from the Clinton administration to New York State to the Democratic National Committee.

mary ellen pleasant

As I was searching the internets last week for photos of black women with white children, I stumbled upon a historical figure who, once again, I am shocked and dismayed to never before have heard mention of:  Mary Ellen (“Mammy”) Pleasant.  I want to know so much more!  Or at least the truth.  I highly doubt that Mary Ellen needed to conjure the dark forces to leverage social change, however I’m sure that that tale eased the minds of the opposition and provided ammunition for attacking Pleasant’s ideals.  I found quite a few intriguing articles on her life and chose the following two to share.  Honestly, when someone next asks me who (dead or alive) I would most like to have dinner with, Mary Ellen Pleasant will be on the short list.

hdr_index

“American civil rights began in the 1850’s with Mary Ellen Pleasant.”  Racism surprised African Americans like Pleasant who came to the Bay Area because they believed in a better life in San Francisco… The Bay Area, where Pleasant lived, became a “hotbed of civil rights activity” in the 19th century and the activists’ rallying cry was “eradicating slavery.”- Dr. Albert Broussard

Mary Ellen Pleasant (1814? – 1904)

SSMt7.St.4

VIA

Mary Ellen Pleasant is perhaps better known as “Mammy Pleasant”, but it was a name she detested. She was born a slave in Georgia some time between 1814 and 1817, the illegitimate daughter of an enslaved Vodou priestess from Haiti and a Virginia governor’s son, John Pleasants. She was bought out of slavery by a planter and indentured for nine years as a store clerk with abolitionist Quakers in Massachusetts.

Around 1841 she married a wealthy mulatto merchant/contractor from Ohio and Philadelphia named James Smith, who was also a slave rescuer on the Underground Railroad. The two worked to help slaves flee to safety in Canada and safe states. Smith died in 1844, leaving her a $45,000 fortune and a plantation run by freedmen near Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.

Because of slaver reaction to her own ongoing Underground Railroad activities, she was forced to flee to New Orleans in 1850 where she met the Vodou queen Marie Laveau who trained her in how to “pressure the powerful to help the powerless” —blacks and poor women—gain rights and jobs. She then went to San Francisco, arriving in April 1852. Because she had no “freedom papers” she passed herself off as white, while she worked as a steward and cook in a white boardinghouse and invested in real estate and various business activities.

Pleasant’s training with Marie Laveau proved beneficial. Pleasant became so successful at leveraging social change that many called her San Francisco’s “Black City Hall”. Her activities and her money helped ex-slaves avoid extradition, start businesses and find employment in hotels, homes and on the steamships and railroads of California.

In 1858 she returned to the East, bought land to house escaped slaves, and aided abolitionist John Brown both with money and by riding in advance of his famous raid at Harper’s Ferry encouraging slaves to join him.

She went back to San Francisco where her investments with an influential business partner helped her amass a joint fortune estimated at $30 million. She later led the Franchise League movement in San Francisco that earned blacks the right to testify in court, and to ride the trolleys. Her lawsuit in 1868 in San Francisco against the North Beach and Mission RailRoad was used as a precedent in 1982 to achieve contemporary civil rights. Mary Ellen Pleasant died in San Francisco in 1904. Her body was taken by friends to Napa and buried in Tulocay Cemetery. On her tombstone is inscribed “the mother of civil rights in California.”

For more information, incuding a book on Mary Ellen Pleasant by Susheel Bibbs, see http://hometown.aol.com/mepleasant.

VIA

“Mammy Pleasant: Angel or Arch Fiend in the House of Mystery?”

By p. joseph potocki

Mary Ellen “Mammy” Pleasant’s legacy is an enigma rolled up inside layers of legend, gossip, greed, fantasy, racism and conjecture.

This week’s column title first headlined Sunday’s edition of the San Francisco Call—back on May 7, 1899. That 19th century investigative hit piece featured three unflattering John Clawson illustrations portraying “Mammy Pleasant” as a bonneted evil-eyed crone. The story gobbled up the entire front page of that day’s paper. Its “Angel or Arch Fiend” dualism embodies endless confusion and contradictory assertions surrounding the life of this incredible woman—confusion and contradictions lingering on to this very day.

The “Mammy” tag, clearly meant to be a slam, fits neatly within a cluster of Black stereotypes. While Pleasant’s tall, thin frame, her finely honed features and regal bearing contrast sharply with the rotund happy-to-be-a-slave mammy of plantation lore, the name itself attempts to place her on par with a Samba, an Uncle Tom, Step and Fetchit, or to a licentious Jezebel. The mythology of these “halcyon days” of slavery is what social historian Eric Lott calls “the dialectic flickering of racial insult and racial envy.”

Mary Ellen “Mammy” Pleasant’s legacy is an enigma rolled up inside layers of legend, gossip, greed, fantasy, racism and conjecture. She’s been called “San Francisco’s Powerful And Sinister Ruler”, “The Black City Hall”, but also a “one woman social agency” and “the Mother of Civil Rights in California.” That covers one heck of a lot of reputational territory.

Some claim that Mary Ellen Pleasant was a mixed blood Voodoo Queen who aimed “the black arts” against her enemies, that she sold babies, murdered as many as 49 people, ran brothels, committed fraud, spied through walls on victims she would later blackmail, and that she held unholy powers over a vast network of underlings and protégés. One rival charged that Pleasant murdered the rival’s husband, and having accomplished the dastardly deed Pleasant then “put her fingers in the hole in the top of his head and pulled out the protruding brains.”

Others tout Mary Ellen Pleasant’s work as a philanthropist, her many devoted friends, both black and white, her financial wizardry, undying devotion to women’s and civil rights, and, before that—her commitment to the abolition of slavery. In fact, Mary Ellen Pleasant’s Napa gravestone reads—“SHE WAS A FRIEND OF JOHN BROWN.”

Indeed, upon Brown’s capture following his ill-fated attack on Harper’s Ferry he carried with him a promissory note signed MEP. Had not the authorities misread the letter M for a W its certain Mary Ellen Pleasant’s neck would have been stretched as did John Brown’s.

Everything about Pleasant’s formative years is subject to debate. She was born a slave in Virginia, or Georgia, or perhaps it was Louisiana. She claims to have been born free in Philadelphia on August 19, 1814. Others say she was born in 1817, give or take a year—or two. She was convent educated, or else was entirely self-taught. Her mother may have been a West Indies Voodoo Queen, or not. Her father was a wealthy white slave owner. Then again, perhaps he was a slave. Nobody knows for sure.

What we do know is that sometime between 1848 and 1852 Mary Ellen Pleasant arrived in San Francisco. She may have been accompanied by her second husband, a former slave named James Pleasant, or Pleasants, or perhaps it was Pleasance. Whatever his surname it’s clear that the shrewd, focused and ambitious Mary Ellen was a power unto herself.

James, who died in 1877, seems hardly to have factored into Mary Ellen’s life. His one notable contribution was in the co-creation of Mary Ellen’s one and only child, Elizabeth, whom she called Lizzy. However, Mary Ellen gave their daughter her first husband’s family name, which was Smith. It was only fair, since James Henry Smith had left seed money to Mary Ellen upon his death some years before. Mary Ellen built her financial empire with the help of these funds.

Once in San Francisco, Pleasant set about purchasing boardinghouses, real estate, laundries, restaurants and stock shares in mines, railroads and other business ventures. This was no small accomplishment in an era of near unfettered legal bias against both racial minorities and women. Monies from these investments built her the 30-room mansion dubbed “the House of Mystery,” atop Cathedral Hill in San Francisco.

In her later years Pleasant purchased a large tract of land set against the Mayacamas Mountains. She named it Beltane, either after Thomas Bell, or, as some critics claim, in honor of the ancient pagan celebration of the same name. Beltane lies outside Glen Ellen, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The stately New Orleans-style Victorian house she built there (now a B&B) is set amidst an immense flowering garden and hundreds of shady oaks. One fanciful claim is that Pleasant cast Voodoo spells from a cave somewhere on the property.

But with all her accrued wealth, Mary Ellen Pleasant seems always to have performed, or dressed as if she performed, domestic labor. It’s said that she would ride to the markets in her own custom built carriage, accompanied by a driver and a footman, each garbed in impeccable livery. Though always attired in a servant’s black dress and large white apron, she “walked like a duchess.”

Sometime in the mid 1860s Mary Ellen Pleasant hooked up with a stockbroker named Thomas Bell. The “canny Scot” was money savvy, but lacked imagination. Pleasant took him under her wing. Together they created one of the largest financial partnerships in that era of San Francisco. Pleasant and Bell may (or may not) have been lovers.

It’s said that Mary Ellen arranged Thomas’s marriage to the future Teresa Bell, having first instructed Teresa in the “genteel arts” necessary to flourish in elite society. Others say Thomas Bell discovered the beautiful Teresa on a visit to a house of ill repute. No matter which story is true it seems the marriage provided adequate cover from charges of miscegenation, which might otherwise have been leveled at the cohabitation of the white Thomas Bell with the octoroon (or perhaps quadroon) “Mammy” Pleasant.

What’s undeniably true is that Mary Ellen Pleasant was actively involved in the Underground Railroad, and that she placed both former slaves and geographically displaced freemen as domestics in many of San Francisco’s “better” households. She also clearly advocated for and personally rescued unprotected and often attractive young white women, who Mary Ellen then trained to become the wives and mistresses of wealthy men in The City.

These actions led to many of the questionable charges against her, since persons beholden to Pleasant for their livelihoods provided her their eyes and ears within San Francisco’s most prominent households.

Mary Ellen was well into her 80’s when her finances began to unravel. She’d both overextended her business dealings, and had incurred the wrath of her former protege, Teresa Bell. Mary Ellen had exposed Teresa’s young lover to embezzlement charges, landing him a stint in San Quentin prison. As payback, the mentally unhinged Teresa became Pleasant’s eternal foe. She set to pummeling Pleasant’s good name—even long after seeing Mary Ellen to her grave. The sensitive nature of Thomas Bell’s and Mary Ellen Pleasant’s financial partnership allowed Teresa to gain control of their mutual resources following Thomas’ death. As a result Mary Ellen Pleasant was stripped of her wealth and forced into bankruptcy.

Pleasant’s diaries were stolen and lost to posterity, while many of Teresa’s hallucinatory rants made their way into newsprint following Pleasant’s death. Consequently, Teresa Bell’s accounts fundamentally shifted the Mary Ellen Pleasant mythos into the realm of evil phantasma. Fortunately, contemporary scholars have begun setting Mary Ellen Pleasant’s record as straight as a story with such twists, squiggles and gaping holes can be set. As confusing and contradictory as her life story may be, Mary Ellen Pleasant optimistically forecast her own legacy when she wrote:

“… You can’t explain away the truth.”

Mary Ellen Pleasant

SOURCE


constitutional/unconstitutional

I love, love, love this op-ed piece on gayness, marriage, family, laws, human rights, and injustice in the good old USA.

U.S. protects Constitution, not justice

State legislation sacrifices human rights in favor of religious ideology

Joshua Colston

SOURCE

When does a society decide to rectify an obvious longstanding injustice? The U.S. has a long history of allowing states to legislate unconstitutional laws such as miscegenation, segregation, slavery, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and LBGT equality based on an imposed religious morality.

Until 1967, the issue of interracial marriage was left up to the state. Opponents of interracial marriage felt that the mixing of races was unnatural, was against their religious ideals, and would lead to the death of the institution of marriage. Anti-miscegenation laws were enforced to protect mixed-race offspring from such an unnatural union.

Women’s rights opponents argued that women should’t be allowed to vote as they are mentally deficient, weak and neurotic by nature. It was argued that freeing the slaves was a disastrous concept and would lead to society’s downfall.

Some religious people believe that homosexuality is a choice or mental illness, advocating faith-based healing or sexual aversion therapies including electroshock or the administration of a corrective rape. No credible evidence shows these treatments to be effective. Rather, they end with suicide or-even worse-the subjects being expelled from their social groups. Am I mistaken assuming sexuality is innate?

The fact is this occurs in nature. Of the approximate 1,500 animal species we have extensively studied, nearly 450 exhibit homosexual behavior, engaging in same-sex relationships.

The belief that same-sex households lead to dangerous environments for children is absurd, since convicted drug dealers, neo-nazis, murders, rapists and convicted pedophiles are allowed to marry and raise children. Who poses a danger?

Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow spoke at Richard Stockton College about gay rights: “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.” This is of the most respected and active people in the civil and women’s rights movements.

Some feel that gay marriage and homosexuality simply go against the established traditions of America. Is American marriage purely for procreation? What about infertile couples, couples who choose not to have children, and the elderly who have long been allowed to marry and are allowed the full benefits and legal protections of the union? American marriage is about mutual love and commitment, not primarily about procreation.

How can such a great society tolerate such a liberal definition of freedom of speech while limiting its definition of equality? Do we really want a society that enables Liberty to rob Justice blind?

more on the racial ‘integrity’ act

Perhaps even more influential than John Powell was Walter Plecker.  Plecker dedicated his life to making sure that people like me could not exist.  And though the notion predated him, I believe that he further ingrained into the consciousness of the nation the myth of the “tragic mulatto.” But even worse than that, he stripped the Native Americans of Virginia of their rights and identity.  In my opinion Powell, Plecker, and the Eugenics movement in general are major pieces of this race in America puzzle. 

John Powell, the renowned Richmond-born composer and pianist, clutches an American flag in this news service photograph from 1920. Wealthy Virginians and powerful newspaper editors supported the white-supremacist sentiments espoused by Powell. Fear of racial mixing was particularly pronounced among genealogy-obsessed Virginians who wanted to maintain a “pure” bloodline.

Disdaining the Ku Klux Klan’s violent white supremacist policies and tactics, elite white Virginians embraced the scientific racism espoused by the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America. Founded in Richmond in September 1922 by internationally renowned pianist John Powell, self-styled ethnologist Earnest Sevier Cox, and Walter Plecker, the ASCOA committed itself to preserving white “racial purity.” Powell provided the movement’s star power and publicity; Cox’s book White America (1923) provided the pseudoscientific, eugenic justifications; and Plecker backed the other two with the state’s police power. The ASCOA demanded legislation prohibiting interracial marriage and defining anyone with any non-white heritage—even one drop—as black.

Passed at the height of the eugenics movement, the Racial Integrity Act proclaimed the existence of only two racial categories in Virginia—”colored” and white.  The law stripped Native Americans, and members of other groups with dark skin, of their land, voting rights, and legal identity.

Walter Ashby Plecker was the first registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, which records births, marriages and deaths. He accepted the job in 1912.  For the next 34 years, he led the effort to purify the white race in Virginia by forcing Indians and other nonwhites to classify themselves as blacks. It amounted to bureaucratic genocide.

He worked with a vengeance.

Plecker was a white supremacist and a zealous advocate of—a now discredited movement to preserve the integrity of white blood by preventing interracial breeding. Unless this can be done,” he once wrote, “we have little to hope for, but may expect in the future decline or complete destruction of our civilization.”

Plecker would recall his early days in a letter to a magazine editor expressing his abhorrence of interracial breeding. He remembered “being largely under the control” of a “faithful” slave named Delia. When the war ended, she stayed on as a servant. The Pleckers were so fond of her that they let her get married in their house. When Plecker’s mother died in 1915, it was Delia “who closed her eyes,” he wrote.

Then Plecker got to his point. “As much as we held in esteem individual negroes this esteem was not of a character that would tolerate marriage with them, though as we know now to our sorrow much illegitimate mixture has occurred.” Plecker added, “If you desire to do the correct thing for the negro race … inspire (them) with the thought that the birth of mulatto children is a standing disgrace.”

Walter Plecker sits at his desk in 1935 at the Bureau of Vital Statistics

Plecker was a devout Presbyterian. He helped establish churches around the state and supported fundamentalist missionaries. Plecker belonged to a conservative Southern branch of the church that believed the Bible was infallible and condoned segregation. Members of Plecker’s branch maintained that God flooded the earth and destroyed Sodom to express his anger at racial interbreeding.

“Let us turn a deaf ear to those who would interpret Christian brotherhood as racial equality,” Plecker wrote in a 1925 essay.

Plecker saw everything in black and white. There were no other races. There was no such thing as a Virginia Indian. The tribes, he said, had become a “mongrel” mixture of black and American Indian blood.

Their existence greatly disturbed Plecker. He was convinced that mulatto offspring would slowly seep into the white race.  “Like rats when you’re not watching,” they “have been sneaking in their birth certificates through their own midwives, giving either Indian or white racial classification,” Plecker wrote.

Photograph of 1943 letter from Walter Plecker.

Many who came into Plecker’s cross hairs were acting with pure intentions. They registered as white or Indian because that’s how their parents identified themselves. Plecker seemed to delight in informing them they were “colored,” citing genealogical records dating back to the early 1800s that he said his office possessed. His tone was cold and final.

In one letter, Plecker informed a Pennsylvania woman that the Virginia man about to become her son-in-law had black blood. “You have to set the thing straight now and we hope your daughter can see the seriousness of the whole matter and dismiss this young man without any more ado,” he wrote.

In another missive, he rejected a Lynchburg woman’s claim that her newborn was white. The father, he told her in a letter, had traces of “negro” blood.

“This is to inform you that this is a mulatto child and you cannot pass it off as white,” he wrote.

“You will have to do something about this matter and see that this child is not allowed to mix with white children. It cannot go to white schools and can never marry a white person in Virginia.

“It is a horrible thing.”

Plecker demanded the removal of bodies from white cemeteries. He tried to evict a set of twins from a Presbyterian orphanage because they were illegitimate and, therefore, the “chances are 10-1 they are of negro blood.”

Plecker maintained that all of his racial designations were based on impeccable records. There was, however, a secret Plecker revealed to only a few trusted allies: A lot of the time he was just guessing.

He acknowledged the sham when a Richmond attorney questioned his authority to change the birth certificate of a woman classified as an Indian before 1924. Plecker quietly admitted he had no such power and rescinded his designation of the woman as “colored.”

Plecker fretted that he would lose his hold on Indians if word of his retreat got out. “In reality I have been doing a good deal of bluffing, knowing all the while that it could never be legally sustained,” he wrote to his cohort, John Powell. “This is the first time that my hand has been absolutely called.”

The setback was temporary, however. The attorney kept quiet.

Plecker’s racial records were largely ignored after 1959, when his handpicked successor retired. Virginia schools were fully integrated in 1963 and, four years later, the state’s ban on interracial marriage was ruled unconstitutional. In 1975, the General Assembly repealed the rest of the Racial Integrity Act.

Virginia has tried to erase Plecker’s legacy. It has established councils on Indian affairs and has conferred official state recognition on eight tribes, a designation that provides no privileges. But Indian leaders say recognition equals respect.

The approach to healing for mixed-race Indians must be holistic, inclusive of their bi-racial and tri-racial and Indian identity.

SOURCE

white top

White Top Folk Festival by Jason Riedy.

Text of the sign: “The White Top Folk Festival was held annually from 1931 to 1939 (except 1937) on Whitetop Mountain — the second highest peak in Virginia. Annabel Morris Buchanan, John Powell, and John A. Blakemore organized the event that featured banjo players, fiddlers, string bands, and ballad singers, as well as storytelling, clog dancing, morris and sword dancing, and theatrical presentations. Thousands of people attended the festival each year, including nationally known academic folklorists, art critics, composers, and in 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The festival was cancelled in 1940 because of heavy rains and floods and never returned.

A First Lady in a False Kingdom: A Curious

Convergence on White Top Mountain

CHRISTA SMITH ANDERSON

From 1932 to 1939, the Whitetop Folk Festival attracted people from far and wide to the small mountain community. In 1933, even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stopped by to celebrate.

It was August 12, and the tenure of America’s longest-running first lady was in its infancy. Franklin Roosevelt had been in office just over five months. The FBI was still called the Bureau of Investigation, and its director, J. Edgar Hoover, hadn’t started compiling what would become his largest secret file — the 3,271 pages on Eleanor Roosevelt’s activities, many of them anti-segregation and, thus, “subversive.” The Ku Klux Klan didn’t know Eleanor Roosevelt well enough yet to have a price on her head. Another six years would pass before her infamous resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) over that organization’s refusal to allow African-American contralto Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall.

…One of the festival’s organizers, John Powell, proudly asserted that “the great proof of the importance and the significance of the great musical heritage of our people is in the fact that Mrs. Roosevelt should come.”

Like many a memorable character, John Powell, who was also a founder of the Anglo- Saxon Clubs of America, is both compelling and repelling. A classical composer and pianist from Richmond, Virginia, Powell studied in Vienna with Theodor Leschetizky, in Prague with Karl Navrátil. He made his debut in Berlin in 1907, when he was twenty-five years old; the performance was hailed by critics as one of the most successful the city had ever known.

In the first part of his career, Powell incorporated all forms of American music — notably, African-American music — into compositions like Sonata Virginianesque and Rhapsodie Nègre. But by the 1930s, when he was selecting and shaping the White Top Folk Festival musicians, he was committed to promoting what he considered “Anglo-Saxon” music: a pure, white music from a pure, white region of America, whose music was dangerously at risk of becoming defined by a black American baby called Jazz.

By excluding black musicians, probably of some Anglo heritage themselves, Powell and other festival organizers brought to the mountaintop the pernicious bias that would become Powell’s legacy.

In 1924, Powell was instrumental in a court case that prevented the marriage of Dorothy Johns and James Connor by proving that one of Johns’s ancestors was black, thus she could not legally marry Connor, who was white. Some thirty-four years later, Powell was also instrumental — by virtue of his efforts in the 1920s — in making sure that interracial newly-weds Mildred and Richard Loving didn’t get a full night’s sleep. A few weeks after they were married, the Lovings were awakened around two a.m. by flashing police lights and escorted from their bed so they could be booked into the Caroline County, Virginia, jail. Each was charged with a felony.

The Dorothy Johns case was the first test of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, the Lovings’ the last. The “one-drop” law made interracial marriage a felony in Virginia and was especially targeted at whites marrying blacks, blacks being defined, of course, as anyone with “one drop” of black blood. Powell worked with other racial eugenicists to get the law passed in 1924, and was the self-proclaimed originator of it. By 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Racial Integrity Act in Loving v. Virginia, there were similar laws in fifteen other states as far north as Delaware, and as far west as Oklahoma.

For Eleanor Roosevelt, this 1933 trip to Southwest Virginia was a sentimental journey. Her father, Elliott, lived out the Panic of 1893 — the Great Depression’s predecessor — in the Southwestern Virginia town of Abingdon, close to the Tennessee and North Carolina borders.

At the festival, Eleanor warmly addressed the crowd of some ten thousand attendees: “To the people who live here I want to say a special word of gratitude. They have given me the feeling that they remember affectionately my father, whom I adore.”  And then she ended her speech, “For the rest of the day I hope to be just a spectator.”

Hundreds of performers took the stage for the festival that year. Among the prizewinners was Jack Reedy from Marion, Virginia. He won first prize in banjo; tied for first in clog dancing; and performing with the Blevins Brothers in the band competition, tied for first.


Eleanor Roosevelt posed with White Top Folk Festival contestants Frank Blevins (fiddle), Jack Reedy (banjo), Edd Blevins (guitar), and six-year-old mandolin sensation, Muriel Dockery, in 1933.
Library of Virginia

Mrs. Roosevelt may very well have heard some of the same songs her father did. But didn’t she, or any of those reporters who’d read about the “quartette of negroes” singing to him in the 1890s, think it curious that in the 1930s, not a one of the singers, instrumentalists, dancers, or storytellers at this folk-music festival with a five-state view was black? Did they not find the complexion of this kingdom to be unusually fair?  I’d like to think the White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival was the fool-me-once in Eleanor’s evolution as a Civil Rights activist.  Eleanor never publicly criticized the White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival organizers for their exclusion of black performers. But her reaction to some of the people who did perform hints at the cost of Powell’s agenda on the music he was trying to elevate. In her “Passing Thoughts of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt” column in the Women’s Democratic News, Eleanor wrote of the women ballad singers she saw and heard on White Top: “[They were] fine featured … showing in their carriage and expression that there is something in inheritance.” As for the music, “Their voices were not remarkable but the whole thing was of great interest to those who believe that there is value in preserving the folk lore which has come out of the early customs and experiences of the people of the country.”

For whatever Powell might have thought of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933, it’s quite certain that his opinion would’ve changed drastically by the 1950s, when racists flat-out hated her, some of them wondering why on earth a white person would talk so much about civil rights, others coming to the conclusion that Mrs. Roosevelt must have some black ancestry. Eleanor was downright snide about the whole eugenics thing. In her “My Day” newspaper column, she wrote about receiving an “amusing postcard” from someone in Mobile, Alabama, who wrote: “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
You have not answered my questions, the amount of Negro blood you have in your veins, if any.”

To which she responded: “I am afraid none of us know how much or what kind of blood we have in our veins, since chemically it is all the same. And most of us cannot trace our ancestry more than a few generations.” She went on, “As far as I know, I have no Negro blood, but, of course, I do have some Southern blood in my veins, for my Grandmother Roosevelt came from Georgia.”

As for John Powell, he was too “refined” to wear a white sheet. His cloak was musical brilliance, and that brilliance was about as flooded out as the last-planned White Top Mountain Folk Music Festival. (The 1940 festival was rained out, and organizers never brought it back.)

But for all the record-industry packaging that would corral white into “hillbilly” and black into “blues,” making country music today seem the province of white folk, when it comes down to it, American country music got its start as a Virginia-born, biracial baby. Biracial unless, of course, you were to follow Powell’s one-drop definition — in which case it’s black music, just like Powell’s own early compositions, just like every song played on White Top Mountain with that African instrument, the banjo.

SOURCE

obama in moscow

For Russian Blacks, Obama Visit Stirs Special Interest

By Kevin O’Flynn

MOSCOW — The visit to Russia by Barack Obama, the first black man to be elected president of the United States, is significantfor many Russians.


But for Russians of African descent, in particular, the new U.S. leader is a potent symbol of triumph over the same challenges they themselves face in a country where dark-skinned people remain rare and often unwelcome.


Yelena Khanga is one of Russia’s best-known black citizens. The popular host of a top-rated 1990s chat show about sex — “ProEto,” (About That) — she became one of the few black faces regularly seen on Russian television.


Khanga’s grandparents came to the Soviet Union in the 1920s to escape the racism they had endured in the United States as a mixed-race couple.


Today, Khanga says Obama’s election to the American presidency, and his current visit to Moscow, have special meaning for her.


“He did what my grandmother and grandfather dreamed about in their day,” Khanga says. “They couldn’t even have dreamed that, one day, America would have a black president. The only dreams that they had — my grandmother was white, and my grandfather was black — was that Americans would someday allow mixed couples to live in peace, have children, and let the children have decent lives. That is what they dreamed about.”


…Still, Khanga — whose great-grandfather was a slave in Mississippi — says she believes the scourge of racism was far worse in the United States, where there were 4 million African slaves by the time slavery was abolished in 1865 and where it took another century before school segregation and other forms of racial discrimination were formally outlawed.

Khanga notes that there was a very small percentage of mixed-race and black people in the Soviet Union.“I was part of the first generation — now, of course, there are a lot more,” Khanga says. “But…we did not have the history of racism as they did in America. Not everything was easy, and I can be the first to tell you what kinds of problems we had. But, of course, you can’t compare them to the kinds of things that happened in America.”

miscegenation

I really enjoyed this article.  You can find the whole thing here where it’s much easier to read.

re:re: anti-miscegenation 2009

From someone’s (http://secretsthatsell.tumblr.com/post/97524473/via-farm1-static-flickr-com-im-doing-my-media) media (ethics?) class:

This Benetton ad was offensive to many readers. Yet its message —that race should not matter—certainly is not offensive. Why do you think the ad was so controversial and, eventually, pulled from distribution? Would you have pulled it?

 

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Uh, no, I would not have.  And it was controversial because we are living within the confines of antiquated thinking.  Average people thinking average old thoughts questioning nothing criticizing everything and keeping things the same.