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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 historyEdit

"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 Portuguese coloniesEdit

Miscegenation was commonplace in the Portuguese colonies, and was even supported by the court as a way to boost low populations and guarantee a successful settlement. Thus, settlers often released African slaves to become their wives. Some of the children were guaranteed full Portuguese citizenship, possibly based on lighter skin color, but not race. Some former Portuguese colonies have large mixed-race populations, for instance, Brazil, Cape Verde, and São Tomé e Príncipe. Mixed marriages between Portuguese and locals in former colonies were very common in all Portuguese colonies. Miscegenation was still common in Africa until the independence of the former Portuguese colonies in the 1970s.

To the present day, Angolan, Brazilian, and Cape Verdian societies are defined by the degree of melanin (lighter skin, and not "race"). In Cape Verde, the population is often differentiated by lighter and darker skin (known as pele de chocolate, or "chocolate skin"). Because of white supremacist institutions and the values they inculcated among the populace, many such miscegenated societies were and remain to this day heavily stratified by color, with darker-skinned citizens assigned the lowest economic and social status. This was demonstrated by Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre's famous Casa-Grande & Senzala ("The Great House and the Slave Quarters" - 1933). Eduardo Galeano also showed how the profusion of words to design various types of skin color demonstrated a very precise racial hierarchy.

Miscegenation in the United StatesEdit

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 Edit

United StatesEdit

1900sc Mammy Card Interracial

This postcard from the 1900s mocks "interracial relationships".

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.

Interethnic marriage disparities for certain ethnic groupsEdit

Although mixed-ethnic partnering has increased in the United States, the country still shows huge disparities between black male and black female endogamy (marrying "within the ethnic group") statistics. The 1990 Census reports that 17.6% of black marriages occur with whites. Yet, it is found that black men are 2.5 times more likely to be married to a white woman than a black woman to a white man. Indeed, when ethnic group size is controlled, white women are most likely to participate in exogamy.

There is also a disparity between Asian women and Asian men - according to the Census data from 2000, Asian American women were 2.5 times more likely to be married to a white man than Asian American men married to a white woman. For comparison purposes, Japanese males married foreign wives 4 times more often than Japanese females married foreign males according to recent data [2].

A similar trend can be seen in the United Kingdom - according to the 2001 census [3], black males were around 50% more likely than black females to marry outside their ethnic group, whereas women of Chinese origin were twice as likely as their male counterparts to marry someone from a different ethnic group.

A new term has arisen recently to describe the social phenomenon of the "marriage squeeze" for African American females. The marriage squeeze refers to the belief that the most eligible and desirable black men are marrying non-black women leaving black women wishing to marry black men with fewer partnering options.

Education and interethnic marriageEdit

Using PUMS data from both the 1980 and 1990 United States Census to determine trends among interethnic marriage among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, it may be seen that endogamy was more prevalent for African American men at lower educational levels. In 1980, the numbers were as follows: African American males without a high school diploma participated in endogamy at 96.5%; for those who received a high school diploma, 95.6%; for a college degree and above, the percentage of endogamy dropped to 94.0%. However, the rates for African American women changed very little with different educational attainment levels. For the African American woman who had not received a high school diploma the rate is 98.7%, high school diploma is 98.6%, with some college it is 98.2%, and college degree and more, 98.5%. And, during this time, there was a significant increase in marriages between whites and African Americans maintaining that African Americans are most likely to marry whites over other groups.

The 1990 results show that rates of endogamy dropped for both males and females, albeit more for the African American male. In 1990, a black male with a college degree and more was participating in endogamy at 90.4%, for a black female with the same educational attainment level, 96.4%. The results for the propensity of individuals at higher educational attainment levels to participate less in endogamy over the 10 year period were similar across ethnic groups, including Whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

Immigrants and interethnic marriageEdit

It is found that ethnic endogamy is much stronger for immigrants as compared to natives; it is 4.9 times more likely for black immigrants than for African Americans. Additionally, black immigrants have the highest rates of endogamy of immigrants. Also, black immigrants are much more likely to marry other same-ethnic group immigrants and African Americans, than to "out-marry ethnically". Native-born whites are also 1.6 times more likely to marry a native-born black than an immigrant counterpart. Immigrant black women are generally more likely to marry native-born whites than their male counterparts.

Cohabitation and interethnic marriageEdit

Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be married to a white spouse and 3.3 times more likely to be cohabitating with a white person, as compared to their black female counterparts. Research yields that 7% of married black men are with white wives and 15% of black men cohabit with white women.

South AfricaEdit

South Africa's Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, passed in 1949 under Apartheid, forbade interracial marriages. The next year, the Immorality Act was passed, which made it a criminal offense for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race. Both Acts were repealed in 1985.

GermanyEdit

In Germany, an anti-miscegenation law was enacted by the Nazi government in September 1935 as part of the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws. The so-called Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre (Protection of German Blood and German Honor Act) forbade marriage and extra-marital sexual relations between persons of Jewish origin and persons of "German or related blood". Such intercourse was marked as Rassenschande (lit. race-disgrace) and could be punished by imprisonment or even by death.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Hodes, Martha, ed. "Miscegenation" (1998). Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, New York, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395671736.

External linksEdit

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