Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ruminations on miscegenation

Recently, there was a Heritage Foundation study that a liberalized immigration policy would cost the United States $6.3 trillion. The Colbert Report did a good job of explaining why the context of the Heritage Foundation's report is just ... huh?

Over at The Dish, Andrew Sullivan started up a series of posts - "Is Race Only A Social Construct?", and the posts (in usual Sullivan style) have been thought-provoking.

In the most recent installment - "Racists Love Race Science" - Sullivan concludes the post with this:
I cannot analyze myself – but I’m sure I am affected by my history on this. One part, as I’ve written before, is that my entire education was made possible by an IQ test at age eleven, which gave me entrance to what Americans would call a magnet school. I owe a lot to that test – and it was initiated by the left. Today’s liberals forget that testing IQ was once a leftwing idea. It was designed to rescue the poor from the trap of poverty by giving bright kids from poor backgrounds a swift entry to the British elite. That was the left of the 1940s – and you can look up Keynes and eugenics for further insight into how socialist this idea was in origin. Another part was, indeed, the reaction to my convening a debate on “The Bell Curve” at TNR, in the best-selling issue in that magazine’s history. I saw how some liberals really do not believe in free debate where race is concerned.

But I do not believe that critics of the whole project are fueled by groupthink or emotion alone. There’s a very solid case against race as anything meaningful in our culture, and an even stronger case that in the process of constant miscegenation, we are rendering the whole idea of race moot. I sure hope so. There’s also a strong argument that IQ is of extremely limited use – and, in fact, misses a whole range of intelligences that are often more important to our lives and cultures as humans.

I just refuse to wish the data away. The data shocked me when I first read it, and shocks me still.
As a person who grew up - like Sullivan - in a cultural milieu different from the United States, the structures of "race" were rather puzzling to me when I found myself "back" in the US in 1999. The subsequent fourteen years have given me perspective on the issue, but it continues to remain somewhat of a "foreign" perspective than my own, and I find that I don't have as strong or as deep a sense of (the American construction of) race. However, I do fully recognize that I am the product of miscegenation: a White parent and an Asian parent, and I see no problem with that.

I also sense that there is - in my generation and the ones following mine - less knee-jerk animosity or revulsion to the idea of being mixed-race. After all, it's not my "fault" that my parents didn't live up to someone else's idea about racial purity; I can't change my racial past anymore than anyone else. Being mixed race is - therefore - a moot point when it comes to the concepts of racial purity. I didn't ask to be born this way; I'm not asking to be different; if you can't deal with it, tough cookies.

Of course, the increasing presence of mixed-race (aka "hapa") people - I hope - seriously call into question the very concept of miscegenation, since it presumes that there are distinctions of race that can be made in the first place. However, if I'm half-Asian/half-White, and I get married to a halfie, then are my wife and I engaging in miscegenation, too? In an absolutist sense, the answer is yes: mixed-race individuals who procreate with mixed-race individuals are - by definition - mixing races. However, in the social contexts in which the term is used, the answer is far murkier.

The history of the term "miscegenation" revolves around ideas of racial identity and racial purity. Indeed, it is a relatively recent word, being coined in the US in 1863, in a pamphlet entitled "Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro", as part of a political hoax to discredit Lincoln and his party by ascribing ideas of mixing the races (only seen as "white" and "negro" at the time; never mind that there were Asians and Native Americans around), which was seen by many Whites as disgusting. This animus of disgust - along with the associated idea of maintaining racial purity - has continued to be associated with the term. Indeed, even after the Civil War, there were laws made to make miscegenation illegal in certain states, and these were maintained through almost 100 years, until the SCOTUS decision in Loving v Virginia. Even after, though, the social taboo of miscegenation continued.

However, for my generation and for those following me, the idea that you could marry someone you love and want to spend your life with is not so strange, even if it means marrying outside your "race" or social class (or both). Of course, there are still some hold-outs (especially among the social conservatives), and a "good" example of this was the reaction among mostly White, mostly conservative, mostly Republican supporters of John Boehner to the marriage of his daughter to a black Jamaican who sported a respectable mane of dreadlocks. To say that the responses from the conservative base were all happy felicitations for the newlywed couple (i.e., the standard, polite, and well-meaning response) would be missing the mark. Indeed the Daily Mail had to stop any further commenting and expunged the existing comments. However, over at the New York Daily News, the comments by these readers were FAR from generous. Looking at the first dozen, we get a few prominently racist comments (and more were found throughout the comments section):
Michelle837 days ago
so many beautiful women ending up with human vomit on legs these days...
norman west7 days ago
she is just another white woman who went black except for who her father is.....she did this to hurt someone....most probably herself....she loathes who she is and despises her life and lifestyle....this is a real psycho that is laying a trip on her family and laying this nap head....with a 14 inch pipe for certain.......
HoChin7 days ago
Dominic doesn't look like he has a whit of education I bet the bride puffs the pipe as well.
Jon Player7 days ago
Boehner is actually darker than him lol
Based on the tone of these comments, it's pretty clear (to me) that they were fueled by anti-miscegenation, racial purity, and social maintenance sentiments. But what about their future children (presuming that they have any)? What sense does the idea of "racial purity" have when you are not at all "pure" and see no problem with it? What happens when more and more Americans are less and less "pure"? The number of mixed-race individuals in the US is growing; according to the US Census Bureau, it grew by three-and-a-half times in the last decade, and in some places - especially in West-Coast cities (and Hawaii), mixed-race Americans make up significant portions of the population.

... so what will "racial politics" look like among a group of people who aren't a single race? Will social pressures (either overt or covert) pressure mixed race citizens to "choose sides" in the dirty politics of racial hatred and bigotry? Will a refusal to do so mean that we are left out completely? Will it be possible to create a "we-don't-care-about-your-single-race-politics" bloc that tries to move thing away from (at minimum) a discussion of "race-is-white-and-black-only" into the realm of increased nuance and understanding that will become our future?

Furthermore, what will "miscegenation" mean to groups of children for whom mixed-race is the norm? When the population of mixed-race individuals tops 50%, will "racially pure" families become the ones who are strange and unnatural? Will there be pressures going the other way; to push more-pure people to meet, date, and marry more-pure people from another mixed-race grouping? Or will people just stop caring about using race as a predominant way to group people? After all, into what stereotypical race-based category would you a "1/2 filipino, 1/2 scottish/german/english" young girl, a "hawaiian, chinese, english, irish, puerto rican" woman, a "half white (irish/german/swedish/italian), half asian (cambodian/thai/chinese)" little boy, a chinese, english, irish, and fijian man, or any person like me and those on the Hapa Project?

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