Several years ago when I wore my race man's suit, I got into many debates, especially around the matter of the 2000 census with the interracialists. These were people of mixed racial ancestry who argued that they were the natural arbitrators of racial dialog, especially those who were 'black' and 'white', like Barry Obama claims to be. At the time, Lisa Bonet of the Cosby Show, as well as Lenny Kravitz the rock star, were the idols of the moment in keeping with the biracial spirit. Those biracials argued specifically that 'black' and 'white' were naturally or inevitably antagonistic and that the Census should recognize a new interracial category which was neither. I disagreed.
I am happy to report that the Census did the right thing by allowing individuals to claim as many races as they felt appropriate and that no interracial category was created. The interracialists were defeated and everybody went home. My greatest argument that I recall employing was that the interracialists were racist in that they wanted to create a new race and destroy two old races - they were eugenicists. Aside from that, they could not avoid the reality of the one drop rule which still applied and why most Americans with any discernable black ancestry tend to align with blackfolks - or at least those who are willing to acknowledge any.
But what about those who don't?
I know that the son of Anatole Broyard has a book out now, and I've been tempted to purchase it. Also there is no better critic of racial thinking than Adrian Piper, although she has managed in recent years to avoid becoming famous for it, much to her credit. Sure they are extraordinary folks, but here is my fundamental question.
Is anti-black racism in America so pervasive and oppressive that the best strategy against it is intermarriage?
I think that the answer is an unqualified no despite the fact that political efforts against anti-black racism are in a pitiable state of affairs. I find that the country has bumbled on quite well, based primarily on the unapologetic success of blackfolks themselves. There is racism and rumors of racism everywhere blackfolks are not in evidence, and Progressives cling to a theory that over a specific tipping point of black concentration, all of the 'bad' whites take flight. But I think that only racism that reacts to a black presence is the racist assumption that everyone else was an enemy. Nobody is allowed, it seems, not to take notice.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting question we may employ to split the difference between those who remain advocates of Black Power vs its more mainstream cousin of the cult of MLK. (For lack of a better worded dichotomy, true or false). As I mentioned this morning, no conversation which brings up the spectre of white supremacy can long evade the stubborn fact that there is no essential prohibition on interracial marriage in America. Since the Loving decision, which is not nearly as celebrated as the Brown decision, we've been free to break the most sacred taboos of the KKK.
It is clear to me that intermarriage is not a political solution to anything. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em is about as unprincipled an argument as possible. Any arbitrary boundary established for the free exercise of rights is oppressive. I'd no sooner marry white to vote than sell my soul to the devil. But..
It seems to me that the proper perspective on interracial marriage should not be a point of racial pride or of rights. Nobody should recommend it. But exactly how does it matter socially? I'm really at a loss to explain how to think about it, because I've never considered it seriously for that reason - that of the liberty of one's progeny or, frankly any reason other than love. In other words I've never politicized interracial marriage - it simply always seemed to me a marginally interesting social choice. I am not suggesting that there is not controversy attending it historically -- I'm certainly aware of those social pressures on the African & French branch of my family union circa 60s Paris. And I've certainly noticed how much jungle fever gets noticed in various parts of the US. But I'm not sure there's much I can make of it today. I'm not even sure my fundamental question makes sense.
- I don't buy into 'tragic mullato' stories. It doesn't mean anything.
- I think that if one fundamentally believes that ethnicity should be subservient to modernity, you cannot respect the advantages or disadvantages that accrue for those who don't.
- Who you marry is not the kind of personal choice that is politically significant.
There must be something else that I'm forgetting here. Let's go back to EC's/MLK's premises.
When the proportion of Blacks out of poverty will be the same as or within 5% of the proportion of Whites out of poverty, then our nation would have at least one good reason be very proud of herself with respect to her efforts to achieve the ethnically and socioeconomically egalitarian and meritocratic society King dreamed of. Until then, folks like me, folks who believe that an ethnically and socioeconomically impartial meritocracy is achievable presently and would make for a more competitive and profitable use of our collective societal resources, will continue to argue we've not come far enough and we're not moving fast enough toward King's dream. Folks like me will continue argue that too many middle-class and upper-class Whites still inherit too many unearned privileges that they do not take full advantage of and too many middle-class and lower-class Blacks still inherit too many social hurdles that unfairly disadvantage them from birth.
There seems to be implicit in this argument the premise that blacks simply cannot marry whites and overcome the social barriers against them. In fact that the very unearned privileges inherited and passed on to little Jason and Megan would be stifled if they were half-black. So let us take the position that poor blacks cannot marry middle-class and upper-class whites. Is that because of race, or is that because of class?
Aside from this interracial question, I say that marriage and family are the ways that values are passed on, including and most importantly those values that teach one how to get on in society. When I suggested this vociferously for the elevation of blacks, a la Cosby, I have been scolded vociferously by Dr Spence that marriage is no leading indicator of economic progress, that he can prove them to be disjoint. So now I think we've stumbled onto the controversy.
I know this goes all over the place, but I hope to generate enough comments here to clean it up.