When I linked to a couple articles about obvious signs of bigotry, my friend Chris wrote: “Holy 1952, Batman! What’s up with all the crazy racism stories? Are they more prevalent or are they being reported more?”
Well, yes. Both, I would assert.
At the same time, I’ve come up with a theory. There was a period that bigotry, at least in the public forum, was considered impolite, inappropriate, untoward. What changed is that people have been able to more easily find like-minded folks online. In other words, bigotry as pack mentality.
So, if Malia Obama is going to Harvard — but is taking a year off first, that’s a rather benign story. But the racial vulgarity that appeared in comments in the FOX News, just-as-tame, report, was a torrent that forced FOX to disallow comments altogether.
Old Navy tweeted a picture of an interracial family and Twitter is inflamed in racist blather. It echoes the 2013 Cheerios TV commercial generated Sturm und Drang in numbers so great that the General Mills website likewise had to forego comments.
I contend that a “lone wolf” bigot, being shouted down by other readers, might give up. But when he finds like-minded allies, this emboldens the bigot to spew vile, knowing that at least some others will also take up the cause.
One of the comments in the Old Navy story made reference to the word miscegenation, a rather old-fashioned term:
Miscegenation comes from the Latin miscere, “to mix” and genus, “kind”. The word was coined in the U.S. in 1863, and the etymology of the word is tied up with political conflicts during the American Civil War over the abolition of slavery and over the racial segregation of African-Americans. The reference to genus was made to emphasize the supposedly distinct biological differences between whites and non-whites…
The word was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War. The pamphlet was entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro. It purported to advocate the intermarriage of whites and blacks until they were indistinguishably mixed, as a desirable goal, and further asserted that this was the goal of the Republican Party. The pamphlet was a hoax, concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them what were then radical views that offended against the attitudes of the vast majority of whites, including those who opposed slavery…
Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax…
By then, the word miscegenation had entered the common language of the day as a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. The issue of miscegenation, raised by the opponents of Abraham Lincoln, featured prominently in the election campaign of 1864.
In the United States, miscegenation has referred primarily to the intermarriage between whites and non-whites, especially blacks.
Before the publication of Miscegenation, the word amalgamation, borrowed from metallurgy, had been in use as a general term for ethnic and racial intermixing.
Of course, President Obama is the child of a white mother and a black father. For a time, I think that partially insulated him from the full blunt of bigotry. “His mom’s white; maybe he’ll be all right.” But once he showed that he actually expressed the feelings many blacks in America experience, he had his “half-white” card revoked.
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