Bigotry as pack mentality

The word miscegenation was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War.

teens1When I linked to a couple of 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 brunt 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.

Not all gatherings are online. Check out White Power Meets Business Casual: Inside the Effort to ‘Make White Nationalism Great Again’. “Trump, the engrossed crowd was told, intends to smash an oligarchic system ‘stacked’ against white America. The only way to break free from the system that blocks ordinary white Americans from fighting against the ‘disease’ of multiculturalism and the unilateral rule of the American elite is to get behind a candidate with tremendous cultural capital who is also capable of funding his own campaign in full.”

 

TV: controversy over a Cheerios ad?

She was adamantly against mixed-race marriage. “What about the children?” she proclaimed. They’ll never fit in, they’ll be scorned by both blacks and whites, and be outcasts in society.

My fascination over a cereal ad – no, actually, THE Cheerios ad featuring an interracial couple and their child – is that all the hate it has engendered doesn’t surprise me at all. The argument from opponents – besides the scatological responses so bad that General Mills had shut off the comments on the YouTube video – is that “they are throwing” miscegenation “in our faces”, whereas the cereal producer’s claim is that they’re showing the diversity of the population. There has been a clear uptick in the number of mixed-race marriages in the US this century.

Of course, you KNOW what the real problem is for some people with that ad? It suggests that black people and white people were – hold onto your hats – having SEX! When you first see the ad, one could assume that the girl might be adopted, but seeing the dad pretty much eliminates that option. The long-standing taboo about interracial sex in the United States is still very strong, from white male slave masters and black female slaves to the young black Emmett Till getting killed for looking at a white woman too long.

This reminds me of a situation about 35 years when my girlfriend at the time, who was white, went apartment hunting for us, and she found a nice place. But the surprised look on the landlord’s face when I showed up to sign the lease was priceless. Rather like the look on the faces of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy when Katharine Houghton brought home Sidney Poitier in the movie Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner.

About 25 years ago, I was having some general philosophical conversation about marriage with this secretary in an office in which I was working as an intern. Very nice woman, and particularly to me. But she was adamantly against mixed-race marriage. “What about the children?” she proclaimed. They’ll never fit in, they’ll be scorned by both blacks and whites, and be outcasts in society.

Obviously, I have a vested interest in trying to make sure the Daughter lives in a better world than that. Her preschool was ethnically diverse; her elementary school is somewhat less so, but we hope for the best. Our church is predominantly white, but with increased diversity, including, most recently, an influx of Asian Indians.

You just keep trying to make a decent world for your child, which is pretty much irrespective of race.

BTW, Chuck Miller knows the woman in the Cheerios ad.
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Of course, I remember Jean Stapleton in All in the Family, who died recently. THE most disturbing episode of that series is referenced here.

Steve Bissette Tackles the Hate Movies

The late Gail Fisher, who is best know for playing Peggy Fair on the detective series Mannix, starred in The New Girl, and it also featured Edward Asner.


Not only is my good buddy Steve Bissette a great comic book artist, he is a cultural historian. First, he linked to a booklet created by Steve Canyon artist Milton Caniff on How to Spot Someone of Japanese Descent, but the terminology used was less appropriate.

Then he put together a series on posts on what he calls Hate Movies:

1. The horrific anti-Japanese propaganda “documentaries” during and after WW2, and well into the early 1960s

2. The 1960s exploitation movies that played upon racist fears of miscegenation, black-and-white sexual relations, and so on (from which I purloined the image to the left).
Discussion of movie titles such as I Passed for White and My Baby Is Black.

3. How to Deal with Racial Conflict Head-On & Fail at the Boxoffice, Whatever Your Race – the harder to summarize, confrontational race conflict dramas of the 1960s.
Features a six-minute clip of a pre-Star Trek William Shatner in the title role as The Intruder, plus a discussion of the film by Shatner and director Roger Corman. Also a discussion of actor Sidney Poitier and writer LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka.

3 APPENDIX. What Happened to The Intruder?
Mike Ripps’ versions of Bayou aka Poor White Trash (trailer) and Roger Corman’s The Intruder under the title Shame (the whole thing).

4. Turning Up the Heat: Bill, Juan, & Leroi, Then & Today Or, What Do You Call Angry Anti-Hate Hate Movies? Whatever You Call Them, Don’t Call Them Late for Supper!
LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman (1966), which will feature in the next eight segments. The Negro Handbook and the Negro Motorist Green Book; and is there anti-white xenophobia? Also featuring FOX News and the firing of Juan Williams from NPR.

The series was briefly interrupted as explained HERE.

5. Subversion on the Subway. LeRoi Jones/Amiri Imamu Baraka’s Dutchman and Jones’ wife Hettie Jones.

6. Lula’s Roots: Little Sisters, Passing Pinkies, Poor White Trash. Antecedents of Dutchman’s Lulu in such diverse fare as D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), Fritz Lang and Thea Von Harbou’s Metropolis (1927), Elia Kazan’s Pinky (1949), Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (1967).
I was most fascinated by “Lewis Freeman’s government-produced educational short film The New Girl (1959), produced for the President’s Committee on Government Contracts, created by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower in August, 1953 and …chaired by none other than Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.” The late Gail Fisher, who is best know for playing more-than-just-a-secretary Peggy Fair on the detective series Mannix, starred, and it also featured Edward Asner. Steve linked to it, but I thought I would as well:
PART 1 and PART 2.

7. On a Downtown Train…Cashing Out Clay. More on Dutchman, plus Amiri Imamu poetry.

8. From Lula to Lulu: Making Manhattan in London – Underground, Overseas. Dutchman and the Beatles films link; Black Like Me; To Sir With Love; and an episode of The Outer Limits.

9. Bring Out Your Dead…”The Jones Boys”: Carrying Clay. Clay, the black male character in Dutchman, as he relates to the music of Charles Mingus, and the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Fred Hampton.

10. Going Continental: Continental Divides. The distribution of Dutchman by Walter Reade/Sterling, which also was responsible for Lord of the Flies, Black Like Me, Ghidrah, Night of the Living Dead, Dr. Who and the Daleks, and Slaves.

11. Dutchman: Contemporaries, Ripples & Shockwaves. Masculin, Féminin; The Brig; Marat/Sade; very early Brian DePalma films such as Hi, Mom!; Be Black; and Paradise Now, which Steve rightly suggests is an antecedent to to the Broadway musical Hair.

12. Uncle Toms, Watermelon Men, Sweet Sweetback & Mandingos. “Being a potpourri of images, quotes, and links that relate to, summarize and/or surround the essay installments I’ve posted to date…” Including the “blaxplotation” films of the early 1970s, such as Watermelon Man (1970). the brutal Fight For Your Life (1977), and the pivotal Melvin van Peebles work, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971).

EPILOGUE: White Trash, Blaxploitation, Hate Movies & Continental Blues. Or; Final Look at What I Was Talking About All Month
A summary, but mentions a Leadbelly movie I need to know more about.

It’s fair to say that there is a LOT of material here, and the blogposts are a first draft of a project Steve is working on. As he then noted, the postings “prompted deeper research into some venues, and I’m expanding and considerably revising a print version of this essay for publication later this year in one of my collected editions of my fanzine/magazine/online writings on genre films.” Also, at the end of each segment, he writes, “Please note: I do not condone or share the views expressed in the archival images presented in this serialized essay at Myrant. I share them here for historical, educational, and entertainment purposes only.”

L is for Loving Day

As late as 1987, a full 20 years after the Loving v. Virginia ruling, only 48% of Americans said it was acceptable for blacks and whites to date. That number has since jumped to 83%, according to the Pew Research Center.

I can’t believe I missed it. OK, until I read about it in TIME magazine, I’d never even heard of it, though it’s been going on for a half dozen years. There’s a group that has called for Loving Day Celebrations around June 12th each year “to fight racial prejudice through education and to build multicultural community.”

The celebration is named for Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who had the audacity to fall in love with each other. Unable to get married legally in their native Virginia – he was white, she was black – they got hitched in Washington, DC and “established their marital abode in Caroline County”, Virginia.

Ultimately, on “January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge” stemming from their interracial marriage, “and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. He stated in an opinion that:

“‘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 Lovings moved to DC, and in 1963, took legal action against the state of Virginia. Meanwhile, Mildred Loving also wrote to US Attorney General Robert Kennedy for assistance, and he referred the Lovings to an ACLU lawyer who took the case pro bono. The Lovings lost at every court, with the primary reasoning being that “because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.”

However, their case made it to the US Supreme Court, and on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in Loving v. Virginia, that the anti-miscegenation laws of Virginia and 15 other states were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the Court, concluded:

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

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. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

These convictions must be reversed.

Interestingly, the polling I’ve seen suggests that at the time of the ruling, less than 30% of Americans favored mixed marriages. From TIME:

As late as 1987, a full 20 years after the case, only 48% of Americans said it was acceptable for blacks and whites to date. That number has since jumped to 83%, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2010, the center estimated that 1 in 7 new marriages in the U.S. is now an interracial coupling. In 1961, the year Obama’s parents married, only 1 in 1,000 marriages included a black person and a white person; today, it’s 1 in 60.

In statistics for 2008, 14.6 percent of all marriages were between spouses of different races.

In 2010, there is a Republican running for Congress, Jim Russell, who wrote in 2001, “In the midst of this onslaught against our youth, parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation, as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.” I wrote about him extensively here, and he is hardly alone. So I guess the Loving Day folks still have much work to do.
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Pete Seeger – All Mixed Up

ABC Wednesday – Round 7