Miscegenation

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As an African-American child growing up in a single-mother household, in a predominately white neighborhood, it was important to my family that they lay a foundation of cultural pride for me. My mother and grandmother (whom lived with us) were very subtle in providing this education through codes in the form of Afro-American cultural phenomena of their respective eras (from James Brown to Roots the television mini-series starring Alex Haley). The other woman whom I contribute my raising was my Aunt, born, raised, and living in a black neighborhood—whose biggest fear was that I grow up to marry a white woman. She instilled in me a miscegenetic ideology through less subtle means. Her favorite catchphrase was “if she can’t use your comb, then don’t bring her home.” This poetically prejudice statement is a reference to the different textures of black hair, which has more body (versus other ethnicities—particularly white) and generally requires a bristled brush. Thus, my aunt was saying that I should only bring home someone with the same physical ethnic features as me (aka a black women). My Mom and aunt were born in the early 60’s in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. The 60’s were a time when the term “miscegenation” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue as it was controversially ruled “unconstitutional” by The Supreme Court in 1967. I wondered if growing up in this era shaped my Mom and Aunt’s view of black and white relations. In that era, was mixed marriage a matter of pride or prejudice? In exploring this question I chose to perform an analysis of trends related to interracial relations and miscegenation (pre-abolishment) through the New York Times. Comparing and contrasting a period of time well before the Civil Rights Movement (1908-1913) and one well within the Civil Rights Movement (1960-1965) provides fascinating insight on the influences and development of race theory in the United States, particularly in the use of racial propaganda, dueling racial paradigms, and the impact of social conditions on the church’s stance. One of the most blaring trends in both eras is the use of propaganda to introduce provocative perspective on mixed race relations. The most popular medium for such perspective was the theatre. In 1913, theatre critic William Winter made headlines for denouncing the “new theatre” which incorporated such taboo subjects as homosexuality, adultery, and religion. In this article, Winter points out the “degeneracy” of every current play grappling with what he considers “vile ideas disguised as dramatic art”, which ends up being quite the lengthy blacklist. Winter saves his most scathing criticisms for the play “The Nigger” of which he describes as “crude, pointless, tainted…a tissue of impertinent prattle about the terrible subject of miscegenation.” Winter becomes most offended by an interracial relationship that he leaves the reader to assume has him all “hot and bothered.” He describes the relationship as “the struggle between ‘nigger’ and white woman” and calls it “one of the most revolting scenes that have been acted on any stage or before any audience.” Ironically, there are no brown people in this play. Winter lashes out at the mere allusion of an interracial relationship. The plot revolves around a Southern aristocrat who is encouraged to run for governor by another political figure. During the aristocrat’s tenure he signs a bill that puts the latter mentioned political figure out of business who then retaliates with allegations that the governor has “negro ancestry” which forces him to resign and leave his girlfriend, to her devastation. By 1964, theatre was the sole means of propaganda ushered in by World War II and the Cold War. Cultural commentary on interracial romance was no longer subtlety. Gone were the days of allusions of mixed relations among all-white casts. As indicated by journalist Lewis Funke, certain African-American actors and actresses became brown poster-children of...
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