Blogs > Liberty and Power > What Color Are You? Count the Drops

Nov 26, 2005 5:58 pm


What Color Are You? Count the Drops



Presently I am working with a brilliant young graduate of Harvard University who is writing a dissertation on the history of interracial dating and marriage, from 1833 to the present. She focuses on the politics, internal and external, of groups such as the AME Church, the Anti-Slavery Society, NAACP, National Negro Business League, and organizations representing "multiracial" individuals.

Meanwhile, I am compiling a reader _Right on Race: Conservative Voices for Racial Equality and Freedom_ that includes classical liberals (F. Douglass, Mencken, Moorfield Storey, Milton Friedman) and conservatives (Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, George Schuyler, Linda Chavez, Ronald Reagan). Suggestions are welcome!

In both our projects, the "mulatto" (or miscgenation) issue is one that shows up constantly in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Conflict between lighter and darker-skinned "blacks" was sometimes open, more often a subtext. Plessy was chosen because he was very light-skinned and one of the rights he sought was to self-describe himself as "white" if he so desired. The grand irony of the civil rights movement is the tension between this right of self-description (embedded in law) and efforts to offer affirmative action to "visible minorities" (to use the Canadian term). Thus, affirmative action, as presently practiced, has not only retained the "one drop" rule but extended it to other groups--most ludicrously, Hispanics. Indeed, one can "pass" as Hispanic by marriage and not have a single "drop" of "Hispanic blood" (whatever that is). Yet your married name is Rodriguez and, per the self-description rule, who is to argue? Actually, given all the fraud associated with some minority contracting programs, the Bush administration has implemented a regulation that would require one to prove, by paper trail, one's racial or ethnic character (see Roger Clegg link below). I find this as appalling as the "degree of Indian blood" cards now used by "progressive" Indians to limit benefits to "real" Indians (a cynic might argue that this is a typical side effect of any rent-seeking).

These are the complexities of race today, with present-day practices opportunistically drawing upon past racist practices. Curiouser and curiouser.

Roger Clegg, “Proof of Ethnicity”

http://www.nationalreview.com/contributors/clegg051001.shtml

From

http://www.wyandotte-nation.org/community/family_services.html

“Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card:

What is a CDIB card? A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood certified that an individual possesses a specific degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian Tribe. There are some programs and services based upon your status as an American Indian, which require you to furnish this card before services are rendered. A CDIB card does Not establish membership in a federally recognized Indian Tribe, and it does not prevent an Indian Tribe from making a separate and independent determination of blood degree for tribal purposes. Prior to 1989 the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued these cards to Wyandotte Indians. After 1989, the Wyandotte Nation issued Tribal-issued CDIB cards.

To apply for a CDIB card:

1. Contact Family Services for an application. Submit completed application along with all Birth Certificates tracing an ancestor to the 1937 base roll. The enrollment department may have some documents. If additional information is required you will be notified.


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More Comments:


Robert Higgs - 12/1/2005

"Individualism should be on the side of the invisible man." Amen to that.

When I did the research for my book Competition and Coercion (1977), no one was a more valuable source than Du Bois. Before World War I, he was the preeminent authority on the economics and sociology of blacks in this country, and he was in no way a communist. In fact, he discovered some of the concepts, such as "statistical" or "signaling" discrimination, rediscovered sixty or seventy years later by neoclassical economists studying discrimination. And that was only one of his many, many contributions. I invite anyone to consider The Philadelphia Negro (1899), which was the product of his efforts alone, and not be awe struck by what he accomplished in collecting, compiling, and sensibly evaluating massive amounts of evidence.

He was a great social scientist and a great man. Damn shame he did not receive the credit he deserved and that his shabby treatment pushed him in such an unfortunate direction as he grew old.


Kenneth R Gregg - 11/29/2005

I'm sure that you are probably familiar with this, but Richard Godbeer's "Sexual Revolution in Early America" (Johns Hopkins Press) examines 18th century concerns over the matter.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
kgregglv@cox.net


Jeanine Ring - 11/29/2005

It's interesting you mention conflict between lighter and darker skinned African-Americans. I see similar social patterns involved in transgender womens' subculture.

There's a lot of bad blood (to choose an ugly phrase) between transgender women whose looks, build and age give them the option to "pass" or at least socially function as genetic women and those whose features do not so permit it, and a related tension between "post-op" and "pre-op" transgenders, particuarly those who have no reasonable chance of affording sex-reassignment surgery.

More "passable" TGs are typically viewed by those less so as privileged sell-outs with no sense of solidarity and a casual attitude towards social justice, who are willing to reinforce dominant patterns of gender injustice to get ahead themselves. On the other side, less passable TG women are viewed as envious and resentful people who have let (frankly, crushing) misfortune turn into hared for anyone else who finds some happiness in life. (the fact is, a TG woman who can successfully pass has an immensely improved chance of gaining cultural respect and means of socioeconomic mobility, esp. if young; one who does not often finds no source of support other than welfare or employment in the state bureaucracy)

This is done against a background where the psychological profession, backed by the state, has insisted on defining transgenderism in terms of a desire to live a traditional life of the opposite sex, to the point of refusing permission for surgery to those who will not live by archaic sex roles (the same profession inflates the costs of transition by mandating TGs recieve therapy with their guild members). There are an increasing number of TGs whorefuse to play like this and find ways around the standard categorizations. Indeed, a number of female and male TGs in liberal areas decide they prefer to remain at some intermediate sex, tho' the causes of this are a cloudy mix of personal desire, politics, power structure, and necessity.

In my experience, the state and state psychiatry does everything it can to place TGs in the role of confused victims needing its help- and does not look so kindly on TGs who do find a means of independence. However, granted the objectively mammoth discrimination and costs most transgenders face, social oppression is bad enough that the state certainly cannot be held to be fabricating the grim situation it takes advantage of.


Jeanine Ring - 11/29/2005

It's interesting you mention conflict between lighter and darker skinned African-Americans. I see similar social patterns involved in transgender womens' subculture.

There's a lot of bad blood (to choose an ugly phrase) between transgender women whose looks, build and age give them the option to "pass" or at least socially function as genetic women and those whose features do not so permit it, and a related tension between "post-op" and "pre-op" transgenders, particuarly those who have no reasonable chance of affording sex-reassignment surgery.

More "passable" TGs are typically viewed by those less so as privileged sell-outs with no sense of solidarity and a casual attitude towards social justice, who are willing to reinforce dominant patterns of gender injustice to get ahead themselves. On the other side, less passable TG women are viewed as envious and resentful people who have let (frankly, crushing) misfortune turn into hared for anyone else who finds some happiness in life. (the fact is, a TG woman who can successfully pass has an immensely improved chance of gaining cultural respect and means of socioeconomic mobility, esp. if young; one who does not often finds no source of support other than welfare or employment in the state bureaucracy)

This is done against a background where the psychological profession, backed by the state, has insisted on defining transgenderism in terms of a desire to live a traditional life of the opposite sex, to the point of refusing permission for surgery to those who will not live by archaic sex roles (the same profession inflates the costs of transition by mandating TGs recieve therapy with their guild members). There are an increasing number of TGs whorefuse to play like this and find ways around the standard categorizations. Indeed, a number of female and male TGs in liberal areas decide they prefer to remain at some intermediate sex, tho' the causes of this are a cloudy mix of personal desire, politics, power structure, and necessity.

In my experience, the state and state psychiatry does everything it can to place TGs in the role of confused victims needing its help- and does not look so kindly on TGs who do find a means of independence. However, granted the objectively mammoth discrimination and costs most transgenders face, social oppression is bad enough that the state certainly cannot be held to be fabricating the grim situation it takes advantage of.


Jeanine Ring - 11/29/2005

It's interesting you mention conflict between lighter and darker skinned African-Americans. I see similar social patterns involved in transgender womens' subculture.

There's a lot of bad blood (to choose an ugly phrase) between transgender women whose looks, build and age give them the option to "pass" or at least socially function as genetic women and those whose features do not so permit it, and a related tension between "post-op" and "pre-op" transgenders, particuarly those who have no reasonable chance of affording sex-reassignment surgery.

More "passable" TGs are typically viewed by those less so as privileged sell-outs with no sense of solidarity and a casual attitude towards social justice, who are willing to reinforce dominant patterns of gender injustice to get ahead themselves. On the other side, less passable TG women are viewed as envious and resentful people who have let (frankly, crushing) misfortune turn into hared for anyone else who finds some happiness in life. (the fact is, a TG woman who can successfully pass has an immensely improved chance of gaining cultural respect and means of socioeconomic mobility, esp. if young; one who does not often finds no source of support other than welfare or employment in the state bureaucracy)

This is done against a background where the psychological profession, backed by the state, has insisted on defining transgenderism in terms of a desire to live a traditional life of the opposite sex, to the point of refusing permission for surgery to those who will not live by archaic sex roles (the same profession inflates the costs of transition by mandating TGs recieve therapy with their guild members). There are an increasing number of TGs whorefuse to play like this and find ways around the standard categorizations. Indeed, a number of female and male TGs in liberal areas decide they prefer to remain at some intermediate sex, tho' the causes of this are a cloudy mix of personal desire, politics, power structure, and necessity.

In my experience, the state and state psychiatry does everything it can to place TGs in the role of confused victims needing its help- and does not look so kindly on TGs who do find a means of independence. However, granted the objectively mammoth discrimination and costs most transgenders face, social oppression is bad enough that the state certainly cannot be held to be fabricating the grim situation it takes advantage of.


William Marina - 11/29/2005

Racial categories have always been on continua in America, Were S. Hemings, F Douglass, BT Washington, etc., often with white fathers, Blacks?
See N. Weyl & W. Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971).
My father's family was from Spain, while my mother's from S. Alabama, with her brothers in the KKK.I am a Hispanic-American, but with most of my genes Celtic from N. Spain. What does that all mean?


Mark Brady - 11/29/2005

I'm pleased to read what you wrote about W. E. B. Dubois. It confirms my suspicion that he's worth reading and shouldn't just be dismissed as a Communist.

"Libertarians who would criticize do not understand human psychology. They would do well to consider that as long as a society publically identified with capitalism and liberalism does remain smug and blind, they will continually see those who should have been their allies, but were born outside the gates, turn in anger on that capitalism and liberalism."

Bravo!


Ralph E. Luker - 11/28/2005

Jonathan, Your friend may want to look into the Manassa Society, an organization of 700 men and women in Chicago who were in biracial marriages ca. 1896-1902. See my _Social Gospel in Black and White_, p. 174 and the endnote on p. 375.


Jeanine Ring - 11/27/2005

Personally, W.E.B. Dubois' _Souls of the Black Folk_ resonated strongly with me as a libertarian. I am not certain how the early Dubois' politics would be categorized politically (I've heard 'Edwardian liberal'), but I would argue his perspective is one that should resonate with any individualist: Dubois is an educated and cultured person whose love was for universal civilization and desire is equality in public life, yet whose radicalism and pride will not let him remain politely silent in the face of the manifest injustice and stupid blindness of the dominant world.

The early Dubois was the kind of person I think libertarians want to see in a social minority- a universalist who does not forget the achievements of his particular heritage yet whose idenity is part of cosmopolitan civilization. I can easily see Dubois among Some of Rand's heroes in Atlas Shrugged. Altrusim and collectivism are not the only evils that produce the cry of the stifled genius:

"I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls. From out the caves of evening that swing between the strong-limbed earth and the tracery of the stars, I summon Aristotle and Aurelius and what soul I will, and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension. So, wed with Truth, I dwell above the Veil. Is this the life you grudge us, O knightly America? Is this the life you long to change into the dull red hideousness of Georgia? Are you so afraid lest peering from this high Pisgah, between Philistine and Amalekite, we sight the Promised Land?"

And yet the truth of his life was that mainstream society did not want an honest intellectual who spoke *un*comfortable truths along with comfortable ones, and delivered merited criticism along with merited praise to those who posed as hosts to Culture. They wanted a doormat like Booker T. Washington, always finding something to be grateful for in the face or insults. One may wish (I do) that Dubois had not turned to communism in his later life. But he did so out of despair that the society he faced would never cease being stone cold to social justice. One can understand such a decision.

Libertarians who would criticize do not understand human psychology. They would do well to consider that as long as a society publically identified with capitalism and liberalism does remain smug and blind, they will continually see those who should have been their allies, but were born outside the gates, turn in anger on that capitalism and liberalism. Strong spirits will become proud enemies sooner than shunted allies. A flame will flare where there is oxygen enough to burn.

Individualism should be on the side of the invisible man.


Roderick T. Long - 11/27/2005


An anthology of classical liberals on race should certainly include Zora Neale Hurston.

Also, Rose Wilder Lane had a weekly column ("Rose Lane Says") in the Pittsburgh Courier, a prominent black newspaper, in 1943-45.

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