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Frederick Douglass with his second wife Helen Pitts, who was white, and her sister Eva, a 19th century American example of miscegenation.
Frederick Douglass with his second wife Helen Pitts, who was white, and her sister Eva, a 19th century American example of miscegenation.

Miscegenation (Latin miscere “to mix” + genus “kind”) is the mixing of different ethnicities or races, especially in marriage, cohabitation, or sexual relations. Interracial marriage or interracial dating may be more common in contemporary usage. While the English word has a history of ethnocentrism, the Spanish, Portuguese and French words, mestizaje, mestiçagem (or miscigenação) and métissage, connote both positive and negative ethno-cultural melting-pot. Contrary to popular belief, "cegenation" does not exist in the English language.


[edit] Etymological history

"Miscegenation" comes from the Latin miscere, "to mix" and genus, "kind". The term has been used in the context of ethnocentric or racist attitudes and laws against interracial sexual relations and intermarriage. As a result, "miscegenation" in English-speaking countries is often a loaded word, and may be sometimes considered offensive. The term was first coined in the United States, in 1863. The etymology of the word is tied up with conflicts during the American Civil War over the abolition of slavery and over the racial segregation of African-Americans. Historically, "race mixing" between black and white people has long been taboo in the United States (U. S.),and in many states it was illegal when the term was first introduced. Although this aspect of the U.S. history is often discussed in the context of the South, some northern states such as Illinois[1] and later western states such as California[2] had similar laws.

As the different connotations of miscegination and mestizaje suggest, definitions of race and racial intermixture have diverged globally as well as historically,depending on changing social circumstances and cultural perceptions. In the United States, definitions of racial intermixture have focussed primarily on the mixing of white people and black people. In other countries, people have used concepts and categories of 'racial' intermixture differently Thus the comte de Montlosier, in exile during the French Revolution, borrowed Boulainvilliers' discourse on the "Nordic race" as being the French aristocracy that invaded the plebeian "Gauls", to show his contempt for the Third Estate, calling it “this new people born of slaves… mixture of all races and of all times”.

[edit] United States

The word miscegenation was first used in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet printed in New York City in late 1863, entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro.[3] The pamphlet, which was a hoax, purported to be in favor of promoting the intermarriage of whites and blacks until the races were indistinguishably mixed, claiming that this was the goal of the United States Republican Party. The real authors were David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter. The pamphlet soon was exposed as an attempt to discredit the Republicans, the Lincoln administration, and the abolitionist movement by exploiting the fears and racial biases common among whites. Nonetheless, this pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in communities on both sides of the American Civil War by opponents of Republicans. The word miscegenation quickly entered the common language of the day and became a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. Previously, the word amalgamation had been in use as a general term for ethnoracial intermixing. By contrast, the term miscegenation was coined to refer specificly to the intermixing of blacks and whites.[4] One important strategy intended to discourage the practice was the promulgation of the one-drop theory, which held that any person with so much as “one drop” of African “blood” must be regarded as completely “black”.

For a century, it was common for white segregationists to accuse abolitionists, and, later, advocates of equal rights for African Americans, of secretly plotting the destruction of the white race through miscegenation. After World War II, white segregationists commonly accused the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr., of being part of a communist plot funded by the Soviet Union to destroy the “white United States” through miscegenation.[citation needed]

[edit] Anti-miscegenation laws

[edit] United States

The British colony of Maryland was the first to pass an anti-miscegenation law (1664).[5] In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, many American states passed anti-miscegenation laws, often based on controversial interpretations of the Bible, particularly the story of Phinehas. Typically a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different races and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. Sometimes the individuals attempting to marry would not be held guilty of miscegenation itself, but felony charges of adultery or fornication would be brought against them instead; Vermont was the only state to never introduce such legislation. In a fairly unique case, the Massachusetts legislature repealed its anti-miscegenation law in 1843.[5] This case, however, did little to halt anti-miscegenation sentiments in the rest of the country. Indeed, the constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama.

In 1948, the California Supreme Court in Perez v. Sharp effectively repealed the California anti-miscegenation statutes, thereby making California the first state in the twentieth century to do so. It would be nearly two decades more before these laws were struck down nationwide. In 1965, Virginia trial court Judge Leon Bazile sentenced to jail an interethnic couple who had married in Washington, D.C., writing:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.[6]

This decision was eventually overturned in 1967, 84 years after Pace v. Alabama, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Loving v. Virginia that

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.

At the time that anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, 16 states still had laws prohibiting interethnic marriage. Those laws were not completely repealed until November 2000, when Alabama became the last state to repeal its law. According to Salon.com:

...after a statewide vote in a special election, Alabama became the last state to overturn a law that was an ugly reminder of America’s past, a ban on interracial marriage (sic). The one-time home of George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. had held onto the provision for 33 years after the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Yet as the election revealed—40 percent of Alabamans voted to keep the ban—

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, also known as Hays Code, explicitly stated that the depiction of “miscegenation... is forbidden.”

In Social Trends in America and Strategic Approaches to the Negro Problem, Gunnar Myrdal (1948) ranked the reasons for segregation according to Southern whites in the 1930s and 1940s from least to most important: jobs, courts and police, politics, basic public facilities, “social equality” including dancing, handshaking, and most important, marriage. This ranking scheme seems to have been relatively upheld well into the 1960s. Of less importance was the segregation in basic public facilities, which was abolished with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the most important reason for segregation, marriage, was not fully overcome until the last anti-miscegenation laws were struck down later in 1967.

The number of interethnic marriages in the United States has been on the rise: 310,000 in 1970, 651,000 in 1980, and 1,161,000 in 1992 according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census 1993. Interethnic marriages represented 0.7% of all marriages in 1970 to 1.3% in 1980, to 2.2% in 1992. However, black-white marriages still tend to be the most controversial in the public eye. From a recent poll of 1,314 Americans of all ethnic groups, it was noted that 3 in 10 people are against black-white marriage, but are far more willing to accept white-Hispanic or white-Asian marriages (Ford 2003).

[edit] South Africa

South Africa’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, passed in 1949 under Apartheid, forbade interracial marriages. The next year, the Immorality Act was passed, which made it a criminal offense for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race. Both Acts were repealed in 1985. Two decades later, the intermarriage rates between the two races remain lower than in Europe and North America.

[edit] Germany

In Germany, an anti-miscegenation law was enacted by the National Socialist government in September 1935 as part of the Nuremberg Laws. The Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre (Protection of German Blood and German Honor Act) forbade marriage and extra-marital sexual relations between persons of Jewish origin and persons of “German or related blood”. Such intercourse was marked as Rassenschande (lit. race-disgrace) and could be punished by imprisonment (usually followed by the deportation to a concentration camp) and even by death. The laws were discarded in September 1945.

[edit] Israel

In the State of Israel, all marriages must be by approved religious celebrants and civil marriages are not legally recognized. Authority over all issues related to Judaism falls under the Orthodox Rabbinate, which prohibits intermarriage and marriage through non-Orthodox Rabbis; as a result, in the state of Israel, Jews cannot legally marry someone in another religion[7] and multi-faith couples must leave the country to get married.[8][9] According to a Haaretz article “Justice Ministry drafts civil marriage law for ‘refuseniks’”[10] 300,000 people are affected.

While Judaism contains elements of both ethnicity and ancestry, the rules governing marriage in Israel are clear and governed by strict guidelines under the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. In terms of ethnicity, most secular Jews think of their Jewishness as a matter of ethnicity.[11] Some examples of this can be food, of the Hebrew Yiddish language, of some limited holiday observances, and of cultural values like the emphasis on education.[11] Ancestral aspects can be explained by the many Jews who view themselves as atheist and are defined by matrilineal lineage[12][13] or a Cohen (Kohen) or Levi, which is connected by ancestry.[14] The question of “who is a Jew” is a question that is under debate.[15] However, matters concerning Marriage in Israel are controlled by strict Orthodox standards and disputed issues can be resolved by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Thus, while this issue is in dispute, it is not concerning marriages in Israel. Issues related to ancestoral or ethnic Jews are solved by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.[16][17][18][19]

People that are not halachically Jewish, that is, either ancestorally Jewish or ethnically Jewish, according to the strict guidelines placed on Israeli marriages cannot marry. The rules governing converts who can marry in Israel follow the rules of Orthodox halachic conversion. Under an orthodox view of Halacha, a conversion to Judaism is not kosher unless it is properly Orthodox. Even Actual Orthodox conversions are scrutinized. Some who have followed an Orthodox conversion cannot get married In Israel. An American man who underwent an Orthodox conversion in Metairie, La., was denied an official marriage in Israel on the grounds that his conversion may not have been legitimate and that the Orthodox rabbi who converted him in Louisiana is not recognized in Israel.[19] [20]

If one’s ancestral line of Jewishness is in doubt, one cannot marry, and the people getting married are required to take classes to keep their lineage pure. If they are not ancestrally Jewish or of a proper conversion and, thus, ethnically Jewish, then they cannot marry in Israel.

According to The Jewish Week:

As a result, non-Orthodox Jewish couples are forced to submit to an Orthodox marriage ceremony with an Orthodox rabbi and are compelled to attend classes on family purity. No Israeli may marry outside his faith community. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish or whose Jewish ancestry is in doubt are unable to marry at all inside Israel.[21]

Ancestral lineage is also important when attempting to marry a Cohen or a Levi in Israel, since the rules governing who they can marry are dictated by Halachic law as interpreted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. In the article, “Not Jewish enough to marry a Cohen”,

Irina Plotnikov cannot marry the man she loves, Shmuel Cohen, even though she is Jewish according to halakha (Jewish religious law). A rabbinic court in Jerusalem ruled recently that even though Plotnikov is Jewish, she is not eligible to marry a Cohen since her father is not Jewish. According to Jewish tradition, people with the surname Cohen are descendants of the priests that served in the Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.[8]

Also, the children of illegitimate unions are affected with a stigma.

There are two related worries: intermarriage and illegitimacy. Children of marriages forbidden by Jewish law, or halacha (for example, unions between a kohen and a divorcee, between close relatives, or between a man and a previously married woman who did not undergo a halachic divorce) are considered mamzerim. They and their offspring, stigmatized with an irrevocable brand of illegitimacy, may marry only other mamzerim. A split in the nation, the argument goes, will follow: mamzerut will increase dramatically and it will be difficult to keep track of mamzerim to ensure they do not wed non-mamzer Jews. [21]

The option of getting married overseas is very expensive and cost-prohibitive[22]. Despite this expense, one out of every ten Israelis who married in 2000 did so abroad mainly because there is no other option for those unable to marry within the state of Israel: 2,230 couples who married abroad consisted of two Israeli partners. Another 3,660 couples consisted of one Israeli partner and one non-Israeli.[22].

Either ancestral or ethnic Jews cannot get married in Israel. There are examples of converted Jews who cannot get married in Israel because their marriage does not conform to Halacha. There are even Orthodox Jews whose conversion is challenged along Halacha laws and, thus, cannot marry in Israel. The children of marriages forbidden by halacha are also stigmatised. Jews are both defined along ancestral and ethnic lines—as in a Cohen (Kohen) or Levi and a Convert, who is ethnically recognized. A person who is not ethnically or ancestrally Jewish, according to halachic law as interpreted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, cannot marry in Israel.

[edit] Religious attitudes to Miscegenation

Several verses in the Christian Bible refer to miscegenation[23], for example the story of Phinehas and have been interpreted as expressly forbidding it. However, these verses can also be interpreted as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than inter-racial marriage.[24]

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes and references

  1. ^ Steiner, Mark. http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/jala/16.2/steiner.html “The Lawyer as Peacemaker: Law and Community in Abraham Lincoln’s Slander Cases”]. The History Cooperative
  2. ^ “Chinese Laborers in the West”. Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program
  3. ^ “The Miscegenation Hoax”. Museum of Hoaxes
  4. ^ Hollinger, David. “Amalgamation and Hypodescent: The Question of Ethnoracial Mixture in the History of the United States”. The History Cooperative
  5. ^ a b Pasco, Peggy. “Why the Ugly Rhetoric Against Gay Marriage Is Familiar to this Historian of Miscegenation” History News Network
  6. ^ Tucker, Neely (June 13, 2006). “Loving Day Recalls a Time When the Union of a Man And a Woman Was Banned”. Washington Post.
  7. ^ Susser, Susan, M. “Love and Marriage in Israel” Jewish Currents 2004
  8. ^ a b Barkat, Amiram. “Not Jewish enough to marry a Cohen” Haaretz
  9. ^ PDF file The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists 1997
  10. ^ Yuval Azoulay. “Justice Ministry drafts civil marriage law for ‘refuseniks’” Haaretz
  11. ^ a b Rich, Tracey R. “What Is Judaism?”
  12. ^ Katz, Lisa. “Who is a Jew?” About.com
  13. ^ “Judaism in Israel” About.com
  14. ^ “The Tribe: The Cohen-Levi Family Heritiage” cohen-levi.org
  15. ^ Weiner, Rebecca. “Who is a Jew?” Jewish Virtual Library
  16. ^ Sheleg, Yair. “Amar: Bnei Menashe are descendants of ancient Israelites” Haaretz
  17. ^ Freund, Michael. “Right On: A miracle of biblical proportions” Jerusalem Post
  18. ^ “Chief Rabbi Says Indian Community Descended From Israelites” Jewish Virtual Library
  19. ^ a b Tigay, Chanan. “Israel’s Chief Rabbinate rejects some diaspora Orthodox conversions” Jewish Standard
  20. ^ Meyers, Nechemia. “Are Israel’s marriage laws ‘archaic and irrelevant’?” Jewish News Weekly
  21. ^ a b Mazie, Steven V. “Changing Israel’s Marriage Law” The Jewish Week
  22. ^ a b Ilan, Shahar “Four hundred brides for 1,000 men” Haaretz
  23. ^ Nave's Topical Bible "Miscegenation" bibletools.org
  24. ^ Wesley Webster "Does the Bible Forbid Interracial Dating and Marriage?" biblestudy.org

[edit] Other references

  • Hodes, Martha, ed. "Miscegenation" (1998). Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History. New York, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-395-67173-6. 
  • Lemire, Elise. (2002). "Miscegenation": Making Race in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-812-23664-5. 
  • Sollors, Werner, ed. (2000). Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-12856-7. 
  • Rosenthal, Debra J. (2004). Race Mixture in Nineteenth-Century U.S and Spanish-American Fiction. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-807-85564-2. Fairlane75 19:43, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Croly, David Goodman. (1864). Miscegenation, The theory of the Blending of the Races, applied to the American White Man and Negro. New York: H. Dexter, Hamilton & Co..