Who’s Still Afraid of Interracial Marriage?

Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: race relations, interracial marriage

Jelani Cobb is associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut.

...Earlier this year, Gallup reported that eighty-seven per cent of Americans saw no problem with blacks and whites getting married. A top-rated network television show features a philandering President and his P.R.-maven mistress, and viewers care more about the amorality of its characters than about the interracial relationship at its core. The views Cohen ascribed to Tea Partiers aren’t “conventional”; they’re antediluvian, a brand of racism that is still running the old operating system. But they do represent a thread connecting the politics of the past to those of the present—and it is easy to imagine the view of the embattled minority on this subject feeding the kinds of cultural resentments that have helped fuel the Tea Party’s emergence.

The super-majority in the Gallup poll is exactly the outcome the Dixiecrats presciently warned would be the byproduct of desegregation, and took as their rationale for existence. Theodore Bilbo, the segregationist governor of Mississippi, died a year before the Dixiecrat Party’s founding, but not before he penned a treatise with the none-too-subtle title “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.”

Yet anyone who’s seen “12 Years a Slave” or read Annette Gordon-Reed’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work “The Hemingses of Monticello” knows that sex between white men and black women, whether coerced or consensual, has been a feature of this country literally since its inception. The Dixiecrats nominated Strom Thurmond for President in 1948 on a platform devoted to the preservation of segregation, though the delegates were unaware that Thurmond had, as a young man, fathered a child with a teen-age black domestic. But had this knowledge been public, it would likely not have ruined Thurmond’s standing: the most violent prohibitions were reserved for sex between black men and white women....

Read entire article at New Yorker

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