I’m always faced with a sort of tetralemma about my race. Black, white, both, or neither? Yes. This Hotep guy understands that “it depends” is the best answer. See 5:00 to 6:30.
My loyalty is suspect, because my father lacked the “common decency” not to create my racially-ambiguous self. Coons come in all shades, but history tells us that white blood significantly increases the odds of coondom. I have the potential to be accepted by Hotep dude, but he says directly that I’d have to go above and beyond to prove myself. A mutually anxiety-provoking encounter.
Tommy Sotomayor explains that that’s the problem with interracial relationships: creating confusion within the race. He’d cast me out altogether.
My mother and my self are “other people’s trash,” not to be accepted by self-respecting black people. I should stick to my own people, presumably the “community” of half-German mulattoes living in the United States…I’m not the only person like myself (“mischlingskinder”), but we’re very few in number. He really would prefer that I stay celibate like a mule, to keep everyone’s blood as pure as possible.
However, I have to be honest. The history these guys are talking about is real. Their rants aren’t coming out of nowhere. This is the correct, graceful way to handle the situation:
“Embracing our blackness” is the easy part, psychologically. We also have to do the same work on ourselves that we’re asking white people to do. We’re half white, after all. The fact that there are conscious mulattoes means that what’s being asked of white people isn’t impossible. Maybe the way to come to terms with this aspect of our history is to read the white people’s perspective, choosing documents from a time before political correctness kept them from tellin’ it like it is.
1918 is a good time, and Edward Byron Reuter is a credible source. He was president of the American Sociological Association, and miscegenation was his area of specialization. His dissertation was called The mulatto in the United States; including a study of the role of mixed-blood races throughout the world. Right from the preface, he’s clear that half-breeds are central to the whole destiny of our nation:
[Of] the social problems before the American people for solution, there is none perhaps of more fundamental importance than that created by the presence of some ten million persons of a race and color different from that of the major part of the country’s population. The future of the nation is in a degree conditioned by the treatment which this race problem receives. Is the amalgamation of the races in contact to be regarded as an ideal? If so, there remains the problem of working out a technique by means of which some degree of harmony and good will can be established between the racial groups during the period that mongrelization is in progress. Or would the infusion of ten per cent of Negro blood .so materially lower the ideals and the intellectual and cultural capacity of the population as to cause the country to drop out of the group of culture nations? If so, there is the problem of checking the fusion already in progress, as well as the problem of establishing some sort of harmonious working relations between the races while they separately work out their racial destiny. In regard to the fundamental question there is as yet no consensus of scholarly opinion; the problem has scarcely been attacked in a scholarly way. The more immediately practical problem has as yet received little intellectual consideration: for the most part it still arouses emotion rather than thought.
Then, as now, it wasn’t possible for mulattoes to have an identity not defined by society’s racism:
The half-castes who appear in such a situation are an easily distinguishable physical variety. This characteristic physical appearance classifies them; it separates them from both groups and makes them alien in both. It makes it impossible for them to escape the stigma which attaches itself to a tainted ancestry. The half-caste individual cannot, therefore, be a mere individual; he is inevitably the representative of a type. He is not merely a biological product; he is a sociological phenomenon.
Under such conditions, the half-castes tend to develop peculiar mental traits and attitudes which are not racial but are determined by the social situation in which they find themselves. To the extent that this takes place, the differences that normally exist between individuals are suppressed and the mental and moral characteristics of the group approach uniformity. In a word, they tend to form a distinct class or caste in the community and one based fundamentally on physical appearance.
White supremacists perceived a danger that we’d turn our tragic mulatto problems into political demands. We were granted special privileges as a divide-and-conquer strategy. It was really that deliberate. This passage is about Jamaica, but the point of the dissertation is that things work the same everywhere:
The mulattoes are not a numerically important part of the Negro population, but the white rulers have realized their possibilities for harm as dissatisfied agitators among the blacks. They also have realized the possibilities of the group as a harmonizing factor in the racial situation. As a consequence, they have utilized the mixed-bloods as a means of control of the lower and more numerous group, and as a means of lessening the friction between the extreme types of the population on the Island.
By catering to the mulattoes’ desire for special recognition and by fostering their caste feeling of superiority to the blacks, the English have built up a middle-class group between the white aristocracy and the black peasantry. This group includes the educated and professional classes of the Negro group and the more successful colored individuals in all lines of human endeavor. The mulattoes belong to the intermediate class by right of birth. Black men occasionally gain admittance if endowed with special natural ability, or if they have been exceptionally successful in the accumulation of property. This mulatto class has been separated in sentiments and interests from the black group by a deliberate and thorough-going application of the “divide and rule” policy. By a judicious distribution of petty political offices and honors, the whites secure their loyalty and cooperation in the affairs of government in spite of the rigid color line which they draw against them in social affairs. Any Negro who shows ability or talent for leadership is diplomatically separated from the black group and his loyalty to the government and to the ruling whites assured by a political or other honor proportional to his danger as a disgruntled agitator among the blacks. Such political honor or the accumulation of a considerable amount of property will allow him entrance to “colored” society and, if the honor or the fortune be sufficient, assure him a mulatto wife. The larger the fortune, the whiter the wife.
In this way the black race is separated from its natural leaders and remains a black and happy, a contented and helpless mass. The mulatto, dependent upon the white aristocracy for his political position and business opportunities and flattered by a racial designation that separates him from the peasantry and implies his superiority to it, maintains that obsequious and respectful attitude of mind toward his superiors which is a universal characteristic of the dependent and the unfree. Harmony between the races is maintained at the price of a helpless peasantry and an intellectually prostituted middle-class group.
The “psychologically unstable” mulattoes want to be white, so they agitate in the name of black people who have nothing in common with them. That, in turn, makes it necessary for the whites to institute segregation. The agitating doesn’t accomplish anything, but it’s good for the poor darkies and gives the mulattoes something to do:
The larger part of the present-day discussion of inter-race matters, the agitations for social and political rights and privileges, the fulminations against discriminations, the exaggerations of real and fancied wrongs, is not the work of Negroes. It is a small, widely scattered, light-colored and largely deracialized group of mulattoes who have not found their place in the bi-racial community life who refuse to be Negroes and are refused the opportunity to be white whose sentiments and attitudes find expression in the present-day agitations. The bitter, abusive tone of so much present-day Negro literature does not voice the attitude of the Negro; the real Negro is remarkably free from bitterness. The rank and file are intimately concerned with the daily problem of earning a living; they accept the social situation and their place therein more as a matter of fact than as a hardship. The abstract rights for which certain individuals and groups within the race contend interest them very little or not at all. The Negroes have given very little support to the so-called radical movements. A native common sense leads them to a half-conscious recognition of the futility of systematically antagonizing the race upon which they are so largely dependent. The trend of sentiment has been away from, rather than towards, an advocacy of rights and privileges which they are not in a position to demand and which the opposite race seems less and less inclined to bestow upon them. There has been a pretty general acceptance by the more intelligent Negroes in all sections of the country of the Southern point of view.
The agitations of the mulatto groups and individuals are, for obvious reasons, carried on in the name of the Negro, not in the name of the mulatto. The ends to be reached are such as concern the real Negroes very little. The agitations voice the bitterness of the superior mulattoes, of the deracialized men of education, culture, and refinement who resent and rebel against the intolerant social edict that excludes them from white society and classes them with the despised race. The demands resolve themselves in last analysis into a demand that all race distinctions be blotted out and that each man be accepted on the basis of his individual merit irrespective of his race or color. The result of the adoption of such a policy would be, of course, to allow the exceptional men of the race, that is the mulattoes, to escape from it and be accepted by and absorbed into the white race. The demands of the militant mulattoes thus amount to a plea for special privilege; it is a plea for themselves and not for the Negroes. They ask the opportunity to escape from the race toward which they feel much the same prejudice as does the white man. They are Negroes only by compulsion.
The inter-racial situation in the North is thus, in very large part, a caste arrangement. The mulattoes are the superior men and form, or tend to form, a separate and exclusive class above the race. They assume the role of spokesman for the race but they are not an integral part of it as are the mulatto leaders of the South. The Negroes resent, more or less, the mulattoes’ assumption of superiority and their presuming to speak for a race with whom they neither live nor associate. At the same time, it is the desire of every ambitious Negro to secure admittance to the more exclusive circles and to escape from the black group. The mulattoes are rather outside the race, above it. They have not given up the hope of equality with the whites ; they are not satisfied to be Negroes and to find their life and their work among the members of the race. They are contemptuous of the blacks who are socially below them and envious of the whites who are socially above them. The accommodation of the races is on horizontal lines with the educated and light-colored mulattoes standing between the blacks and the whites.
The arrangement, however, seems to lack the elements of permanence. The realization of the mulattoes’ ambition is dependent upon a change of attitude on the part of the white population. Their recognition of the mulatto as superior to the black Negro would insure the permanence of the mulatto caste; it would give it a recognized place in the society. Their granting of the demands for a complete removal of all distinctions based on race or color would allow the escape from the race of the superior and light colored individuals. But curiously enough the rebellious attitude of the militant mulattoes against the habitual attitude of the white group and their agitations against discriminations, whether carried on by themselves or by their white sympathizers, which have for their real though seldom openly avowed and sometimes not consciously understood purpose the allowing of the superior, educated mulattoes to escape from the Negro race and to be absorbed into the white race their protests and complaints and campaigns of bitterness and abuse have an effect quite different from that desired. It tends to defeat its own object and works ultimately to the profit of the Negro group as a whole rather than to that of the protesting group. Instead of influencing the white man to recognize the mulattoes as a superior type of man and to accept them on a rating different from that on which he accepts the mass of the race as an individual regardless of race or color the effect is to identify the complaining individuals more closely with the masses of the race; it tends to solidify the race and, in the thinking of the white man, to class the agitators with it. Its effect is not to break down the white man’s antipathy and prejudice, but to make the feeling more acute and to make more conscious and distinct the determination of the white people to preserve their ideals of racial and social purity. It results in a stricter and a more conscious and purposeful drawing of the color line and a drawing of the line where it had previously not been drawn. In the effort to escape the race, the mulattoes become more than ever identified with it. The segregation policy which exists in all lines everywhere in the South and less openly and frankly but frequently not less effectively in the North wherever the Negroes are numerous and troublesome, is in large part a reaction on the part of the white people against the militant mulattoes’ efforts to achieve social equality with the whites.
Both the mulattoes and the Negroes stand to profit in the end by the agitation of the radical mulatto group for social and class recognition. The struggle for abstract rights is not productive of any important results in the way of removing racial prejudice or social discrimination; it has rather the contrary tendency. But it serves to identify the mulatto with the race and this is an advantage both to the black and to the yellow man. The black Negroes are the gainers by having their natural leaders thrust, even though it be against their will, back upon the race. The mulattoes are gainers in that they are thus forced to see and to embrace the great opportunity which the presence of the people of their own race affords them for a useful and a valuable life of real leadership. The horizontal accommodation the caste system of the North seems destined ultimately to transform itself, as the earlier caste system of the South has already largely done, into a vertical accommodation a bi-racial system.
Reuter cites a few authorities to support the idea that interracial relationships involve “other people’s trash”.
88 “. . . The few white women who have given birth to mulattoes have
always been regarded as monsters; and without exception, they have
belonged to the most impoverished and degraded caste of whites, by whom
they are scrupulously avoided as creatures who have sunk to the level of
the beasts of the field.” P. A. Bruce, The Plantation Negro as a Free-
man, p. 55.
More scientifically, he quotes the conclusion of Race Traits and Tendencies, by a certain Mr. Hoffman:
Comment on these cases is hardly necessary. They tend to prove that as a rule neither good white men nor good white women marry colored persons, and that good colored men and women do not marry white persons. The number of cases is so small, however, that a definite conclusion as to the character of persons intermarrying is hardly warranted. However, it would seem that if such marriages were a success, even to a limited extent, some evidence would be found in a collection of thirty-six cases. It is my own opinion, based on personal observation in the cities of the South, that the individuals of both races who intermarry or live in concubinage are vastly inferior to the average types of the white and colored races in the United States; also, that the class of white men who have intercourse with colored women are, as a rule, of an inferior type.
It is perhaps not generally understood to what extent sexually satiated prostitutes seek Negro men in their search for new stimulation. The same thing is true of many debauched white men.
These are the opinions shared by black nationalist types at the top of this post. Here’s the white supremacist take on that phenomenon:
Any race, or group within a race, which is subjected to discrimination or persecution tends to take on the form of a nationality. The natural bonds of union within are strengthened by the opposition from without. A race consciousness and a race pride tend to develop as a defensive reaction. The struggle of races and of race groups is not so much an economic struggle as it is a struggle for self-respect and race preservation. As the group or race in contact with one of superior culture itself advances to a degree of culture, the innate desire of the members to isolate themselves from unpleasant stimulation and to enjoy the association of others of their kind, becomes strengthened by their consciousness that their presence is an unwelcome intrusion upon the desires of the other race. A developing consciousness of worth reinforces the innate tendency and the prideful reaction. The ostracized group develops a pride of accomplishment in an effort to offset the feeling of inferiority which the rejection by the superior group necessarily creates. The race or group escapes the unpleasant stimulation given by the latent or active hostility of the superior group by retiring within itself and endeavoring to become self-sufficient. This seems to be the tendency of the American Negro group in the present decade.
The obstacles to racial solidarity among the American Negroes, however, are very numerous and very real. Their isolation is nowhere complete; geographically they are settled among a more numerous white population on which, in very large measure, they are economically and culturally dependent. They lack a distinctive language, one of the most valuable focal points for the growth of such a sentimental complex, and, in the common language, there is no body of literature by members of the race that is in in any way distinctive, or in which a pride of achievement can center. Their religion is but a recent acquisition and in creed differs in no essential way from the religion of the white race. Their manners, customs, and habits of life are in no way distinctive. The race is without a history, or even a tradition of past greatness. Consequently, there are no historical names about which a popular tradition can grow. The only accomplishments of the race are modern ones; a generation into the past brings them against the bleak fact of slavery and beyond that lies the age-long condition from which enslavement by a civilized race was a mighty step. Color, the peculiarity of physical type, is the obvious basis for their nationality. But color is everywhere correlated with primitive and degraded people; it is a thing from which to escape, not a thing of which to be proud.
In spite, however, of the apparently insuperable obstacles in the way of a Negro nationality in America, the present tendency is clearly in that direction. It is toward an identification of the various creeds and a union of the various classes in the race ; toward a feeling of pride in the growing accomplishments of the race and a consciousness of unity of interest. Whatever may be the limit that the tendency may finally reach, it is being promoted both designedly and undesignedly by both the whites and the blacks, and by forces from within and from without the race.
The isolation of the race through voluntary action on its part and through legal action on the part of the white race, is the most important single fact making for class consciousness and race solidarity. This isolation of the race is not a recent phenomenon. It is the legal recognition and enforcement of the separation and the extension of it to include every line of contact and every individual of the race which is the characteristic feature of the present policy. The degree to which the races are admittedly separate is somewhat different in different regions. Where the numbers of the race are small and their activities have not conflicted with the white man’s idea of what the Negroes’ attitude and behavior should be, they have, except in the proscription against social equality, met with no serious difficulty beyond the contempt-to-hatred attitude of their white neighbors. But wherever their numbers have become considerable, or their attitude has become assertive, the Negroes have met the non-intercourse policy of the dominant white man.
The present tendency is toward an increased application intensively and extensively of this segregation policy. Residential segregation is well-nigh universal. In the South, generally, it is enforced by state laws and city ordinances ; in the North, by various means depending upon the local conditions…
On the part of the leaders among the Negroes, there is an increasing amount of voluntary segregation in more places and in more lines. Separate schools are advocated and petitioned for: they open positions for the teachers. Professional and business men see it more and more to their advantage to promote a spirit of race solidarity. To the extent to which this exists, they cease to be in competition with the business and professional men of the other race. In increasing numbers they are going South, identifying themselves with the race, and finding their life and work among the black group. The opportunities for the educated and ambitious Negro or mulatto is greatest among the people of his own race. Competition there is not so keen and the slightly superior individual can become an important and influential person. The matter of self-interest ranges them on the side of the segregation policy where the rank and file always have been as a matter of choice. The acquisition of these men increases the feeling of importance on the part of the group and so increases its tendency toward unity. With the increase of racial unity, the opportunities for educated men in the race increase in number and importance, and this, in turn, attracts with increasing force the mulatto and other superior men of the race.
The self-respect as well as the self-interest of the educated Negro tends to the same end as the proscription of the white and the temperament of the blacks. Speaking generally, no Negro, regardless of color or training, is welcome in any social organization of cultured white people anywhere in America. In the semi-social and professional organizations, the same thing is in general true. If the Negro is not barred from the medical, bar, teaching, and other professional associations, he never is made to feel that he is welcome. As a consequence, the Negro, to the extent of his culture and education, stays away when he finds that he is not wanted. It is the only action he can take and preserve his self-respect.
By going South, the educated Negro is allowed to forget that he is denied privileges granted to others, that the race is looked upon as inferior and treated as alien. These are things which concern the individual very little. Aside from the professional agitator, they distress the Negro not at all. In the North, however, they are the constant refrain from which the only escape is an escape from the race. In the South, the educated Negro can escape this ever-lasting agitation about his status and his rights. There his social status is fixed and once he realizes and accepts this fact, it ceases to trouble him. He has his own group and he is definitely excluded from white society. The treatment in the matter is at least consistent and the mulatto, recognizing the impossibility of achieving a position of social equality, ceases to be concerned about it and loses his bitterness at being excluded. He is able to stop “thinking black.” The morbid brooding over real and fancied wrongs gives place to a healthy thought about actual problems. The attitude of slavish dependence the childish wail for others to right his wrongs is replaced by an attitude of manly independence, a determination to face the world and to play a manly part therein. Agitation gives place to work; self-reliance replaces self-pity. He no longer lives “behind the veil”; he is dealing with objective reality. He becomes a useful man and, in proportion to his ability, a leader among his people.
Another thing making for the increase in this spirit of nationality is the growing literature of the race. This is a focal point about which the sentiments of the race can crystallize. As it increases in volume and in quality and comes to be more widely read, the sentiment of pride correspondingly increases. There is also some effort being made by the Negroes themselves to create a Negro history. A tradition of musical genius already exists among the race and, outside musical circles, is generally accepted by the whites. The gift which so many Negroes have for effective public speaking is another thing of which the race is exceedingly proud. The point here is that regardless of the slender basis of fact upon which many of these things rest, they have an immense effect upon the thinking of the race. It is the opinion that a race has of itself that counts in the growth of a nationalistic spirit, and the opinion of the best thinkers of the race is coming more and more to be that if the Negroes desire really to reach a full manhood they must reach it by being Negroes rather than by being weak imitations of white people.
Whether it be because of compulsion on the part of the whites or because of voluntary action on the part of the Negroes, there is an increasing segregation on the part of the Negroes and consequently an increasing tendency toward racial solidarity.