On October 15, the Associated Press reported the story of a Louisiana justice of the peace who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. (The full story can be viewed here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jy_z-Zo4fvJEf2TK1LCiiPIe9NDwD9BBNUJ80)
According to this reporting, the justice of the peace justified his refusal to marry the interracial couple based solely on his own “experience” that “most interracial couples do not last long”, further adding that he does not want to “put children [of the interracial couple] in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves”. He is not a racist though, he claims, because he does “ceremonies for black couples” in his own house, and that despite having denied a couple a marriage license due to the fact that their skin tones do not match, he tries to “treat everyone equally”.
The facts that make up this story are profoundly disturbing. We can discuss and analyze in depth all the facts that make this story so problematic and disturbing, but we will only examine two of the most obvious. The first circles around ideas of miscegenation, and the second around the widespread claim made by racists that they are not racists.
Since the very early days of colonization and development of what we know now as the United States of America, there has been a live fear of dark others. Following the invention of race by Anglo-Saxons, who proudly took on the title of White, and therefore, better than anyone else deemed not White, grew a fear of some sort of genetic takeover of non-Whites (aka the dark others). The fear stemmed from the idea that the White race was the pure race, and that any “interbreeding” with a non-pure (or more accurately phrased: inferior) race would result in the dying out of the pure White race. Thus came horrific things like the Eugenics movement, ‘ethnic cleansing’, the rise and popularity of White Supremacist groups, and miscegenation laws. Beginning in the 1800s, these miscegenation laws made it illegal for two people of differing races to procreate, marry, or even maintain relationships. The fear of mixing races was so strong and ingrained in White America that it was not until 1967 (that’s thirty two years ago…very recently in history) that the last of the miscegenation laws were banned on the premise that it is unlawful for the government to dictate who a person can and cannot choose to marry. It took until just thirty two years ago for the United States government to declare one of the many racist laws unlawful.
The justice of the peace who refused to marry this Louisiana couple claims to not be a racist because he has married black couples in his career. A person is not deemed a non-racist simply because he can co-exist with people of other races. He is not deemed a non-racist because he “has black friends” or “works with black people”. A person can be tolerant of a particular race or group of ethnic people, but that alone does not make him not a racist. Racism stems from beliefs and inherent benefits and privileges of a person that said person does not necessarily recognize. It stems from a bigger reality, one that is rooted in a country’s racist history, and modern day racist institutions that continue to thrive off relentless oppression of racial “others”. Indulging in such racist institutions, and then turning around to claim non-racism based on the fact that there so happens to be a black man in the neighborhood who everyone pretends to be color blind around does not make a person not a racist.
Neither does spewing racist comments and claims such as the ones this Louisiana jusice of the peace make. He claims a handful of “statistics” to justify his own racism, most of which are “evidence” of interracial couples being unstable, and of the children of interracial couples more prone to suffer from discrimination and single parent households. The fact of the matter is, there is no research or data for these claims to hold any truth. If a child of an interracial couple does suffer from discrimination, or if an interracial couple is unstable, it is due to racism. It is racism that is posing the greatest risk to children and to couples of color or of mixed race, which gives us more reason to fight against people like this Louisiana justice of the peace. It gives us more reason to not sit back and just listen to such blatant racism be spewed and perpetuated. It gives us more reason to speak out against racist words, thoughts and actions so that two people in love can be married and begin a family, regardless of perceived race.