2009-02-28

How Did They Manage To Overlook Race Relations


Thanks Yanmomma for showing me this story.

I always found it strange that it seemed that when miscegenation was illegal, the relationships between white men and black women were at an all time high, of course it could be said that most of these relationships were inequitable, with the white man having and maintaining power over the black woman. Yet, some of these relationships weren't always a result of rape or force. I always heard stories in my family about my great grandmother's father's but it was kept very hush hush. I knew my great grandmother and all six of her siblings had the same father, that my great great grandmother wasn't married to him, but they lived together in the backwoods of Louisiana for many years. We just passed it off as being "creole", that he was just high yellow and liked his women dark skinned. His children came out light as hell if I looked at my great grandmother and great great uncles and aunts, but for the most part the concept of him being white was unbeknownst to us.

Another story that kind of makes me think is Anatole Broyard, the book critic for the New York Times who passed as white literally until his death. His great grandfather was a white man who labeled himself black so that he could marry a free woman of color.

Now I was referred to this story about Clarence King, a geologist and mountaineer who was a descendant of signers of the Magna Carta. He led a double life in order to marry his wife, a former slave who he had five children with. He didn't even bother to tell his wife he was not black or mulatto, but white, and he passed himself off as a steelworker to explain his travels to her. He didn't reveal his true identity to her, until he was on his deathbed.

I find it odd that even though interracial relationships were blatantly outlawed and shunned upon for these men to enter the relationships that they did, they gave up their whiteness all for the sake of getting married. King pretty much gave up his privilege to marry and have children with a black women, privilege that probably had a greater more profound weight that white privilege of today.

Even with the past, and for King and Broyard their current situation in regards to race relations, they gave up their need to keep up appearances and status. What made this men of this time do this, when most white men aren't willing to do this in this day and age of post racial America? Why is it we rely upon history to describe the state of race relations between black women and white men, when it seems that even in history some white men were willing to rock the boat?