Shifting Myth of “Black” and “White”

Shifting Myth of “Black” and “White”

by George Winkel
February/March 2000

This is a follow-up to an Interracial Voice guest editorial last year (Jan.-Feb., ’99), which was highly controversial — although only in the minds of those locked in the belief-system stating that different “races” exist in America.

A.D. Powell wrote an excellent review of an important book by Dr. Lawrence R. Tenzer: Racial Mixture, “White” Identity, and The “Forgotten” (or censored) Cause of the Civil War. Tenzer’s book The Forgotten Cause of the Civil War: A New Look at the Slavery Issue, “Scholars Publishing House, 1997, and Powell’s commentary on it, argued (1) the outbreak of the Civil War, ending slavery, owed at least as much to white dread arising from the growing numbers of “obviously white” southern slaves as it did from Northerners’ egalitarianism then (2) Nineteenth Century Antebellum racial definitions broadened and waxed permissive, while subdividing a growing intermediate Mulatto “race” into Quadroon (3/4), Octoroon (7/8), Quinteroon (15/16) — and “white.” (E.g., my 1968 Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed.., indicates the definition of “Negro” eventually excluded all persons having more than 1/8 non-African blood. This was about the same average concentration required! for legal “white” then.) (3) Therefore, the feared “One-Drop” rule of “hypodescent” is nothing, basically, but a remembered Jim Crow era artifact (a myth).

In a word, One-Drop is modern. Notwithstanding countless passing mentions of “ancient” One-Drop since the hazy dawn-time, invented by slave-masters, and so on, One-Drop was not actually formalized until 1924 (61 years after slavery ended in the USA). “White purity” and its opposite, the “one-drop” black “taint,” started becoming state law that year — starting with the “Virginia Racial Integrity Act” — primarily boosted by the then State Registrar of Vital Statistics, a Dr. Walter Plecker (eugenics nut). Plecker himself complained about the South’s racial permissiveness. See Plecker’s 1925 tract mentioning the one-sixteenth and one-eighth blood-quanta which “white” people of 1920 were being permitted.

All this shows that “whites” have never conscientiously guarded their own “racial purity,” or wholeheartedly bought into the myth. In fact, Plecker’s own “Racial Integrity Act” allowed up to 1/16 of Indian blood in “white” persons. Read the actual racial definitions giving rise to both “white purity” and One-Drop in Footnote 4 of Loving v. Virginia 388 U.S. 1, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967) — the U.S. Supreme Court decision which overturned the “Act” entirely for its unconstitutionality. “White purity,” like One-Drop, is a myth born primarily of the unholy union of pre-1960’s Jim Crow white racism and post Martin Luther King, Jr., minority identity politicking, which picked up after King’s death. The simple fact “races” are check-boxed on the U.S. Census and myriad other government forms (e.g., school enrollment, employment, welfare, etc.), keeps the myth of “races” alive. Because race-conscious government agencies for the past third of a century have monitored and meted aid out to “racial minorities,” a mighty and growing political community has grown up, feeding on this taxpayer largesse. “Votes” in “racial” check-boxes on such government forms have translated into political and economic power-interests, trying to preserve and expand the system of racial classifications. It is an evil system predicated on arbitrary, mythical (nonexistent), but nonetheless divisive “racial” dividing lines.

A nice follow-up to the Tenzier-Powell article is this New York Times editorial from November 15, 1998, entitled “Shifting Meanings of ‘Black’ and ‘White’.” See also the 1922 Supreme Court opinion “Ozawa v. United States, 260 U.S. 178, 43 S.Ct. 65 (1922), which mentions (id., p. 196) that white slaves existed. A Supreme Court opinion would not say it if it were not so. We should all recognize from this evidence of past mixing that the existence of alleged “separate” “races” in America is nothing but a big myth.

George Winkel practices appellate defense law in the California Fourth Appellate District, the State Supreme Court, and occasionally before the U.S. Ninth Circuit.

Also by George Winkel

  • INTERRACIAL VOICE: On Rejecting Identity Politics
  • INTERRACIAL VOICE: Straightening Out The Bell Curve

    Copyright © 2000 George Winkel and The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.

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