Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Complex Edition

In the course of formulating an answer to a question of mine, my brother asked me something:

I ask, did genetic inferiority on the part of blacks actually ever come into the Assenting oppinion [sic] in Loveing [sic] V. Virginia? ... Please note, this is straight inferiority, not ability to raise good kids or anything. The charge I mean should be considered akin to beastiality.

The simple answer is "no." The series of lawsuits that ultimately resulted in the decision Loving v. Virginia began in 1963, and the Supreme Court decided the case four years later. By this point, the belief that blacks were inherently inferior to whites was, if not gone, certainly suffering. But further, the main legal contention of the Lovings was that they were being denied equal protection and due process in violation of the 14th amendment--it would have been rather foolish to deny unequal treatment on the basis of race and in the same breath claim one race was inferior to the other.

Mostly the state defended itself by saying that creating legal limits on who may enter into a state of matrimony was a valid power of the state under the 10th amendment, and not one to be encroached on by the federal government. Judge Bazile quoted the Indiana case State v. Gibson approvingly:
If the Federal Government can determine who may marry in a State, there is no limit to its power . . .

Besides which, all prior judicial decisions and the original intention of the framers of the amendment were brought up to show that the 14th amendment did not invalidate anti-miscegenation laws. As Judge Bazile wrote,
Marriage is a subject which belongs to the exclusive control of the States.

In State v. Gibson, 16 Ind. 180, 10 Am. Rep. 42 a statute prohibiting the intermarriage of negroes and white persons was held not to violate any provisions of the 14th Amendment or Civil Rights Laws in the course of a well-reasoned and well-supported discussion of the powers retained by and inherit in the States under the Constitution....

So there was little need or reason to argue that blacks were inherently inferior.

However, the belief in white superiority thoroughly tinges the creation of anti-miscegenation laws, and the common defense, if not the legal one. As the Supreme Court noted in Loving v. Virginia,
In upholding the constitutionality of these provisions in the decision below, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia referred to its 1955 decision in Naim v. Naim, 197 Va. 80, 87 S. E. 2d 749, as stating the reasons supporting the validity of these laws. In Naim, the state court concluded that the State's legitimate purposes were "to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens," and to prevent "the corruption of blood," "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride," obviously an endorsement of the doctrine of White Supremacy. Id., at 90, 87 S. E. 2d, at 756.

Even though some made lip service to the notion that these laws would benefit blacks as well, and protect the purity of "both" races, and some probably sincerely believed that, most legislators did not care about the "purity" of any race besides the white--every anti-miscegenation law, with I believe only three exceptions, only prevented members of a non-white race from marrying a member of the white race. In 1924, Virginia passed a law entitled "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity", which the Supreme Court noted only meant the integrity of the white race.

The need to preserve the white race's integrity stemmed from the belief that the races could all be ranked according to innate characteristics--a hold-over from the belief in the Great Chain of Being. And since whites were the ones doing the judging, naturally they were on top; and blacks, who were opposite of whites, were on the bottom. Sometimes men included the "Hottentots" as below the blacks, but it didn't change the belief that whites were superior to all other races.

It wasn't as radical an idea as it sounds now. The obvious notion that different races had different physical characteristics (which doesn't seem to be so obvious anymore) led to the assumption, and then the dogma, that they have different mental and moral characteristics as well. And if they were different, then one was surely "better" than the other.

There were often discrepancies between various people's rankings of the races. This was due, in some part, to disagreement over how many races there were and who was included among which of them. But it was almost always acknowledged that the white was at the top, and the black at the bottom. The black may not have been physically inferior to the white--some argued he was, some not, and some said he was merely adapted to living in a different terraint--but morally, and especially mentally, he was 'clearly' the white man's inferior.

Probably the pioneer of this was Samuel Morton, whose analysis of his collection of skulls was used to demonstrate that blacks had smaller brains, and hence were less intelligent, than whites. Josiah Nott, for instance, in "The Negro Race: Its Ethnology and History," said:
My lamented friend, the late Dr. S. G. Morton, of Philadelphia, so well known for his great works, Crania Americana and Crania Ægyptiaca, left behind him the largest collection of human skulls in the world, which is still kept in the Academy of Sciences in that city. By numerous measurements of the various races he has established certain facts with regard to the relative sizes of brains that are now admitted by all anatomists, and which have great significance with our subject.
The following table, copied from page 454 of "Nott & Gliddon's Types of Mankind," is based on Dr. Morton's measurements, and shows at a glance the relative size of brains of races in cubic inches:

The critic might here object to an apparent contradiction, viz: The fact that the negro, in these measurements, presents a brain about the size of those of the Chinese and Malay, and larger than that of the Hindoo; although greatly inferior to all in intellect. The same objection might be urged in the measurements of the Taltecan and barbarous tribes of American Indians. But the discrepancy is easily explained. The negro, it is true, in the aggregate, has a brain as capacious as that of the Chinese and Malay, and larger than that of the Hindoo; but in the negro the posterior or animal part of the brain greatly preponderates over the anterior or intellectual lobes. In the other races named the anterior or intellectual lobes of the brain greatly preponderate over the posterior or animal portion. The same facts apply to the semi-civilized and barbarous tribes of Indians.

Not only were the brains smaller in volume, but also in mass, as claimed by William Benjamin Smith in his book, The Color Line: A Brief in Behalf of the Unborn:
From the autopsies of 405 Whites, Blacks, and intermediates, made by Surgeon Ira Russell, the following conclusions have been drawn by Dr. Sanford B. Hunt, surgeon of United States Volunteers in the Civil War: "(1) The standard weight of the negro brain is over five ounces less than that of the white. (2) Slight intermixture of white blood diminishes the negro brain from its normal standard, but when the infusion of white blood amounts to one-half (mulatto), it determines a positive increase in the negro brain, which, in the quadroon, is only three ounces below the white standard. (3) The percentage of exceptionally small brains is largest among negroes having but a small proportion of white blood. Of these 405, there were 141 Blacks, and only twenty-four Whites; the others were mixed. We may omit these latter, and may substitute the results of 278 other autopsies of Whites, and form this table:

Here we observe: Dr. Hunt's (1) does not seem warranted; the number (24) of White brains weighed seems too small. But the weights of the 278 Whites show that the smaller weight of the Negro brain is a fact. More extensive observation shows that the Black average is about four ounces below the white. The absence of very large brains among the Blacks comes out most distinctly. There were no Black brains weighing over fifty-six ounces, only five weighing so much as fifty-five; whereas, eight White brains weighd over sixty ounces, and forty weighed over fifty-five. Likewise of the twenty-four Whites, only one fell under forty-five ounces, but forty-one of the 141 Blacks; also, only forty-seven of the 278 Whites; it is plain, then, that large brains predominate among the Whites and small ones among the Blacks.

There's a lot more out there of people either trying to prove, or simply brazenly asserting, that blacks are inferior to white. But I want to finish this while it's still Friday and you don't want to read all that, so I'll hurry along now.

Connecting this all back to anti-miscegenation laws was the belief that mulattoes would be inferior to whites (it was sometimes argued that they would be inferior to blacks as well, but more often assumed they'd be intermediate). As the children of whites, they stood to inherit white society and the burden of continuing it; but as the inferiors of whites, they weren't up to the task. Among the beliefs of white superiority was that whites, alone, were capable of scientific and cultural advancement--only whites created civilizations. Any other civilization was either mere imitation of whites, a creation of whites that had been inherited, but never improved, by lesser races, or was really no civilization at all. A 1927 letter to the editor in the New York Times, entitled simply "Caucasian Superiority", read:
The colored races have been on the earth thousands of years longer than the Caucasian and have never been able to establish a civilization nor even to maintain one established by the white race. The old civilization of India and China of which the professor speaks, to say nothing of Syria, Babylonia, Persia and Egypt, were founded by the Caucasians and only fell because race integrity could not be maintained.

Go over the map of the world and it will be found that the degree of civilization existing in each is directly proportioned to the amount of white blood in the make-up of the people.

And three years later, a letter was published and titled "The Survival of the White Race", as the author's rebuttal to a review of his work, "Can the White Race Survive?":
If Dr. Stronach had read the highly commendable works of Gregory Mason of the Mason-Spinden-New York Times expedition, of Dr. Thomas Gann and of Dr. Morley, he would not be so ready to doubt my assertion that the builders of ancient American civilizations were whites and disappeared, with their great culture, for no other reason than that of amalgamation with an inferior black slave type, producing the brown-skinned Indian. Many decades ago Short found skulls in pre-Inca ruins with blond and red hair and wondered what became of those old white peoples. It should be a mystery no longer....

I reassert, with full assurance that an unbiased student seeking the hard facts of truth will bear me out, that in every instance where a civilized culture was developed to later fall away from the way of progress the one prevailing cause for such decline was racial deterioration through the amalgamation of the white builders with an intellectually inferior black species, resulting in various world-parts in the so-called "races," which are nothing else than myriad gradations of mixture between the original white and the now non-existent proto-negro.

Interestingly, the author of that letter, declared that "There is absolutely no basis in biology for the assertion that a people of the white race, while remaining pure, have a 'birth, growth, decay and death.'" Apparently he believed that the white race would go on eternally were it not for miscegenation.

This need to protect the infiltration of white blood with black also explains, to a small degree, the sexism involved in miscegenation. Whereas white men could generally get away with sleeping with black women, the reverse was much more readily condemned. I cannot at the moment find any quote to this effect, but the argument was sometimes put forth that white men could sleep with black women because all that did was inject white blood into black. But white women should not sleep with black men because women, as bearers of children, were guardians of the race--a white woman having a mulatto child would have allowed the injection of black blood into the white race.

I have rambled for a long while, I think, but I hope the question has been answered.

[Edit] I found a quote that white men sleeping with black women wasn't as bad as white women sleeping with black men.
[Edit] I discuss the author of the book Can the White Race Survive? a little bit more in this post.

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