The Racist Roots of “Birtherism”

On Wednesday, President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. Of course, the document confirms that he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii as those in the reality-based community have known for some years now. Yet, this faux controversy has been taken to new depths of media attention with the recent addition of Donald Trump to the mix of Tea Party conspiracy theorists, whom President Obama did not call by name, but referred to as part of a panoply of “sideshows and carnival barkers” that distract the nation’s attention from the real issues. The comparison between Trump and P.T. Barnum is an apt one, but it misses the deeply racist roots of “birtherism.”

How is the call for President Obama’s birth certificate racist? No one breaks it down better than Goldie Taylor, contributing editor at The Grio, in this short video (4:13) featured on The Rachel Maddow Show (apologies for the ad at the beginning):

Taylor is eloquent in her description of her great, great grandfather’s encounter with a white power structure in 1899 and weaves that into the present-day call for President Obama to demonstrate his legitimate right to hold the highest office in the country.

You can read the full text of Taylor’s commentary here.

Austin’s Whites Celebrate the Oppressive “Old South” — Unreflectively

Well, our supposedly “most liberal” city in the South, Austin, Texas, where I once lived for a couple of decades, has again shown its rather racist colors.

Tonight the Austin Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 100th anniversary, and much controversy has arisen over the “Remembering the Old South” theme of the symphony’s fundraiser, an old South ball.

“Show off your southern style as you stroll through the plantation gardens, shop in the gazebos and sip on a mint julep,” the league’s website [says]…. The description of the ball the following evening continued: “This will be an evening of Old South charm and grace, of friends and family, of Moonlight & Magnolias.”

Sylvia Benini, director of the Austin Center for Peace and Justice, pointed out that this theme should call up images of brutal slavery and other plantation oppression on this 150th anniversary of the Civil War. In addition:

Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, pointed out that, this year, a number of events around the country celebrate the Old South. “The Old South was a nightmare,” Linder said. “It was full of racism.”

The symphony executive director, however, defended this dubious white-racially-framed effort:

“The whole deal about the Old South is that it is part of our history.” . . . Corroa … encouraged a dialogue with those who had found the Old South references problematic.

So, now only some Austinites are expected to find this Old South theme problematical, and other Austinites can still continue celebrating in a “fun” way the African American slavery that was extreme, bloody, and brutal– apparently with many not batting an eye?

Lisa Byrd, director of … Austin’s largest African American arts group, was not surprised ….”I personally find it par for the course. In Austin, where [white] people don’t acknowledge a black population and a functioning black culture, it would seem to be OK, wouldn’t it?”

Indeed, and not just in Austin. Once again, the “post-racial” theme so common these days is demonstrated clearly to be false. Notice how even in “liberal white” settings whites still easily defend celebrations of this country’s extreme racist eras, as if that bloody history does not matter now.

They are operating out of a liberal or “soft” version of the old white racist framing of this society, and with little concern for African Americans whose ancestors died young, were often raped, were worked to death, and lived lives under extreme totalitarian conditions.

What is your take on this, and the many other celebrations of the “Old South” we are going to soon see?

Increasing Latino Vote in Midterm Elections



The Pew Hispanic Center has a very interesting new report on the Latino vote in 2010. Their chart shows that the number who have voted in midterm elections has steadily increased, to 6.6 million in the most recent election. This was in 2010 some 6.9 percent of all voters, up 1.1 percent since the last midterm election.

As their summary puts it

Rapid population growth has helped fuel Latinos’ increasing electoral participation. According to the Census Bureau, 50.5 million Hispanics were counted by the 2010 Census, up from 35.3 million in 2000. Over the same decade, the number of Latino eligible voters—adults who are U.S. citizens—also increased, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 21.3 million in 2010.

Yet, there is still the reality of lower participation than their percentage of the population, for rather obvious reasons:

In 2010, 16.3% of the nation’s population was Latino, but only 10.1% of eligible voters and fewer than 7% of voters were Latino. This gap is driven by two demographic factors—youth and non-citizenship.

The report also notes considerable variability within the Latino population, with the college educated Latinos much more likely to vote, and younger voters being the least likely to vote. There is also diversity within the umbrella Latino category:

Nearly half (49.3%) of Cuban origin Latinos voted in 2010 compared with 29.6% of Puerto Rican origin Latinos and 28.7% of Mexican origin Latinos.

The Pew Hispanic Center has been doing some useful research reports for both researchers and teachers working on Latino issues, including those researching the political and other impacts of this growing Latino vote. I have seen very little, speculative or data-driven, research examining the likely political and other impact of this growing voter group over the next few decades. It certainly played a significant role in the election of President Obama in 2008, and likely will again in 2012. What is you take on these data?

Racial Inequality and “Meritocracy”: A Closer Look



Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the nation’s only black four- star general , William E. Ward. His forty year career spanned work in the Middle East, Africa where he was the first head of the U.S. Africa Command, Deputy Commander of the European Command, a stint with the 82nd Airborne, action in Somalia and Bosnia and numerous other assignments. He is a charming, personable man who will be retiring this May. His successes over decades of service to this nation give credence to the belief that hard work can lead to good outcomes and triumph over racism.

I would not want readers to misconstrue the tenor of my previous blogs. I do believe in the virtue of industriousness and the rewards of hard work and individual initiative. I grew up in this society and learned these values as other kids do through our education system. While these virtues often help some people to achieve success and gain recognition, (they certainly help perpetuate the existing social system), they do not guarantee everyone equal outcomes. For example, today’s military is thought to offer people of color access to upward mobility, but African Americans are still underrepresented in the highest ranks. While blacks comprise about 17 percent of the military, they account for only 9 percent of the officers. Only 5.6 percent of the 923 general officers and admirals were black as of May, 2008. Just ten African American men have ever attained four-star rank, five in the Army, four in the Air Force, and one in the Navy.

The highest echelons of the private sector are even more segregated. As of February, 2010, there were only nine African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500. A Wall Street Journal analysisin 2008 found only a tenth of the CEOs of the largest corporations in the United States were racial and ethnic minorities, and their percentage on boards of directors was small and virtually unchanged since 2000. In fact, the percentage of companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index with no minority directors increased from 36 to 41 percent between 2000 and 2007. (Women don’t fare much better in this white man’s world, with only 25 heading Fortune 1,000 companies in 2007.)

Although over 600 cities today have African American mayors compared to virtually none in the ‘60s (clearly a sign of political progress and demographic trends in the nation’s metropolitan areas), there are no African American members in the U.S. Senate, one black governor (Deval Patrick of Massachusetts), and only two African Americans have ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court. But hope springs eternal—I never thought I’d see a man of color in the White House, or, for that matter, a person of color as the head of the Joints Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of State. (The latter under Republican conservative President George Bush.)

While remarkable changes have occurred in race relations in this country over the last several decades, giving some people of color access to better lives and others (whites included) hope in the future, the fact remains that disparities between whites and people of color exist in important areas:

1. In educational attainment, as measured by graduation rates and standardized test scores in math, reading and science, blacks and Latinos are 30 percent lower than whites, and a disproportionate number of children of color are suspended and expelled and relegated to special education programs.
2. In health, measured in longevity, black life expectancy is as much as eight years less than whites; infant and maternal mortality nearly double that of whites; and blacks and Latinos have lower rates of health insurance coverage than whites
3. In criminal justice, measured in the disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated and the disparities in sentences they receive compared to whites for the same or similar offenses.
4. The net worth of whites is eight to ten times more than blacks. Three times as many blacks as whites live below 125 percent of the poverty level, and black median household income is only 65 percent that of whites.

These disparities have not changed significantly in decades. The gap between whites and blacks and Latinos has even been widening since the onset of the Great Recession. Unemployment among African Americans has been twice as high as whites and 50 percent higher for Latinos than whites.

We are raised believing in the notion of a meritocracy—that one can become successful by embracing the concept. The assumption in this proposition is that of a level playing field where we all have equal opportunities to develop our abilities and potential. Conversely, if someone or group fails in the game of life in America, then that is because of some personal defect of character or even biology. We have seen this theme repeated in attempts of the wealthy and their apologists in the Academy to link intelligence to success and superior genetic endowment. It is a recurrent theme used to blame the victims of systemic, institutionalized racism, sexism, abelism, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination used to marginalize people who have been systematically prevented from participating fully in this society.

While it may be comforting and convenient to believe that only the most highly qualified people are recruited to occupy the upper echelons of the organizations which run our society (and indeed the world’s), it is far too simplistic to assume that the centuries of human pain, suffering and failure experienced by marginalized groups rests solely on their purported social, psychological and physiological imperfections. Certainly, marginalized people have made political and economic advances. They must continue to believe that there is hope for more, but we all must recognize the limitations imposed on people by institutions that are dominated by a white male minority who continue to resist significant changes in their use and abuse of power. I believe in this country and the concept of a meritocracy, but I am also aware of the balance of power and political realities that limit people who have not had the opportunities which prepared them to assume the roles of political and corporate leadership. By analyzing and exposing the weaknesses in our system, it is my hope that we will be able to fulfill the promise of “liberty and justice for all.”

For more information on these points see:
1. Joe R. Feagin, Racist America. Second edition. N.Y.: Routledge, 2010.

2. Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996.

3. H. Roy Kaplan, The Myth of Post-Racial America. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2011.

4. Stephen J. McNamee and Robert K. Miller, Jr., The Meritocracy Myth. Second edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.

H. Roy Kaplan, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor, Department of Africana Studies, University of South Florida

Targeting Black Athletes: The BYU Case



Over the past several days, my colleague and I posted a story about honor code violations and patterns of racial disparities among former and current Brigham Young University athletes entitled “The Truth About Race, Religion, and the Honor Code at BYU” on Deadspin. The idea came about after Brandon Davies, an African American basketball player, violated the honor code by reportedly having sex with his girlfriend. The honor code office has institutionalized a set a standards for all students that prohibits alcohol and fornication among other things. However, the honor code violations that come to light almost always involve athletes of color.

Because Davies represents so few African Americans (<0.6% of the student body; 176 out of 32,947 enrolled in 2010 were black) on BYU’s campus, his high profile status and subsequent suspension from the basketball team came as a big surprise to many who follow collegiate sports especially during the NCAA basketball tournament where every starter is crucial in the world of high-stakes college athletics. In the wake of the Davies incident, BYU was heralded as a symbol of all that is decent in college sports for unapologetically holding to its standards. But the question arises: If this were James Anderson or Jimmer Fredette, would the outcome have been similar?

Upon closer examination of the honor code system, we found discrepancies in how the honor code is applied for athletes of color, especially African Americans. Since 1993, according to our research, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed, put on probation, or forced to withdraw from their respective teams or the school for various honor code violations. Fifty-four of these athletes, nearly 80 percent, are people of color. Forty-one, or almost 60 percent, are black men. These are conservative numbers compiled largely from media reports and interviews. From what we gathered, a clear pattern of conduct has been established for athletes of color who only make up a mere 23 percent of all athletes according to the university.

There has been much stimulating discussion nationally about what these numbers suggest. The Brandon Davies suspension was not a random act as much as it was a normal pattern of racial profiling on the part of school officials that selectively apply the honor code for Mormon versus Non-Mormon and Black versus White. By publicly casting out a disproportionate number of African American men, the honor code office creates the illusion that only black men “sin” and are in need of harsher discipline. Such has been the history for African American men in U.S. society since slavery times in which they have been repeatedly blamed for their own circumstances without regard for the historical conditions of institutional racism and racial mistreatment that continually blight their life chances.

Therefore, it is troubling to consider that BYU would wantonly engage in behavior that could be construed as modern racism particularly given its history of priesthood denial to black men which led to the racial protests by numerous schools in the Western United States in the late sixties. During that period several universities (UTEP, The University of Wyoming, The University of Washington) protested against BYU given the mainline LDS Church’s position that blacks were inherently inferior as evidenced by their “curse” of black skin.
¬
If BYU plans to maintain an active roster of African Americans recruits, it has a responsibility to uphold and it starts with full disclosure of the particulars of its honor code as well as the reality of its consequences if rules were to be broken. In addition, BYU must re-evaluate its current honor code policy to ensure fairness and equanimity across the board and further avoid even the hint of bias. Further, if they do continue to recruit athletes of color, they have the responsibility to provide these students with mentors not just on the grid-iron and court, but in the classroom and administration by hiring and maintaining faculty and staff of color. A mentoring program should be established that will ensure the collegiate success of these student-athletes after the completion of their eligibility. Finally, as a show of good will, the university should allow any desirous former athlete the chance to complete their college degree to make a better life for themselves and their families. After all, isn’t forgiveness of sin the hallmark of any Christian religion?

Darron T. Smith is assistant professor at Wichita State University and a frequent commentator on various issues of race, including a New York Times post on transracial adoption on Haitian children. He is the co-author White Parents, Black Children Experiencing Transracial Adoption and Black and Mormon.

More Tea Party Racism



As if we needed it, the white Tea Party folks have made it clear again how some/many of their members think in blatantly racist terms — straight out of the old white racial frame. The Los Angeles Wave (h\t Trevor) has this story about more racist imagery from an Orange County Republican official targeting President Obama:

A tea party activist and elected member of the Orange County Republican central committee said she will not heed calls to resign because she emailed a picture of President Barack Obama’s face on the body of a chimpanzee. Marilyn Davenport of Fullerton recently emailed a picture of Obama’s face superimposed over a baby chimp’s face with the caption, “Now you know why — No birth certificate!”

One Republican official called on her to resign and said that it was “dripping with racism.” Like many whites, her defense was the usual:

“I am not a racist. It was a joke. I have friends who are black.”

When whites do blatantly racist stuff nowadays, since they control the dominant white racial framing, they get to decide what is racist and what is not. That is, when they do even racist stuff like this, they get to define racism as not racist! One has to wonder too why she thinks she really has “black friends,” with racist framing like this. This is an old set of white defenses.

A sincere apology and self-searching about where such imagery comes from and why one thinks it is funny, that would seem to be the best response, not such defensiveness.

Another serious aspect of this is that Republican officials, including Davenport, are quite concerned about who released the racist “joke” to the media. This seems to be a greater concern than its brutal simianizing racism and revelation about the deeper thinking of some conservative Republicans. Clearly, if such blatantly racist “joking” incidents and events are kept in the white backstage, they are not considered serious at all. It is when that sordid backstage becomes public that whites must acknowledge and back off.

Davenport also claimed that she did not even know it was racist.

In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. … the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race.

Lack of awareness that widespread racist imagery is racist is an odd defense. However, presumably, whites can operate out of the old racist framing consciously or unconsciously. One Republican Committee member defended her as only “a polite, gentle grandmother.” He also added it was only “light-hearted,” and indicated that the committee members often send such “fun” and “motivational” stuff back and forth. (And he seems to think that older whites cannot be polite grandmothers and also operate — consciously or not — out of a white racist framing of society.)

So, racist fun in the backstage is OK and in their minds does not show us how whites with political power and influence really think negatively about black Americans, such as that they are connected to simians–a white racial framing that has been around for at least 250 years.

White Men’s Hostility to Black Women: A Deeper Look



Census data reveal that the interracial marriage rate of black women (and mainly white men) has only modestly increased from 1% in 1970 to 4.1% in 2000. Research also shows that black women are overwhelmingly excluded as interracial dating partners, with one study showing that white men excluded black women as dating options at 93 percent.

The longstanding persistent exclusion of black women as a heterosexual relationship partner for white men (and other men of color) continues to exist in a society that today prides itself on colorblindness and even post-raciality. Quantitative polls that measure racial attitudes of whites today show a marked decrease in racial hostilities, however, these polls do not account for the complexities of frontstage and backstage racism, whereby whites manipulate racial performances for the settings that they are in. See Picca and Feagin’s research.

To understand the phenomenon of black women’s consistent exclusion by white men, I examined 134 contemporary white men’s thoughts, opinions, perspectives, and emotional reactions to black women as they expressed in in-depth online questionnaires. The findings reveal, overwhelmingly, that the white male respondents, despite most admittedly having very limited experiences with black women, held grossly negative views of them as culturally defunct, domineering, welfare queens, and unattractive unless representing a white aesthetic. For example, one respondent stated the following, when sharing his thoughts about black women:

Just the term ‘black women’ conjures up thoughts of an overweight, dark-skinned, loud, poorly educated person with gold teeth yelling at somebody in public. I hope that doesn’t make me racist but honestly that’s the 1st thing I think of (white male respondent)

This respondent is middle-class with no black female friends, rare interactions with black families growing up, and who states his interactions with black women only consist of work-related experiences, yet, he expresses strong racialized, gendered, and classed views of black women as the first impressions that come to his mind.

Another respondent, a middle class white male in his 40’s stated the following about black women and attraction:

Sexual attraction for me is a combination of physical and personal attributes. If I find a ‘black’ woman attractive, it is because their hair type and facial features are more representative of the [C]aucasian race. If that aspect is attractive, then their speech and intelligence level would have to be more representative of that found more prevalent in other races (such as [C]aucasian or [A]sian – i.e.: anthropological mongoloids.

This respondent, despite admitting to having no close black female friends and few personal interactions with black women, places whites and Asians as naturally more intelligent than blacks.

My research disputes convenient notions that only a few uneducated, southern bigots hold such strong deep-seated racist and sexist views of black women. The white male respondents in my study hold current and future leadership positions in society, with 42% possessing some college education, 30% a bachelor’s degree, and over 48% are middle class!

[Note: Brittany has a major book in the works on these issues and data.]

White Nationalism and the Tea Party

The NAACP recently released a Special Report on Tea Party Nationalism, which addresses the overlap and interconnectedness between white nationalist hate groups and the various Tea Party groups that are sprouting like bad weeds across the U.S. As if to highlight this connection, David Duke, former KKK leader, early Internet adopter for the cause of white supremacy, and one-time candidate for Louisiana governor, has released a video addressing the Tea Party.

The report, written by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, is just 80 pages, 9 chapters and includes 17 figures and maps. It’s in Chapter 8, “Racism, Anti-Semitism, and the Militia Impulse,” that the authors address the link to overt racists such as Duke, a connection that many Tea Partiers vigorously deny. In this chapter, the authors write:

“In preparation for Tea Party protests held on July 4, 2009, national socialists and other white supremacists created a discussion thread on Stormfront.org, the largest and most widely accessed of the many white nationalist websites.216 While highlighting the distinction between themselves and the majority of Tea Partiers who were not self-conscious about their own racism, one person argued, ‘We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism.’ “(p.60)

This quote highlights the use of the Internet by white nationalists who see the Tea Party as an opportunity for “walking Tea Party Americans…towards racialism.” And, this seems to be the general take in the report, that the Tea Party includes some white nationalists, but is mainly seen as an opportunity for those in the white nationalist movement. The authors take this stance with regard to Duke, as well. The video linked to above appears to have been around awhile, as the authors refer to it in the NAACP report.

David Duke’s embrace of the Tea Parties reveals less about the Tea Parties than it serves as a reminder of the former Klansmen’s never-ending opportunism. He used the Internet to broadcast a ten minute video speech, “Message to the Tea Party.” Duke began the “message” by paying homage to the Tea Parties and the “Founding Fathers,” and ended with his usual roundhouse attack on “the Zionists” (meaning Jews). Over the decades Duke has switched organizational allegiances as new openings emerged for him, but he never abandoned his core national socialist ideology.
“Most recently, Duke had spent time flitting across the globe: In France, Duke had his picture taken with Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant Front National. In Russia, he turned a 1995 meeting with Zhirinovsky into a spot at a 2002 “anti-Zionist” conference in Moscow. In November of that year, he spoke at a meeting in Bahrain. He reappeared in Iran in 2006 for a Holocaust denial conference where he thanked President Ahmadinejad for his “courage” and “foresight.” And in 2009, the once and future Republican, David Duke, was unceremoniously expelled from the Czech Republic (although the charges were later dropped.)
Duke’s announcement that he will use a year-long speaking tour to gauge potential support for another campaign in the Republican presidential primaries (in 2012) should not be understood as anything more than a declaration of his perennial search for contributions from new followers. He is quite unlikely to repeat anything near the successes he has had in the past, when he won a majority of white voters in two statewide Louisiana elections. It is, however, one more sign that hardcore white nationalists regard the Tea Party movement as a reservoir of racists, and as potential supporters of a more ideologically defined white nationalism.
The actions of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the Stormfront.org posters and other white nationalists need be understood, in aggregate, as one measure, among many, of the Tea Party movement’s political characteristics. Together they point to a truth many Tea Party leaders will not want to acknowledge.” (p.62)

This is the cautious tone of analysis taken throughout the report. The Tea Party is dangerous for the way that it appeals to white nationalists and for what it could become, but less so for what it is now. Here’s is another passage from the report which illustrates this point:

“Despite the fact that Tea Partiers sometimes dress in the costumes of 18th century Americans, wave the Gadsden flag and claim that the United States Constitution should be the divining rod of all legislative policies, theirs is an American nationalism that does not always include all Americans. It is a nationalism that excludes those deemed not to be “real Americans;” including the native-born children of undocumented immigrants (often despised as “anchor babies”), socialists, Moslems, and those not deemed to fit within a “Christian nation.” The “common welfare” of the constitution’s preamble does not complicate their ideas about individual liberty. This form of nationalism harkens back to the America first ideology of Father Coughlin. As the Confederate battle flags, witch doctor caricatures and demeaning discourse suggest, a bright white line of racism threads through this nationalism. Yet, it is not a full-fledged variety of white nationalism. It is as inchoate as it is super-patriotic. It is possibly an embryo of what it might yet become.” (p.11)

The rise of the Tea Party, with its embryonic white nationalism and the racism, antisemitism and xenophobia of videos like David Duke’s, are political trends that people committed to racial justice should watch closely.

~ This is re-posted from the archive. It was originally posted on October 24, 2010.

How Much is Enough?



Two articles that appeared on April 1 in USA Today caught my attention. At first you might think they were an April Fool’s joke. Over a million homes went into foreclosure this year and last. Nearly 15 million people are unemployed and, according to a Gallup Poll last year, 30 million more are underemployed. Poverty is pervasive among people of color, especially their children. More than a third (34 percent) of African American children and 29 percent of Latino children live below the poverty level. A report in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in November, 2009 noted that nearly half of all children and 90 percent of black children will be on food stamps at some point during childhood. And yet we learn that 75 percent of top CEOs received raises in 2010. While middle and working class people are tightening their belts and being inexorably forced into poverty, (one in seven lives below the poverty level in the U.S.), we find that the compensation of the top 25 CEOs ranged from a low of $15,121,370 for David Cordani of Cigna to the “comfortable” $84,409,515 of Phillippe Dauman of Viacom. (USA Today, April 1, 2011:2B)

It would seem the economy is doing well—at least for some people.

On page 12C of the same paper sports aficionados can scan the salaries of all the teams and players in major league baseball. There are disparities there, too, though many people struggling with their rent or mortgage payments, food, fuel and health care bills probably would not commiserate with players on the “low end” of the scale, drawing in a paltry $414,000 annual salary. And who would begrudge Alex Rodriguez, of the New York Yankees his $32,000,000, or Vernon Wells of the Dodgers his $26 million? With average player compensation this year at $3.31 million, they won’t have to worry about cuts in Medicaid, Head Start, and food stamps.

Should we begrudge businessmen and athletes their salaries? The American Dream, based on the concept of a meritocracy, holds out the promise of wealth to anyone who works hard and plays by the rules. Tell that to the victims of Bernie Madoff, and the millions of children who were not lucky enough to be born to wealthy parents or win the genetic lottery as they struggle to survive. I ask you, how much is enough? Is any job worth that kind of money? What will be the effect of the recent budget deal on the lives of American children?

H. Roy Kaplan is Research Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of South Florida, and author of The Myth of Post-Racial America.

Mississippi Republicans Oppose Racial Intermarriage

Bvblackspin summarizes a recent March 2011 poll by Public Policy Polling of 400 Mississippi Republicans, which found the following:

….46 percent of [these] Mississippians believe that interracial marriage should be illegal.

Add in the uncertain responses on interracial marriage and you have some 60 percent of these almost entirely white Republicans not currently supportive of intermarriage being legal.

And this is the year 2011 in the 21st century, the era many claim to be well beyond white racism. I guess that claim is a bit premature, especially in the Deep South. (The link to the full pdf report is here.)

Mississippi is the Deep South and arguably one of the geographical centers of aggressive white supremacy in the U.S.. Recall that this is the state where Medgar Evers was shot and killed, and where federal marshals were shot when James Meredith tried to enter the University of Mississippi in 1962.

The current governor, Haley Barbour, is a candidate for the Republican nomination, and a politician with some past connections to white supremacist organizations. Yet he has also recently signed a bill for a civil rights museum in Jackson as well. Hopefully, this is a sign of change in the state, although clearly the governor has his eye on national office too. The intent of the poll was to measure the strength of support for various Republican politicians, and Barbour does well with this group.

I was just giving a lecture at the University of Mississippi, which has lots of fine students, faculty, and administrators trying to deal with the past and present legacies of racism in the state, and in this nation. Clearly, they have some big tasks ahead of them if the majority white, mostly Republican population cannot even bring itself into the 21st century and at least accept the legality of interracial intermarriage. Indeed, according to U.S. Census reports, racial intermarriages make up about seven percent of all U.S. marriages, and this figure is now increasing. It appears that Mississippi’s white Republicans are not ready for these changes, there and nationally. One can imagine the implications of such framing for their encounters with interracial couples in their everyday lives.

Note too that almost all U.S. intermarriages today are still within racial groups. Notable too is that a substantial majority of these intermarriages involving white partners are between whites and non-black groups, not between whites and blacks. One recent Census survey (see here) estimated that among white husbands some 50,224,000 had white wives, while just 117,000 had black wives. In contrast, 530,000 of these white husbands had Asian American wives and 489,000 had wives from other nonblack groups. The negative framing of possible black partners seems the strongest racist framing for white men when it comes to interracial partnering issues.