Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

A justice of the peace in Hammond, Louisiana has refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple.  In the last few posts here, we’ve been talking about “anti-miscegenation laws” intended to prohibit intermarriage between blacks and whites. Most of this discussion has been framed as part of a distant past influencing the present in various ways, and in fact, that history continues to live as illustrated by the story about the Louisiana justice’s decision that is lighting up the Internet tonight.  But, it’s ok, because you know, he’s “not a racist” and he’s just “concerned about the children” the couple might have. Here’s the story from Associated Press:

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long. Neither Bardwell nor the couple immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press. But Bardwell told the Daily Star of Hammond that he was not a racist.

“I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house,” Bardwell said. “My main concern is for the children.”

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

“I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves,” Bardwell said. “In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer.”

If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

“I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.

Thirty-year-old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.

Humphrey told the newspaper she called Bardwell on Oct. 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She says Bardwell’s wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples.

“It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzman. “The Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1963 that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry.”

The ACLU was preparing a letter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and see if they can remove him from office, Schwartzman said.

“He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it,” Schwartzman said.

Just to review, it is legal for interracial couples to marry in the U.S. but it used to be illegal.   As I wrote about here awhile back, the case that overturned this stupidity was Loving v. Virginia decided in 1967  (there’s also a Lifetime TV movie about the case).   And, if you’d like to school yourself on the particulars of where and when interracial marriage was illegal in the U.S., check out this cool, interactive map about interracial marriage laws (h/t Nancy Netherland for this resource).

And, to further review the evidence, children of interracial marriages do not suffer in when compared to other children provided that they grow up in an environment that’s accepting of diversity and children of interracial marriages.   If children of interracial marriages encounter racism (and other structural disadvantages), then they’re more likely to experience stress, and health-related risks due to that increased stress, such as smoking and drinking. That’s a result of racism,  and yet another reason to work to end racism.  It should not be used – turning logic on its head – as a reason to perpetuate racism.  

The Rape of Black Women under Slavery: Part II

This is a much condensed version of analysis of the life of one black woman who endured slavery that I did in the Systemic Racism book. In the first published account of enslavement by a black woman, Harriet Jacobs begins her detailed description of enslavement in North Carolina about the year 1820. In this insightful account, which features a fictionalized character, Linda Brent as Jacobs herself, the author explains that her slavemaster was a lecherous physician named Dr. Flint (actually Dr. James Norcom), who enslaved at least fifty African Americans. While some scholars have emphasized that Jacobs fictionalized names and some details of her enslavement, there is much corroborating evidence for her long trial under Norcom, and her account is likely very accurate in essential evaluations.

Jacobs describes the incessant violence that North Carolina slaveholders used to extort labor and compliance from those enslaved. Many slaveholders would hide the worst realities of plantations from a northern white visitor, and how such a visitor would often go back home saying that abolitionists were exaggerating the severity of southern slavery:

What does he know of the half-starved wretches tolling from dawn til dark on the plantations? Of mothers shrieking for their children, torn from their arms by slave traders? Of young girls dragged down into moral filth? Of pools of blood around the whipping post? Of hound trains to tear human flesh? Of men screwed into cotton gins to die? The slaveholder showed him none of these things … .

Speaking from everyday experience, Jacobs is eloquent here in summarizing everyday dimensions of enslavement: extreme labor, poor rations, family destruction, child sexual abuse and rape, whipping and other violence, and the intense pursuit of those seeking freedom.

Repeatedly, Jacobs offers probing sociological commentaries on enslavement of black women throughout this autobiographical account. At one point Jacobs describes how working class white men were periodically given the chance by the slaveholding elite to muster and march with muskets, in demonstrations designed to intimidate the black population. The mustered whites would often take violent action against any blacks they could locate in the surrounding area:

Every where men, women, and children were whipped till the blood stood in puddles at their feet.

Jacobs’ enslaved life was one of many years in what she terms a “cage of obscene birds.” The often violent slavemaster, Dr. Flint (Norcom), constantly reminds her of his power to injure her if she does not obey his commands. When she resists his recurring attacks, he reminds her that she is “his property” and “must be subject to his will in all things.” When he found out Jacobs was pregnant with another white man’s child, he threatened her and then cut her hair off. She

replied to some of his abuse, and he struck me. Some months before, he had pitched me down stairs in a fit of passion; and the injury I received was so serious that I was unable to turn myself in bed for many days.”

In her accounts Jacobs describes many attempts at sexual violence by her slavemaster when she was a young teenager. She then adds that

My master was, to my knowledge, the father of 11 slaves. But did the mothers dare to tell who was the father of their children? Did the other slaves dare to allude to it, except in whispers among themselves? No, indeed! They knew too well the terrible consequences.

Jacobs also notes that when she had a baby girl

my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own.

Systemic gendered racism was central to slavery too. Resisting the alienation of slavery, as a young woman, she fell in love with a free black man. When her slavemaster found out, he was enraged. She pleaded with him, but he refused to let her to marry. Indeed, he described the particular black man as just a “puppy,” and Jacobs replied:

The man you call a puppy never insulted me, sir; and he would not love me if he not believe me to be a virtuous woman. He sprang upon me like a tiger, and gave me a stunning blow.

After his violent blow, Dr. Flint (Norcom) again told her that it was in his power to kill her for speaking back, as though she was not fully aware of that reality.

In her recounting the savvy Jacobs often speaks of liberty and freedom, which were indeed the driving force for much of her life. After several plans to escape from her North Carolina “prison” failed, Jacobs managed to conceal herself in the attic crawlspace of her free grandmother’s little house. For seven long years, she lived there, just beyond the touch of her family, and was unable to escape to the North. The winter cold and summer heat caused her much pain, yet she reports this pain of hiding was much less than that of her years in slavery.

Yet even when freedom came, she had no home of her own, but had to reside with the friend who had helped to liberate her. The economic losses that stemmed from having to work for whites for many of her most productive years meant that even the free Jacobs had no economic resources of her own to build up a home environment for herself and her children.

Indigenous People’s Day: Reflecting on Racism against Native Americans

A few blocks from where I live, the annual “Columbus Day Parade” is about to disrupt traffic along 5th Avenue from 44th Street up to 79th Street, but I won’t be joining in this celebration.  Like most school children in the U.S., I was fed the lie that Christopher Columbus was “an explorer” who “discovered America.”   The local news stations here relentlessly refer to the parade as a “celebration of Italian heritage.” In fact, this is a holiday that disguises more than 500 years of church-sanctioned atrocities against indigenous peoples as well as the on-going, present-day racism against Native Americans.

While many of those who celebrate this holiday will participate in a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral along the parade route (50th Street/Fifth Avenue), many others will protest the church’s participation in genocide.  In fact, for the past dozen years, there has been an ongoing counter-protest, an Annual Papal Bulls Burning.  At the Parliament of World Religions in 1993, over sixty indigenous delegates drafted a Declaration of Vision, which was originally “endorsed by resolution in a near unanimous vote” of the Parliament (Taliman 1994). It reads, in part:

We call upon the people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to persuade Pope John II to formally revoke the Inter Cetera Bull of May 4, 1493, which will restore our fundamental human rights. That Papal document called for our Nations and Peoples to be subjugated so the Christian Empire nd its doctrines would be propagated. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Johnson v. McIntosh 8 Wheat 543 (in 1823) adopted the same principle of subjugation expressed in the Inter Caetera bull. This Papal Bull has been, and continues to be, devastating to our religions, our cultures, and the survival of our populations.

Many indigenous peoples around the world have, since the Columbus Quincentennial in 1992, have reclaimed October 12th as International Indigenous Peoples’ Day (h/t @DinkyShop via Twitter) with celebrations and protests, with a particular focus on pressuring the Catholic Church to rescind the papal edicts (known as “bulls”), that sanctioned the genocidal practices of “explorers” like Christopher Columbus.  Here is one account from Hawai’i:

Twelve years ago, Tony Castanha, a Boricua (Puerto Rican) in Hawai’i who was reconnecting with his Taino ancestry, began commemorating the day with a ceremonial burning of the 1493 Papal Bull Inter Caetera. The Papal Bull was the holy decree which gave Columbus the Church’s blessing and authorization to “establish Christian dominion over the globe and called for the subjugation of non-Christian peoples and seizure of their lands.” This racist law became one of the foundations of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery and many laws authorizing the taking of native peoples’ land.

In a small sign of progress, the Episcopal Church recently passed a landmark resolution entitled “Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.”  As of yet, there’s been no response from the Catholic Church on this global movement of indigenous peoples.

The myth of “discovery” that’s woven into the celebration of Christopher Columbus as a mythic hero also serves to cover up the on-going, present-day racism against Native Americans.  In a terrific piece on “Native Americans Long Battle Against Racism,” at Global Voices Online (well worth reading in its entirety), Bernardo Parrella writes about the fact that even though there are almost 2.5 million Native Americans live in USA (0.87% of total US population), this group is largely “forgotten or invisible to the vast majority of Americans.” There are lots of resources in Parrella’s post if you decide to educate yourself about racism against Native Americans.    He also includes ways that Native Americans are using online citizen media to fight racism and stereotypes.   Just one example of these is a video called, “Racism The Way We See It” (7:50) statement about how young Native Americans experience racism within their own community:

The Rape of Black Women by White Men: Systemic Racism Again

The New York Times did an interesting story on Michelle Obama’s mixed-racial ancestry (h./t. Jessica), one that is also revealing of the unwillingness of most whites to fully face and thoroughly assess the rape and sexual coercion of black women by white men–likely hundreds of thousands of times, over 350 or so years of our 400+ year history. It may, perhaps, be a weak start toward that assessment. (There is, to my knowledge, no major social science book on this subject.)

The story begins with some genealogical research by the Times and genealogist, Megan Smolenyak:

In 1850, the elderly master of a South Carolina estate took pen in hand and painstakingly divided up his possessions. Among the spinning wheels, scythes, tablecloths and cattle that he bequeathed to his far-flung heirs was a 6-year-old slave girl valued soon afterward at $475. In his will, she is described simply as the “negro girl Melvinia.” After his death, she was torn away from the people and places she knew and shipped to Georgia. While she was still a teenager, a white man would father her first-born son under circumstances lost in the passage of time….Melvinia Shields, the enslaved and illiterate young girl, and the unknown white man who impregnated her are the great-great-great-grandparents of Michelle Obama, the first lady…

During our very long slavery history, well more than half our total history, young people were sold away from their parents, and were listed and treated just like cattle, as here. Notice too the timid language here” father” and “impregnated,” for the rape and sexual coercion that confronted a great many black women during slavery.

The Times continues a bit later with one of two passing references to this coercion:

While President Obama’s biracial background has drawn considerable attention, his wife’s pedigree, which includes American Indian strands, highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans.

Well, again we get the very tame “intermingling,” followed by the awkward “sometimes born of violence,” since “usually born of violence or coercion” would be more accurate. In the slavery era most black women were owned and controlled by white men. The word “pedigree” here seems more than a little inappropriate since it is more often used of animals like dogs (h./t. Jessica).

The Times then adds this:

When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world. … In Georgia, she was one of only three slaves on property that is now part of a neat subdivision in Rex, near Atlanta. …. It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm.

There is no discussion of the literally totalitarian system in which black women were usually at the mercy of whites, especially white men, for their material survival. The could be beaten into subservience, including into coerced sexual relationships at any age. This was true during slavery, and often true under the near-slavery of Jim Crow segregation that lasted nearly to 1970.

One son of hers, Dolphus Shields, was listed on census forms as “mulatto” (a derogatory term in origin and use) became a carpenter and church-founding deacon in the city of Birmingham, Alabama.

As for his ancestry, Dolphus Shields didn’t talk about it. “We got to the place where we didn’t want anybody to know we knew slaves; people didn’t want to talk about that,” said Mrs. Heath, who said she assumed he had white relatives because his skin color and hair texture “told you he had to be near white.” …. But as his descendants moved forward, they lost touch with the past.

One of these was his distant granddaughter, Michelle Obama.

The Times asked some leading scholars to comment on this story, and among the acute comments were these:

Henry L. Gates: “Some of this inter-racial sexuality was voluntary, we now know, but far more was coerced, a reflection or a result of a profound imbalance of power. Because of a confluence of factors — the illegality of miscegenation, the prevalence of sexual abuse and rape as the source of these relationships, infidelity, guilt, shame, and disgrace — both black people and white people had a certain interest in keeping these relationships in the dark, as it were.

Annette Gordon-Reed, a visiting Harvard law professor : “That we’ve just started speaking openly about the complexity of black ancestry doesn’t surprise. … There’s also a lot of white Southern anxiety in denials of these tangled blood lines. Acknowledging them requires admitting what went on in the South. . . . Some of those planters really were living like polygamous patriarchs of old with wives and concubines and bunches of kids. That’s the truth of early American history.

Once fully instituted, the two-centuries-plus years of slavery arrangements became much more than a machine for generating wealth. They constituted a well-developed system for the social and sexual control of men and women. During slavery, and later under legal segregation, many African and African American women were sexually coerced and raped by white men, including white sailors, slavemasters, overseers, and employers. Such sexual violence symbolized white male power to everyone in local communities. Under the North American system the children resulting from coerced sexual relations were automatically classified as black, even though they had European ancestry. Indeed, it is estimated today that at least three-quarters of “black” Americans have at least one “white” ancestor. No other U.S. racial group’s physical makeup has been so substantially determined by the sexual coercion and depredations of white men.

Numerous surviving narratives from enslaved women have accounts of such sexual exploitation by white men. For example, in 1850 a prosperous Missouri farmer, Robert Newsom, bought Celia, then a fourteen-year-old, and soon thereafter attacked her. Over the next five years, Newsom sexually attacked her many times, fathering children by her. In summer 1855, when Newsom came to Celia’s cabin to attack her again, she hit him with a stick, and he died. In a travesty of justice, Celia was convicted in a Missouri court of the “crime” and hung in December 1855. Black women typically had no redress for such brutal crimes against them.

One of the most oppressive aspects of U.S. racism lies in this coercive sexual reality, which weaves itself through various manifestations of systemic racism to the present. White men often coerced and raped African American women with impunity during the country’s first three centuries. We clearly much more research and deep discussion of these issues.

H1N1 and Racism

H1N1, also known as the “swine flu,” is becoming the latest front in the battleground of racial politics (h/t to reader Residente Visitante).   There are two distinct angles to this story.

In the first, there is the disproportionate impact this epidemic is having on people of color in the U.S.   A recent NYDaily News story notes that city and federal health officials have been virtually silent about the outsize impact the pandemic appears to be having on blacks and Hispanics.  Although the Centers for Disease Control report made a passing mention in their analysis which revealed that of the first H1N1-related deaths among U.S. children, 33% (12 of 36) were among Hispanics. All told, half of the H1N1 children’s deaths between April and August were among African-Americans and Hispanics.

Perhaps quite predictably for those who are familiar with the illogic of white-framed thinking, this fact about racial disparities in health gets quickly, easily and widely misunderstood by those wishing to promote racism. Thus, enter the talking heads of the right-wing for the second angle.

Talk radio hosts Michael Savage and Neal Boortz, radio and Fox TV personality Glenn Beck, and columnist Michelle Malkin are spreading lies about the H1N1 virus through their various public media outlets, as Bonnie Fuller (admittedly, an unlikely source) points out in a recent piece at the Huffington Post. Here are just a few of the examples Fuller cites:

“Illegal aliens are bringing in a deadly new flue strain. Make no mistake about it,” blares Michael Savage.

“I’ve blogged for years about the spread of contagious diseases from around the world into the US as a result of uncontrolled immigration,” writes Michelle Malkin.

“What happens if there’s a rash of deaths in Mexico… and if you’re a family in Mexico and people are dying and Americans are not, why wouldn’t you flood this border?” announces Glenn Beck.

What these kinds of comments reveal, in addition to rank racism, is a complete lack of understanding about racial disparities in health.  The facts are these:  H1N1 is not being spread by immigrants to native-born U.S. citizens.  Early in the epidemic, some U.S. college students traveled to Mexico, got sick, and came back to the U.S. and they spread the disease.   Why aren’t Savage, Malkin and Beck blaming college students for the spread of this disease?     Furthermore, the fact that Blacks and Latinos are dying at higher rates than whites from H1N1 is a consequence of institutionalized racism, not the cause of the epidemic.   Once again, hate-mongers with network contracts rather than robes and hoods, find a way to inject racism into the national discourse.

President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize: Prepare for Racist Backlash

Today, the leading news story is that President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.”

Given the vitriol that’s been directed at Obama throughout his campaign and since his election as president, much of it fueled by racism, I predict that this amazing news will prompt a torrent of racist backlash.  There’s some precedent for this if we look to the historic example of the reaction when Martin Luther King won the Nobel Prize in 1964.  As James Fallows wrote in 2007 (after Al Gore won the Nobel):

“I am old enough… well, there are many ways to end that sentence, but for now: I am old enough to remember, from my school years, the disdainful reaction in my home town to the news that Martin Luther King had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

The reaction was, of course, racial at its root. This was a majority-white, minority-Hispanic small town with very few black residents, which went for Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson in the presidential election that same fall.

But the stated form of the objection concerned not King’s race but his obnoxiousness as a man. He was a windbag. He was pompous and self-dramatizing, He was holier than thou. Plus, he had started getting involved where he didn’t belong, in raising questions about the Vietnam War. Through the rest of Martin Luther King’s life, the father of my best home-town friend always went out of his way to refer sneeringly to “Martin Luther Nobel.”

I’d be happy to be proven wrong on this prediction and see everyone celebrate this award.

Racism as Medical Malpractice: Henrietta Lacks’ Cells

Henrietta_Lacks_(1920-1951) (Source: Wikipedia)

Interesting article over at RaceWire ( about the unbeknown and unrequited contributions of Henrietta Lacks to the field of science. In 1951, exactly 58 years ago yesterday, Mrs. Lacks died of cervical cancer. Just 3 years later, cells from her body were cultured at Johns Hopkins into the “HeLa cells” now used as the standard vaccination for the polio virus. The kicker? The cells from Lacks’ body were used without her consent, without her knowledge, and without any reparations to the Lacks family. As stated,

While the cells were commercialized early on, and have recently been used to create a whole new lucrative industry of gene mapping the family of Mrs Lacks has (of course) never been offered any part of the wealth. They have only been asked to contribute yet more cell and blood samples, ‘for the good of science.

And it was not until 2001 that Johns Hopkins scheduled an event to honor Lacks’ contribution and to thank her family. Unfortunately, the event never happened.

This reminds me of the countless Black men exploited by white scientists in the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study of 1932 . This study, arguably the most despicable and atrocious example of state racism, eventually led to the 1979 Belmont Report, which is now standard operating procedure for scientific research with human subjects. However, the fact that the study continued under various supervisors until it was leaked to the press in 1970 bears testament to the enduring (white) logic of science and racism. In both Lacks’ case and the Tuskegee study, Black bodies were seen as expendable commodities by white researchers, who took advantage of their subjects and in the case of the Tuskegee study, ultimately killed them, their families and spouses.

As we have often argued on this blog before, American wealth and privilege has been born out of the sacrifices and injustices of people of color, particularly those of African Americans. It is striking how many Black Americans suffer from health inequality today despite their contributions to the very medical procedures and vaccines we now take for granted.

Why does the field of science proclaim objectivity in the face of such incontrovertible racism? Can we really tease out our sociocultural biases and prejudices when conducting scientific research?

Interracial Couple Gunned Down After Racist Remark

“What are you doing with that white woman?” was the racist question hurled at Jeffrey Wellmaker, an African American man out walking in Phoenix, Arizona with his girlfriend, described only as a”39-year-old white female.”  After two unidentified assailants asked this, they pursued Wellmaker and his girlfriend, then shot them both.  Wellmaker survived the shooting.  His girlfriend did not.

While this may sound like something out of the 19th century south, this is present day, in a large city, in the sunbelt of the southwestern U.S.    As one researcher suggests: Although interracial (hetero)sexual relations are no longer illegal, and the number of visible, consensual interracial partnerships has increased, there still remains a discourse against these social arrangements circulating in the United States that continues to bear the traces of the history of antimiscegenation.”

“Antimiscegenation” is rooted in several equally incorrect beliefs: 1) that race is some inherent, biological quality; 2) that race, specifically the white race, can in some way be “pure,” and 3) that “mixing” races, that is by people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds having sexual contact will result in a diminishing of the “purity” and good qualities associated with whiteness.

This is complete balderdash not supported by any kind of research. In fact, if you’d like to read some good research on the origins and meanings of the development of antimiscegenation laws, I recommend Elise Virginia Lemire’s “Miscegenation” : making race in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002) as a good starting point.  As Lemire notes, discussion of “miscegenation” as a threat emerged in the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, as the question of black political rights was debated.  As the debate over whether or not blacks were, in fact, human beings deserving of human rights grew more vociferous, descriptions and pictorial representations of whites coupling with blacks proliferated primarily in the North. Novelists, short-story writers, poets, journalists, and political cartoonists imagined that political equality would be followed by widespread interracial sex and marriage, and with it, the supposed decline of the white race.

Yet, some people (@CaptainChaos in the comments thread here) and the gunman in the assault in Arizona, continue to believe this sort of thing.  And, unfortunately, a woman has lost her life because of it.

Exotifying Asian Women: The White Racial Frame Again

Marie Clare online (ht Rosalind) has a recent article on “The New Trophy Wives: Asian Women,” which is both insightful and naïve at the same time, even white-framed. The author, Ying Chu, raises the provocative question of why many powerful, older white men are now partnering with younger Asian women:

When the venerable director [Woody Allen] scandalously left Mia Farrow for her adopted daughter, South Korean-born Soon-Yi Previn . . . he may as well have sent out a press release: Asian-girl fantasy trumps that of Hollywood royalty! . . . Rupert Murdoch walked down the aisle with fresh-faced Wendi Deng . . . .Then, CBS head Leslie Moonves wed TV news anchor Julie Chen; Oscar winner Nicolas Cage married half-his-age third wife Alice Kim; billionaire George Soros coupled up with violinist Jennifer Chun; and producer Brian Grazer courted concert pianist Chau-Giang Thi Nguyen. Add the nuptials of investment magnate Bruce Wasserstein to fourth wife Angela Chao and the pending vows between venture capitalist Vivi Nevo and Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang.

She then asks why this is happening, first suggesting this may be a type of colonial “yellow fever”:

The excruciating colonial stereotypes — Asian women as submissive, domestic, hypersexual — are obviously nothing new.

Her primary answer is that these are after all now omnipresent images and

often entertaining. Even now, how many cinematic greats, literary best sellers, or even cell-phone ads . . . characterize Asian women as something other than geishas, ninjas, or dragon ladies? . . . I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at the cheeky blog, which ranks Asian girls at number 11 because “Asian women avoid key white women characteristics, such as having a midlife crisis, divorce, and hobbies that don’t involve taking care of the children.”

So these old and new racialized images are entertaining? We are supposed to laugh at such stereotyping of Asian and white women? Racialized steretoyping is no laughing matter, even if some naïve websites think it is. Then she moves back to a more critical analysis:

“It’s like a curse that Asian-American women can’t avoid,” says C.N. Le, director of Asian and Asian-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “From an academic point of view, the perception still serves as a motivation for white men.” . . . Richard Bernstein found that the Orientalist illusion continues to influence. “Historically, Asia provided certain sexual opportunities that would be much more difficult for Western men to have at home. But it remains a happy hunting ground for them today,” he says, citing one phenomenon in the northeastern region of Thailand called Issan, where 15 percent of marriages are between young Thai women and Western men well into their 60s.

She introduces the importance of the exotic Asian woman stereotype, but quickly drops it instead it and does not exploring what it means in the West. This sexualization of Asian American women in white-male minds is a major aspect of contemporary racism, and one deserving of much more analysis than we have in social science, never mind in the stereotype-riddled popular media. This stereotype is central not only for the elite-men-partnering issue, but much more generally to white (male) framing of Asian and Asian American women. There are, for example, a great many websites dedicated to pleasing the racialized exotic-Asian-female fantasies and images held by many white men across the Internet.

After suggesting that the partnering actions of white men may have some connection to their recognizing the power of China and the rest of Asia in contemporary globalization, she then reverses direction and asks why these often high-achieving Asian or Asian American women pair up with these aging white men of power:

While I’m sure that real love and affection is sometimes the bond in these culture-crossing May-December romances, could it be that power divorcés of a certain ilk make the perfect renegade suitors for these overachieving Asian good girls — an ultimate (yet lame) attempt at rebellion? Maybe these outsized, world-class moguls are stand-ins for emotionally repressed Asian dads (one cliché that is predominantly true).

So now we get her own stereotype of Asian men as somehow not really men as one explanation for the actions of Asian women such as these. As we point out in our recent The Myth of the Model Minority:

In the 19th century Asian American [and Asian] men were stereotyped in the white framing as oversexed and threatening to white women, but in more recent decades they have been more likely to be stereotyped as feminized or emasculated, a shift that may link to the rise of model minority stereotyping. . . . In the United States Asian American women are the group most likely to marry outside of their racial group. They outmarry more than other women and men of color, and much more than Asian American men. In many such cases a white racial framing in the minds of Asian American women may intersect with the sexualization of Asian American women in white male minds. Because their standard of an attractive male has become white-normed and because of the potential to enter directly into white middle-class [or upper-class] world, many Asian women find a white male partner appealing. In contrast, some white men are drawn to the Asian female stereotype of exoticized sensuality and submissiveness.

Contexts Podcast: Cyber Racism

The good folks at Contexts asked me to an interview for their podcast series a few weeks back about my new book, Cyber Racism, and now it’s available online, here.  The description from their website about the podcast:

Cyber Racism is about white supremacist groups online, and Daniels tells us how white supremacy online is important for how we think about education, free speech and multiculturalism.

If you’ve missed any of the discussion I (or Joe) have posted here about cyber racism, this provides a good introduction.  There’s a little bit at the end about the work Joe and I do here on the blog.  One small correction, the scholar I refer to in the piece who developed the phrase “translocal whiteness” is Les Back (I mangled his name).