Mixed Marriages And Biracial People Essay, Research Paper
Myths about mixed marriages and biracial people have emerged from centuries of socially and politically constructed racisms. Throughout history, such blindness has caused for there to be racial divisions within the Black community. The belief that ?mulattoes? and/or ?fair-skinned? Blacks are somewhat better than their ?dark-skinned? brethren has created many limitations for our culture. Creating this division has separated the Black race on grounds of socioeconomic status, religion, and education. Mulattoes have been so far removed that the practice of segregating within one?s race still persists, because of advantages granted to them by White plantation owners in the past.
This form of separation dates as far back to slavery. ?Against a backdrop of love and rape, politics and war, and, ultimately, power and privilege, attitudes about skin color evolved in America? (10). Interracial mixing caused problems socially for both Blacks and Whites. Some activists thought this to be harmful to the slavery institution. Such relationships would weaken the foundation by preventing it from receiving ?moral acceptance? (12). Despite criticisms from politicians and activists, White men continued to maintain sexual relationships with their African slaves. Mulattoes were usually given the indoor jobs while dark-skinned slaves were left to do ?physically grueling field work? (18). The separation of work created tensions within the slavery structure. Field hands generally ?envied and resented the house servants? (18). Plantation owners would sometimes free their mulatto children and assist them in ?business or trade or farming? ventures (15). These privileges allowed for the mulattoes to advance further than the dark-skinned Blacks socially and economically. They were given the opportunity to be more independent by achieving financial and educational success.
Giving unique privileges to the mulattoes allowed for them to serve as a link between Whites and Blacks. The presence of a mulatto ?reduced racial tensions, especially in areas where Negroes outnumbered Whites? (15). Many mulattoes feared that newly freed slaves would infringe upon their so-called civil liberties. To prevent such actions, some mulattoes ?intermingled and intermarried only with each other, actively discriminating against those who were dark? (16). The rights that were given to mulattoes by Whites played a significant role in dividing the Black community. By treating the mulattoes as if they were better than the darker Blacks, the Whites had ?laid the groundwork for a pattern of color classism in Black America? (23).
There presently exists a ?color gap in power and privilege that divides the Black community? that is the result of mulattoes gaining a degree of social standing from Whites before the Civil War (24). The trends that were set during this age of supreme racial discrimination remain evident in the social clubs, churches, neighborhoods, and schools of America. To be a part of many of the elite organizations of the early twentieth century, candidates would have to pass tests:
?The paper bag, test involved placing an arm inside a brown
paper, and only if the skin on the arm was lighter than the color
of the bag would a prospective member be invited to attend
church services. Other churches painted their doors a light shade
of brown, and anyone whose skin was darker than the door was
politely invited to seek religious services elsewhere?A
fine-toothed comb was hung on a rope near the front entrance.
If one?s hair was too nappy and snagged in the comb, entry was
Those organizations of the past that required that prospective members be subject to ?the paper-bag, the door, or the comb test? continue to maintain a majority of light-skinned members (27).
Some of the most respected institutions within the Black community are still plagued by the perception that the lighter shade of black is better. Social organizations like ?Jack & Jill and Links have a significant majority of light-skinned Blacks reside? (25). Such organizations are in many cases struggling to maintain their so-called tradition of admitting Blacks with light skin. Skin color also plays a role in the social status of college students today. Some Greek organizations continue to use racial requirements as a means of determining membership. The status quo and/or esteem of a Greek organization largely depend on the amount of light-skinned members. ?The highly regarded Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity must still contend with reputations for being partial toward Blacks with light skin and ?good? hair? (30).
According to a study performed by Robert Hall, ?light-skinned students aimed for far more prestigious jobs than their darker-skinned peers? (30). This type of concept is a result of the use of racial discrimination as an admission requirement for colleges. Many of today?s highly respected historical Black colleges served as ?grooming? grounds for mulattoes (28). Even at Spelman, one of the most prestigious Black women colleges in America, color tests were given to applicants (28). At schools like these, the mulattoes were offered liberal arts educations, whereas their darker counter-parts attended technical schools. ?Advocates of industrial education were often darker-skinned while proponents of liberal arts studies tended to be members of the mulatto elite? (29). Therefore, darker-skinned Blacks were given occupations in construction and housekeeping, whereas mulattoes were given the opportunity to mingle with the White society.
?Virtually every major urban center across the country has a section where predominantly light-skinned Blacks reside? (25). Major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York have been separated into communities in which only mulattoes are welcome to settle. The most extreme case of this is found in a historical neighborhood in New York called Sugar Hill. Long ago, only light-skinned Blacks with ?money, talent, social prominence, and intellectual distinction? were allowed to live in this area (26). According to one of the tenants, these requirements presently remain for tenants. This resident suggests that if one is not of mulatto background, then one is not welcome.
Creating a separation within the Black community, made it easier for mulattoes to advance in life. Their system of only intermingling with each other provided a means of generating beneficial social connections in business and politics for themselves. This may explain why the majority of prominent Blacks in politics have been light-skinned. This list of Black leaders include W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass. In correlating the fact that these men were mulattoes and of great distinction further supports the notion that ?possessing a degree of mixed ancestry was a definite asset when it came to being considered a voice for the Negro race? (32).
There are several factors that can explain why some people still have the mentality that being light-skinned is better than being dark-skinned. In a society that is primarily dominated by the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) culture ?members of minorities with the lightest skin and the most Caucasian-looking features have been allowed the greatest freedom? (34). Allowing mulattoes in the past to receive education and money created an elite class of leaders that were mostly of mulatto descent. Even though many dark-skinned Blacks have become very successful, numerous people still believe the Blacks of lighter skin tones are subject to greater opportunities. Light-skinned Blacks are trusted more by White employers (39). Therefore, they are more likely to find jobs and ?break free of the cycle of poverty and crime? (39). The elitist mulattoes ?benefit not only from their social contacts with other light-skinned Blacks but also from looks that, in a predominantly White society, are more mainstream? (37).
In spite of all the struggles of the Black activists, skin color continues to determine ?who gets what in America?, because of discriminatory practices that were inherited from White plantation owners (37). According to a report done by Hughes and Hertel, light-skinned Blacks are nevertheless better educated and higher paid than dark-skinned Blacks (38). There is no doubt that racial divisions remain within the Black community. This is evident by noticing that the majority of people living in low-income areas and prisons are dark-skinned Blacks (38).
The basis for such injustices being done within a race of people can mainly be associated with the subconscious racists thoughts of individuals. These are the thoughts that lay deep within the crevices of one?s mind. The thoughts that an individual is sometimes ashamed to acknowledge. The art of believing that a lighter shade of black is better is primarily a thought process that has plagued the Black community for far too long. Maintaining such beliefs is what causes the racial divisions between light-skinned and dark-skinned Blacks to persist.