Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's the Matter with Louisiana?

Been thinking about starting a new blog called "Dispatches from the South" or something so I can just post ridiculous and non-ridiculous shit I stumble across everyday.

Then I realized, I barely write here!!! Might as well post my observations here. So, continuing my critique of Louisianans who make me want to pull my eyelashes out, I present the following two items:

Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License in Louisiana


and

Sharon Hodges, 61,... was charged with simple battery and disturbing the peace with racial slurs Thursday.

Okay, I ain't gone lie...

My first thought when I saw the first article was, "I have to tell Kim!" but then, I wondered if that put her in the, "Hi, I'm elle and this is my best friend, Kim, worldwide spokesperson for all biracial people" position.

So, I decided that it would be fun to just half-heartedly pick apart this racist Justice of the Peace's (he should not bear any title with the word "Justice" in it, IMHO) (il)logic:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Keith Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday.

He is talking using terms like, "mixing the races."



He apparently believes that somewhere, there is a "pure" race. He is prefacing his sentence with, "I'm not a racist..." He seems totally unaware or unaccepting of the notion of race as a political, social, and economic construct. Yes, Mr. Bardwell, you are a racist. He then says,
"I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

Really, is he using the "I have a (fill-in-the-blank) friend!" argument? And is there anything more telling than, "They use my bathroom?" He compares his racial "tolerance" to the Jim Crow Era and has decided he his suitably progressive? Progressive enough that he's wiling to allow black people in his house and take the risk of getting our cooties!
[I]t is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long...

[snip]

[Bardwell] came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

I don't know divorce statistics, I really don't. But I don't think the rate of staying-togetherness is impressive for many marriages these days, regardless of the racial background of the partners. If the rate of divorce is higher for interracial couples, I can't imagine why, given the welcoming and supportive social climate evidenced by people like Bardwell.

Also, this theory that people do not "accept" biracial children? First, let me state that I understand CLEARLY the difference between conceiving children in a consensual, loving relationship and conceiving them in a sexually exploitative system like slavery. But I have to point out that biracial children have a long history of being part of "black" families, because of the realities of the lives of enslaved women. Not "accepted," as if the effort to love them is always complicated and must be consciously undertaken.* It's as if Bardwell has been enjoying some of that "tragic mulatto" literature on the side.**

There is nothing that makes biracial children inherently prone to "suffering." Of course, I cannot personally speak to the experiences of biracial children and I know there are issues living in this society as a biracial person. But much of that is the byproduct of living in a highly racialized country, where we've understood race, for so long, as a binary, and are obsessed with making people fit one category or another. Louisiana is a perfect example; it wasn't that long ago that the state proved it's dedication to the one-drop rule.

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

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.


No, you don't. if you're marrying some people and not marrying others, you are not treating everyone equally.

And, if I'm not mistaken, this is an elected position in Louisiana.

As to that second article,
A West Monroe police affidavit said Hodges claimed a woman cut in front of her at Walmart's return desk, and the woman's daughter lunged at her.

[snip]

The woman's daughter admitted to lunging at Hodges after she used a racial epithet.
I would ask, in whose mind does it make sense that the reaction to cutting line is slinging racial slurs, but I think this says it all:
[W]itnesses heard Hodges yell a racial epithet at the woman and say, "You will respect your elders, especially since I'm white."

_____________________________
*I am not trying to dismiss the fact that there was undoubtedly resentment and struggles as enslaved women and men dealt with slaveowners' sexual violence.

** Since he depends on his perspective as a Louisianan, let me throw in mine. Lately, when I go home, every time I enter a store, I see white grandparents or godparents or aunts and uncles (and I partly assume the relationships and partly know for sure, because people ask them, "Who is this you got with you?") with biracial children all the time. Why do I even note it? Because that was NOT something I saw growing up there.

4 comments:

RageyOne said...

wow. i hadn't heard about the 2nd story you linked to. truly sad.

a sad state of affairs, overall, that this sort of thing still occurs.

The History Enthusiast said...

What I don't understand is why people feel the need to comment on other people's apparent race in any context. I was recently in Virginia visiting my aunt who was adopted from Korea, and apparently people frequently think she is a babysitter because her 6 year-old daughter looks more like her white father (my uncle). I don't get why random people in the grocery store feel like commenting on things like this! There are better ways to make small talk.

Mommy to Ander and Loki said...

Ugh!

And ugh ugh ugh!

I'm supposed to go into that same small town as THAT "justice of the peace" and convince the mostly white attorneys to actually represent the children of the community, no matter the color (or colorS) of their skin.

Why do I stay in Louisiana?

nice said...

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Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...