Thursday, October 20, 2016

Do Birthers Presume Illegitimacy of Mixed-race Children?

Could Pre-1967 miscegenation laws be driving the present-day birther movement?

Race in America is still a hot-button issue, even having an African American president. Could the presumed birth illegitimacy of mixed-race children born before 1967 be the underlying principle that fired up the "birther movement" against President Barack Obama. 

Jim Crow had a big problem with mixed-race births, but especially with mixed-race births involving white women.

Ann Dunham
Mother of Barack Obama
A Singular Woman:
The Untold Story
of Barack Obama's

Barack Obama, Sr. (left)
Barack Obama, First African American to be U.S. President

Barack Obama:
The Audacity of Hope
Did President Lyndon Johnson know when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that this law would stir up old prejudices that many Americans thought had outlived their usefulness? 

During the Civil Rights Movement, I was growing up in Texas, the segregated home state of President Lyndon Johnson, where many Texans and others around the nation still thought Johnson to be a segregationist riding on the coattails of the assassinated President John F. Kennedy. In fact, Johnson became the civil rights president, even ascribing to its theme, "We Shall Overcome," in his hopeful message to nation frightened by his new civil rights laws.

The southern United States and much of the rest of the country still had race problems in the 1960s. But in the southern states, the race problem was amplified in cases of mixed-race children if the mother was the white parent, which signified a certain disloyalty to her race.

When President Johnson signed the civil rights legislation, no one was thinking about mixed-race African American children. After all, in those days mixed-race children were considered to be the race of whatever drop of blood they had that was not "white." Their racial categorization was not calculated by amount of "white" blood they had or how white they appeared to be. Racial categorization was calculated by whether it was known that they had non-white blood.

In those days, miscegenation laws prevented mixed-race children's parents to marry legally in many states, so their offspring were products of miscegenation and categorized further as legitimate. These bi-racial, illegitimate children of couples committing miscegenation were considered unequal under the law and subject to the same disadvantages of other black children, regardless of the legitimacy of their parents' unions.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he and few others had any idea that in 1961 mixed-race toddler, born to a white mother and a black father, would become a U.S. President and spark a birther movement. 

Birther Movement? Really?

Questioning the authenticity of the president's birth records, could birthers be adhering to antiquated Jim Crow miscegenation laws to use the president's biracial heritage in an attempt to de-legitimize his human rights, U.S. citizenship legal right to hold the office of president?  

Could the presumed birth illegitimacy of mixed-race children born before 1967 be the underlying principle that fires the "birther movement" against President Barack Obama?

In 1961, the year Barack Obama was born, Robert F. Kennedy predicted that the United States would elect a black president in some forty years, which happened forty-seven years later. However, Kennedy could not have predicted the birther movement that surrounded the candidacy of the nations first African American president.

In 1961, then Robert F. Kennedy, U.S. Attorney General, predicted that the United States would elect a black president in some forty years. 

In 1963, when Barack Obama was two years old, President John F. Kennedy, though reluctant for political reasons to enter the civil rights struggle, finally made his declaration on civil rights. The Civil Rights Movement, however, did not categorize African Americans by percentage of racial heritage. At the time, any person with a drop of African blood were considered a "Negro." 

President John Kennedy spoke about civil rights to a national television audience on June 11, 1963:
President John Kennedy
President John Kennedy spoke about civil rights to a national television audience on June 11, 1963:

"The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the nation in which he is born, has about one half as much chance of completing high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one third as much chance of completing college, one third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year or more, a life expectancy which is seven years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much." (By today's standards $10,000 in 1964 calculates to more than $75,000 today, according to Dollar Times.)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Others Witness  President Lyndon Johnson Sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Witnesses
President Lyndon Johnson
Sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964
President Johnson may not have known at the time of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he must have known he was making it possible for the United States to elect a black president some day. But could he have imagined how vigorursly birthers would challenge the legitimacy?

In 1967, when Barack Obama was eight years old, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Jim Crow miscegenation laws in Loving v the Commonwealth of Virginia. Before 1967, Obama's parents would have been breaking Jim Crow miscegenation laws had they married and lived as a family in many states in in the U.S. Although some interracial couples dealt with the struggle by moving to states that allowed interracial marriage, while others were not able to do so. And their children were not able to escape the birth stigma of being considered illegitimate. Because Jim Crow laws prevented legal marriage and attempted to prevent intimate relationships between people of different races, many interracial couples residing in certain parts of America faced great difficulty living as the legal unit, known as a family. 

The Loving Story, the Documentary Movie about the couple, Richard & Mildred Loving, whose 1967 case against Jim Crow miscegenation laws reached the supreme court
The Loving Story

Mixed-race children of Richard and Mildred Loving were automatically labeled by the government and treated accordingly. 

Richard Loving and Loving Children, Loving v the Commonwealth of Virginia
Richard Loving and Loving Children 
Station in life was based on knowledge of their heritage, no matter how light the color of their skin. Racial labels dictated station in life, including occupation, who they could marry and where they could go to school and where they could live. 

Ironically, a mixed-race person was barred by Jim Crow laws from marrying a person the same race as a parent, if one parent happened to be classified as black, no matter how light their skin.

Mississippi Delta Chinese Farm Laborers
Mississippi Delta Chinese Farm Laborers 

Jim Crow laws against miscegenation also applied to other races, including the Chinese.

Italian Plantation Workers
Italian Farm Workers

The Chinese, subjected to some of the worse discrimination and violence in American history, were "colored" to the law and treated accordingly. After coming to America during the Gold Rush and being denied claims, then building railroads across the nation and then being burned out of their homes after their labor was no longer needed, they were shipped off to the Mississippi Delta under indentured farm labor agreements with former plantation owners. 

Light or dark, Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, former slaves, Italian immigrants and all the rest, who found themselves in rural regions were usually relegated to sharecropping arrangements, low-paying farm work, preaching, teaching, barbering and such, living in inferior housing resembling the slave quarters they had left only recently. Those migrating to the cities could expect to be relegated to similar low-end jobs and inferior ghetto housing. 

In the event skin color, hair texture and facial features did not reveal their racial makeup, direct testimony of their racial makeup, as in the one-drop theory, would certainly destroy their passing as white. In fact, white families were destroyed or driven from communities by slanderous neighbors of the possibility of African blood in their genetic line. Sometimes this happened if a white family was too sympathetic to a black or immigrant family or tried to help a black person or immigrant in trouble.

Race in America is still a hot-button issue, even having an African American president. Could the presumed birth illegitimacy of mixed-race children born before 1967 be the underlying principle that fires the "birther movement" against President Barack Obama?


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jim Crow Children

My mother taught me to show Jim Crow what I can do to gain respect from Jim Crow children--black, white, brown and every other color.

And when I enrolled in my white university of choice, I developed a habit of my own: 
Take it to the limit of my abilities! 
No excuses! 

Jim Crow's children
(Kindle Edition) Jim Crow's Children:
The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision

Source: © Warren K. Leffler
Library of Congress 

Prints and Photographs Division

School is key in children's beliefs and self image.

Today, school is replacing home as the place where a child develops character. Young mothers are not like my mother. In fact, I was not like my mother when I was a young mother. Even though my mother worked, like I did, and so many others do today, my mother explained THINGS to me--racial things--large and small. She led me to believe that I could compete and she went on to help me prepare for the competition. 

My mother bought reference books that my school did not have; she helped me write papers; she scoured used bookstores and yard sales for titles she though appropriate for me to read; she made my father help me with my math, which he called arithmetic; she invited neighborhood kids to come to our house and study; and she passed on a tradition of education to me and my friends. She did all of this because our schools were segregated with few resources. 

"Nobody in that Jim Crow Central Office cares that you don't know anything," my mother said. "Ignorance makes it easier to control everything you do."  

"Who is Jim Crow?" I asked.

"A clown we have been fighting for centuries!"


"Jim Crow is the father of all the people in our nation."

"Jim Crow is not MY father!"

"Yes, he is," she said sadly. "He is the father of all Americans, whether they know it or not. Maybe it will be you who will help put Jim Crow to rest for good."

In ways that may not be so obvious, today, education maintains racial segregation and increases racial gaps in grades, opportunity for college and later employment. 

My mother told me this when I was in high school. "The door is not open, yet. All you should expect when the door does opens is entry. And what you do when you get through the door is up to you!"

As students enter adulthood, sentiments on race tend to harden, a residual of Jim Crow laws before the Civil Rights Movement, which began to erase such practices. And I remembered my mother's words. 

So, you see, school means much more to society than proper textbooks and the right school supplies. School educates people for life, either segregated or integrated.

A feeling of inferiority is a feeling of inequality; a feeling of
 superiority is a feeling of inequality; only a feeling of equality is a feeling of equality.

Examine books, movies, music, news and social media for Jim Crow.

It is difficult to keep emotion out of discussions on race and education, especially today, when many events in movies, television, news and social media keep passions fresh. Racism is a personal issue rooted in the most private institution we know, the family--our offspring, our loved ones, whom we wish to protect from pain and controversy at any cost. Without bias, Irons approaches the subject of race and education factually and attempts to illuminate what has been hidden over the ages in our nation, covered up, if you will, at a time when America should be moving past Jim Crow laws and toward post-racism as seen on television today, and somewhat through social media networks like FaceBook.

Well, we're not past racism, even in our FaceBook age, which easily links people of different cultures, based on interests. However, there still seem to be clear lines of difference when examining the profile pages of different ethnic groups. Likes tend to befriend likes.

Modern studies show today that some young children are being taught by their parents, relatives and school that they should not be friends with children of a different color and they should not date them when they are older. The effects of these types of instruction become more apparent as the child approaches puberty, indicating that the closer the child gets to reproductive age, the more impact race has on his or her development. The same results were reported in studies conducted more than 60 years ago.

President Jimmy Carter broached the subject of race and education in his book about growing up in the South, as did Ron Reagan in his book about is father Present Ronald Reagan. Race had an impact on the education and lives of these presidents, but nowhere near the impact it had on America's first African American president, Barack Obama, who has the burden of multiple bloodlines. Imagine the tightrope President Obama walks on whether or not he is showing favoritism for one race over others.

Strength of character is needed to overcome harmful habits that have been bred and embedded into us in school. Read the text and see the video of the race relations in America speech President Barack Obama delivered during his campaign and view the collection of books written by and about President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.  

What I attempt to make an objective observation of the historical origins and reasons for racism and why the new nation back then, at the time of its founding, under the supervision of its Founding Fathers, saw need to promote and preserve separation of the races even before slavery had assumed the permanent and legal framework of Jim Crow laws that eventually supported it. 

Was slavery allowed to go wild and become a monster on its own? Or was there a sinister plot to separate people by skin and evolve into Jim Crow laws? 

What I am discovering as I ponder this line of thinking is that America's children, all of us--young, old, dead, alive, black, white and every shade and physical condition in between--are all the offspring of Jim Crow laws, regardless of the skin type holding our mortal bodies together. 

I am the offspring of Jim Crow, too. When I was young, I was unaware of the influence segregation had on me and community. We went about life the way Jim Crow laws allowed and made the best of what we had. My mother had plans for me, however, of which I was unaware. She intended for me to go to college, but not a segregated Jim Crow college, a major university, because she knew the days of Jim Crow laws were numbered. The video below is an example of the lengths my mother went to to get me a little misunderstood dance costume, a tutu, that she believed would help prepare me for her dream.

Jim Crow's Children: The Broken Promise of the Brown Decision explains how, in 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court sounded the death knell for school segregation with Brown v Board of Education. The book explores articles on many Brown participants, such as Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren, and later public education rulings, as well as sketches of numerous black students throughout the history of Jim Crow laws and school desegregation. Most fascinating are the dramatic courtroom scenes that Irons uses to demonstrate the erosion of Brown as the 1970s' conservative political movements fought to maintain segregated neighborhoods and, thereby, segregated public and private schools across the nation--North and South, illustrated on television news broadcasts and social media networks like Twitter. 

(Photo: Pinterest)
Peter Irons
Jim Crow's Children:
The Broken Promise
of the Brown Decision

Jim Crow's Children:
The Broken Promise
of the Brown Decision


When I read Jim Crow's Children by Peter Irons, I knew I had to share the book for the understanding it lends to an emotional topic that still plagues our nation--race relations in America and the effect of race on education and school choice. One way to have intelligent and useful conversation on the topic of race and education is to find authors like Peter Irons who approaches hot buttons without a hot temper.

From Publishers Weekly: "Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that mandated the desegregation of U.S. schools, is popularly seen as a hallmark of American justice. But Peter Irons, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, surveys recent U.S. history to reveal a quite different picture: many states have found ways to delay implementation of, or totally evade, the ruling. Further, in response to the often violent battles around school busing and a clear rise of conservatism in the country, Irons argues that in 1991 the court began 'judicial burial' of Brown by setting precedents that continued to allow segregated schools."

TODAY, separation of the races in education, public facilities, services and jobs and professional schools are not wholly based on skin color, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, physical ability/disability or language. 

Today, job discrimination and education, more and more, can be traced along class lines--groups that have wealth and groups that have no wealth, with contemporary origination still traceable directly to Jim Crow inheritance, practices and laws, dating back to the founding of the nation when slavery and white poverty were pervasive conditions in the colonies due to slave and early European indentured servant trade, all of which affected school attendance and education. Later, those territories that became slave states attracted poor white former indentured servants, free African Americans and other poor ethnic groups looking for fortune or, at least, education for their children, jobs and business opportunity, landownership and slaves.

Movies, television, books and media influenced how the public perceived black people.

The Help 
by Stockett, Kathryn
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The Help 


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Like other New Englanders, the Founding Fathers looked upon slaves as a commodity, not a group of human beings. This misunderstanding of slaves and later free black servants is the reason sensitive conversations were conducted in their presence without fear of retribution, as illustrated in award-winning books and movies like The Help. Throughout history, before and after the Civil Rights Movement, authors and film producers have been telling the same story of household servants--slave and free--learning information while in service and then taking the information back home or to church meetings.

American History can be easily traced along racial and color lines, as the not-fully-developed human portrayal of African Americans plays out on movie screens and theaters. Today, however, young black Hollywood roles show a more fully-developed human character than did roles in early American film, which reflected, not only the period the movie depicted, but also  the way society expected the powerless maid and others in her position to behave in the reality of their day. 

When Margaret Mitchell was asked in an interview about the way she wrote the black characters in her book, Gone with the Wind, she said she handled them respectably, and maybe she did for her time in her own way. However, it is documented that Mitchell, born in 1900, refused to attend classes at Smith College because one of her classmates was black, which demonstrates Mitchell's personal views on racial inequality in education and other social areas. 

Gone with the Wind - Film, DVD, Books, Kindle

Gone With the Wind
(Hardcover Book)

Gone With the Wind

(Paperback Book)

Gone with the Wind

(Kindle Edition)

Early black Hollywood routinely cast black actors in roles inferior to those of white actors, true in the 1939 film version of Mitchell's book, Gone with the Wind, in which Hattie McDaniel made so much of the maid's role that she became the first African American to win an Oscar for her portrayal of a servant in the film privy to delicate white family information.

The 1934 Imitation of Life and 1959 remake had maids involved in white family business, while at the same time, showing a dismissive attitude to their presence and problems, until one of the white characters gains empathy with their plight. 

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