Monday, April 14, 2008

Inter-Racial Couples

As I was reading the last section of the book I was struck by the extremely sad situation that Tim’s friend, Herman who was half black and half white had to endure while growing up. Herman’s dad was black and his mother was white during a time when racism seemed to be widely accepted in the U.S. Herman’s parents met in Germany while his father was a sergeant in the army. The pair fell in love, started a family, and in the 1960s and moved back to the United States. Herman’s parents knew they would not be able to move back to Herman’s father’s town of Wedesboro because of the fact they were an inter-racial couple. Therefore, the couple chose to move North to Milwaukee, however things were just as bad in the North. When back in America the couple was scrutinized and could neither fit into the white community nor the black community.
One day, while they were living in Milwaukee someone threw a firebomb into their home. Herman was six and ran away from the explosion, however his infant sister was unable to escape the attack and was sadly killed. The family was devastated and Herman’s parents realized his family would never live peacefully in the United States and they moved back to Germany, the country of post Nazism.
The United States was unfortunately not holding up the motto of the “land of the free.” Ironically, the U.S. which citizens took pride in the country on being a free democracy which over through Nazism in Europe was unable to overthrow racism in its own country. Tyson said, “The land that produced Hitler seemed safer for a mixed-race American family than the nation that had lifted up Martin Luther King Jr. Herman grew up there on the army base, an American but not an American…” (Tyson, 306).
It is so terrible (or ironic?) that Herman’s parents were more accepted in a country which slaughtered six million Jews and six million other so called “degenerates” than in America! This unfortunate truth reminds me of the experience Paul Robeson had with America.
Paul Robeson, a black multi talented man and civil rights activist, and Soviet Union advocate frequently went to the Soviet union and Western Europe and was extremely impressed by the more equal conditions of race in Europe. Robeson was highly supportive of the Soviet Union because he felt that America was much more racist than the Soviet Union. Robeson was quoted saying, “that the country [Soviet Union] was entirely free of racial prejudice and that Afro-American spiritual music resonated to Russian folk traditions. “Here, for the first time in my life ... I walk in full human dignity”. Furthermore, Robeson felt that this was the first time he felt like a man “with a capital M” because it was the first time that he felt respected in a country and not a subordinate citizen (Lecture 1/24/08, Hirsch).
I think America may be less accepting of different races than other Western countries and many Americans either do not know or choose to ignore this about our history and our present life. Through Herman’s experience as a child in an interracial family we can see how backwards and horrifying our United States history really is and still continues to be today. For example, while interracial couples may be more accepted today (through celebrity couples, media, etc – Heidi Klum and Seal, and Kimora Lee Simmons and Russell Simmons) we still have a long way to go regarding equalities in the United States (regarding, immigrants, undocumented immigrants, religion, race, gender, etc).


Jessica Markham said...
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Jessica Markham said...

I find Tyson's quote “The land that produced Hitler seemed safer for a mixed-race American family than the nation that had lifted up Martin Luther King Jr. Herman grew up there on the army base, an American but not an American…” (Tyson, 306) to be disturbing. I agree that it's ironic and terrible that Herman's parents were more accepted in Germany where millions of Jews were killed than in the U.S., which is supposed to be "The Land of the Free." This is just one example that shows that the U.S. is not as free as people make it sound it is.

I recommend “Symbolic Racism” and the “US of KKK A” (
The article talks about the repercussions of slavery in the United States today. In it, the sociologist Dalton Conley explains that slavery and Jim Crow sharecropping prevented many African Americans from obtaining more wealth. Most wealth is inherited or received as a gift, and because a significant number of African Americans were unable to earn as much as they should have, they are still behind white families who have passed down their wealth through the generations even though many African Americans have worked hard to move up financially. Another part of the article discusses how racism occurs in the working force today. Studies have been done that support the claim that those with "black-sounding" first names on job applications, such as Tyrone, are less likely to get called back than someone with a "white-sounding" name. Also, despite stereotypes, white high school students use cocaine 4.6 times as much as black students per year, whites use crack cocaine 1.5 times as much as blacks, and black and white high school students use heroin the same amount each year. Yet, roughly half of incarcerations for drug offenses by youth in the U.S. are represented by African Americans.

There is more racism that occurs in this country than is documented. I agree that we have a long way to go in terms of equalities in the U.S.

Jean Strandberg said...

I think it is odd that people are shocked to hear that inter-racial couples were outlawed/scorned so recently, while gay marriage is still illegal at the national level, and very few states have made it legal. In California, we are just now making legal, and we are supposed to be the liberal state. It just doesn't make sense to me that the government can tell anyone that they can't get married.

Anyway, back to interracial couples- it reminds me of the casta paintings that Paul showed in his African American and Latino Histories class last quarter. The paintings were payed for by the Spanish government and depicted different racial combinations and their breeding outcome. When and indigenous women would have a child with a Spanish man, the child would come out whiter than the mother, and after, 3 generations of "positive" breeding, the outcome would be a fully white child. With Africans and indigenous couples, however, the child would be depicted darker than the parents, usually ugly, and performing some kind of demeaning labor. This was a "divide and conquer" tactic used to keep groups of oppressed people from unifying and fighting against the Spanish power, and it was effective! Colonization has repeatedly used this tactic and its effects are still very visible today in the US and elsewhere. I think this is where a lot of current/recent fear and hate of interracial couples stems from.