Race and Marriage

Race and Marriage

American Journal of Sociology
Volume 15, Number 4 (January 1910)
pages 433-453
DOI: 10.1086/211800

Ulysses G. Weatherly (1865-1940), Associate Professor of History, Economics and Sociology
Indiana University

The aversion exhibited by most animals to pairing with individuals of another species has been attributed by Westermarck to the selective power of hereditary instinct.  those which prefer pairing with their own kind transmit their characteristics to their offspring and become the progenitors of numerous individuals marked by this particular trait.  Hybrid kinds on the other hand have a smaller chance of survival, both because the are either sterile or relatively infertile, and because departure from type is not conductive to the favor of their fellows.  Among plants, where conscious choice is impossible, hybrid individuals are more numerous.  So clearly developed is this instinctive aversion among the higher vertebrates that certain varieties refuse to interbreed with closely related varieties of the same species.  Examples of this occur among some kinds of deer, sheep, and horses.  It is impossible to determine at what point in evolution the non-paring instinct merges into a definite consciousness of kind, or when physical inability to cross is transformed into actual aversion to crossing, but it is certain that species aversion exists far down the scale of animal intelligence.

With the lowest orders of humans there enters another factor based on a highly developed self-sense which is found in animals only in a rudimentary form.  Aversion to cross-breeding may spring from a sense of strangeness due to geographical isolation and non-contact with other human varieties.  Some remote peoples have conceived of themselves as the only ones of their kind, and this idea has been reflected in the group name.  Experience requires only that the name distinguish members of the group from animal kinds with which its member come in contact, and they call themselves merely “men” or “human beings.”  Strangers, especially those of a markedly different physique, are looked upon as beings of another order with whom it is dangerous or wicked to interbreed.  Hybrids resulting from the earliest crossing with strangers are regarded as monstrosities…

…But, as Ripley points out, intermarriage does not really bring about acclimatization at all.  It results in the formation of an entirely new type.  Undoubtedly crossing with the dark races furnishes, for some regions, the sole means by which the European peoples can survive in the tropics in any form.  Furthermore, when aggressive races undertake to govern backward people of alien stock it may be theoretically advantageous to have a mixed class to break the shock between the two types.  Mr. Sydney Olivier is convinced that this is the case in the British West Indies:

I consider that this class of mixed race is a valuable and indispensable part of any West Indian community, and that a colony of blacks, colored and whites has far more organic efficiency and far more promise in it than a colony of black and white alone.  A community of white and black alone will remain, so-far as official classes are concerned, a community of employers and serfs, concessionaires and tributaries, with, at best, at bureaucracy to keep the peace between them and attend to the nice adjustment of this burden.  The graded mixed class in Jamaica helps to make an organic whole and saves it from this distinctive cleavage.

But conditions in Jamaica are peculiar because in that island the hybrids are not, as is usually true, in antagonism with either of the parent stocks, and because there are almost none of the class of “poor whites” who constitute so large an element of the problem in the southern states of America.  The position of the half-caste is usually an unfortunate one.  The consciousness of his superiority to the more primitive stock raises a barrier against sympathetic co-operation on that side, while on the side of the dominant race he finds no willingness to grant social equality.  If he is not more depraved in morals that either of the parent races he at least has acquired the reputation of being so.  Unless the two extremes continue to cross, the mixed breeds tends to disappear, either by marrying back into the darker race or by approaching the whites through conscious sexual selection, lighter mates always being preferred in successive generations.  Hoffman’s investigations show that in Jamaica itself mixed marriages are on the decline and that there is a well-marked tendency among the population to revert to the African type.  In some districts in the southern states likewise the growing race antipathy of whites manifests itself in a decrease of intercourse with negroes.  Bruce believes that this is already resulting not only in a rapid decline in the number of mulattoes, but in a perceptible return of the colored population to the original African type. “As his skin darkens,” continued Bruce, “in its return to the tint which distinguishes that of his remote ancestors, the prospect of the whites and blacks lawfully mixing their blood fades into the thinnest shadow of probability.”…

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