Regulating White Desire

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2014-04-08 21:55Z by Steven

Regulating White Desire

Wisconsin Law Review
Volume 2007, Number 2 (2007)
pages 463-488

Reginald Oh, Professor of Law
Cleveland Marshall College of Law
Cleveland State University

  • Introduction
  • II. Loving v. Virginia
  • III. The Greatest Threat to the Purity of the White Race: Social Equality Through Interracial Marriage
  • IV. Miscegenation and Segregation Laws and the Legal Enforcement of White Racial Endogamy
    • A. The Enforcement of White Endogamy Norms During and After Slavery
    • B. White Racial Endogamy and the Segregation of Public Schools
    • C. The Regulation of White Women’s Desires
  • V. Back to Loving
  • VI. Conclusion


In the landmark decision Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court held that laws prohibiting interracial marriages violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because they served the impermissible purpose of maintaining white supremacy. The Commonwealth of Virginia had argued that, because the law equally punished whites and blacks, it did not illegitimately single out African Americans for discriminatory treatment. In striking down the statute, the Court rejected the notion that the equal application of miscegenation laws made them consistent with equal protection.

The Court, however, never adequately addressed an apparent flaw in its reasoning. According to conventional understandings of how white supremacy operates, laws promoting white supremacy are supposed to invidiously discriminate against blacks while benefiting whites. But how can miscegenation laws promote white supremacy and the interests of whites if the laws actually restrict their fundamental right of association and punish them if they cross racial boundaries? Was the Court contending that miscegenation laws promoted white supremacy in spite of their incidental effects on the individual rights of whites?

This Article will argue that miscegenation laws functioned to promote the supremacy of the white race by, paradoxically, deliberately regulating and restricting the liberty of white individuals. Segregationists feared that some whites, particularly women and children, wanted to relate to blacks as social equals. Without legal restrictions on the associational rights of whites, segregationists feared that blacks would gain social equality and freely enter into equal intimate relations—and ultimately marriages—with them. This would result in more interracial families, and inevitably end in the creation of a nation of a “mongrel breed of citizens.”

This Article contends that segregationist justifications for miscegenation and segregation laws shows that those laws effectively imposed a legal duty on whites to adhere to cultural norms of endogamy.  Dominant social groups enforce rules of endogamy—the cultural practice of encouraging people to marry within their own social group—to protect the dominant status of their individual members and of the social group in general. Thus, laws prohibiting interracial marriages regulated white desire in order to protect the dominant status of whites as a group. The Loving Court, therefore, ultimately was correct in declaring that miscegenation laws denied blacks equal protection.

Part II of this Article discusses miscegenation laws and the Loving decision. It contends that the Court understood that miscegenation laws operated to protect white supremacy, but that it failed to adequately explain how such laws did so. Part III argues that the primary rationale used to justify these laws was the protection of the purity of the white race. Part IV will explain these laws’ history and demonstrate that segregationists enacted and supported them to ensure that whites practiced endogamy. Part V concludes by reexamining the Loving decision in light of this Article’s analysis…

Read the entire article here.

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Loving and the Legacy of Unintended Consequences

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-02-15 03:39Z by Steven

Loving and the Legacy of Unintended Consequences

Wisconsin Law Review
2007,  Number 2
Pages 241-281

Rachel F. Moran, Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

  • I. Introduction
  • II. Making History Rest on Traditional Assumptions
    • A. The Significance of Race
    • B. The Meaning of Marriage
    • C. A Domestic Paradigm of Race and Intimacy
  • III. Undoing Traditional Assumptions: The Unintended Consequences of Loving
    • A. New Frontiers in Race: Multiracialism and Colorblind Segregation
      • 1. The Mixed Promise of Multiracialism
      • 2. The Rise of Colorblind Segregation
    • B. New Paradigms of Intimacy: Same-Sex Marriage Advocacy and the Rise of Marriage-Minded Singlehood
      • 1. The Same-Sex Marriage Movement
      • 2. Marriage-Minded Singlehood
    • C. From the Color Line to the International Border
  • IV. Conclusion


If it can take a decade for a person to appreciate the implications of a major life event, it can take even longer to realize the significance of a turning point in the history of a nation. Perhaps for that reason, we hold commemorative events like this one.  An anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on a pivotal moment with distance and detachment and to weigh the consequences more fully than was possible at the time. On this fortieth anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, perhaps what is most striking is that a case deemed pathbreaking in its day now seems to have taken so much for granted.  Because the United States Supreme Court interrogated the meaning of neither race nor marriage, Loving has been invoked in a number of later struggles in ways that might have taken the Justices by surprise. This result, of course, is part of the law of unintended consequences: the more that is left unexamined, the more likely that a fresh look will reveal implications beyond those originally contemplated.

Here, I will explore Loving’s unintended consequences by considering why the Court took so much for granted and how the opinion later was deployed in unexpected ways. After briefly examining the facts and holdings in the case, I will show that the Justices accepted monoracial categories as a given, despite evidence of multiracial complexity. The Court’s treatment of race reflected the need to implement desegregation orders that turned on clearcut racial distinctions. The Justices also regarded marriage as a longstanding tradition. Already under attack for conjuring up unenumerated rights that did not appear in the Constitution, the Court was loath to suggest that marriage was anything other than an uncontroversial historical institution.

Ironically, the Court’s assumptions about race and marriage have been directly subverted by those who most openly lay claim to Loving’s legacy. Proponents of multiracialism and advocates of same-sex marriage argue that their reform proposals are a natural outgrowth of the Court’s conceptualization of freedom and equality. At the same time, Loving’s subtler consequences have gone largely unaddressed. The case arguably ushered in a jurisprudential philosophy that treats colorblindness and ongoing segregation as compatible. In addition, the decision entrenched the primacy of marriage in the law’s recognition of close personal relationships. Finally, Loving acquiesced in the presumption that romance happens only among Americans and so the decision has been of little import in dignifying and protecting the intimate attachments of noncitizens. Such a complex legacy demonstrates why a perfectly factual account of Loving simply will not do, and so it may take some time to appreciate the consequences.

Read the entire article here.

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Loving Indian Style: Maintaining Racial Caste and Tribal Sovereignty Through Sexual Assimilation

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2011-05-17 02:42Z by Steven

Loving Indian Style: Maintaining Racial Caste and Tribal Sovereignty Through Sexual Assimilation

Wisconsin Law Review
Volume 2007, Number 2 (2007-01-12)
pages 410-461

Carla D. Pratt, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Educational Equity; Nancy J. LaMont Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law
Pennsylvania State University

I. Introduction

When the United States Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s miscegenation statute forty years ago, everyone understood that the Court was eroding the formal barrier between blacks and whites. Although there has been healthy disagreement about Loving v. Virginia, including whether it provides the precedent for legal endorsement of same-sex marriage, scholars generally agree that the Virginia statute which Loving struck down was not a law proscribing miscegenation generally, but merely prohibiting miscegenation with a white person. Commentators have generally recognized the Virginia legislators’ choice to structure the law in this way as being aimed at preserving white racial purity and ensuring that white women were reserved exclusively for white men. Ostensibly the law was insouciant regarding the intimate relations of people of color, but a closer look betrays its impact on interracial relations between people of color.

Further, state miscegenation laws that ultimately permitted whites to marry Indians aided the assimilation of Indians into mainstream white America by operating as a form of racial rehabilitation. Indian assimilation, however, required more than Indians intermarrying with whites; it required the total indoctrination of Indians into the system of white supremacy. This meant that Indians needed to adopt white sexual mores, including the aversion to race-mixing with blacks.

This Article calls this process—which operated as the pathway to Indian acceptance in American society and privileged Indians over blacks—“sexual assimilation.” While sexual assimilation was aimed at cultural genocide from the federal perspective, it paradoxically played a role in preventing Indian cultural extinction by helping to maintain tribal sovereignty.

Scholars have generally characterized Loving as a case about the line separating whites from blacks. Within the subtext of Loving, however, lies a narrative about the line separating Indians from blacks. Virginia’s miscegenation law employed a eugenics-based racial classification to legally construct Mildred Loving as “Negro,” but her true racial identity contained a Cherokee Indian component. Mildred was herself a product of race mixing. Furthermore, while Mildred’s mixed racial identity may lead one to believe that—as some scholars have suggested—Indians intermarried with blacks freely and frequently, the miscegenation laws of several tribes impart a counternarrative that portrays some Indian communities as viewing marriage to blacks as taboo.

Despite all of the discussion about miscegenation laws that Loving has generated, there has been little discussion about the American Indian Nations’s enactment of miscegenation laws. Perhaps this paucity of literature is due to the fact that Loving had no precedential effect in tribal miscegenation law since tribes are sovereigns that are, in many respects, independent of federal regulation. Nonetheless, an examination of Loving is incomplete without an examination of the role that state miscegenation laws played in Indian communities in the scheme to maintain the boundaries of racial categories and the struggle to maintain tribal sovereignty. An examination of tribal miscegenation law yields a better understanding of how state miscegenation laws affected nonblack people of color such as Native Americans, who were often political casualties of state and federal laws designed with a black-white paradigm in mind. In fact, Native Americans found themselves wedged in the middle of the black-white models of racial subordination and ultimately adjusted to the existing racial hierarchy through social and legal assimilation.

The fact that several Indian tribes adopted miscegenation laws similar to the law struck down in Loving raises important questions. Why did these particular tribes adopt miscegenation laws? What role did the adoption of miscegenation laws play in the tribe and its interaction with state and federal governments? What role did tribal miscegenation laws play in the acculturation of Indians, and what legacy have these laws left for the tribes’ contemporary understanding of self?

This Article examines tribal miscegenation laws in an effort to locate some potential answers to these questions. This Article is not proffered as a definitive answer to the questions posed, but as a contribution to the emerging dialogue aimed at developing a collective understanding of the social, historical, and political context in which such laws arose and operated. This Article deviates from the traditional binary paradigm of exploring how miscegenation laws affected blacks and whites and explores how miscegenation laws affected nonblack people of color and their relations with blacks. Thus, it reveals that the statute at issue in Loving and similar race-preserving laws indirectly regulated interracial relations between certain nonwhite groups.

Part II of this Article explores the substance of tribal miscegenation laws—and their legal and political context—in an effort to better understand why tribes adopted such racially isolating laws. Part III examines how state miscegenation laws affected Native Americans as well as the role of tribal miscegenation laws in maintaining individual and communal Indian identity and tribal sovereignty. Part IV questions whether tribal miscegenation laws, despite their repeal, help explain contemporary tribal conflicts between blacks and Indians. Part V concludes that extant legal disputes between the tribes and African Americans who claim membership in those tribes are derivatives of the project of sexual assimilation of Indian people. This suggests that both the tribes and African Americans who claim a Native American identity could benefit from a better understanding of the historical sociolegal context in which contemporary notions of Indian identity are rooted…

Read the entire article here.

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