Race Treason: The Untold Story of America’s Ban on Polygamy

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2012-10-03 02:12Z by Steven

Race Treason: The Untold Story of America’s Ban on Polygamy

Columbia Journal of Gender and Law
Volume 19, Number 2 (2010)
pages 287-366

Martha M. Ertman, Carole & Hanan Sibel Research Professor of Law
University of Maryland

Today’s ban on polygamy grew out of nineteenth century Americans’ view that Mormons committed two types of treason. First, antipolygamists charged Mormons with political treason by establishing a separatist theocracy in Utah. Second, they saw a social treason against the nation of White citizens when Mormons adopted a supposedly barbaric marital form, one that was natural for “Asiatic and African” people, but so unnatural for Whites as to produce a new, degenerate species that threatened the project of white supremacy. This Article reveals how both kinds of treason provided the foundation of polygamy law through the discourse of legal, political and medical “experts, ” as well as, most vividly, cartoons of the day. This discourse designated the overwhelmingly White Mormons as non-White to justify depriving them of citizenship rights such as voting, holding office, and sitting on juries. Paralleling the Mormon question to miscegenation disputes also raging in the decades after the Civil War, the Article suggests two theoretical perspectives to understand the “blackening” of Mormons. First, postcolonial theorist Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism helps explain how designating Mormons a subject race rendered their subjection inevitable. Second, Sir Henry Maine’s 1864 observation that progressive societies move from status to contract reveals the visceral defense of status embedded in antipolygamy discourse. That defense of status may also have implicated other ways status was giving way to contract, such as wage labor replacing slavery and the partnership theory of marriage beginning to displace coverture. In either case, the Article contends, the racial foundations of American antipolygamy law require us to rethink our own often reflexive condemnation of the practice. It concludes by suggesting three questions to help us frame that inquiry, asking: (1) whether we need to rethink this rarely-enforced ban; (2) whether current antipolygamy law’ associates polygamy with barbarism, foreignness, and people of color; and (3) whether it is coincidental that the plain language of the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits both polygamy and same-sex marriage.

INTRODUCTION

Race is at the center of all of American history.
— Ken Burns

Many people think that American law bans polygamy to ensure women’s equality and shield teenage girls from marrying old men. But that notion is largely wrong, at least if we interpret the relevant cases and statutes in light of the intentions of the lawmakers who enacted four federal statutes and the courts that upheld them in a line of cases that are still cited as good law. They were hardly concerned with gender equality or protecting children’s safety. Instead, the statutes went far beyond criminalizing polygamy, depriving Mormon men and women of voting and other citizenship rights to achieve the larger goal of preventing the traitorous establishment of a separatist theocracy in Utah. Polygamy was merely a symptom, fascinatingly salacious and easily ridiculed, of the pathology that most Americans saw in Mormonism. However, knowing the treason-based genesis of antipolygamy law need not force us to rethink the ban on polygamy. Treason remains unlawful, making it a permissible justification for the law today.

But race is also at the center of antipolygamy law, in a way that forces us to rethink the ban itself. Many Americans, from the highest levels of government to political cartoonists, viewed the Mormons’ political treason as part of a larger, even more sinister offense that I call race treason. According to this view, polygamy was natural for people of color, but unnatural for White Americans of Northern European descent. When Whites engaged in this unnatural practice, antipolygamists contended, they produced a “peculiar race.”  Antipolygamists linked this physical degeneration to Mormons’ submission to despotism, reasoning that their primitive form of government was common among supposedly backward races. The Supreme Court accepted this argument in the leading antipolygamy case, Reynolds v. United States, in which it rejected Mormon claims that polygamy was protected as the free exercise of religion. The Court reasoned that polygamy was “odious among the northern and western nations of Europe,” “almost exclusively a feature of the life of Asiatic and of African people,” and ultimately “fetters the people in stationary despotism.” Well into the twentieth century, many Americans continued to associate White Mormons with people of color, as evidenced by a character’s quip in Jack London’s 1914 novel, “They ain’t whites; they’re Mormons.”

This racialization requires us to ask whether the polygamy ban today continues to import those white supremacist values. In another context, states criminalized cocaine and marijuana in the early twentieth century to police and generally demonize Chinese and Mexican immigrants as well as African Americans. By the late twentieth century, that policy, though officially rejected, found expression in federal sentencing guidelines that penalized offenses related to crack cocaine (more common in African American communities), more harshly than powder cocaine (more common in White communities). There, as here, virulent racial motivations that animated a legal rule requires us to examine the law’s current incarnation to ensure it has shed the taint of its origin.

Casting overwhelmingly White Mormons as non-White required rhetorical slights of hand. While Mormons’ distinctive theology and social organization were politically unsettling in many ways, the practice of polygamy justified the larger culture’s demotion of Mormons from full citizenship on the grounds of racial inferiority. This Article tells the story of race in polygamy law through the words of government actors and scholars, using political cartoons to literally illustrate the widespread view of Mormons as race traitors.

It then offers two theoretical frames through which to view nineteenth century perceptions of polygamy as race treason: Orientalism and jurisprudential insights about the tensions between status and contract. Edward Said’s work on Orientalism offer some clues as to why cartoonists might have portrayed Mormon polygamists as Black and Asian. Viewing the discourse as Orientalist—essentially an “us/them” rubric that primarily underpins colonialism—shows that antipolygamy discourse also spoke of Mormon polygamy in “us/them” terms, treating polygamists not as people, but as problems to be solved. The most valuable insight Orientalism offers here is that framing a group as Oriental—an inherently backward, sensual, and therefore subordinated Other—makes its subjection inevitable. Thus the public imagination’s construction of Mormons as members of subject racial groups (Asian and Black, mainly) played a crucial role in subjecting Mormons to federal control…

…This Article uses political cartoons of the day to demonstrate how viscerally the American polity fought against the Mormons’ attempt at private ordering, deploying images of domestic and governmental disorder to rail against the chaotic consequences of abandoning status in marriage. In the cartoons, race and gender served as shorthand for status, the notion of assigned, inherent and unchanging roles. Because marriage was deeply raced and gendered, and not coincidentally defined citizenship, antipolygamists’ equation of polygamy with Asian and Black foreignness reaffirmed the centrality of Whiteness to full citizenship. Equating Whiteness with citizenship mattered enormously in the time of which we speak. Abolitionists and Freedmen pushed hard for full civic membership for the freed slaves. The cartoons here oppose it, using polygamy to beat back African Americans’ claims to civil membership in the wake of the Civil War…

…The cartoon depicts a fierce eagle, stars and stripes on its wings representing the United States, protecting its nest, which is labeled “union.” Inside the nest are eaglets, all White, each labeled for a state. A “carrion crow” labeled “Utah” rises up in their midst, clutching a bone labeled “Mormonism.” Three things bear mentioning. First, the cartoon appeared less than a generation after the end of the Civil War, when most viewers would situate its imagery within the national catastrophe of Confederate Secession. Second, it labeled the bird representing Utah as “Carrion Crow.” This crow gets its name from its habit of eating dead animals, making its presence in the caption depict Mormonism as a harbinger of death. Moreover, the birds representing the other states seem to be eaglets, the same species as the eagle, while the crow represents a new species, black, holding its own bone and defiantly turning its back on the mother. In contrast, the eaglets either beg for food or look out as if guarding the nest.

Integrating these elements, we can interpret the single Black crow White eaglets as signaling political defiance against the Union, racial grounds for denying Utah statehood, and miscegenation. In the decades after Civil War, intense legal, political, and social battles raged over the citizenship of African Americans, generally resulting in severely limited social and political rights for the freed slaves. Consequently, this cartoon, published in that climate, seems to reference both the Civil War and the place of Blacks in America in the wake of emancipation. The Black crow symbolizing Utah, nestled among White eaglets symbolizing the other states, is akin to the Confederacy seceding to protect its own peculiar domestic institution. In this view, depicting Utah as a carrion crow would justify denying “black” Utah membership in the Union just as the Black Codes and other measures denied African Americans full citizenship. The mix of white and black baby birds in the cartoon also raises the specter of miscegenation, which animated the Black Codes.

The nation was struggling over the constitutionality of miscegenation laws at the very moment that Mormon polygamy attracted intense debate and regulation. Many southern states repealed their miscegenation statutes shortly after the Civil War, reasoning that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution allowed African Americans to contract marriages just like White citizens. However, they reinstated miscegenation laws in the 1880s and 1890s, claiming that the ban on interracial marriage did not violate principles of equal protection, since it prevented both Blacks and Whites from marrying outside their race. Indeed, in 1883, a year after “The Carrion Crow,” the U.S. Supreme Court used this rationale to uphold miscegenation laws in Pace v. Alabama. As the sole Black child among White siblings, the crow signifies multiracial families produced by race-mixing. By linking Mormon polygamy with political treason and racialized political and familial degeneration, the cartoon triggers explosive issues far beyond polygamy as a marital variation…

Read the entire article here.

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The Dispossessed: Cultural Genocide of the Mixed-Blood Utes: an Advocate’s Chronicle

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2011-11-07 02:07Z by Steven

The Dispossessed: Cultural Genocide of the Mixed-Blood Utes: an Advocate’s Chronicle

University of Oklahoma Press
May 1998
384 pages
9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
ISBN-10: 0806130431; ISBN-13: 978-0806130439

Parker M. Nielson

This book is out of print.

In The Dispossessed, Parker M. Nielson chronicles the tragic story of the mixed-blood Utes. A leading Utah attorney, Nielson represented this group in its suit against the U.S. government, decided by the Supreme Court in 1972. Although the Court determined that the mixed-bloods had been defrauded, it declined to restore their property. Basing his account on extensive research as well as his own firsthand experience, Nielson brings to light for the first time the disturbing events that led up to the landmark decision.

Deprived of their native lands in central Utah by immigrant Mormons, the mixed-blood Utes—almost exclusively members of the Uintah band—were confined to a reservation in eastern Utah, with a promise from the U.S. government that the land would be theirs alone forever. This promise was not kept. The final blow was the Termination Act, enacted in the early 1950s. Designed to end government supervision of American Indians and the obligation of federal entitlements, its consequences for the mixed-blood Utes—as well as for many other Indian groups—were devastating, for it deprived them of their assets, land, and very way of life.

Drawing in particular on the testimony of individual Utes affected by the termination policy, Nielson discloses the broken promises and backhanded schemes perpetuated by government officials and the Utes’ own lawyers, whose motives were compromised by self-interest. The author thus explores an all-too-neglected subject: the role of tribal attorneys in influencing tribal histories.

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Census Bureau Reports Final 2010 Census Data for the United States

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Louisiana, Media Archive, Mississippi, Texas, United States, Virginia on 2011-03-25 02:15Z by Steven

Census Bureau Reports Final 2010 Census Data for the United States

United States Census Bureau
Census 2010
2011-03-24

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that 2010 Census population totals and demographic characteristics have been released for communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These data have provided the first look at population counts for small areas and race, Hispanic origin, voting age and housing unit data released from the 2010 Census. With the release of data for all the states, national-level counts of these characteristics are now available.

For each state, the Census Bureau will provide summaries of population totals, as well as data on race, Hispanic origin and voting age for multiple geographies within the state, such as census blocks, tracts, voting districts, cities, counties and school districts.

According to Public Law 94-171, the Census Bureau must provide redistricting data to the 50 states no later than April 1 of the year following the census. As a result, the Census Bureau is delivering the data state-by-state on a flow basis. All states will receive their data by April 1, 2011.

Highlights by Steven F. Riley

  • The United States population (for apportionment purposes)  is 308,745,538. This represents a 9.71% increase over 2000.
  • The U.S. population including Puerto Rico is 312,471,327.  This represents a 9.55% increase over 2000.
  • The number of repondents (excluding Puerto Rico) checking two or more races (TOMR) is 9,009,073 or 2.92% of the population. This represents a 31.98% increase over 2000.
  • The number of repondents (including Puerto Rico) checking TOMR is 9,026,389 or 2.89% of the population.  This represents a 29.23% increase over 2000.
  • Hawaii has the highest TOMR response rate at 23.57%, followed by Alaska (7.30%), Oklahoma (5.90%) and California (4.87%).
  • California has the highest TOMR population at 1,815,384, followed by Texas (679,001), New York (585,849), and Florida (472,577).
  • Mississppi has the lowest TOMR response rate at 1.15%, followed by West Virginia (1.46%),  Alabama (1.49%) and Maine (1.58%).
  • Vermont has the lowest TOMR population at 10,753, followed by North Dakota (11,853), Wyoming (12,361) and South Dakota (17,283).
  • South Carolina has the highest increase in the TOMR response rate at 100.09%, followed by North Carolina (99.69%), Delaware (83.03%) and Georgia (81.71%).
  • New Jersey has the lowest increase in the TOMR response rate at 12.42%, followed by California (12.92%), New Mexico (16.11%), and Massachusetts (17.81%).
  • Puerto Rico has a 22.83% decrease in the TOMR response rate and New York has a 0.73% decrease in the TOMR response race.  No other states or territories reported decreases.
2010 Census Data for “Two or More Races” for States Above
# State Total Population Two or More Races (TOMR) Percentage Total Pop. % Change from 2000 TOMR % Change from 2000
1. Louisiana 4,533,372 72,883 1.61 1.42 51.01
2. Mississippi 2,967,297 34,107 1.15 4.31 70.36
3. New Jersey 8,791,894 240,303 2.73 4.49 12.42
4. Virginia 8,001,024 233,400 2.92 13.03 63.14
5. Maryland 5,773,552 164,708 2.85 9.01 59.00
6. Arkansas 2,915,918 72,883 2.50 9.07 59.50
7. Iowa 3,046,355 53,333 1.75 4.10 67.83
8. Indiana 6,483,802 127,901 1.97 6.63 69.02
9. Vermont 625,741 10,753 1.71 2.78 46.60
10. Illinois 12,830,632 289,982 2.26 3.31 23.38
11. Oklahoma 3,751,351 221,321 5.90 8.71 41.89
12. South Dakota 814,180 17,283 2.12 7.86 70.18
13. Texas 25,145,561 679,001 2.70 20.59 31.93
14. Washington 6,724,540 312,926 4.65 14.09 46.56
15. Oregon 3,831,074 144,759 3.78 11.97 38.20
16. Colorado 5,029,196 172,456 3.43 16.92 41.14
17. Utah 2,763,885 75,518 2.73 23.77 60.01
18. Nevada 2,700,551 126,075 4.67 35.14 64.96
19. Missouri 5,988,927 124,589 2.08 7.04 51.82
20. Alabama 4,779,736 71,251 1.49 7.48 61.28
21. Hawaii 1,360,301 320,629 23.57 12.28 23.63
22. Nebraska 1,826,341 39,510 2.16 6.72 64.95
23. North Carolina 9,535,483 206,199 2.16 18.46 99.69
24. Delaware 897,934 23,854 2.66 14.59 83.03
25. Kansas 2,853,118 85,933 3.01 6.13 52.10
26. Wyoming 563,626 12,361 2.19 14.14 39.15
27. California 37,253,956 1,815,384 4.87 9.99 12.92
28. Ohio 11,536,504 237,765 2.06 1.59 50.59
29. Connecticut 3,574,097 92,676 2.59 4.95 23.82
30. Pennsylvania 12,702,379 237,835 1.87  3.43 67.23
31. Wisconsin 5,686,986 104,317 1.83 6.03 55.94
32. Arizona 6,392,017 218,300 3.42 24.59 48.98
33. Idaho 1,567,582 38,935 2.48 21.15 52.04
34. New Mexico 2,059,179 77,010 3.74 13.20 16.11
35. Montana 989,415 24,976 2.52 9.67 58.78
36. Tennessee 6,346,105 110,009 1.73 11.54 74.32
37. North Dakota 672,591 11,853 1.76 4.73 60.22
38. Minnesota 5,303,925 125,145 2.36 7.81 51.25
39. Alaska 710,231 51,875 7.30 13.29 51.92
40. Florida 18,801,310 472,577 2.51 17.63 25.58
41. Georgia 9,687,653 207,489 2.14 18.34 81.71
42. Kentucky 4,339,367 75,208 1.73 7.36 77.20
43. New Hampshire 1,316,470 21,382 1.62 6.53 61.81
44. Michigan 9,883,640 230,319 2.33 -0.55 19.70
45. Massachusetts 6,547,629 172,003 2.63 3.13 17.81
46. Rhode Island 1,052,567 34,787 3.30 0.41 23.14
47. South Carolina 4,625,364 79,935 1.73 15.29 100.09
48. West Virginia 1,852,994 27,142 1.46 2.47 71.92
49. New York 19,378,102 585,849 3.02 2.12 -0.73
50. Puerto Rico 3,725,789 122,246 3.28 -2.17 -22.83
51. Maine 1,328,361 20,941 1.58 4.19 65.58
52. District of Columbia 601,723 17,316 2.88 5.19 71.92
  Total (with Puerto Rico) 312,471,327 9,026,389 2.89 9.55 29.23
  U.S. Population 308,745,538 9,009,073 2.92 9.71 31.98

Tables compiled by Steven F. Riley. Source: United States Census Bureau

2000 Census Data for “Two or More Races” for States Above
# State Total Population Two or More Races (TOMR) Percentage
1. Louisiana 4,469,976 48,265 1.08
2. Mississippi 2,844,658 20,021 0.74
3. New Jersey 8,414,250 213,755 2.54
4. Virginia 7,078,515 143,069 2.02
5. Maryland 5,296,486 103,587 1.96
6. Arkansas 2,673,400 35,744 1.34
7. Iowa 2,926,324 31,778 1.09
8. Indiana 6,080,485 75,672 1.24
9. Vermont 608,827 7,335 1.20
10. Illinois 12,419,293 235,016 1.89
11. Oklahoma 3,450,654 155,985 4.52
12. South Dakota 754,844 10,156 1.35
13. Texas 20,851,820 514,633 2.47
14. Washington 5,894,121 213,519 3.62
15. Oregon 3,421,399 104,745 3.06
16. Colorado 4,301,261 122,187 2.84
17. Utah 2,233,169 47,195 2.11
18. Nevada 1,998,257 76,428 3.82
19. Missouri 5,595,211 82,061 1.47
20. Alabama 4,447,100 44,179 0.99
21. Hawaii 1,211,537 259,343 21.41
22. Nebraska 1,711,263 23,953 1.40
23. North Carolina 8,049,313 103,260 1.28
24. Delaware 783,600 13,033 1.66
25. Kansas 2,688,418 56,496 2.10
26. Wyoming 493,782 8,883 1.80
27. California 33,871,648 1,607,646 4.75
28. Ohio 11,353,140 157,885 1.39
29. Connecticut 3,405,565 74,848 2.20
30. Pennsylvania 12,281,054 142,224 1.16
31. Wisconsin 5,363,675 66,895 1.25
32. Arizona 5,130,632 146,526 2.86
33. Idaho 1,293,953 25,609 1.98
34. New Mexico 1,819,046 66,327 3.65
35. Montana 902,195 15,730 1.74
36. Tennessee 5,689,283 63,109 1.11
37. North Dakota 642,200 7,398 1.15
38. Minnesota 4,919,479 82,742 1.68
39. Alaska 626,932 34,146 5.45
40. Florida 15,982,378 376,315 2.35
41. Georgia 8,186,453 114,188 1.39
42. Kentucky 4,041,769 42,443 1.05
43. New Hampshire 1,235,786 13,214 1.07
44. Michigan 9,938,444 192,416 1.94
45. Massachusetts 6,349,097 146,005 2.30
46. Rhode Island 1,048,319 28,251 2.69
47. South Carolina 4,012,012 39,950 1.00
48. West Virginia 1,808,344 15,788 0.87
49. New York 18,976,457 590,182 3.11
50. Puerto Rico 3,808,610 158,415 4.16
51. Maine 1,274,923 12,647 0.99
52. District of Columbia 572,059 13,446 2.35
  Total (with Puerto Rico) 285,230,516 6,984,643 2.45
  United States 281,421,906 6,826,228 2.43

Tables compiled by Steven F. Riley.  Source: United States Census Bureau

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Termination’s Legacy: The Discarded Indians of Utah

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2011-03-15 01:42Z by Steven

Termination’s Legacy: The Discarded Indians of Utah

University of Nebraska Press
2002
311 pages
Illus., maps
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8032-3201-3; Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-2251-9

R. Warren Metcalf, Associate Professor of United States History
University of Oklahoma

Termination’s Legacy describes how the federal policy of termination irrevocably affected the lives of a group of mixed-blood Ute Indians who made their home on the Uintah-Ouray Reservation in Utah. Following World War II many Native American communities were strongly encouraged to terminate their status as wards of the federal government and develop greater economic and political power for themselves. During this era, the rights of many Native communities came under siege, and the tribal status of some was terminated. Most of the terminated communities eventually regained tribal status and federal recognition in subsequent decades. But not all did.

The mixed-blood Utes fell outside the formal categories of classification by the federal government, they did not meet the essentialist expectations of some officials of the Mormon Church, and their regaining of tribal status potentially would have threatened those Utes already classified as tribal members on the reservation. Skillfully weaving together interviews and extensive archival research, R. Warren Metcalf traces the steps that led to the termination of the mixed-blood Utes’ tribal status and shows how and why this particular group of Native Americans was never formally recognized as “Indian” again. Their repeated failure to regain their tribal status throws into relief the volatile key issue of identity then and today for full- and mixed-blood Native Americans, the federal government, and the powerful Mormon Church in Utah.

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Biracial Utahns seeking identity

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Social Science, United States on 2010-08-19 03:34Z by Steven

Biracial Utahns seeking identity

Deseret News
Salt Lake City, Utah
2005-03-12

Elaine Jarvik

They’re biracial — equally Polynesian and white. But most prefer to think of themselves as Polynesian, says University of Utah graduate student Kawika Allen, who recently studied 84 Polynesian-Caucasian Utahns.

Allen, who grew up with an Hawaiian mother and a Caucasian father, presented his findings Friday at the ninth annual Pacific Islander Awareness Week at the University of Utah…

…Growing up in Utah, Allen’s Polynesian friends sometimes thought he wasn’t Polynesian enough, and he wasn’t sure if he fit in his father’s white world either. That angst later led to a master’s thesis on biracial identity among Utah’s biracial Polynesians, who now number more than 3,000.

Although previous research of other biracial Americans found that children tend to identify more with the same-sex parent, regardless of ethnicity, Allen found that among Polynesian-Caucasian Utahns, children tended to identify more with the Polynesian parent, regardless of gender.

He also found that biracial Polynesians were more likely to receive negative messages about being biracial if their fathers, rather than mothers, were Polynesian…

Read the entire article here.

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