For 150 years, Democrats used the Big Lie about race to justify slavery and Jim Crow, and now they’re using the Big Lie technique to challenge gender norms.
I want to share a thought with you that starts with slavery and ends with transsexuals. To get from one to the other, I have to start with one of the few decent classes I had when I was at UC Berkeley. That senior seminar looked at the history of race relations in America versus those in Brazil.
When I took the class, I had no interest whatsoever in the history of race relations. I was an English history major — the English isle, to be precise — and everything else was a distant second. Still, it became apparent to me very quickly that I was not alone and that I would not get into my preferred seminar. You see, back in the day, when it came time for enrollment in senior seminars, the history teachers would seat themselves at random intervals in the big lecture room at Dwinelle Hall. Students would then approach the teachers as supplicants, begging to get into this or that seminar.
As soon as I walked in the room, I saw that the professors teaching the seminars in which I was interested were besieged. I had no desire to hurl myself into that scrum. Instead, I checked out the teachers who were not surrounded by adoring students.
Only one of the other teachers caught my interest because he was so darn handsome. After I ascertained that he had openings in his seminar and that it worked for my schedule, I signed up, not even caring what he was teaching. And so it was that I ended up learning about the history race relations in the US and Brazil.
Fortunately, for me, that handsome young graduate student was an excellent teacher. It made up for the fact that he was happily married, had a baby, and would in any event not have been interested in me. It also made up for the fact that the reading materials were deadly dull.
Thirty years later, the only takeaway I had from the class is that America was rather unique in its “one drop of blood” approach to racism. In Brazil, there’s a great deal of racism, but it’s on a graduated scale. The darker you are, the more racism you face and the lower your status in society.
Meanwhile, in America, it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you’re known to have even a drop of black blood in you, you’re black. Nor is that a racial view that’s changed since both slavery and Jim Crow ended. After all, Barack Obama, half-black and half-white genetically, was our “first black president.” He wasn’t really, of course. He was our “first half-black president” — but that’s not the way things roll in America.
The stigma against that single drop of blood has been so strong in America that it made for a great subplot in Edna Ferber’s Showboat, which started as a book, made it to Broadway as a groundbreaking musical, and then got made into two Hollywood movie musicals. (The 1936 version of the movie is the one to see.)
If you’re familiar with Showboat’s plot, you know that, when the showboat passes through Mississippi, a vengeful man, furious that the beautiful Julie LaVerne has rebuffed him, reports to the authorities that she is, in fact, a black woman. Given that her husband, Steve, is a white man, they have violated Mississippi’s miscegenation laws and he demands their arrest. The couple avoids arrest when Steve cuts Julie and licks her blood, enabling his friends on the boat to state honestly that he has that “one drop of black blood” in him. [Read more…]