The term "miscegenation" has been used since the nineteenth century to refer to interracial marriage and interracial sex, and more generally to the global process of racial admixture that has taken place since the Age of Discoveries, particularly through the European colonization of the Americas and the Atlantic slave trade. Historically the term has been used in the context of laws banning interracial marriage and sex, so-called anti-miscegenation laws. It is therefore a loaded word and is considered offensive by many.
Today, the word miscegenation is avoided by many scholars, because the term suggests a distinct biological phenomenon, rather than a categorization imposed on certain relationships. The word is considered offensive by many and other terms such as "interracial," "interethnic" or "cross-cultural" are more common in contemporary usage. However, the term is still used by scholars when referring to past practices concerning multiraciality, such as anti-miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriages.
In Spanish, Portuguese and French, the words used to describe the mixing of races are mestizaje, mestiçagem and métissage. These words, much older than the term miscegenation, are derived from the Late Latin mixticius for "mixed" and from the Spanish word mestizo. Portuguese also uses miscigenação, derived from the same Latin root as the English word. These non-English terms for "race-mixing" are not considered as offensive as "miscegenation", although they have historically been tied to the caste system (Casta) that was established in Latin America during the colonial era. However, some groups in South America consider the use of the word mestizo offensive due to the fact that it was used during the times of the colony to just refer to the mixes between the conquistadores and the indigenous people. Today the mixes among races and ethnicities are diverse so it is preferable to use the term "mixed-race" or simply "mixed" (mezcla).
The concept of miscegenation is tied to concepts of racial difference. As the different connotations and etymologies of miscegenation and mestizaje suggest, definitions of race, "race mixing" and multiraciality have diverged globally as well as historically, depending on changing social circumstances and cultural perceptions. Thus, mestizo are people of mixed white and indigenous, usually Amerindian ancestry who do not self-identify as indigenous peoples or Native Americans. In Canada however, the Métis, who also have partly Amerindian and partly white, often French-Canadian, ancestry, are a constitutionally recognized aboriginal people.
The differences between related terms and words that encompass aspects of racial admixture show the impact of different historical and cultural factors leading to changing social interpretations of race and ethnicity. Thus the Comte de Montlosier, in exile during the French Revolution, equated class difference in eighteenth century France with racial difference. Borrowing Boulainvilliers' discourse on the "Nordic race" as being the French aristocracy that invaded the plebeian "Gauls", he showed his contempt for the lowest social class, the Third Estate, calling it "this new people born of slaves ... mixture of all races and of all times".
Miscegenation comes from the Latin miscere, "to mix" and genus, "kind". The word was coined in the U.S. in 1863, and the etymology of the word is tied up with political conflicts during the American Civil War over the abolition of slavery and over the racial segregation of African-Americans. The reference to "genus" was made to emphasize the supposedly distinct biological differences between whites and non-whites. In fact, all humans belong to the same genus, Homo, to the same species, Homo sapiens and to the same subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens.
The word was coined in an anonymous propaganda pamphlet published in New York City in December 1863, during the American Civil War. The pamphlet was entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the American White Man and Negro. It purported to advocate the intermarriage of whites and blacks until they were indistinguishably mixed as a desirable goal, and further asserted that this was the goal of the Republican Party. The pamphlet was in fact a hoax, concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them radical views that offended the racist attitudes common among whites, even those who opposed slavery. In New York in particular there was much opposition to the Federal war effort, such as the Draft Riots that included numerous lynchings.
The pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in both the North and the Confederacy by Democrats and rebels. Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax. The hoax pamphlet was written by David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter.
By then, the word miscegenation had entered the common language of the day as a popular buzzword in political and social discourse. The issue of miscegenation, raised by the opponents of Lincoln, featured prominently in the election campaign of 1864.
In the United States, miscegenation has referred primarily to the intermarriage between whites and non-whites, especially blacks.
Before the publication of Miscegenation, the word amalgamation, borrowed from metallurgy, had been in use as a general term for ethnic and racial intermixing. A contemporary usage of this metaphor was Ralph Waldo Emerson's private vision in 1845 of America as an ethnic and racial smelting-pot, a variation on the concept of the melting pot. Opinions in the U.S on the desirability of such intermixing, including that between white Protestants and Irish Catholic immigrants, were divided. The term miscegenation was coined to refer specifically to the intermarriage of blacks and whites, with the intent of provoking racist reaction.
Laws banning "race-mixing" were enforced in Nazi Germany, in South Africa during the Apartheid era and in individual U.S. states from the Colonial era until 1967. All these laws primarily banned marriage between spouses of different racially or ethnically defined groups, which was termed "amalgamation" or "miscegenation" in the U.S. The laws in Nazi Germany and South Africa under apartheid, and many of the U.S. state laws, also banned sexual relations between such individuals.
In the United States, the various state laws prohibited the marriage of whites and blacks, and in many states also the intermarriage of whites with Native Americans or Asians. In the U.S., such laws were known as anti-miscegenation laws. From 1913 until 1948, 30 out of the then 48 states enforced such laws. Although an "Anti-Miscegenation Amendment" to the United States Constitution was proposed in 1871, in 1912–1913, and in 1928, no nation-wide law against racially mixed marriages was ever enacted. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Loving v. Virginia that miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. With this ruling, these laws were no longer in effect in the remaining 16 states that still had them.
The Nazi ban on interracial marriage and interracial sex was enacted in September 1935 as part of the Nuremberg Laws, the Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre (The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour). The Nuremberg Laws classified Jews as a race, and forbade marriage and extramarital sexual relations between persons of Jewish origin and persons of "German or related blood". Such intercourse was condemned as Rassenschande (lit. "race-disgrace") and could be punished by imprisonment (usually followed by deportation to a concentration camp) and even by death.
The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in South Africa, enacted in 1949, banned intermarriage between whites and non-whites. The Immorality Act, enacted in 1950, also made it a criminal offense for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race. Both laws were repealed in 1985.
Historically, "race mixing" between black and white people was taboo in the United States (see also Racism in the United States). In the past, the taboo centered more on white-black marriages than on sexual relations between whites and blacks, because most white Americans refused to accept African-Americans as social equals.
The taboo among American whites surrounding white-black intermarriage can be seen as a historical consequence of the oppression and racial segregation of African-Americans. In many U.S. states interracial marriage was already illegal when the term miscegenation was invented in 1863. The first laws banning interracial marriage were introduced in the late seventeenth century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692). Later these laws also spread to colonies and states where slavery did not exist.
It has also been argued that the first laws banning interracial marriage were a response by the planter elite to the problems they were facing due to the socio-economic dynamics of the plantation system in the Southern colonies. The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized. At the time, most forced laborers on the plantations were indentured servants, and they were mostly white. Some historians have suggested that the at-the-time unprecedented laws banning interracial marriage were originally invented by planters as a divide and rule tactic after the uprising of servants in Bacon's Rebellion. According to this theory, the ban on interracial marriage was issued to split up the racially mixed, increasingly mixed-race labour force into whites, who were given their freedom, and blacks, who were later treated as slaves rather than as indentured servants. By forbidding interracial marriage, it became possible to keep these two new groups separated and prevent a new rebellion.
During and after slavery, most American whites regarded interracial marriage between whites and blacks as taboo. However, during slavery many white American men and women did conceive children with black partners. These children automatically became slaves if the mother was a slave or were born free if the mother was free, as slavery was matrilineal. Some children were freed by their slave-holding fathers or bought to be emancipated if the father was not the owner. Many children of these unions formed enclaves under names such as Colored and Gens de couleur, etc. Most mixed-raced descendants merged into the African-American ethnic group during Jim Crow, while over the centuries a minority of mixed-raced Americans passed and became white, and others exist to this day in small mixed enclaves of Mestees such as the Melungeons, Redbones, Lumbee, Jackson Whites, etc. Genetic research suggests that a considerable minority of white Americans (estimated at 1/3 of the population by some geneticists such as Mark Shriver) has some distant African-American ancestry, and that the majority of black Americans have some European ancestry. Interestingly, marriage records show that in 60% of American white-black intermarriages, the woman is white, while mitochondrial DNA shows that only 40% of the European contribution to the African American genetic pool is from females.
After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in 1865, the intermarriage of white and black Americans continued to be taboo, especially but not only in the former slave states. The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, also known as Hays Code, explicitly stated that the depiction of "miscegenation... is forbidden." One important strategy intended to discourage the marriage of white Americans and Americans of partly African descent was the promulgation of the one-drop theory, which held that any person with any known African ancestry, however remote, must be regarded as "black". This definition of blackness was encoded in the anti-miscegenation laws of various U.S. states, such as Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
Accusations of support for miscegenation were commonly made by slavery defenders against Abolitionists before the Civil War. After the War, similar charges were used by white segregationists against advocates of equal rights for African Americans. They were said to be secretly plotting the destruction of the white race through miscegenation. In the 1950s, segregationists alleged a Communist plot funded by the Soviet Union with that goal. In 1957, segregationists cite the anti-semitic hoax A Racial Program for the Twentieth Century as evidence for these bogus claims.
In 1958, the Christian fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell, at the time a defender of segregation, in a sermon railed against integration, warning that it would lead to miscegenation, which would "destroy our [white] race eventually..
In the United States, segregationists and Christian identity groups have claimed that several verses in the Bible, for example the story of Phinehas and the so-called "curse of Ham", should be understood as referring to miscegenation and that these verses expressly forbid it. Most theologians read these verses as forbidding inter-religious marriage, rather than inter-racial marriage.
The modern State of Israel was established as a nation-state for the Jewish people. In this context, miscegenation is marriage between Jew and non-Jew, and being a Jew can be defined either by religious adherence, or the sense of a common lineage, which should not be confused with the concept of race. This is further confused by the rule in Halakha (Jewish religious law) that Jewish status is inherited, but from the mother only. Thus the child of a Jewish woman is born a Jew, regardless of whether mother or child adheres to the Jewish religion, or whether the father is a Jew, but the child of a non-Jewish woman is not born a Jew, unless she has formally converted to Judaism first. Traditional Orthodox Jews oppose such intermarriage.
Jewish miscegenation thus has two forms: marriage between Jew and non-Jew, and marriage between Jews of different races. It should be noted, while Jews may be of different races, genetic studies have proven that most Jews originate from a common ancestral Israelite population.
Israeli law concerns itself with miscegenation based on Jewish ethnicity, not miscegenation based on race. Therefore, there are no restrictions on interracial marriages between Jews of different Jewish ethnic divisions, or between other co-religionists of different races, although social stigma may still exist.
In Israel, all marriages must be performed by religious celebrants. Civil marriage does not exist in Israel, although it is legally recognized if it is performed abroad. Rules governing marriage are based on strict religious guidelines of each religion. By Israeli law, authority over all issues related to Judaism in Israel, including marriage, falls under the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Orthodox Judaism is the only form of Judaism recognized by the state, and marriages performed by non-Orthodox Rabbis in Israel are not recognized (although they are recognized if performed abroad). Halakha prohibits marriage of Jews to non-Jews. The Rabbinate in Israel will not perform a marriage between a halakhic Jew (one born of a Jewish mother or Jewish by conversion) to a non-Jew or to a "non-halakhic Jew", even if the latter is considered a Jew under Israeli civil law, such as a person of Jewish paternal descent. This is regardless of whether the halakhic Jew is Orthodox. Multi-faith couples must go out of the country to get married, most often to Cyprus.
The only other option in Israel for the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew, or for that matter, a Christian to a non-Christian or a Muslim to a non-Muslim, is for one partner to convert formally to the other's religion. A non-halakhic Jew who wishes to marry a halakhic Jew must also convert formally to Judaism.
According to a Haaretz article "Justice Ministry drafts civil marriage law for ‘refuseniks’ 300,000 people are affected by these marriage restrictions.
According to the U.S. Census, in 2000 there were 1,432,908 Hispanic Origin-white marriages., 504,119 Asian-white marriages, 287,576 black-white marriages, 97,822 Hispanic Origin-black marriages, 40,317 Asian-Hispanic Origin marriages, and 31,271 Asian-black marriages.
Multiracial Brazilians make up 42.6% of Brazil's population, 79.782 million people, and they live in all regions of Brazil. Multiracial Brazilians are mainly people of mixed European, African (Afro-Brazilian) and Amerindian ancestry.
The demographic composition of the old world has not changed significantly since the age of discovery. However, the new world demographics were radically changed within a short time following the voyage of Columbus. The colonization of Americas brought Native Americans into contact with the distant populations of Europe, Africa and Asia. As a result many countries in the Americas have significant and complex multiracial populations. Furthermore many who identify themselves by only one race still have multiracial ancestry.
|% European Admixture||Frequency|
Today the vast majority of African-Americans possess varying degrees of European admixture (the average Black American is 20% European) although studies suggest the Native American admixture in Black Americans is highly exaggerated; some estimates put average African-American possession of European admixture at 25% with figures as high as 50% in the Northeast and less than 10% in the south. A recent study by Mark D. Shriver of a European-American sample found that the average admixture in the white population is 0.7% African and 3.2% Native American. However, 70% of the sample had no African admixture. The other 30% had African admixture ranging from 2% to 20% with an average of 2.3%. By extrapolating these figures to the whole population some scholars suggest that up to 74 million European-Americans may have African admixture in the same range (2-20%).
Dr Mark Shriver, the team leader of the study, found that he had 11% West African ancestry though he identifies as white. Studies based on skin reflectance have shown the color line in the US applied selective pressure on genes that code for skin color but did not apply any selective pressure on other invisible African genes. Since there are an estimated 6 genetic loci involved in skin color determination it is possible for someone to have 15-20% African admixture and not possess any of alleles that code for dark skin. This is the basis of the passing phenomena. Thus African admixture amongst white Americans can increase without any significant change in skin tone. Conversely amongst African-Americans, an amount of African Admixture is directly correlated with darker skin since no selective pressure is applied; as a result, African-Americans may have a much wider range of African admixture (>0-100%), where as European-Americans have a lower range (2-20%). A small overlap exists so that it is possible that someone who self identifies as white may have more African admixture than a person who self identifies as black.
A statistical analysis done in 1958 using historical census data and historical data on immigration and birth rates, concluded that 21 percent of the white population had black ancestors. The growth in the white population could not be attributed to births in the white population and immigration from Europe alone, but had received significant contribution from the American black population as well. The author states in 1958:
In addition many Africans were shipped to regions all over the Americas and were present in many of the early voyages of the conquistadors. Brazil has the largest population of African descendants outside of Africa. Other countries such as Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador still have sizeable populations identified as Black. However countries such as Argentina and Chile do not have a visible African presence today. Census information from the early 19th century shows that people categorized as Black made up to 30% of the population, or around 400,000 people. Though almost completely absent today, their contribution to Argentine culture is significant include the Tango, the Milonga and the Zamba, words of Bantu origin.
The early conquest of Latin America was primarily carried out by male soldiers and sailors from Spain and Portugal. Since they carried very few European women on their journeys the new settlers married and fathered children with Amerindian women and also with women imported from Africa. This process of miscegenation was even encouraged by the Spanish monarchy and it led to the system of stratification known as the Casta. This system had Europeans (mainly Spaniards and Portuguese) at the top of the hierarchy followed by those of mixed race. Unmixed Blacks and Native Americans were at the bottom. A philosophy of whitening emerged in which Amerindian and African culture was stigmatized in favor of European values. Many Amerindian languages were lost as mixed race offspring adopted Spanish and Portuguese as their first languages. Only towards the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the twentieth century did large numbers of Europeans begin to migrate to South America and consequently altering its demographics.
|Demographics of Brazil from 1835 to 2000|
Historians and scientists are thus interested in tracing the fate of Native Americans and Africans from the past to the future. The questions remain about what proportion of these populations simply died out and what proportion still has descendants alive today including those who do not racially identify themselves as their ancestors would have. Admixture testing has thus become a useful objective tool in shedding light on the demographic history of Latin America.