Woods! Hamilton! Obama! Let’s hear it for miscegenation!

Woods! Hamilton! Obama! Let’s hear it for miscegenation! November 3, 2008

What have the world’s greatest golfer, champion racing driver and liberal hope for the US presidency got in common? Well one thing is that they are all mixed race. All are products of miscegenation.

What a word. Who would care?

But it’s not long since many people, not just those of us of mixed race or having partners of other races, cared deeply. Miscegenation was illegal in Nazi Germany, in 16 of the states of the USA until 1967, and in South Africa until 1985. And in many other countries, including the UK, it was legal but widely disapproved of.

Most of the anti-miscegenation laws were based on the view that there was distinct white race and that it was better than other races. Scientifically speaking the first point is more than doubtful; there is more genetic variation within each so-called race than between races. The second point is equally hard to defend. It was, after all, members of the white race who invented concentration camps, atomic bombs and fascism.

Orthodox religion has, unsurprisingly, also been hostile to miscegenation. From the Dutch Reformed Church (known to English-speaking South Africans as the Much Deformed Church) to American fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell. As recently as 2000 the Bob Jones University – a Southern fundamentalist outfit – was unrepentantly hostile to inter-racial dating. Students who offended could be expelled. (BJU is, of course, the source of the Reverend Ian Paisley’s doctorate.)

These backward attitudes were not unique to the churches – indeed they were widely held by many westerners throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. But they survived longest in these religious ghettos.

So let’s recognise the success of these, and other, products of miscegenation. Long may they prosper! And let’s hope we’ve seen the last of the prejudice that would have prevented their births.

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