By now, you've likely heard about the Louisiana justice of peace who recently denied an interracial couple a marriage license. The justice's move has sparked public outcry.
After all, no matter his opinions on interracial unions, it's no longer illegal for mixed couples to marry. Therefore, Keith Bardwell, the justice of peace in question, overstepped his bounds by refusing a marriage license to Terence McKay, who is black, and Beth Humphrey, who is white. Quotes attributed to Bardwell suggest that the justice considers his refusal to grant McKay and Humphrey a marriage license to be an act of conscience.
According to MSNBC.com, Bardwell said, "I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."
Bardwell also commented that he feels neither blacks nor whites accept the children produced by interracial unions.
He shrunk away from the suggestion that racism motivated his actions.
"I'm not a racist," he told the Associated Press. "I just don't believe in mixing the races that way. I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
The fact that Bardwell is patting himself on the back for allowing African Americans to use his bathroom speaks volumes. Separate bathrooms for whites and blacks, along with interracial marriage bans, are relics of the past. That Bardwell is proud of himself for allowing blacks to use his restroom suggests that he still views African Americans as inherently different from whites. Despite his claims to the contrary, his words and actions, alike, belie a racist mindset. The top excuse racists use to protest interracial marriage is the fate of mixed-race children. This reasoning is rooted in the "tragic mulatto" myth which suggests that biracial children are doomed to be tortured misfits whose black ancestry prohibits them from reaping the privileges that white people enjoy. The problem with the tragic mulatto myth is that it blames biracial people for any distress they might endure rather than racism. In reality, mixed-race individuals have emerged as leaders in American society for centuries--from abolitionist Frederick Douglass to President Barack Obama.
There's no denying that biracial people, like any oppressed group, face challenges. But by teaching mixed-race kids to embrace each of their cultures, placing them in schools that celebrate diversity and living in multicultural communities, raising biracial children who are happy and healthy isn't a problem. There's no reason the tragic mulatto myth should be perpetuated in 2009.
As for Keith Bardwell, I have one question: Do you realize that marriage isn't necessary for biracial children to be born? Interracial marriage was banned until the 1960s, yet mixed-race children have been staples of American society since colonial times. Louisiana, in particular, was one of the states where miscegenation boomed. Just read the works of Kate Chopin, who published literature in the late 1880s, to spot this trend. Her writing, much of which takes place in Louisiana, is filled with a catalogue of mixed-race characters. References to "mulattoes," "quadroons" and "octoroons" occupy her pages.