Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Marriage and mating

"Marriage quality" proponents like to compare homosexual marriage to interracial marriage or miscegenation. They allege that opposition to homosexual marriage is morally equivalent to racism.

The comparison is disanalogous in several respects, as I've noted before. But I'd like to make an additional point. To my knowledge, the Colonial and Antebellum ruling class drew a distinction between interracial mating and interracial marriage. They didn't object to interracial mating or miscegenation. Consider Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, or other white slave masters who used the slave quarters as their private, onsite harem. To my knowledge, that was socially acceptable.

What was unacceptable was interracial marriage. It's parallel to European royalty and aristocracy who had mistresses. Where they drew the line was marriage, because marriage produces heirs. It didn't matter if you fathered "bastard" kids by your slave or mistress, because their "illegitimacy" disqualified them as heirs.

It wasn't about race, but social class. Maintaining the caste-system. "Rightful" heirs. A line of royal succession. That sort of thing.

Interracial marriage was taboo because that threatened the social hierarchy. The ruling class wanted to maintain horizontal divisions. 

From what I can tell, the actual rationale was more cynical and devious than straightforward racism. White racists sometimes oppose miscegenation based on theories of racial purity, but the bloodlines that the ruling class cared about weren't based on racial pedigree but social pedigree. You were expected to marry your social peers, not your social inferiors. That would disrupt and destabilize the caste-system. That certainly reflects poorly on the social mores of the ruling class, but it's a different kind of evil. 


  1. As far as I can tell, people believed a man and woman of different races entering into marriage was a real marriage and union. They just didn't want it happening. The current dispute is over whether a man and man or woman and woman getting married is even a real thing to begin with. It's not analogous because we're debating whether the union itself is really a marriage.

  2. Actually, in states that had anti-miscegenation laws, there were also often (always?) laws against cohabitation. Hence, since a man and woman of different races weren't deemed legally married, they could be fined, etc., for living together without being married.

    1. My point was a little different:

      i) I was thinking of an era prior to Jim Crow. Colonial and Antebellum America. Did anyone care that Thomas Jefferson had a black concubine? Or was that considered a perk of being a slave master? Same thing with Southern slaveowners in the Antebellum era .

      ii) The ruling class typically exempts itself from the social mores it imposes on the hoi polloi. There's a social code for Up Stairs and a different social code for Down Stairs.

      The ruling class establishes the status quo, then you have apologists who rationalize the status quo. Typically, the apologists are a few rungs below the ruling class.

      So for instance, there are apologists who have theories of racial purity to defend the caste-system, but that's not what's really driving the caste-system. The ruling class doesn't care about who its members screw around with so long as marriage is confined to peers. The ruling class is less scrupulous than its apologists.