Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Louisiana's multi-colored history and hypocrisy

There has been a small tempest in a teapot about the recent pronouncements made by Louisianan Keith Bardwell, Justice of the Peace who refused to marry an “inter-racial” couple.

Bardwell was interviewed on CBS two days ago and has “apologized”.  He still doesn’t see his actions as racist.  He’s sticking to his “concern for the children”.

Ironic in a state well-known for its fabled history of inter-ethnic mixing, touted world-wide as “Creole culture”, which includes its famous celebration of Mardi Gras, as well as its cuisine and music.

But then, given the long history in the state of not only forbidding marriages between “races”, and State statues which were not repealed until 1972,  five years after Loving Vs Virginia, can we only point a finger at Bardwell?  

Louisiana columnist, teacher and publisher of BayouBuzz, writes  

Does Bardwell Incident Show Louisiana Politics Is Still Land Of David Duke?

The Justice of the Peace interracial marriage-Bardwell story has become the national talk of the town.  Even Governor Bobby Jindal expressed his frustration.  According to one report, “saying the nine-member Louisiana Judiciary Commission that reviews lawyers and judges in the state should investigate. Jindal added, “Disciplinary action should be taken immediately, including the revoking of his license.”

However, at this time, we are not certain that the Judiciary Commission will take up the case.  If they don’t, there would likely not be any action against this Justice since Louisiana law appears not to require the Justice of the Peace to marry any couples. Yet, to date, although Mary Landrieu and Bobby Jindal have spoken out against Bardwell, the Louisiana Democratic Party, the Louisiana Republican Party, Senator David Vitter and his opponent Charlie Melancon have not issued any statements. Which says quite a lot and we can only guess the reasons for their swallowed- tongues.

Perhaps the parties are too afraid to upset the racists operating below the surface.  Maybe the candidates are quick to bash one another on matters of minutia, but when it comes to an issue that has received national attention and has stoked the outrage in many, they go mute.

Then, again, this is the land of David Duke where the sheets are racism obviously reign.

He goes on to cite KKK’er Dukes latest (predictable rant):

“Needless to say, there will be a huge outcry to fire this judge. A swarm of Jewish lawyers will instantly appear to file lawsuits against him. There may even be criminal Federal civil rights charges that some Leftist commissar will dream up. After all, how dare this judge suggest that interracial marriages don’t last. After all, that’s the sort of union that produced Barack Obama. Never mind the fact that Barack’s parents conceived him before the marriage and their marriage only lasted a couple years.

It’s true that interracial relationships don’t last. Usually the White woman winds up viciously battered looking like Rihanna, after Chris Brown got through with her. Every few weeks another OJ-style story leaks into the press about a White woman getting murdered by a black who got a little too jealous or crazy. Unfortunately, the Jewish media doesn’t focus on these stories.”

The center of the furor, Justice of the Peace Bardwell, in my view is no anomaly. Bardwell, born in 1953 in Tangipahoa is a product of his enculturation. Let’s look at the “racial” demographic history of the parish in which he was born, and the states track record on “miscegenation”.

The population Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, was 100,588 people in the 2000 census. Since the current census data, as collected does not allow me to tease out “skin-color” data,  I have to go back to 1910 (and 1920) data for the parish.

In 1910 the parish had 29,169 residents.  19,954 listed as “white”, 7,210 as “black” and 2,013 as “mulatto”. The State of Louisiana reported 157,577 mulattos in the same census, along with 550,624 blacks, and 930,097 “whites”.

Though the term “mulatto” is thought to be derived from the Spanish or Portuguese for “mule”, and later applied to the child of “black” African and “white” European parents,  its use in the US census does not solely indicate a child of a white and black parent, but was used to document visual impressions by census takers of those people with clear “racial admixture”.

Complicating this is the modern assertion by certain Louisiana “Creoles” who claim “pure whiteness” with the documented history of Creoles of “color” partly descended from the “gens de colour libre“, or Free People of Color.  

Historian Michelle Braittan, at Rutgers University

specializes in modern U.S. history, the history of ideas about race, Southern history, and labor history. She teaches undergraduate courses on the U.S .in the 1960s, the U.S. in the twentieth century, and the history of race, ethnicity and ideas about human variation. Her recent publications include “”Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism: UNESCO and the Politics of Presenting Race to the Postwar Public,” (2007); “Miscegenation and Competing Definitions of Race in Twentieth-Century Louisiana,” (2005); and The Politics of Whiteness: Race, Workers, and Culture in the Modern South (2001). She serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern History and is an officer in the Southern Labor Studies Association. She is currently working on a book project titled What Race Was: Popular and Scientific Constructions of Race in the Postwar United States.

The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 71, 2005 published her research

Miscegenation and competing definitions of race in twentieth-century Louisiana. and I will quote salient passages.

She includes in her study the unpublished work of Marcus Bruce Christian, Dillard University scholar, who died in 1976.

MARCUS BRUCE CHRISTIAN, AN AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR AT DILLARD University, observed in the mid-nineteen-fifties that while New Orleans might be known for “gumbo, jambalaya, lagniappe, poor boy sandwiches, pralines, Mardi Gras and Creoles,” it also has “another claim to distinction which has not been bruited about very loudly.” New Orleans is a place, he wrote, where family lines “waver back and forth across color-lines like wet wash in a high March wind.” The city has given to America “more ‘passer pour blanches’ [people who pass for white] than any other city in our country.” A poet and scholar of black history, Christian anticipated much of the current academic interest in race as a social construction. (1) His meticulous histories of eighteenth–and nineteenth-century families recreated an era when racial lines were more fluid and southern society accepted–or at least expected–interracial sex. In the latter half of Christian’s career, as a civil rights struggle charged with anxieties about interracial contact swirled around him, his interests broadened to include the progeny of those early families. Among thousands of newspaper clippings that Christian saved over his lifetime–documenting New Orleans history from the protracted fight o
ver school desegregation to the debate over stereotypical and degrading representations of Africans in Mardi Gras–one finds dozens of society photographs, wedding announcements, and obituaries that he compiled, seemingly in an attempt to discover a similar secret interracial history of the twentieth century. In the margins, he sometimes annotated genealogies, alternate spellings, or anecdotes about similar names encountered on the other side of the color line. In 1959, for example, he noted, and documented, the strange coincidence of a death notice for a man he thought was a “Negro,” who had died at an “all white” hospital, and speculated on the dead man’s familial relationship to a realtor listing a “colored” apartment a couple of weeks later. Of the family name in question, he later wrote to himself, “Joubert? What about the white family that says it spells its name ‘Jau’ and not ‘Jou’ [?]” Christian often wrote simply, as he did on a 1960 photograph of a couple cutting their fiftieth-anniversary cake, the word miscegenation. (2) The basis for such judgments was rarely explained. Perhaps it was a distant memory, a rumor, or merely Christian asserting his ability as a black man to spot passer pour blanches. Unfortunately he never published his side of these stories.

Also noted for her scholarship on Louisiana’s “colorful” past and present is anthropologist Virginia R. Dominguez, whose  White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana created quite a stir in certain Louisiana social circles.

In Catherine Clinton’s review of Dominguez in the Journal of Southern History, she states:

In 1983 a New York Times headline declared “Louisiana Repeals Black Blood Law,” and the article went on to explain that the governor’s signature struck down a statute (passed only thirteen years earlier) that declared any- one having “1/32” or less of “‘Negro blood”‘ (p. 4) should not be designated black. The repeal followed a period of intense scrutiny when Louisiana’s racial designation was called into question by a woman challenging her own birth certificate. The repeal was designed to make it easier for people to change their racial designation. How and why this should be a burning political controversy in contemporary Louisiana is a complex tangle of issues that are skillfully unwoven and examined in Professor Dominguez’s study of the social and legal forces that shape individual identity for Creoles. Dominguez poses no simple questions, and thus the path the reader must follow is full of challenge and confusion. For historians it is a welcome relief that the author begins by offering a vivid and insightful reading of the historical circumstances that have shaped definitions of Creoles within Louisiana law and society. She plunges backward in time and traces the tortured intellectual and political philosophies stemming from this intrigu- ing culture, producing people of mixed blood and mixed heritage within a world that places emphasis on “purity”.

Louisiana, known for its “breeding” and sale of “fancies” (slaves of mainly European and minimal African ancestry, as well as for the system of Plaçage   in which

African women soon became the concubines of white male colonists, who were sometimes the younger sons of noblemen, military men, plantation owners, merchants and administrators. (There was a particular precedent they came to follow from Saint Domingue, where the French carefully chose their consorts, eventually producing such devastatingly exotic and beautiful women that they were called Les Sirènes or the sirens.) So it became acceptable behavior for a white man to take a slave as young as twelve as a lover. And possession over time had a way of changing the original premise of a relationship. When the women produced children, they were sometimes emancipated along with their children, and were allowed to assume the surnames of their fathers and lovers. When Creole men reached an age when they were expected to marry, some were content to keep their relationships with their placées. Thus, a wealthy white Creole man could possess not just one, but two (or more) families. One with a white woman to whom he was legally married, and the other with a light-skinned Creole woman of color, a placée, who was faithful to him until death. Their mixed-race children became the nucleus of the class of free people of color or gens de couleur in Louisiana, to be replenished with waves of refugees and immigrants from Haiti and other Francophone colonies. The descendants of the gens de couleur also constituted a part of what later became known as the black middle class in the United States; however, most Creoles of color deem themselves as neither White nor black and constitute a nation within a nation.

My first cousins grandmother was the daughter of a Louisiana placee.


Lest we see this a only peculiar to Louisiana Braittan covers laws and codes governing “race-mixing” in other parts of the south as well:

Because statutes were created and enforced on a state-by-state basis, it is difficult to generalize about American anti-miscegenation law prior to Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed marriage regulations based on race. By the mid-nineteenth century, though, twenty-one of thirty-four states had passed legislation to proscribe or limit interracial sex. Most banned interracial marriage, but as Charles Robinson and Peter Wallenstein demonstrate in their histories of anti-miscegenation law, the level of enforcement and specific penalties varied considerably, even within the South. South Carolina, for example, forbade white women to have children with nonwhite men, but it did not outlaw marriage between them. Alabama and Mississippi, on the other hand, outlawed marriage, but those states did not have an antebellum law prohibiting interracial sex. Only Georgia and Florida explicitly banned interracial cohabitation. However, a lack of specific anti-miscegenation laws did not necessarily indicate state lenience, as Robinson shows, for other states occasionally punished interracial sex under adultery or fornication laws, particularly if the case involved a public relationship between a white woman and a black man. (14) Collectively, because many state laws shared a concern with defining races, the whole body of anti-miscegenation law made important contributions to the construction of race by establishing local, legal definitions of whiteness and affirming the conception of blackness as an algebraic function of one’s “blood.” (15) A number of state legislatures decreed how much–one-fourth or one-eighth–black ancestry or “blood” made a person legally black. (16)

We are well aware that simply the hint or rumor of sexual advances by a “black” man to a “white” woman could spark a lynching in the South. No lynchings however for the white men who donated their sperm to the creation of who we now consider “African-Americans”, since geneticists who do Y chromosome research  point out that 30 percent of African-Americans Y-chromosomes originated in Europe, whereas their mitochondrial DNA (traced only through the female line) shows up as only about 5%, which points directly to recently ancestored European men as the bulk of the genetic contributors of the European markers.

(for those of you interested in reading more along these lines – that are not too complicated for non-geneticists I suggest starting with Afro-European Genetic Admixture in the United States)

I often wonder how much of the racist invective hurled at Barack Obama from the haters  is comp
ounded by the fact that his mother (not his father) was “white”?

Though to many in the left and center of American politics, Obama’s African and European ancestry has been hailed as a predictor of a society moving away from the chains of race, I wonder how many racists (overt and covert) view him as the product of a “defilement” of white-womanhood?  Bardwell certainly couches his objections in worries about future children, but the couple in front of him were a “black” male and a “white” female.

Brattain mentions a case on the books:

State of Louisiana v. Brown and Aymond (1959)–a case prosecuted in the heat of conflict over integration and in which both of the accused confessed–was dismissed by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Yet such cases, even in their rarity, provide a provocative view of wider beliefs and practices.

The Brown and Aymond case, for example, not only reveals much about the complex of ideas and white anxieties surrounding miscegenation but also provides many clues to why prosecutions of miscegenation were so rare. The case concerned James Brown, Negro, and Lucille Aymond, white, co-workers at a dry-cleaner’s shop in the rural, central Louisiana parish of Avoyelles. Local police arrested them after their boss, David Blalock, described their “suspicious” behavior to the sheriff. Blalock had become concerned that Brown and Aymond were too friendly. He said as much to Lucille Aymond and warned her to stay away from Brown. The deputy sheriff arrested Brown and then Aymond. After three hours of questioning, Brown confessed that he and Aymond had had intercourse in the bathroom of the shop one day when Blalock was out. After two hours of questioning, Aymond also confessed to the incident. Their confessions, which were riddled with leading questions, were read into the civil district court record. Both were indicted by the grand jury, tried and convicted together in the Avoyelles district court, and sentenced to a year of hard labor in the state penitentiary in Angola. (33)  

Glad the LA Supreme Court threw it out, but note the “tried and convicted”.  Hmmmm.  Where are those jurors today?  Attending teaparties and birther rallies perhaps?

I became interested in Barack Obama because his mom was an applied anthropologist. Frankly, didn’t care what color she was.  But then, I don’t view the world through the same eyes as the haters.  

One last note.  Attitudes about “anti-miscegenation” were and are not limited to the South.  I want to make that clear. This is not finger-pointing at just one region.

Debra Thompson, of the University of Toronto makes this clear in her paper Nation and Miscegenation: Comparing Anti-Miscegenation Regulations in North America in which she examines the history of, “At one time or other 41 of the 50 states have enacted such legislation, encompassing restrictions not simply against Blacks, but also Asians, Indians, Native Americans, “Orientals,” “Maylays,” Native Hawaiians, and in some cases, simply all non-Whites.

She points to a nationwide history of legal sanctions:

And thus the anti-miscegenation regime in the United States became solidified as the laws were condoned by the Supreme Court and the seven states that had repealed or invalidated their anti-miscegenation laws re-enacted them, sometimes with more stringent definitions of who was Black and harsher penalties for interracial relationships. Further, at the same time the Northern states repealed their legislation by implication or omission from revised codes, others were enacting anti-miscegenation laws for the first time: Oregon (1862), Colorado (1864), Idaho (1864), Arizona (1865), West Virginia (1870), Oklahoma (1897), North Dakota (1909), South Dakota (1909), Montana (1909) and Wyoming (1913). Combined with the seven states that did not alter their anti-miscegenation laws in the aftermath of the Civil War (Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee), this formed a formidable anti-miscegenation regime that would last into the mid 1950s, with some states even writing anti-miscegenation provisions into their constitutions.16

Too many people are too willing to just point a finger at Bardwell, and be done with it.  One lone bigot.  A dying breed.  

Really? What do you think.


  1. HappyinVT

    to get the full effect because, as usual, you’ve packed in a whole lot of good stuff.  But, here’s my first take.

    That David Duke quote, while certainly not surprising, is full of a whole lot of yuck.  Love how he manages to get the president’s background tossed in there.  And the Jews.  Not to mention O.J.

    FWIW, Melancon has issued a statement:

    “Justice Bardwell’s actions regarding interracial marriage reflect poorly on Louisiana, and I believe Justice Bardwell should resign his post. It’s the responsibility of justices to follow and enforce the law, not interpret it to their own liking. Justice Bardwell has allowed his personal beliefs to interfere with his duty to uphold the law.”

    Vitter’s spokeman, in the same TPM article, apparently said that the justices should follow the law but did not call on Barwell to resign.

    I think Bardwell is one of those of a certain age who  hasn’t traveled much, watches too much Fox “News” and was taught (and continues to believe) that the races shouldn’t mix, certainly not to the extent that they marry and plan to have children.  I’d be willing to bet, in his experience, children of interracial marriages have had a tougher time (because they are dealing with bigoted jerks like him).  Hopefully, they are a dying breed, or at least will no longer occupy positions of power.

  2. The only people that will influence him are the ones in his voting district.

    Am I surprised that there are bigots like  him in this country? Not really. They aren’t all limited to the deep south either, as you mention in your diary.

  3. While I am happy ranting about this Justice, it misses the point to simply hang a label on him.  I don’t doubt that he believes what he says and could cite references in his personal experience that inform his view.  I don’t doubt that his intentions are – by his perspective – good.  But that is not the same as being correct.

    I have heard precisely (exactly, without deviation) the same argument made by apparently liberal and enlightened people in multi-cultural Ontario, Canada.  And elsewhere.  There is no doubt in my mind that there are at least hundreds of thousands of people hearing this story and saying, “Well, it is hard on the children.  I’m sorry if that isn’t the way it should be, but it is and it’s not fair for the little ones.”

    We’ve done a decent job as a culture in weeing out much of the ridiculous bigotry in our society over the last few decades.   It’s a start.  But it takes much more finely turned tools to do the next stage of detail work.

    FWIW, the answer to the idiotic rebuttal the Justice offers is: “life is hard on kids”.  I pity the child who is my kid (suffer the little ones, eh?).  It is hard to be a tall child – to be a short child or a smart child or a slow child.  It doesn’t matter whether his observations are correct of not, it’s none of his business to try to manipulate whether life will be hard on the children of the people he marries, and not least because he has literally no conceivable ability to do so.

  4. DeniseVelez

    black – why would you doom a child to blackness?”.  Well, millions of us deal with it every day.  Since, due to the  “hypodescent rules” we have in place here in North America, the child of a black parent and a white parent is black.

    No escape hatch into whiteness like in Brazil or parts of L. America, where phenotype governs “race” and nationality trumps it, or diverts attention from it.

    Though attempts have been made to make “bi-racial” clubs and online forums, yadda yadda, the reality is – black sticks to you 🙂

    When hailing a cab, a young black (bi-racial) man gets ignored, the same way his light brown African-American cousin does.

    Until we eliminate the “black” is inferior mindset, the stigma of have a recent (8 generations or less) ancestor from Africa,  the “some of my friends are black but would you want your son or daughter to marry one” conversations, this will be the fate of all of us black folks – no matter what our particular parentage is.  

    I speak from first hand experience.  Did it crush me?  Nope.

    Do I suffer from pangs of inferiority? Hell no.  But I had a supportive family to nurture me, and teach me to fight back, and be proud, and to embrace the richness of a wonderfully diverse heritage.

    This diary wasn’t really about that Justice of the Peace.

    He is irrelevant.  It’s about all those millions of humans who live daily being taught that what one must aspire to is “whiteness”.  

    Sad to read the list of court cases in Louisiana of those who have fought to be declared “legally” white.  Sad to look at Creoles who cower, worrying someone will discover “a touch of the tar brush” in their family tree.

    Sad to think of couples who are being told children they don’t even have yet are doomed.  

    Sad to think of my grandmother who was scratched out of her family bible, losing all her brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews….simply because she married a man with a different complexion.

    I didn’t make this stupid “race hierarchy ” shit up.  But I will spend my last breath on this planet fighting to eradicate it.  

  5. you would know there is no racism in this country except for reverse-racism. According to Rush, comments like this one from freerepublic don’t count. This one was posted about an amendment to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) bill currently working its way through Congress. The freepers are outraged, outraged I tell you, about this.

    The Waters amendment adds to the CFPA Oversight Board 5 representatives from the fields of “consumer protection, fair lending and civil rights, representatives of depository institutions that primarily serve underserved communities, or representatives of communities that have been significantly impacted by higher-priced mortgages” to join Federal banking regulators in advising the Director on the consistency of proposed regulations, and strategies and policies that the Director should undertake to enforce its rules.

    Here’s what they have to say about it.

    3 posted on Saturday, October 24, 2009 12:58:31 PM by Frantzie (Do we want ACORN running America’s health care?)

    [ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

    To: Starman417

    This is Obama’s ACORN that you are attacking.

    How very racist.

    You Crackers need to learn that YOU are the new slaves and that you Whitey’s have it coming!

    Mmmm Mmmm Mmm

    No racism here. Keep walking.

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