Can Love Conquer Hate?

Jabari Asim, American Prospect, Fall 2017

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Cashin asserts, “I believe that rising interracial intimacy, combined with immigration and demographic and generational change, will contribute to the rise of what I call the culturally dexterous class.” She sprinkles in that buzzworthy phrase and others that could just as easily be found in the latest Malcolm Gladwell bestseller, terms like “social epidemic,” “ardent integrators,” and “coalitions of the ascendant.” Cashin envisions these newly evolved citizens emerging specifically from white America; if any group already embodies the adroitness that she describes, it’s African Americans.

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Cashin aims to show that our country’s predatory capitalists manipulated the notion of white racial purity to control the white menial class and prevent the kind of interracial coalitions that would foment their downfall. Her best observations point out that the desire for power, land, free labor, and cash usually outweighed simple racial animus. In colonial Virginia, she writes, “restrictions on love or lust between pale and dark people originated not from any innate antipathy to interracial sex but from a capitalist desire to promote black chattel slavery.”

Similarly, 19th-century “miscegenation laws and the racial hierarchy they supported were designed to enable asset accumulation.”

In Cashin’s view, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, passed in 1924, was a pivotal document in the ongoing quest to discourage interracial connections. It was, she contends, “the most rigid antimiscegenation law in the United States” and an attempt to “build a wall around whiteness.” This legislation brought the law down on Mildred and Richard Loving, the interracial couple whose battle to be legally married resulted in a historic 1967 Supreme Court victory, celebrated on June 12 across the country as Loving Day.

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Because Cashin is recognized as a first-rate legal scholar and author of several acclaimed books, I wasn’t surprised to also encounter information that I didn’t know. This included the fact that descendants of the famed union of Pocahontas and John Rolfe were exempted from the one-drop rule of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, a loophole that became known as “the Pocahontas exception.” I also learned that while all antimiscegenation laws prohibited white-black marriages, “no U.S. antimiscegenation laws ever barred whites from marrying Chicanos or any other Hispanic group. Similarly, only a small minority of states banned marriages between whites and indigenous people, as a ban would have interfered with white men’s ability to marry native women and thereby claim any attendant land.”

Cashin’s account of Richard Mentor Johnson’s misadventures and predations were especially fascinating. The ninth vice president of the United States, he lived openly in common-law marriage with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race slave. Johnson’s story has more twists and turns than can fit into the space provided here, and Cashin’s attention to them is one of her book’s more satisfying digressions.

She devotes the final portion of her book to an audaciously hopeful vision of the American future. Cashin predicts that attitudes about race will improve drastically, partly through continued race-mixing of the romantic and platonic varieties, improved cultural dexterity on the part of whites, and a marked decline in the centrality of whiteness. She offers this bright forecast even while noting that anti-black racism in particular is not solely the province of whites. Black people are “the group that all nonblacks have the most reluctance to integrate with,” she reports, and “in the adoption market, like the dating market, black Americans sit at the bottom of a still-extant racial hierarchy.” {snip}

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