Friday, October 16, 2009

Interracial Marriage! The Horror!

I've stayed away from much political blogging since the election. Not that I think Obama has done a great job, although certainly the Republicans seem to feel that the only way to be a good minority party is to be obstructionist, but because nothing has really resonated with me like so much did during the W years.

Today in the Oregonian, I read that there is a Justice of the Peace, a government employee, who refuses to marry interracial couples. He says he's not a racist, that he has "piles and piles of black friends," and claims not to have mistreated anyone. He simply says that he won't marry interracial couples because, among other reasons, they don't stay married and that "there is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage." He also says that he has never done it, and if he did he would have to do it for all interracial couples. It's not that he doesn't want them to be allowed to marry, he claims, it's just that he's not going to do it. Apparently this is a principled stand by Mr. Bardwell, who is trying to save a lot of pain and anguish for these poor misguided families.

I'm sure someone will blame all of this on Obama.

Clearly, this guy is a bonehead from Louisiana that I'm just thankful doesn't live any closer to me. Normally, I wouldn't spend a huge amount of time on a topic like this, as he'll clearly get smacked down in the very near future, especially considering that his top-level management is, himself, the product of a mixed race marriage. However, I think there's a further lesson to be derived from this situation, so bear with me.

I should note that I myself have been in an interracial marriage for more than 20 years. I'm sure that Mr. Bardwell would amend his remarks to blacks and whites marrying if I brought this up, but at the same time that's not what he said, and to be fair there *is* a certain amount of cultural friction created by such a marriage, but certainly nothing that warrants this sort of crackerhead logic.

Here are his quotes and my refutations:

  1. "I'm not a racist."Yes, yes you are. If you make any decision based on strictly anecdotal evidence involving race, you are in fact a racist. If you refuse to deal with Asians because the Japanese ambassador's wife screwed you over in a remodel deal, that's racist (and also a choice my father made many decades ago). If you are a doctor dealing with a disease that predominantly affects a given ethnic background, that is not racism, it is a recognition of a genetic condition. There is a huge difference between someone's race and their behavior, and to say there is is, in fact, racist. 
  2. "I treat them (blacks) like everyone else." No, no you don't. If you did, you would let them marry whoever they want to, just like you let everyone else marry who they want to. Sort of. And the fact that you "let them use my bathroom" isn't helping your point. I guess it's a step up from allowing them to *clean* your bathroom, but it's not a commonly used litmus test for your acceptance of a race as up to par. 
  3. "I try to treat everyone equally." So if all the black people drink out of the same fountain, that's equal treatment? Thank you, Jim Crow. You are, not, in fact, treating everyone equally, you are discriminating against interracial couples. 
  4. "I don't think I've mistreated anybody (in a 34 year career)." Well, the couple you most recently told to go somewhere else is considering a discrimination complaint. Given the political structure of Louisiana, I suspect your punishment will be similar to that of a pedophile Catholic priest in the 70's, but there is no question that you have, in fact, mistreated somebody, enough that they have put your name in the papers and probably on the national news programs. 
  5. "I didn't tell this couple they couldn't get married, I just told them I wouldn't do it." Firstly, I don't believe you get that choice. Either the couple can get married, or they can't. You may have scheduling conflicts, but that didn't get brought up. Your job is not to determine if people can get married, and just because you have concerns that they will *gasp* produce offspring that may not get a fair shake in life is really not part of your job description. Because I'm willing to bet that the four or five couples you have refused to marry is a smaller number than the couples that you *have* married that failed quickly. By several orders of magnitude. Besides, if all of the JoPs in your area "decide" that they too don't wish to sanction interracial marriage, then there's no longer any interracial marriage. This is called a "slippery slope" argument, and I would hope that *anyone* installed in the judiciary in this country, no matter how low in the hierarchy, would have an intuitive grasp on that concept.
These are all actual quotes from the newspaper article, attributed to Mr. Bardwell. My guess is that the first thing that happened when all of this came out was that his immediate superior told him to shut the front door, and shut it now. For someone to feel OK about making statements like these to a newspaper reporter (or *anyone* you don't know *really* well) says quite a bit about race relations in Tangipahoa Parish. 

In my lifetime, interracial couples were a big deal. I remember watching a film about racism when I was in my early teens (around 1976) and one of the topics covered was interracial marriage. Of course, at that point they weren't mentioning things like "mongrels" or "racial purity" because that would imply that two people having sex produce a baby, and it wasn't quite *that* enlightened a time in America. When I started dating my wife, I had some concern that my parents would be unhappy that she is Filipina, not because my parents had been overtly racist (although my father staunchly refused to buy cars made anywhere but the US, largely because of the remodeling incident), and in fact they had tried to teach me specifically *not* to be racist. I simply didn't know how they'd react. As it was, my parents both loved my wife dearly (my father passed away 15 years ago, my mother and my wife are still very good friends to this day), and if they had the slightest qualm they made absolutely no mention of it. 

As a humorous side note, some ten years later when I got a pierced ear, my mother (very upset by this idea, very unlike her) said that Skinheads would beat me up. I replied that I was in an interracial marriage and already had that base covered. By that point, no one in my family considered me to be in an interracial marriage. 

I should also note that my Filipino in-laws, on the other hand, *were* concerned that their daughter wasn't marrying a Filipino boy, largely because their impression of White America was created from watching far too many network television programs. They seem to like me just fine now. 

I mentioned the slippery slope above. That's because pretty much all of the arguments this not-racist mentions above apply more or less directly to gay marriage as well. Certainly all of the arguments made 100 years ago regarding interracial marriage are being made today about gay marriage. It's against God's will. It's unnatural. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. 

Who cares. These are consensual relationships that are happening whether you are personally comfortable with them or not. To nod and wink and claim that they can go to another JoP or another state or maybe it's time to call up cousin Jed to get a bunch of his buddies together to go put the fear of God into these wrong-headed people is simply wrong. Are they an abomination in the eyes of the Lord? Probably better to let Hir figure that out. Don't like officiating at those ceremonies? Learn to pilot a boat and marry whoever the hell you want offshore as a captain, but you should never take another dime from any level of the US government again, certainly not as a judge. You are violating the Constitution by doing so.

You don't get to break the law just because you don't like someone's choice of partner, especially if your job is specifically to *uphold* the law. The laws of 2009, not 1833 or 1957. As the barriers to same-sex marriage come down (and they are coming down, just as the barriers to race have been coming down for more than a century, if slowly), we will see many of the same arguments put forth. In a case like this, it is good to understand your history and better to fall on the side of more freedoms, not less. 

And, because it always seems to come up, I am not advocating bestiality, polygamy, under-age marriage, or any other non-consensual relationship (and believe me, in the vast majority of polygamy cases it *is* non-consensual when you marry 12 year olds. It's a non-consensual practice at it's core, although a handful of people make triads or other multiple-person relationships work. At this point in history, the greater good is served by keeping it illegal). 

Thank you, Justice Bardwell, for showing us all just how dunderheaded people can be when it comes to deciding what's best for everyone else. And good luck in the job search!


Ken said...

Actually, I saw somewhere where scientists have discovered that the DNA differences between men and women is actually greater than the DNA differences between human and apes.

If that's so, then women are more like a different species, and being married and the father of three girls, I truly find them alien at times!

Anyway, this guy is an idiot. Why waste your time?

Eric said...

I mentioned the slippery slope above. That's because pretty much all of the arguments this not-racist mentions above apply more or less directly to gay marriage as well. Certainly all of the arguments made 100 years ago regarding interracial marriage are being made today about gay marriage. It's against God's will. It's unnatural. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

My ex-neighbor, who is a smart guy with an unfortunate career choice (IP lawyer) is also a staunch Mormon conservative who has started a campaign to run for State Representative.

A couple months ago (when the gay marriage thing was all over the media) we had a very constructive conversation trying to understand the other's viewpoint. I brought up the "if you're saying about gays, you may as well be saying about race because it's the same argument" point and that's where he disagreed.

His belief? Homosexuality is a choice, race is not. Therefore it's entirely different. He was completely serious and emphatic on that point. At that point we simply agreed to disagree because you can't get past that distinction.

Ignorance is rampant.

Dug said...

What I do is ask the person if they felt like they chose to be heterosexual.

On the flip side, interracial marriage is definitely a choice. In general, who you marry is definitely a choice (at least, it should be).

Regardless, prohibiting same-sex marriage certainly doesn't seem to be affecting same-sex partnerships. It just prevents these couples from having basic rights that opposite-sex long term partners have. There is no difference between that and the problems mixed-race couples had fifty years ago.

I guess we all need to prop up our world views as best we can.

Matthew said...

Not familiar with the story but if/when he does get smacked down he'll get to be yet another martyr of the Right. You know, since they're SUCH a beseiged minority and need continually claim victim status.