Theorizing at Rowan is a series of lectures covering a broad range of topics about philosophy, religion studies and other related disciplines. All the events are free and open to the public aiming to promote academic exchange within the Rowan University community and scholars throughout the region. You can find the full list of Theorizing at Rowan events here.
On November 2, 2016 the Department of Philosophy and Religion Studies within the College of Humanities & Social Sciences hosted its fourth Theorizing at Rowan event “America: The Miscegenation Nation,” presented by Dr. John T. Mills, assistant director of Multicultural and Inclusion Programs at Rowan University. That Wednesday evening, students and faculty members gathered in Bozorth Hall to learn about the evolution of miscegenation throughout the history of the United States.
The word ‘miscegenation’ entered the modern language in the 19th century. The word means interracial marriage or intimate relations, or having mixed-race children. To begin with, Dr. Mills talked about a new movie release “Loving,” a story of an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, who got married and were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. The movie is a real story that revoked all outlawing of interracial marriages in the United States. “How ugly it is for any country to start a civil war,” remarked Dr. Mills, and talked about how high schools mistakenly portray Bacon’s Rebellion as a blueprint for the American Revolution one hundred years later. However, it simply turned out to be a fight between two stubborn greedy leaders.
It seems like many historical moments have been either omitted or briefly mentioned without any details in the high schools’ history courses. Thus, the fact that indentured servitude was often a way for poor white Europeans to immigrate to the United States is barely mentioned in high schools. The white immigrants would sign a contract in return for a passage to the New World. But unlike slaves, after a certain amount of years, a servant would be freed.
Just a couple of years later, Dutch traders brought African slaves to the U.S. soil. Dr. Mills noted that black slaves got in the U.S. the same way as white indentured servants, on the same ships just years later, and were treated the same way at first. But why is this not taught in schools? And why do we have such a socially constructed problem as racism?
Dr. Mills talked about how 17th century anti-miscegenation laws mentioned freeborn English women first, followed by “free white women” marrying “a colored person.” Such free women would either pay a fine for an interracial marriage or become slaves themselves. Such laws not only covered unions between white women, later men, and African Americans, but also American Indians or mulatto. Simply saying, the laws tried to maintain white racial purity in the society. Unfortunately, no one had widely spoken about these laws until the 1980s.
In the new millennium, we see an increase in the acceptance of interracial marriages. According to the 2010 Census brief ‘The Two or More Races Population’: in 2010, the population reporting multiple races (9 million) grew by 32% in the past decade. However, many people, especially the new generation, thinks that we live in the post-racial society, but we are not. That is why we need to talk about it, understand it to overcome our biases and prejudices, according to Dr. Mills.
The event is definitely worth spending the evening on. If you are broad-minded and have thirst for knowledge, then visit the next Theorizing at Rowan event. Find the full list of events here.
By: Natalia Panfilova
Photo credit: Natalia Panfilova