- Rachel F. Moran (Author)
Interracial Intimacy: the Regulation of Race and Romance. University of Chicago Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Renee C. Romano (Author)
Race Mixing: Black-White Marriage in Postwar America. Harvard University Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Maya Simpson
In Chapter One, “Insights from Interracial Intimacy,” Rachel Moran writes that “after three hundred years of antimiscegenation laws, it would be surprising if thirty years of official colorblindness have truly rendered race irrelevant in the choice of a marital or sexual partner. In fact, most Americans continue to choose a spouse of the same race.” Moran examines this tension between America’s ideal of a colour-blind society and the cold reality of continual race segregation. Interracial Intimacies looks at this tension of racial segregation through interracial intimacy between heterosexual white couples and Asian, black, Latino, and Native Americans. Moran uses four main frameworks for her arguments. First, she refers to Gregory Howard Williams’s autobiography, Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black. Second, the 1967 Loving v. Virginia court case which eventually prompted the U. S. Supreme Court to declare all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional. Third, Moran relies on two approaches to racial equality: colour-blindness and colour-consciousness. Finally, she uses three competing notions of race: genotype, phenotype, and social ties. With these frameworks in place, Moran then explores the ideas about interracial sex, marriage, and family. Moran points out how American law and society generally exploited and penalized women for crossing the colour line. When women dated or married interracially, they lost custody of their children, they were shunned by their families, and were labelled promiscuous by society.
One of Moran’s strengths lies in her comparison of the attitudes and perceptions of different racial groups to miscegenation. It would have been helpful if she had also explored these differences through the lens of societal and cultural change in 20th century America in greater detail.
Moran does not fall into the binary trap of the American racial paradigm of black and white. She does acknowledge that, indeed, antimiscegenation laws were most often used to prevent intimate relationships between blacks and whites in America. However, Moran also points out how American courts used antimiscegenation laws to prevent white-Asian intimate relationships. Through the Williams autobiography and other personal accounts, she humanizes the conflicts of interracial intimacies. Also, the transcripts of antimiscegenation court cases highlight the connections and disconnections between American law and general American society when dealing with the issue of interracial intimacy.
Moran presents a promising framework for her book but occasionally her argumentative points meander. In the book’s title, Moran emphasizes her intent to discuss both race and romance in interracial relationships. Despite Moran’s strong analysis of race, her arguments about love and romance require greater clarity.
In Race Mixing, Renee Romano seeks to answer several questions about the taboo of black-white marriage in postwar America: “Why were marriages between whites and blacks more difficult for whites to accept than less intimate relationships? What did the continued disapproval of interracial marriage demonstrate about the nature and significance of the racial changes that had taken place in the United States since World War II? Did blacks share whites’ misgivings about interracial relationships?” Romano tackles these pertinent questions in a wellorganized and informative manner.
Race Mixing presents a thorough look at each decade since WWII. Romano highlights the many cultural and societal upheavals in postwar America including changing attitudes toward interracial relationships. Also, she gives a well-balanced look at black-white relationships in America through the lens of legal, political, and cultural histories. Instead of solely looking at white American perceptions of interracial relationships, Romano is also careful to include black American perceptions.
In her “Prologue,” Romano reveals that she is aware of historical and sociological studies and their narrow approaches to interracial relationships. Therefore, she uses individual stories to personalize statistics on interracial relationships. Occasionally she discusses several of these stories at the same time and it is often unclear which narrative is being analyzed. Romano also relates music (such as jazz and rock ’n roll) and popular culture with the increase in young white Americans who accept interracial relationships in the 1940s and 1950s. Consequently, I expected Romano to explore possible connections between today’s attitudes toward interracial relationships and white American youth so enamoured with rap and hip hop music and its culture. Unfortunately, Romano does not tackle this issue.
Both writers avoid falling into the utopian rhetoric of race amalgamation. American society has not solved its race problem. Just as Romano argues “that the erosion of the taboo against black-white marriages cannot be read as a simple sign that America has overcome its racist past... recent history suggests that structural racial inequalities can persist despite changes in whites’ attitudes about blacks.” Both Moran and Romano are cautious in their praise of the end of antimiscegenation laws in America because the reality is that interracial marriage (although on the rise) is still relatively rare, particularly between blacks and whites.
- Black Talk by Leslie Sanders
Books reviewed: What's a Black Critic to Do?: Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews of Black Writers by Donna Bailey Nurse
- Love, Always and Again by Susan Knutson
Books reviewed: Concerto rouge by Claire Lévesque and Femmes de rêve au travail. Les femmes et le travail dans les productions écrites de grand consommation, au Québec, de 1945 à aujourd'hui by Julia Bettinotti, Paul Bleton, Marie-José des Rivières, Denis Saint-Jacques, and Chantal Savoie
- Theory and Practice by Malcolm Page
Books reviewed: Space and the Geographies of Theatre: Vol. 9 of Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English by Michael McKinnie and Environmental and Site-Specific Theatre: Vol. 8 of Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre in English by Andrew Houston
- Viewing African Canada by George Elliott Clarke
Books reviewed: The Blacks in Canada : A History by Robin W. Winks
- Canadian Letters by Gordon Bölling
Books reviewed: A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English by Donna Bennett and Russell Morton Brown
MLA: Simpson, Maya. Taboo Intimacies. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #182 (Autumn 2004), Black Writing in Canada. (pg. 160 - 162)
***Please note that the articles and reviews from the Canadian Literature website (www.canlit.ca) may not be the final versions as they are printed in the journal, as additional editing sometimes takes place between the two versions. If you are quoting from the website, please indicate the date accessed when citing the web version of reviews and articles.