Intermarriage (1913)

Intermarriage (1913)

Few groups of people are forced by their situation into such cruel dilem­mas as American Ne­groes. Nevertheless they must not allow anger or personal resentment to dim their clear vision.

Take, for instance, the question of the intermarrying of white and black folk; it is a question that colored people sel­dom discuss. It is about the last of the social problems over which they are dis­turbed, because they so seldom face it in fact or in theory. Their problems are problems of work and wages, of the right to vote, of the right to travel decently, of the right to frequent places of pub­ lic amusement, of the right to public security.

White people, on the other hand, for the most part profess to see but one prob­lem: “Do you want your sister to marry a Nigger?”” Sometimes we are led to wonder if they are lying about their solicitude on this point; and if they are not, we are led to ask why under present laws anybody should be compelled to marry any person whom she does not wish to marry?

This brings us to the crucial question: so far as the present advisability of intermarrying between white and colored people in the United States is concerned, both races are practically in complete agreement. Colored folk marry colored folk and white marry white, and the exceptions are very few.

Why not then stop the exceptions? For three reasons: physical, social and moral.

  1. For the physical reason that to prohibit such intermarriage would be publicly to acknowledge that black blood is a physical taint—a thing that no decent, self-respecting black man can be asked to admit.

  2. For the social reason that if two full-grown responsible human beings of any race and color propose to live to­gether as man and wife, it is only social decency not simply to allow, but to com­pel them to marry. Let those people who have yelled themselves purple in the face over Jack Johnson just sit down and ask themselves this question: Granted that Johnson and Miss Cameron proposed to live together, was it better for them to be legally married or not? We know what the answer of the Bourbon South is. W e know that they would rather uproot the foundations of decent society than to call the consorts of their brothers, sons and fathers their legal wives. We infinitely prefer the methods of Jack Johnson to those of the brother of Governor Mann of Virginia.

  3. The moral reason for opposing laws against intermarriage is the greatest of all: such laws leave the colored girl absolutely helpless before the lust of white men. It reduces colored women in the eyes of the law to the position of dogs. Low as the white girl falls, she can compel her seducer to marry her. If it were proposed to take this last defense from poor white working girls, can you not hear the screams of the “white slave” defenders? What have these people to say to laws that propose to create in the United States 5,000,000 women, the ownership of whose bodies no white man is bound to respect?

Note these arguments, my brothers and sisters, and watch your State legislatures. This winter will see a determined attempt to insult and degrade us by such non-intermarriage laws. We must kill them, not because we are anxious to marry white men’s sisters, but because we are determined that white men shall let our sisters alone.

Citation: Du Bois, W.E.B. 1913. “Intermarriage.” The Crisis. 5(4):57.