Love Under the Skin: Interracial Marriages in the American South and France 9780367371029, 9780367370978, 9780429352706

The rising visibility of interracial couples calls for increased attention to the overlapping of culture and race, in sa

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Love Under the Skin: Interracial Marriages in the American South and France
 9780367371029, 9780367370978, 9780429352706

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Introduction: What’s Love Got to Do With It?
PART I: Historical Backgrounds. “Out of A Past That’s Rooted in Shame”: How Interracial Marriage Became A Stigma
1. Criminalizing Interracial Attraction to Enshrine White Property in America (from 1630 to the Present)
2. Religion and Gender in the Construction of Black Otherness in Metropolitan France (from 1685 to the Present)
PART II: Comparative Sociological Analyses. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”: Internalizing and Contesting the White Racial Frame in The Realm of Intimacy Today
3. Inscribing Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era: How Partners are Socialized against Dating “Out”
4. Current Repercussions of the Representations of Black–White Couples in France and Alabama: Is it about “Selling Out” or Becoming Kin?
5. Interracial Fusion?: Maintaining a Partnership and Starting a Family with More than One Cultural Model
6. Fantasizing the Child: How Successfully Do Partners Negotiate Racial Otherness When Reflecting on Parenthood and Parenting?
Conclusion: “Love’s Revolution” Will Not Be Racialized

Citation preview


The rising visibility of interracial couples calls for increased attention to the overlapping of culture and race, in safe spaces centered on small-group dynamics, or in public spaces where peoples of African descent are under the public gaze. This comparative study seeks to de-center the U.S.-centered viewpoint common to much of the literature on Black–White relations. Based on nine years of fieldwork in the American South and in France, Coquet-Mokoko shows many unexpected parallels between the two societies. Gendered perceptions of cultural authenticity and sexual ethics are a guiding thread, being inseparable from the historical and political contingencies (re-)defining acceptable forms of dating, marrying, and parenting among cis-heterosexual couples in both societies. Her account emphasizes resilience and agency as couples seek to protect themselves and their children, while their extended or symbolic kinship networks help White partners acknowledge the existence of racial privilege. Cécile Coquet-Mokoko is Professor of U.S. cultural history, African American Studies and Gender Studies at the University of Versailles-St Quentin (France). She taught African American Studies for three semesters at the University of Alabama in 2009–2010. Her publications focus on African American religious traditions and oratory, and race and gender relations in the U.S.A.


Killing African Americans Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism Noel A. Cazenave When Rape was Legal The Untold History of Sexual Violence During Slavery Rachel A. Feinstein Latino Peoples in the New America Racialization and Resistance Edited by José A. Cobas, Joe R. Feagin, Daniel J. Delgado and Maria Chávez Women and Inequality in the 21st Century Edited by Brittany C. Slatton and Carla D. Brailey Rethinking Diversity Frameworks in Higher Education Edna B. Chun and Joe R. Feagin Got Solidarity? Challenging Straight White College Men to Advocate for Social Justice Jörg Vianden Love Under the Skin Interracial Marriages in the American South and France Cécile Coquet-Mokoko For more information about this series, please visit­ Viewpoints-on-Society/book-series/NCVS


Interracial Marriages in the American South and France

Cécile Coquet-Mokoko

First published 2020 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Taylor & Francis The right of Cécile Coquet-Mokoko to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Coquet-Mokoko, Cécile, author.

Title: Love under the skin : interracial marriages in the

American South and France / Cécile Coquet-Mokoko.

Description: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2020. |

Series: New critical viewpoints on society |

Includes bibliographical references. |

Identifiers: LCCN 2019037045 (print) | LCCN 2019037046 (ebook) |

Subjects: LCSH: Interracial marriage--Southern States. |

Interracial marriage--France.

Classification: LCC HQ1018 .C67 2020 (print) | LCC HQ1018 (ebook) |

DDC 306.84/50975--dc23

LC record available at

LC ebook record available at

ISBN: 978-0-367-37102-9 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-0-367-37097-8 (pbk)

ISBN: 978-0-429-35270-6 (ebk)

Typeset in Bembo

by Taylor & Francis Books

For Aurélien, Antoine, and Vincent




Introduction: What’s Love Got to Do With It?



Historical Backgrounds. “Out of A Past That’s Rooted in Shame”: How Interracial Marriage Became A Stigma 1 2


Criminalizing Interracial Attraction to Enshrine White Property in America (from 1630 to the Present)


Religion and Gender in the Construction of Black Otherness in Metropolitan France (from 1685 to the Present)



Comparative Sociological Analyses. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”: Internalizing and Contesting the White Racial Frame in The Realm of Intimacy Today


Inscribing Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era: How Partners are Socialized against Dating “Out”


3 4

Current Repercussions of the Representations of Black–White Couples in France and Alabama: Is it about “Selling Out” or Becoming Kin?


viii Contents

5 Interracial Fusion?: Maintaining a Partnership and Starting a

Family with More than One Cultural Model


6 Fantasizing the Child: How Successfully Do Partners

Negotiate Racial Otherness When Reflecting on Parenthood

and Parenting?


Conclusion: “Love’s Revolution” Will Not Be Racialized


Questionnaire Bibliography Index





Significant others usually come last in the acknowledgements page of books by academics. But Aurélien Mokoko Gampiot did much more besides helping me take care of our two sons during the long process of maturing and writing this piece of work. For the past twenty years he has been my mentor and inspira­ tion; what I know of the sociology of race relations I owe to him primarily. Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry’s expertise on African American families helped me develop the scope of my study and keep faith in my abilities up to its comple­ tion. My deep gratitude also goes to the late Michel Fabre and his wife Gene­ viève, who supervised my first steps into African American Studies and suggested I expand my approach to include women’s studies; and to Vincent Wimbush and Rosamond Johnson, who provided invaluable encouragement and suggestions while reading the first version of the manuscript. Judy ScalesTrent, Claude Julien and Georges-Claude Guilbert also were precious friends in offering their insights and knowledge in ways that were always inspiring and never intrusive. From our very first exchange, Joe Feagin has never ceased amazing me with the speed of his responses and the generosity of his advice. I am awed and inspired by his example. Dean Birkenkamp and Tyler Bay were supportive at all stages of the publication. The three semesters I spent with my family at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) were a life-changing experience, which entirely informed the pages that follow and has forever transformed the way I teach. My former students from the American Studies and Gender and Race Studies Departments know how deeply I have treasured our exchanges and their honesty; so do Jennifer Collins, Leslie Miller, Brad Hodges, Michele and Ryan Mobley, Daa’iyah Heard, Lindsey Gamble, Tiffany Willis, Markus Harris, Rose Marie Stutts, Fran O’Neal, Utz

x Acknowledgements

McKnight, and Heather Kopelson. My interviewees in France and Alabama deserve my heartfelt thanks for sharing so much of themselves with me, entrust­ ing me with their words and emotions. May this book be a tribute to my loved ones in France, Congo, Australia, Quebec, and the U.S.A.

INTRODUCTION What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.1

When James Baldwin wrote about effectively countering racial oppression in the U.S.A., he couched the question in terms of love and fear and daring, joining his Francophone contemporary Frantz Fanon’s call for the Black2 man and the White man “to move away from the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine communication can be born. Before embarking on a positive voice, freedom needs to make an effort at disalienation.”3 These inspiring, powerful voices were raised in the decades of the Civil Rights Movement and the decolonization of African and Asian nations, at a time when warfare and urban violence (both resulting from racial oppression) triggered among people of color and their liberal White allies a determination to dream big. More than a half-century later, as temporary racial and class solidarities have dissolved in the face of neoliberal globalization and morphed into seemingly apolitical, individualistic quests for economic survival and self-centered “happi­ ness,” disalienation, or lifting the proverbial veil which W.E.B. Du Bois eloquently wrote about,4 is still problematic for Blacks and Whites, in the U.S. as well as in Europe. In this early 21st century, genuine communication about the poisonous effects of the dominant racial frame on both Blacks and Whites5 and the inconvenient truths delivered by the disalienating counter-frames created by people of color requires safe spaces. This is true in not only the U.S., where White elites have historically used and redesigned space to materialize and consolidate patterns of social inclusion

2 Introduction

and exclusion of non-White others, but in France as well, belying the coun­ try’s tradition of free speech and its pride in celebrating straightforwardness over compromise. The anonymity of social networks covers unapologetic, even resurgent, expressions of racial bigotry6 and anti-Semitism in both countries. In France as well as in the U.S.A., White elected officials again bandy about overtly racist rhetoric,7 normalizing and legitimizing race-based prejudice among voters and even liberal critics. Meanwhile, in both countries voting has become an act of defiance and fatigue, with little sense of possibi­ lities—a leap of despair more than a leap of faith, on the part of working-class or middle-class Whites who fail to see how they are also hurt by neoliberal policies defunding the public sector and denying social services to minorities and immigrants. This reveals the continuity of what U.S. sociologist Joe Feagin has defined as the White racial frame, “an overarching white worldview that encompasses a broad and persisting set of racial stereotypes, prejudices, ideologies, images, interpretations and narratives, emotions, and reactions to language accents, as well as racialized inclinations to discriminate.”8 So why talk about love? Because the policing of interracial intimacies has historically been one of the most effective ways of creating, naturalizing, and solidifying the dominance of White male elites over all other social groups since the 17th century. As Justice Henry Billings Brown plainly stated in the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court on the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, “[the] legal distinction between the white and colored races … is founded in the color of the two races and … must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color.”9 The wording of this infamous landmark deci­ sion sanctifying systemic racism as a set of God-given “racial instincts” was particularly ironic, given that it denied equal treatment to a U.S. citizen whose “mixture of colored blood was not discernible in him,”10 by the judges’ own admission. The centuries-long practice by White men of all classes of coercing Black women into sex and procreation for the White elites’ profit had led to a blurring of the purportedly unambiguous physical differences that legitimized segregation. Nevertheless, whenever Whiteness could be at risk of appropriation by an oppressed individual or group, its protection became of paramount importance for those elites, who fought against logic itself to defend their own vested interests. One century later, just when the new millennium kicked off, U.S. demo­ graphers were prophesying the “browning” (or “beigeing”) of America by the mid-2000s11 and predicting that non-Hispanic Whites would no longer be the majority in the U.S. population by 2045.12 Federal census forms allowed for more than one racial self-identification, buckling under the pressure of multi­ racial families. A spate of studies on multiracialism in the U.S. and life stories of mixed-race Americans seemed to indicate that more diverse voices would be heard within minority groups to challenge cultural marginalization.13 For many of the U.S. sociologists who penned these books, the rising numbers of

Introduction 3

interracial couples among the children of Affirmative Action had already ush­ ered in “love’s revolution,”14 even if older generations would not yield with­ out a fight. Can there indeed be a nonviolent revolution, simply brought about by the free circulation and inevitable coming together of young people of all origins in a country shaped by systemic racism, where intermarriage was punishable by law in 26 states a half-century ago? Does the trespassing of the color line—still palpable in the many forms of de facto segregation imple­ mented by White elites in the U.S.A. and France—help White men and women acknowledge privilege and unlearn a frame of mind combining not only conscious stereotypes and biases, but also unconscious, “nonlinguistic elements such as racialized emotions, images, and even smells”?15 An opinion poll conducted in 2013 on the rate of acceptance of interracial heterosexual marriages in the U.S.A.16 indicated that as many as 84% of White Americans and a whopping 96% of Blacks approved of Black–White unions, up from only 4% in 1958. In spite of the greater social desirability of responding favorably to a question that remained posed in the abstract, 11% still said they disapproved, compared with 94% in 1958, and a breakdown of the statistics by region showed the South four points behind the national figure of 87%. This discrepancy is certainly related to the existence of a sharp partisan divide in atti­ tudes about interracial marriage. In a 2017 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center,17 roughly half (49%) of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party say the growing number of people of different races marrying each other is “a good thing for society.” In contrast, only 28% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents share that view, with great likelihood of a particularly negative view of intermarriage with Latinx and Blacks. Analysis of the data from the 2010 census indicated that although Black–White marriages had increased from 167,000 in 1980 to 558,000 in 2010, they still represented less than 1% of all married heterosexual couples that census year. This figure evi­ dences the lack of grounds for any claims of a sweeping demographic revolution, let alone fears of a so-called “White genocide” or “race suicide” through inter­ marriage—a conspiracy theory commonly propagated by White supremacist groups in social media.18 In 2015, with 17% of newlywed heterosexual couples having “married out” over the previous twelve months, the overall figure for interracial couples was brought to the symbolic threshold of 10% of all heterosexual marriages that year, that is, a total of 11 million people, not counting same-sex couples.19 Yet significant discrepancies persisted. On the one hand, 18% of Black and 29% of Asian newlyweds had married out of their racial group, following a steadily increasing trend towards marital integration. On the other hand, not only did self-identified White men and women remain the least likely to do so, with a figure of 11%, but the statistics also indicated a drop in 15 points compared to those of the newlyweds of 1980, while over the same period, rates held steady among African Americans. This finding most probably reflects the joint effects

4 Introduction

of the sabotaging by White elected officials of court-ordered school deseg­ regation, a.k.a. “busing”20 since the 1980s, and of the tendency of White families from all social backgrounds and regions of the U.S.A. to self-segregate since the end of the Civil Rights Movement.21 Among the newlyweds of 2015 aged 25 and older, educational attainment did not appear as a significant variable affecting intermarriage. The White segment of the population showed similar intermarriage rates regardless of education, while the Black group was mildly affected by this parameter, with 21% holding a bachelor’s degree or more, 17% having had some college education, and 15% having a high school diploma or less. While the survey revealed no gender gap when comparing White men and women (with 12% and 10% respectively), within the African American segment of the population, however, the gender imbalance has been well known for decades and is not closing fast. Indeed, 24% of the Black male newlyweds were interracially married in 2015, but among the Black women who had recently tied the knot, exactly half that figure had a spouse of another racial group; in 1980, the rates for newlyweds were 8% for men and 3% for women. Sig­ nificantly, and for reasons similarly tied to the country’s historical construction of race and gender, the discrepancy ran in the opposite direction in the Asian American group, with 36% of Asian women in an interracial marriage as against 21% of the men. Finally, a surprising finding of the survey was that of the Black men with a bachelor’s degree or more, interracially newlywed men accounted for 30%, while their female counterparts accounted for only 13% of their cate­ gory (as against 17% to 10% of those with a high school diploma or less). This is unexpected because African American women with bachelor’s degrees are sig­ nificantly more numerous than their male counterparts: 64% to 36% for the 2013–2014 academic year.22 My Congolese-born husband and myself, then ten years into our marriage, were part of the 2010 census statistics, as legal migrants from France living in Alabama on temporary work visas, to teach and do research at the state’s flagship university, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. As a scholar of African American Studies since the 1990s, I intended to use this opportunity to assess the evolution of the (self-)perceptions of couples like our own in an American state that had a reputation of extreme racial conservatism. I had chosen Alabama on discovering that it was the last of the fifty states to have struck out the miscegenation clause from its constitution, after a referendum held in 2000. It had been preceded by Arkansas and Tennessee in 1997, and South Carolina in 1999. In France, the latest statistics on intermarriages (commonly known as “mixed marriages”) indicate 14% of all unions performed in 2015, that is, 33,800 out of 236,300.23 However, because racial and ethnic statistics are forbidden in the country for historical reasons, linked to the occupation of France by the Nazis in 1940–1945 and the participation of the Vichy régime in the persecution and

Introduction 5

mass killing of French-born and immigrant Jews, these are exclusively defined as marriages between a French national and a foreign-born person. As a result, these figures give no indication as to race or ethnicity. The word “race” was even struck out of the current French Constitution (written in 1958) by a unanimous vote of the Chambre des Députés (the equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives) in July 2018.24 The lawmaking body, which was renewed in 2017 and is made up of 341 members of President Emmanuel Macron’s newborn centrist party out of the 566 seats, boasts an unprecedented percentage of 38.8% women representatives, but few nonwhite faces or foreign-sounding last names. The previous Socialist President François Hollande (May 2012 to May 2017) had called for the revision of constitutional language in a campaign pledge that he had made in 2012,25 but never delivered. On the contrary, fol­ lowing terrorist attacks in Paris, Hollande’s government considered stripping of their French citizenship any so-called “homegrown terrorists,” in addition to the extant legal sanctions—a move that an overwhelming majority of legal scholars and his own minister of Justice, a Black female elected official from French Guiana, deemed unnecessary and divisive. Significantly, the last time French citizenship had been revoked by a French government, it was during Nazi occupation and Jews were the target. Today, the first sentence of Article 1 of the Constitution of the French Republic no longer reads, “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion” but now only guarantees equality “without distinction of origin, sex or religion”—which in effect leaves any French citizen unprotected from race-based discrimination, and of course pre­ cludes any possibility of systemic racism on the part of the French state itself. However, the passing of the revision received next to no media coverage and was met with remarkable indifference in the midst of the fever around the Football World Cup, which was eventually won by a French national team of mostly African francophone descent. The players themselves objected to being seen as anything other than French,26 seeking to deflate controversy in social media over the unaddressed legacy of French imperialism and the silencing of daily discriminations suffered by Black French citizens—including high-profile athletes whenever they are defeated or found guilty of minor offenses. As the Canadian sociologist Danielle Juteau explains, the stubborn refusal by France’s White elites to consider and even scientifically discuss the real implica­ tions of race and ethnicity as social constructs has strong political underpinnings. From the perspective of French sociologists, who are overwhelmingly of French or otherwise European descent, [t]hat racial categories were originally constructed as part and parcel of a system of appropriation—that they served to justify slavery and other forms of domination, and to reproduce inequalities through monopolistic closure—

6 Introduction

justifies the rejection of racial and also ethnic categories, since the latter are equated with the former. Furthermore, recognising how racism naturalizes and excludes human beings and groups comforts the Republican ideal of equality for all through same treatment and the non-recognition of “differ­ ence.” But as the confusion concerning racial and ethnic dynamics persists, the specific processes underlying ethnic trajectories, positions and identities keep on being misunderstood. … The idea of Republican integration … plays in French sociology a role similar to the dictatorship of the proletariat in orthodox Marxist sociology, transforming itself into a methodological nationalism which forbids the analysis of ethnic dynamics.27 As a result of this allegedly colorblind White racial frame, a French national married to a foreign-born person may very well be of African or Asian ancestry. Indeed, the former colonies of the French Antilles, French Guiana, the French islands of the Pacific Ocean, and the former colonial counters of Pondichéry, Yanaon and Chandernagor in India are officially part of France as much as the metropolitan territory is.28 Conversely, a foreign-born spouse may also be a White European or American. Besides, unions with foreigners may also be inscribed in the quest for religious and linguistic sameness, for instance, and thus be anything but intercultural.29 Consequently, the very definition of what a “mixed couple” is varies from one Francophone scholar to another.30 Couples may not necessarily perceive themselves as “mixed”—when both partners are of European or North African descent, for instance. On the contrary, they may see themselves as having intermarried because they do not share the same religious background, even though they do not look different from each other to strangers in public places.31 The few extant studies of “mixed” couples in France were mostly published in the 1990s and in the early 2000s, when the concept of multiculturalism was embraced by social scientists beyond the borders of Canada. These books have focused on cross-cultural issues, such as Augustin Barbara’s pioneering study,32 interreligious ones, like Séverine Mathieu’s work on couples between Jews and non-Jews,33 or transnational ones, centered on the troubled history between France and Germany. This fact alone shows how deeply uncomfor­ table White French scholars have been with the idea of discussing the lived experiences of non-White French persons, often for the simple reason that we are left without any words to comprehend race in its everyday operations. In too many instances, the elites in the country’s academic circles advise doctoral students and junior professors to replace the concept of “race” by that of “ethnicity” or “ethno-racial group,” as if race were a thing of the past and race thinking akin to racism itself. Ultimately, this saves our intellectual and poli­ tical elites the trouble of acknowledging the existence of a White racial frame behind the Republic’s colorblind ideology. Undeniably, positioning oneself vis-à-vis the French version of the White racial frame does hurt patriotic

Introduction 7

feelings, or rather, seriously complicates the way we embrace the Republic’s lofty ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity (what Joe Feagin calls the “lib­ erty-and-justice frame”).34 But when reality literally hits home and proves too forceful to be denied any longer, the less mythical stories of real people need to be heard in a holistic manner. In metropolitan areas like Paris and its surroundings and in university towns such as Tours, in the Loire Valley, where I taught from 2001 to 2019, Black– White couples are a common sight among all age brackets, but more specifically the 20–40 group. I set out to launch this comparative survey because I already had a critical mass of data which I had collected among 35 cis-heterosexual cou­ ples of that age group. I had interviewed them either with my husband for his research on Black–White unions in African initiated churches and synagogues in France,35 or on my own, mostly among my students at the University of Tours. Of these 35 couples, 23 have children, aged between 1 year old and 16 years old. 21 include an African partner (12 women and 9 men, all of them from a former French or Belgian colony, save for one woman of Ghanaian origin) and 14 a partner from the French Antilles (7 women, 5 men) or from French Guiana (2 women). Black women comprise 60% of this sample (21 to 14), compared to 33% in the Alabama sample (7 against 14). Over the 2009–2018 period, there have been five divorces or breakups among these respondents, and three new relationships. The U.S. fieldwork was carried out between January 2009 and June 2010 at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa,) where I taught as an instructor of African American Studies, and surrounding towns in the Tuscaloosa County, including Northport, Bessemer, and Ralph. Over the span of three semesters, I had a unique opportunity to discuss these questions with my 331 students, most of them born and raised in Alabama. 95% of these students identified as African American, which reflects the assumption that a majority of Black students attend courses in African American Studies. I had one-hour-long semi-guided interviews with 20 Black–White couples aged from 21 to 38 years old, who were engaged in committed relationships ranging from 1 to 10 years. Five of these couples were same-sex couples, whom I met during the last month of our stay; their interviews could not be analyzed in the present work, for lack of further contacts in the LGBTQ+ community in Tuscaloosa County. Over the eight-year period that followed our departure from Alabama in May 2010, new couples were formed by my former students, either on campus or after the completion of their studies at U.A., so I was able to investigate seven more cis-heterosexual relationships in the U.S. sample, while two ended in this sample. Thus, a total of twenty-two U.S. couples were interviewed over the 2009–2018 period. Of the eight cou­ ples including a Black woman, four have children, aged between 2 and 13 years old; of the fourteen couples including a Black man, ten are parenting children, aged between 2 and 15 years old.

8 Introduction

Social media and instant messaging have allowed me to maintain follow-up with 80% of the U.S. couples until now, as I could not afford another long stay away from my university; but overall, responses have been more copious on the part of those respondents who had been my students, and females in particular, who willingly shared intimate stories. Yet, because the counter-frames elaborated by Black women and White women in contested relationships hold central importance in an approach focusing on the impact of moral and legal judgments on the formation of couples, I adjusted my analysis to these constraints of socio­ logical fieldwork. Many studies on interracial couples have been published in the U.S.A. since the 1990s, most of them based on qualitative sociological fieldwork and a lesser number on historical research. But very few associate the two approaches, and even fewer offer a transnational comparative perspective. The most recent work doing so is the historian Ann McGrath’s Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia,36 which focuses on the colonial phases of the two countries’ histories. The present book proposes to process qualitative sociological fieldwork after situating it historically and culturally, on the basis of an analysis of laws and court cases that framed, reflected and modified popular perceptions of Black–White marriage in Alabama and in France over time. This approach is also innovative because it draws unexpected parallels between an emblematic state of the Deep South on which negative perceptions abound, and a European country with a centralized legal system (like an individual state within the U.S.A.), which is perceived by most U.S. people to be more liberal than the U.S.A. in sexual and racial matters. Yet race is implicitly acknowledged in metropolitan France, where White racial framing37 is palpable in more subtle and covert, but no less real ways than in the U.S.A.; it does matter in the formation and everyday lives of couples, and in the socialization of their children. The only other study of interracial couples in the South of the U.S.A. dates back to the late 1990s, and does not offer a legal and historical framework for the inter­ views.38 Finally, the intersectional analysis of gender roles as associated with cultural expectations in the groups concerned, but also dictated by the dynamics of racial framing and counter-framing, strongly articulates the demonstrations offered in this work; so far, very few sociological studies of interracial couples have insisted on this dimension, save Amy Steinbugler’s Beyond Loving. 39 Because this study was mostly conducted among students, the parameter of social class is less central to the analysis of respondents’ answers; for instance, I was not allowed to probe too deeply into their social backgrounds or meet them anywhere else than in my office at the uni­ versity or in public places. What I could gather about their private lives was given freely, either during in-person interviews or on social media. For the same reason, the answers reflect a significant degree of unity in terms of educational attainment, as all respondents had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The book begins with a twofold historical overview, which helps better understand the connection between the legal framing of race and marriage in each society and the present representations of Black–White couples in national

Introduction 9

psyches, as well as the strategies implemented by interracial couples to enjoy equal rights with same-race couples and counter negative perceptions of themselves by creating counter-frames. The second part focuses on the ideological tensions that interviewees had to face in each social context. It describes the coping strategies they elaborated to respond to expectations of racial loyalty coming from their own entourages and from strangers interacting with them in public places. I then discuss the effects of the internalization of essentialist racial representations on their lives as a couple, and the translations of the White racial frame or counter-frames on the way they socialize, or intend to socialize, their own offspring.

Notes 1 James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time, in Toni Morrison, ed. James Baldwin: Collected Essays, New York: The Library of America, [1963] 1998. 2 My choice to use capitals for the racial categories “Black” and “White” reflects my awareness of the social and political construction at work behind the racialization of groups and individuals by elite White men on the European and American continents. Having American and French friends whose African ancestry is hardly visible, but who insist on identifying as Black, I do not even believe markers of color to be adequately descriptive of persons’ self-identifications. 3 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, translated from the French by Richard Philcox, New York: Grove Press, [1952] 2008, 206. 4 William Edgar Burghardt Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil, Classics in Black Studies, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, [1920] 2003. 5 See David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, London and New York: Verso, [1991] 2007, 6. 6 See Jessie Daniels, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights, Perspectives on a Multiracial America Series, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009. 7 See Marie des Neiges Léonard, “The Effects of Political Rhetoric on the Rise of Legitimized Racism in France: The Case of the 2005 French Riots,” Critical Sociology, vol. 42, no. 7–8, November 2016, 1087–1107. 8 Joe R. Feagin, The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, New York: Routledge [2009] 2013, 3. Emphasis in the text. 9 Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, Opinion, May 18, 1896. remecourt/text/163/537, accessed on August 9, 2018. Emphasis mine. 10 Ibid. 11 James H. Johnson, Jr., Walter C. Farrell, Jr. and Chandra Guinn, “Immigration Reform and the Browning of America: Tensions, Conflicts, and Community Instability in Metropolitan Los Angeles,” The International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, Special Issue: Immigrant Adaptation and Native-Born Responses in the Making of Americans (Winter, 1997), 1055–95. 12 William H. Frey, “The U.S. Will Become ‘Minority White’ in 2045, Census Projects: Youthful Minorities Are the Engine of Future Growth,” The Avenue, Brookings Institu­ tion, March 14, 2018.­ become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects, accessed on August 9, 2018. 13 See, for instance, Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Little, Brown & Co, 1993; Pearl Fuyo Gaskins, What Are You? Voices of Mixed-Race Young People, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999, or Michael T. Maly, Beyond Segregation: Multiracial and Multiethnic Neighborhoods in the United States, Chicago,

10 Introduction

14 15 16 17 18 19 20


22 23 24


26 27 28

IL: Temple University Press, 2004. For an overview of the publications of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, see Karen Downing, Darlene Nichols and Kelly Web­ ster, Multiracial America: A Resource Guide on the History and Literature of Multiracial Issues, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Maria P.P. Root, Love’s Revolution: Interracial Marriage, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001. Feagin, The White Racial Frame, 91. Frank Newport, “In U.S., 87% Approve of Black–White Marriage, vs. 4% in 1958,”, July 25, 2013, cks-whites.aspx, accessed on August 4, 2017. Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown, “Intermarriage in the U.S. 50 Years after Loving v. Virginia,” Pew Research Center, May 18, 2017, intermarriage-in-the-u-s-50-years-after-loving-v-virginia, accessed on August 4, 2017. See Jane Coaston, “The Scary Ideology behind Trump’s Immigration Instincts,” Vox, June 18, 2018, tion, accessed on August 10, 2018. Ibid. See Joyce A. Baugh, The Detroit School Busing Case: Milliken v. Bradley and the Con­ troversy Over Desegregation, Landmark Law Cases & American Society series, Lawrence, KA: Kansas University Press, 2011; Matthew F. Delmont, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation, American Crossroads series, Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016; Michael T. Maly and Heather M. Dalmage, Vanishing Eden: White Construction of Memory, Meaning, and Identity in a Racially Changing City, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2016; Joe R. Feagin and Kimberley Ducey, Elite White Men Ruling: Who, What, When, Where, and How, New York: Routledge, 2017, 200–201. See, among other sociological studies, Amy Stuart Wells, Jennifer Jellison Holme, Anita Tijerina Revilla and Awo Korantemaa Atanda, Both Sides Now: The Story of School Desegregation’s Graduates, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009, and danah boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014. “Fast Facts: Degrees Conferred by Race and Sex,” National Center for Education Sta­ tistics,, accessed on August 10, 2018. Vanessa Bellamy, “236 300 mariages célébrés en France, dont 33 800 mariages mixtes,” Insee Première n°1638, March 2017,, accessed on August 4,2017. See Rokhaya Diallo, “France’s Dangerous Move to Remove Race from its Constitution,” The Washington Post, July 13, 2018, wp/2018/07/13/frances-dangerous-move-to-remove-race-from-its-constitution/?utm_ term=.4f63c499e460, accessed on July 17, 2018. See Alana Lentin and Valérie Amiraux, “François Hollande’s Misguided Move: Taking ‘Race’ out of the Constitution,” The Guardian, February 12, 2013, www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2013/feb/12/francois-hollande-race-french-constitution Accessed on August 10, 2018. Ben McPartland, “‘Africa Won the World Cup?’ French Players (and Obama) Have Final Word,” The Local, July 18, 2018,­ world-cup-french-players, accessed on August 10, 2018. Danielle Juteau, “Forbidding Ethnicities in French Sociological Thought: The Difficult Circulation of Knowledge and Ideas,” Mobilities vol. 1, no. 3, November 2006, 399, 400. Because this fact is too often forgotten, leading to an amalgam of Caribbean French persons or French Guianese with foreigners, I will systematically specify when a person is from the metropolitan territory. Regarding the reluctance of French sociologists to discuss ethnicity, and their tendency to conflate the analysis of racism with that of

Introduction 11

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

immigration, see Danielle Juteau, “Forbidding Ethnicities in French Sociological Thought: The Difficult Circulation of Knowledge and Ideas,” Mobilities, vol. 1, no. 3, 399, 400. See Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs: Parcours de descendants d’immigrés, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012. See Pierre Achard, “La norme par rapport à la notion de mariage mixte: tradition et modernité,” in Claudine Philippe et alii, Liberté, égalité, mixité… conjugales, Paris: Anthropos, 1998, 251–76. See Gabrielle Varro, ed., Les couples mixtes et leurs enfants en France et en Allemagne, Paris: Armand Colin, 32–8. Augustin Barbara, Les couples mixtes, Paris: Bayard, 1993. Séverine Mathieu, La transmission du judaïsme dans les couples mixtes, Paris: Les Éditions de l’Atelier, 2009. Feagin, The White Racial Frame, 21, 33, 163–6, 171, 203, 205, 214, 218, 222, 226. Aurélien Mokoko Gampiot, Les Kimbanguistes en France: Expression messianique d’une Église afro-chrétienne en contexte migratoire, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010, 203–23. Ann McGrath, Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. See Feagin, The White Racial Frame. Robert P. McNamara, Maria Tempenis, and Beth Walton, Crossing the Line: Interracial Couples in the South, Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. Amy Steinbugler, Beyond Loving: Intimate Racework in Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Inter­ racial Relationships, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.


Historical Backgrounds. “Out of A Past That’s Rooted in Shame”: How Interracial Marriage Became A Stigma


In his classic work Neither Black nor White yet Both, Werner Sollors gives a striking analysis of an 18th-century German painting representing Adam and Eve as an interracial couple, with a red-haired, White Adam and a Black Eve. This unusual representation draws our imagination back to the mythical time of origins, when interracial encounters were perceived as the only possible breeding ground for a new world peopled with human beings of all hues. Conversely, it is just as striking to observe that interracial marriage was banned as “incestuous and void” in, for instance, the Mississippi code of 1880.1 Meanwhile, efforts by lawmakers to prevent the increase of a progeny con­ sidered as “impossible,” or, in the terms of the famous 1691 Virginia law, “abominable mixture and spurious issue” consistently argued for the preserva­ tion of a visible distinction resulting from the will of the Almighty to keep the two races (at times defined as two “natures”) clearly separated. The reason why so many laws were passed in North America from 1630 up to the late 1930s is clearly the persistence of interracial desire and its enactment in spite of such powerful deterrents. Creating race and gender has everything to do with establishing racial hier­ archies and durable systems of subordination; even in the German painting, Adam could not have been represented as a Black man, while Eve the temptress, made from one of his ribs, could be assigned non-European features. This is why it is crucial to delineate as accurately as possible the parameters used in a given society to first construct, then legitimize as “natural,” social orders whose prime and only function is to ensure that individuals learn to accept their “place” in the system, so that the dominant group will not be challenged in their rule. Understanding how the White racial framing is constructed and implemented in matters of sexual policing helps unveil one of the most complex systems of subordination,

16 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

for it is not only at the intersection of property, class interests, and privilege, but also of physical attraction to the Other and the acceptable or unacceptable public displays of such a bond. National narratives—or rather mostly silences—around the reality of inter­ racial sexual relations at the time of the first (colonial) encounters, as well as throughout the antebellum and Jim Crow periods, often result in clouding the private dimensions of individuals’ life choices, so that the parameters of choice and constraint become very difficult to sort out. How can we posit that all interracial relations were legally sanctioned rapes, when we see examples of couples striving to be legitimate against all social and legal odds? How can we rationally measure the risks taken by couples who fled their home colony or state to find some respite from laws criminalizing them and communities ostracizing them? To what extent was race central or used as a convenient pretext in the psychological evolution of a spouse seeking for the annulment of a marriage she or he knew to be interracial in the first place? This impossibility to account entirely for the lived experiences of interracial couples in the U.S.A. over the three centuries between the first anti-amalgamation laws of 1630 and the Loving decision of 1967 is not surprising. Indeed the racial ideologies of loyalty to a kinship group or broader “community,” and the set of sexual commandments they have explicitly or implicitly entailed, necessarily bury personal options under an all-political agenda. To reach a more workable understanding of the construction of a social stigma, it is necessary to grasp more precisely what exactly was branded as “unnatural” and what was prioritized in establishing these codes of sexual mores. The con­ structed impossibility to live together, which James Baldwin defined as “the pathology of the Deep South,” originated shortly after three decades of appar­ ently unhampered romantic interest and sexual contact in the early beginnings of colonial America, where the scarcity of White women had not been immediately perceived as an urgent problem to be solved. While socio-economic equality and daily interaction were the norm between indentured servants as well as free per­ sons of all racial backgrounds in colonial America, White male elites criminalized interracial desire to make it appear inextricably tied to the notion of sin. This was made plain in the language used by colonial lawmakers from the 1630s on. Engaging in interracial marriage was punished even more harshly than engaging in interracial “fornication,” the children born from such unions being invariably defined by White ruling castes as “burdens” to society and doomed to a life of bondage until age 30 in most colonies and, later, founding states of the Young Republic. Why choose to stigmatize interracial marriage so harshly, as opposed to extramarital interracial relations? Because it represented the hinge between per­ sonal choice and the collective endorsement of this choice, which is ultimately ensconced in a system of laws bearing on the couple’s line of descent for many generations to come, as Peggy Pascoe highlights it:

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 17

As a social institution, marriage links individual desire to social respectability and financial responsibility; it also links citizens and their dependants to the state. Because it stretches seamlessly from romance2 to respectability to responsibility, marriage has extraordinary power to naturalize some social relationships, and to stigmatize others as unnatural. When societies decide who can and who can’t legally marry, they determine who is and isn’t really part of the family. These inclusions and exclusions take place at such an intimate level that they shape what seems natural and, in turn, what is stigmatized as unnatural.3 The terms used to construct interracial couples as anti-models of families and, soon after, anomalies of nature, were thus social, political and legal tools crafted by White male elites to give a name to sexual practices which had not been con­ sidered worthy of notice in the first generation that colonized Northern America. “Amalgamation,” repackaged as “miscegenation” after 1864,4 designated a natural evolution of social relations that had to be thwarted, or at least controlled in its consequences, as effectively as possible for the state lawmakers to define individuals’ rights to freedom and property—in short, access to citizenship rights for a couple and their progeny. The same logic was thus reinforced throughout the antebellum period and in the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods, with a combination of pseudo-scientific and biblical arguments to buttress the process of criminalization and de-naturalization of interracial intimacies. As Eva Saks puts it: Drawing on the social sciences as then understood, miscegenation jur­ isprudence was instrumental in stabilizing white property. In substance, it prevented the creation of legal homes and families and legitimate social exchange between blacks and whites by preventing marriage.5 Ultimately, under the pretense of obeying “natural law” and working for the “peace and happiness” of both races6—and, immediately after the Civil War, additional “non-White” races under cover of neutrality to all—, the first goal of all these laws was to make sure that mixed-race children would never be entitled to the same rights as White children. The 1691 statute of Virginia prohibited masters to emanci­ pate any slave within the boundaries of the colony, thus forcing planters to exile their mixed-race children if they were loath to raise them as their slaves. In Revolutionary years, Thomas Jefferson penned a bill proposing that the Virginia legal system banish any White woman bearing a child by a “Negro or mulatto,” providing that non­ compliance would result in the mother being outlawed and her child bound out (enslaved) for an unspecified amount of time before being banished from the state.7 That the bill never passed makes it no less ironic and emblematic of a system entirely framed by all-powerful White men: Thomas Jefferson himself fathered at least five children by his sex slave Sally Hemings, who was his departed wife’s half-sister and the maid of his younger daughter. Acting upon the promise he had made to 16­ year-old Sally during their stay in France, Jefferson, who never remarried, skirted the

18 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

very laws he had helped write and repeatedly defended. He arranged for their four children who lived into adulthood to be emancipated by age 21 and thus durably escape slavery, petitioning the Virginia legislature to allow them to remain in the state. Both his son Beverly and his daughter Harriet married into the White upper class, thus passing permanently; his other two sons, who married free women of color, took care of their mother until her death in 1835 and then left Virginia for free states.8 Then, lawmakers’ second aim was to signify to socially powerless White part­ ners in interracial couples that their attraction to a person of color estranged them from the sexual norms of “civilization.” These laws effectively deprived ordinary White women in particular, but also White men outside the planter class, of the possibility of building a secure family cell. For instance, Captain Hemings, Sally’s White grandfather, who was the captain of the slave ship on which he coerced into sex her captive African grandmother “Susanna,” was willing to purchase the baby daughter he had by her. However, John Wayles, the planter who had bought the pregnant captive, refused to sell the baby to her father, “though he was offered an extraordinarily large price for her,” arguing “the child was so great a curiosity that its owner desired to raise it himself that he might see its out­ come.” By that time, pseudo-scientific classification of the various degrees of race mixing had become common, entailing unverified claims about the physical and mental particularities of mixed-race individuals and designating such a baby as “mulatto” or “mulatta” (a term borrowed from the Spanish and Portuguese word for “mule”).9 Oral tradition in the Hemings family contended that Captain Hemings was not impelled by similar financial interests to those of Wayles, but was so “determined to own his own flesh and blood” that “he resolved to take the child by force or stealth.” This led Wayles to lock up Susanna and her baby in the big house. Yet in lieu of raising young Elizabeth Hemings, the planter made her his sex slave as soon as he was widowed, and bequeathed her and their chil­ dren to his daughter Martha, the future Mrs. Jefferson.10 Lower-class White men and women in interracial relationships could also be stripped of their right to freedom—quite literally at some junctures in U.S. history. For instance, in Maryland in 1715, the planter caste could use the law to increase the contingent of indentured servants at no financial cost, as the free parents of “mulatto” children (whether legitimate or illegitimate) were both sentenced to seven years of indenture. Two years later, Maryland lawmakers further targeted free Blacks in interracial marriages, by ordering they should be enslaved for life and their White spouses forced into indenture for a seven-year period.11 In the 1870s, the provisions of state miscegenation laws allowed imprisonment for interracial couples who persisted in living together, even as married couples12— a behavior which directly challenged the legal construction of interracial intimacy as inherently illicit sex. Such laws effectively reinforced the notion that deprivation of freedom for both partners was the rightful punishment for such a crime. This was particularly true in Alabama, which was one of a handful of states (with Virginia,

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 19

Missouri, and Maryland) where miscegenation laws not only banned interracial marriage but also set specific imprisonment terms for interracial couples, both unmarried and married, ranging from two to seven years in prison.13 Surprisingly, though Alabama had been anchored in slaveholding culture from its incorporation in 1819, it was not until 1852 that the state legislature deemed it necessary to ban interracial marriage. Even at this late period in the national debate over slavery then raging throughout the nation, it was “a relatively mild statute that made it a finable misdemeanor for any state official to solemnize an interracial marriage but set no penalties for the partners to [sic] such a marriage.”14 Hence, it can be said that Alabama did not make the political decision to secure White supremacy by criminalizing such couples until the immediate post-Civil War period, since it was the 1866 state constitution which directed the General Assembly to “enact laws prohibiting the intermarriages of white persons with negroes, or with persons of mixed blood, declaring such marriages null and void ab initio, and making the parties to any such marriage subject to criminal prosecutions.” In 1866, the Alabama legislature did just that, passing a classic postwar miscegenation law. Under the 1866 law, any such couple bold enough to “intermarry, or live in adultery or fornication with each other” faced felony convictions that carried prison sentences of two to seven years. The penalty for officials who performed interracial marriages covered marriage license clerks as well as justices of the peace and ministers; it was increased to a fine of $100 to $1,000, with a possible additional jail sen­ tence of six months.15 From then on, the state prosecutors wasted no time in enforcing the new law, indicting so many couples between 1868 and 187716 that the Alabama Supreme Court had to give five separate decisions on the application of the state’s mis­ cegenation law. At first, the Alabama justices proceeded cautiously—in two cases heard in 1868 and 1872 respectively, each involving a man described as “negro”17 and a woman described as “white,” the second case being brought against T.J. Burns, the (White) justice of the peace who had solemnized the second couple’s marriage. In the decision of 1868, the state Supreme Court refused to rule on the constitutionality of Alabama’s miscegenation law or even “be understood … to affirm its validity.” In contrast, in the Burns ruling of 1872, it clearly declared “the law forbidding such marriage to be unconstitutional,” on the grounds that it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and contra­ dicted the “cardinal principle” of the Civil Rights Act passed by the radical Republican majority of the Federal Congress in 1866.18 Yet, the language used in both decisions hinted that although the Alabama Supreme Court would no longer countenance laws against interracial marriage, it would support racially differential punishments

20 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

for interracial sex. … Decisions like these appeared to depend on drawing a sharp line between illicit sex and legitimate marriage, but actually they revealed the links between the two. The prosecution of interracial couples on illicit sex charges would prove effective only if interracial couples were denied access to the strategy that many same-race couples accused of for­ nication used to avoid conviction, which was to turn an illicit relationship into a legitimate one by marrying.19 In 1875, in the Ford decision, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the two-year prison sentence dealt to a “white” man and a “negro” woman who lived together and had never tried to marry, focusing on the criminal nature of the offence while still considering marriage a “natural and civil right, pertaining to all persons.”20 Finally, in 1877, two cases involved married couples, whereby the Alabama Supreme Court “completed the counterrevolution it had begun two years before.”21 In Green v. State, a similar prison sentence—dealt only to the White spouse—was appealed by a married interracial couple from Butler County: Aaron Green, a “negro” man and Julia Atkinson, a “white” woman, who had married the year before, apparently without asking for special permission of any kind. This time, the Alabama justices did not consider the racially differential punish­ ment22, or the definition of marriage as a civil contract benefiting from the equal protection clause and other federal civil rights protections. Instead, they relied on the precedent set by the 1871 ruling passed by the Indiana Supreme Court against Thomas Gibson, a “mulatto” man who had married a “white” woman. The Gibson decision had been pioneering in the sense that it offered a redefinition of marriage as a “God-given, civilizing, and Christianizing institution”23 rather than a mere civil contract, whose protection, regulation, and control by state autho­ rities was essential and could not be abridged. Thus, the criminalization by state laws of interracial marriages as inherently immoral, particularly when a White woman was concerned,24 allowed the Alabama Supreme Court to reverse its earlier repeal of the state’s 1866 miscegenation law by upholding a states’ rights interpretation of its constitutionality. Later the same year, in Hoover v. State, the Alabama Supreme Court heard Robert Hoover, a “negro” man and Betsy Litsey, a “white” woman, from Tal­ ladega County, who had been convicted of interracial fornication although Hoover had obtained written permission to marry his wife in 1875, in the wake of the Burns decision. Their marriage, like the Greens’, was voided by the court, and both spouses were condemned as “unmarried persons, and their sexual cohabitation as fornication, within the statute,” which carried a minimum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.25 However, although the court considered them guilty of violating the law by requesting permission to marry from the probate judge who had delivered the written permission, it required “executive clem­ ency” towards the defendants, demanding that the Hoovers immediately stop

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 21

living together.26 As Peter Wallenstein concludes, “[i]n Alabama, by 1878, nobody identified as white could legally marry anyone identified as black,” which could not but profoundly distress couples who, until then, “thought they had a marriage and found they had a felony.”27 In the wake of these two cases, the five other states whose legislatures had repealed miscegenation laws between 1866 and 1875—Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Florida—followed suit and reinstated them between 1879 and 1894, after the end of Radical Reconstruction and the return of White supremacy.28 The final recognition of state laws outlawing interracial couples was granted by the U.S. Supreme Court six years later, in 1883, in the landmark Pace v. Alabama case. The Alabama miscegenation law was challenged before the nation’s final court of appeals, because it meted out harsher penalties for interracial sex than same-race extra-marital sex—a feature it shared with only three other states (Virginia, Missouri, and Maryland,) as mentioned above. The case, judged in 1881 by the grand jury of Clarke County, north of Mobile, had initially been settled by the conviction of Tony Pace, “a negro,” who had been denounced by his White neighbors as “living in fornication and adultery” with a “white” woman called Mary Jane Cox, with whom he spent time near their homes, but did not keep house, contrary to the Greens in the previous decade. Pace and Cox had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in April 1882. Although Tony Pace and Mary Jane Cox were penniless, their lawyer John Tompkins, a White Alabamian from Mobile, had appealed the local court’s decision, but the Alabama Supreme Court had rejected his claim that the lovers’ particularly harsh punishment violated the equal protection clause of the Four­ teenth Amendment. Citing the recent Gibson ruling to uphold the sentence, the Alabama justices justified the qualification of interracial sex as felony rather than misdemeanor by correlating the prohibition of interracial marriage and the crim­ inalization of interracial cohabitation as two prongs of the same strategy, the ultimate aim of which was to avoid race mixing: Interracial cohabitation jeopardized “the highest interests of government and society,” for it could result in “the amalgamation of the two races, producing a mongrel population and a degraded civilization.”29 Still, Tompkins believed he could save Pace and Cox from the penitentiary, by distinguishing between the unequal punishment of interracial marriage under state laws, which he never challenged, and the racial differentiation made by the Ala­ bama statute in punishing interracial sex. He hoped that the equal protection principle would still apply in a case defined as criminal, rather than pertaining to marriage law—a realm in which the argument of states’ rights now prevailed since the Gibson decision, which had remained uncontested. Unfortunately, the Federal Supreme Court weighed in favor of Alabama’s miscegenation law, recognizing as equally constitutional both the statute penalizing extramarital intimacy as moral

22 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

misdemeanor for any person of any race, and criminalizing interracial sex as felony for any person of either race. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously endorsed the Alabama Supreme Court’s rationale to the point of stating that it found equality everywhere in the treatment of both offences, even when the most serious of said offences was actually defined by race difference: The two sections of the code cited [prohibiting same-race and interracial fornication] are entirely consistent. The one prescribes, generally, a punish­ ment for an offence between persons of different sexes; the other prescribes a punishment for an offence which can only be committed where the two sexes are of different races. There is in neither section any discrimination against either race … Whatever discrimination is made in the punishment described in the two sections is directed against the offence designated and not against the person of any particular color or race.30 U.S. courts were to follow the same distinction for the next four generations. As Peter Wallenstein points out, “[b]y 1883, the aberration of Burns [the 1872 ruling repealing Alabama’s miscegenation law] was already invisible to attorneys and judges” and “no southern state, for the next eight decades, displayed any incli­ nation to repeal such laws.”31 In Alabama alone, 343 men and women were tried under charges of violating the state’s miscegenation statute between 1883 and 1938, a period when the push for the enforcement of miscegenation laws was the strongest. Even if these cases did not reach the Federal Supreme Court, this figure in itself also exposes the resistance of interracial couples to their own outlawing, and the relative failure of White Alabamian ruling elites to entirely prevent inti­ macy between the races.32 As late as November 1954, only six months after the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its landmark Brown v. Topeka ruling, declaring the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in the realm of schools, a “black” Alabamian woman called Linnie Jackson tried to appeal her penitentiary sentence before the Federal Supreme Court. She was to serve two years in jail for intermarrying or living with a “white” man named A.C. Burcham, although the two lovers did not live toge­ ther or ever pretended they were married; Burcham was married to another woman when Linnie Jackson was convicted.33 Yet, the majority of the Warren Court, although willing to consider the state’s miscegenation law as unconstitu­ tional, preferred to defer consideration of the case. The White Justices wanted to avoid causing further tension in the wake of their controversial decision regarding school desegregation.34 Linnie Jackson’s case, defended, like Tony Pace’s, by a White Alabamian lawyer named E.B. Haltom, had been the very first since Pace to appeal a miscegenation conviction to the Supreme Court of the United States. Peggy Pascoe describes Haltom’s argument in defense of Linnie Jackson as “the boldest statement of southern liberalism to appear on the question of miscegenation in three-quarters of a century,” lamenting the fact it was thus “consigned to the

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 23

status of a footnote in the history of miscegenation law.”35 It was all the more remarkable as Haltom deliberately pressed Linnie Jackson’s case in forma pauperis, “without guidance or support from any national organization,”36 in order to avoid “overly politicizing the case”37, although this very concern led five against three of the Justices of the Federal Supreme Court to decide not to hear the case.38 Ironically, because the case whereby the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared miscegenation laws unconstitutional was brought not against Alabama but against Virginia in 1967, Alabama lawmakers were not constrained to expunge from the state’s constitution (in its still-extant version of 1901) the section forbidding interracial marriage in the wake of the landmark decision Loving v. Virginia. Even though this provision was no longer enforced after 1970, it still remained on the books until 2000, symbolically making Alabama the last state to strike out its miscegenation statute. This was actually more than a mere symbol. When the repeal measure went before voters, in Alabama as in South Carolina the year before, the tally still showed 40% of the state’s constituents in favor of keeping the miscegenation ban in the text of the constitution, including a dozen counties in favor of leaving it intact—sometimes with majorities of more than 70% of the constituencies.39 A poll conducted in March 2012, at the height of the Pre­ sidential race following Barack Obama’s first term, showed 67% of the Alabama Republican electorate condoning interracial marriage to 21% responding it “should not be legal”.40 It is also significant that the repeal of the miscegenation statute did not go so far as to introduce an equal protection clause into the Alabama constitution. Several voices had been raised during the campaign around the repeal proposal, the most vocal being the White male leaders of the Southern Party and the Confederate Heritage Political Action Committee.41 They stressed the alleged antinomy between interracial marriage and “our Southern culture”42 as well as the perceived necessity to avoid an equal protection clause that would surely “open the door for homosexuals to marry”43—even though Alabama remains the only state in the Union without an express equal protection clause in its con­ stitution.44 This question resurfaced in August 2013, when a statewide panel came up with a set of proposals aiming to reword segregationist language in the Alabama Constitution, mostly in section 256, which concerns education and segregation. The Alabama Constitutional Revision Commission also approved a set of changes to the Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, the state equivalent of the Bill of Rights. According to a summary by commission staff, the members voted to add an “equal protection” clause stating that no one shall be denied protection of laws based on race, gender, sex, religion or color. In past meetings, some members had proposed adding sexual orientation to that list. According to staff member Othni Lathram, commission member and state Rep. Patricia Todd, R-Birmingham, made a motion to add that wording at Thursday’s meeting, but the proposal was voted down.45

24 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

Before the proposed changes may become an amendment to the State Con­ stitution, they must first be approved by the legislature and the voters, as it had been the case for the miscegenation clause. But this proposal seems to have been set aside in the wake of the legal controversy around the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. This has been particularly heated issue since June 2013, when two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, United States v. Windsor and Hollings­ worth v. Perry, respectively overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA, voted in 1996 and defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman) and California’s ballot-initiative ban on gay marriage, known as Pro­ position 8. In March 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court challenged a federal District court order compelling the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Alabama Supreme Court promptly halted enforcement of the order and insisted on upholding the state ban on same-sex marriage—a constitutional amendment known as the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act, voted by the state legislature in 2006—on the grounds that marriage laws pertain to the Adequate and Independent State Grounds doctrine. Alabama was the only state to openly defy the federal judiciary.46 This chal­ lenge eventually came to an end, since U.S. Supreme Court responded on June 26, 2015 with the historic Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which clearly stated that all 50 individual states had to recognize the constitutionality of same-sex mar­ riages under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.47 As a result, Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was removed from the bench for ethics violations in 2016; but Alabamians promptly elected him back into office, and he was narrowly beaten as the Republican nominee in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election in Alabama. To conclude on the history of sexual policing of Black–White relations in Ala­ bama and other states, what emerges clearly as the priority of White lawmakers from the colonial period until the Loving decision is the legal construction of interracial couples as inherently illicit. These White elites defined miscegenation as an entirely unique crime that must be outlawed because it was construed as essentially contrary to the laws of nature and “Christian civilization.”48 In this way, among landed Whites, property and inheritance rights could not be easily transmitted across racial lines to a spouse and the children of the couple. By the same token, non-propertied White partners would be stripped of their civil rights by being publicly branded as felons. This exemplum supposedly was a more effective deterrent than the colonial types of punishment such as whipping or fining, but finally amounted to a “modern” equivalent of the “solution” of enslaving White partners, applied by Maryland in 1715–1717. Judy Scales-Trent has clearly explained how the control of individuals’ descent is the linchpin of any system of domination predicated on the myth of racial purity and implemented by separateness: In a system that separates out favored and disfavored groups based on the notion of “descent,” if the group in power cannot control descent, how can

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 25

that group keep the target group separate? The first problem the state faces, then, is to control sexual intercourse between members of the two groups.49 As Peggy Pascoe made clear in analyzing a century of court cases challenging miscegenation laws, it is precisely the coupling of the claim of social respectability for each of the partners, and the husband’s officially assuming legal and financial responsibility for their interracial families (particularly under the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment) which directly threatened the system of White supremacy. This menace was so fearsome that the White elites in each state found it necessary to reinforce their legal apparatus to ban interracial mar­ riages as inherently illicit sexual relationships, in order to keep the two groups as separate as possible50. From White state officials’ and legislators’ viewpoints, interracial couples were a political problem, perhaps even more than a moral problem, grounded in religious or pseudo-scientific beliefs; like free Blacks during the antebellum period, they were “anomalies” that had to be silenced and erased from the narrative. Yet, unlike free Black craftsmen and entrepreneurs in South­ ern antebellum cities, interracial couples in the post-Civil War period were all the more vulnerable as they could not rely on the fact they performed any service for the economic good of the community. They were both socially undesirable and under economic and moral surveillance from their local communities: with a whole system bent on ruling them out and denying the very possibility of their existence, they should logically have disappeared. But, as Carter G. Woodson stressed in his analysis of colonial laws banning “amalgamation,” the need for ever more texts reiterating and reinforcing the White racial frame only points at the stubborn, if sporadic, resistance encountered by legal systems of sexual policing.51 Laws have often failed at entirely forbidding relationships based on mutual attraction and love. Historians allow us to gain an insight into the legal strategies of couples who dared claim a legitimate social and fiscal status for themselves or at least equal treatment under the laws, instead of conforming to a legal system that ruled out the very possibility of mutual love and care for the children. These were excep­ tional couples insofar as they often—though not always, as in the case of Tony Pace and Mary Jane Cox in 1881—had property rights to defend and fight for (such as a house, for example). Pascoe rightly stressed how Southern courts pri­ marily adjusted to the post-Civil War, post-Fourteenth Amendment legal envir­ onment by seeking to reconstruct and protect (rich) White men’s privilege. Even in the few instances where courts allowed Black women to inherit their White partners’ property—as in the case of Leah Foster who successfully waged a legal battle in Texas in 1871 although she had not been married to her former master, who was reputed a “bachelor,”—judges only relied on the formulation of the White man’s will. In this case, Leah’s master explicitly forbade her to remarry if she wanted to keep the inheritance. On these grounds, the court, made up of similarly powerful White men, inferred that his right to choose his heiress and

26 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America

behave as a (jealous) husband towards her could not be abridged.52 The work done by historians like Joshua Rothman or Peggy Pascoe sheds incomparable light on the socially acceptable or unacceptable gender and power relations at work, in each particular historical context, behind the legal records left by these men and women struggling for recognition within a strictly stratified social system, rooted in slavery and its pathological legacy in the white-supremacist Jim Crow legal order. Yet, precisely because the legal strategies employed were themselves necessarily ensconced in highly coded representations of what was acceptable or not in the realm of matrimony and family life in public and in private, it is nearly impossible to reconstruct the lived experience of individuals whose attraction to each other was powerful enough to lead them to attempt to define their relationships and their families otherwise than as ones exclusively predicated on profit and exploitation. After all, powerful White men in particular had no moral, let alone legal, obligation to bequeath any possessions to (often coerced) partners whom their environment defined as their “concubines” or “fancy girls,” or make special efforts to emancipate their offspring, as in the case of Jefferson with his children by Sally Hemings. The reasons why they chose to step out of their comfort zone to expose sentiments akin to family loyalty or care remain a mystery. Of course, the risks were not nearly as formidable for a rich White man who willed his lands and estate to an enslaved partner whom he emancipated once he had left a world where he could not earn respect as a lawful husband and father, as for a Black man who had to spend his life fearing brutal, deadly retaliation from a local community objecting to his living with a woman defined by reputation as White. The U.S. White racial frame’s definition of women as their husbands’ legal dependants cast each protagonist, in all the court cases studied to this day, in a particular light that has to be analyzed as culturally specific rather than universally applicable to any type of White supremacist social order. Proof of this is given by the conclusion of Pascoe’s work. She wisely guards against the common assumption among U.S. citizens of younger generations that “interracial marriages are good because they help break down racial barriers” as well as against “the suspicious haste with which some Whites turned hopeful visions of a colorblind society into defensive claims that racism was a thing of the past.”53 Here the comparison with the framing of Black–White relations in the history of metropolitan France from the 17th century to the present offers a valuable counterpoint, insofar as the parameters of legal protection and respectability for interracial couples and families are tied to an entirely different national narrative. In this European version of the White racial frame, the concept of race is denied from the beginning as irrelevant to the law of the land, while the lived experi­ ences of interracial couples help them realize how much racism is a thing of the present and has been interwoven throughout the country’s history of slavery and colonization.

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 27

Notes 1 Charles Chesnutt, “What is a White Man?” in Werner Sollors, ed., Interracialism: BlackWhite Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 40–41, and Werner Sollors, Neither Black nor White Yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997, 315. 2 Of course, choice, romance, and mutual attraction were not necessarily preconditions of marriage, including between free White persons, let alone in interracial unions, where coercion was even more likely. See Nancy Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. 3 Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, 2. 4 Ibid., p. 28. See also Elise Lemire, “Miscegenation”: Making Race in America, Philadel­ phia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. 5 Eva Saks, “Representing Miscegenation Law,” Raritan, vol. 8, no. 2 (Fall 1988), in Sollors, Interracialism, 67. 6 This was the language of the Alabama supreme court in Green v. State (1877) upholding the state’s 1866 ban of intermarriage as espousing God’s will that each partner should “form this union with those of their own race only, whom God hath joined together by indelible peculiarities, which declare that He has made the two races distinct.” The very same argument was used to establish the constitutionality of the “separate but equal” doctrine in the famous Plessy v. Ferguson decision of the fed­ eral Supreme Court in 1896. 7 Paul Finkelman, “The Crime of Color,” Tulane Law Review, vol. 67 (1993), 2086 and 2087, in E. Nathaniel Gates, ed., Racial Classification and History, New York: Garland Publishing, 1997, 24, 25. 8 See Brent Staples, “The Legacy of Monticello’s Black First Family,” The New York Times, July 4, 2018, ings-black-family.html, accessed on August 11, 2018. See also Madison Hemings’ mem­ oirs, published in 1873 in Ohio’s Pike County Republican, frontline/shows/jefferson/cron/1873march.html, accessed on August 11, 2018. 9 See Sollors, “Mulatto” entry in Interracialism, 212–3. 10 Ibid. See also Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, New York: Norton, 2008. 11 Paul Finkelman, “The Crime of Color,” 2095, in E. Nathaniel Gates, ed., Racial Classifi­ cation and History, 33, and Carter G. Woodson, “The Beginnings of Miscegenation of the Whites and Blacks,” The Journal of Negro History 3.4 (October 1918) in Sollors, Interracialism, 45 and 397. The legal text may be found in Laws of Maryland, ch. 44, sec. 25. 12 See for instance, the case of William and Martha Hobbs, a “white” man and a “colored” woman who, in 1871, failed to convince a federal district judge in Georgia to release them from the jail where they were imprisoned after being convicted for marrying each other (Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 64). 13 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 63. In a different, but just as symbolic move to deprive White partners of their civil rights, South Carolina’s constitution of 1895 included a provision disenfranchising any person guilty of the “crime” of “miscegenation,” among other offences; this clause was officially repealed more than a century later, in 1999 (Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, endnote 42, p. 337). 14 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 57. 15 Ibid. 16 These two dates, which correspond respectively to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and the withdrawal of Union troops from the former Confederate States, span a period of U.S. history known as Radical Reconstruction. See Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, New York: Harper & Row,

28 Criminalizing Interracial Love in America


18 19 20 21 22 23 24

25 26


28 29 30 31 32 33

1988, and Eric Foner and Olivia Mahoney, America’s Reconstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War, New York: HarperPerennial, 1995. In my summaries of these cases, I use inverted commas as Peggy Pascoe did when mentioning the defendants’ assigned racial identities. This is done to insist on the constructedness of these racial categories and the fact that other interracial couples including a partner who passed for White (like Thomas Jefferson’s children by Sally Hemings) most likely stayed under the radar of the White ruling elites writing and enforcing these laws. Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 58. Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 58–9. Ibid., 60. Peter Wallenstein, “Race, Marriage, and the Supreme Court from Pace v. Alabama (1883) to Loving v. Virginia (1967),” Journal of Supreme Court History, vol. 23, no. 2, 2011, 69. Ibid. Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 56. “In such a context [the recapturing of the Indiana legislature, supreme court, and governorship by the Democratic party in the early 1870s], the tactic of using White women as symbols of the purity of the body politic became even more deeply entrenched. The Indiana Supreme Court had only to identify the Gibsons as a ‘negro’ man and a ‘white’ woman to invoke this tendency. And in their focus on White women, as well as in the production of laws targeting free Blacks, Indiana politicians were pioneers whose antebellum rhetoric anticipated the defense of white womanhood that would eventually saturate late nineteenth-century southern politics.” (Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 53). Timothy S. Huebner, The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790–1890, Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 1999, 169. “It is very true that to constitute a crime, there must be both an act and an intent. But, in such a case as this, it is enough if the act be knowingly and intentionally committed. The law makes the act the offence, and does not go farther, and require proof that the offenders intended, by the prohibited act, to violate the law. The act being intentionally done, the criminality necessarily follows. There is no error in the record, but we consider this a case for executive clemency, on condition there be given satisfactory assurance of a discontinuance of this very gross offence against morals and decorum. Should the crime be repeated or continued, the law should lay a heavy restraining hand on the offenders.” Hoover v. The State, December Term, Vol. LIX, 60, www.25., accessed on April 28, 2012. Wallenstein, “Race and Marriage,” 69, 79. Wallenstein’s formulation rightly insists on the fact that to this day, an individual’s racial identity remains assigned on the grounds of the local reputation of their family as being Black or White—a factor which is wellknown to scholars of racial passing. Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 43, 63. Pace & Cox v. State, 232, in Wallenstein, “Race and Marriage,” 70. Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583, 584–5 (1883) in Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 68 and Wallenstein, “Race and Marriage,” 72. Wallenstein, “Race and Marriage,” 73. See Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 135 and endnotes 14 and 15, p. 351. Phyl Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, [2004] 2008, 98. In a comparable case ruled in 1950 in Alabama, the married “white” woman who had been charged with “living in adultery or fornication” with a “black” man had been sentenced to the maximum penalty, i.e., seven years; her appeal was denied. See Griffith v. State in Newbeck, 60–61.

Criminalizing Interracial Love in America 29

34 See Wallenstein, “Race and Marriage,” 74–5 and Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 225–6.

35 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 226.

36 Peter Wallenstein, Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law—An American

History, New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2002, 183. 37 Newbeck, 98. 38 Wallenstein, Tell the Court I Love My Wife, 180. 39 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 309. 40 Tom Jensen, “Other Notes from Alabama and Mississippi,” Public Policy Polling, March 12, 2012, bama-and-mississippi.html, accessed on May 4, 2012. 41 See the blog post by Attorney Jeremy W. Richter, “Alabama’s Anti-Miscegenation Sta­ tutes, Part 7. 2001, A Race Odyssey: Alabama’s Anti-Miscegenation Statute is Repealed,” Jeremy W. Richter and Richter Holdings, LLC, June 14, 2017, www.jeremywrichter. com/2017/06/14/alabama-anti-miscegenation-statute, accessed on August 13, 2018. 42 Michael Chappell, head of the Confederate Heritage Political Action Committee in Montgomery, quoted in Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 309. See also Phyl Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving, Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, [2004] 2008, 212–13. 43 Brian Cabell, “Alabama Considers Lifting Interracial Marriage Ban,” CNN News, March 12, 1999,, accessed on May 4, 2012. See also Robin DeMonia, “First Step Taken to Repeal Interracial Marriage Ban,” Birmingham News, May 12, 1999, quoted in Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 310. 44 See Albert P. Brewer and Robert R. Maddox, “Equal Protection Under the Alabama Constitution,” Alabama Law Review, vol. 53, no. 1:31, 2001, 31–66. In this article, the authors argue, as do other legal scholars, that the Alabama Supreme Court has con­ strued Sections 1, 6, and 22 of Article 1 of the 1901 Constitution as guaranteeing equal protection to Alabama citizens whether singly or in combination. Same-Sex-Marriage-in-2015/If-the-Alabama-Supreme-Court-rules-that-its-decision-a gainst-gay-marriage-supersedes-a-federal-court-order-how-should-the-federal-court­ system-respond, accessed on July 1, 2015. 45 Tim Lockette, The Anniston Star, August 12, 2013, story/23350566/article-Commission-approves-replacement-for-racist-wording-in-Ala bama-Constitution?instance=home_news, accessed on August 14, 2013. 46 See Kent Faulk, “Alabama Supreme Court First in Nation to Defy Federal Court Gay Marriage Order,”, March 6, 2015, 2015/03/alabama_supreme_court_alone_in.html, accessed on July 1, 2015. 47 See Adam Liptak, “Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage A Right Nationwide,” The New York Times, June 26, 2015, us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html, accessed on July 1, 2015. On the resistance of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, see Judith E. Schaeffer, “Ala­ bama Shows Why Civil Rights Shouldn’t Be Put to Popular Vote,” Outward blog on Slate, June 12, 2015, shows_why_civil_rights_shouldn_t_be_put_to_popular.html, accessed on November 12, 2015. 48 See Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 70–74. 49 Judy Scales-Trent, “Racial Purity Laws in the United States and Nazi Germany: The Targeting Process,” Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 23 (2001), 271. 50 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 12. 51 Woodson, “The Beginnings of Miscegenation of the Whites and Blacks,” 50, 51. 52 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 17–19, 33–40, 45–6. 53 Pascoe, What Comes Naturally, 296 and 302.


“France, the mother of freedom, can tolerate no slave on her soil.” The motto dates back to an edict by King Louis X “Le Hutin,” published on July 3, 1315,1 at a time when most slaves in Western Europe were war prisoners—either nonChristian Eastern Europeans (Slavs) or North African Muslims captured during the crusades. Until then, the presence of these foreigners from the periphery of the European world had not been considered a moral scandal by the Church, as long as slaves were “well-treated” and baptized. As a matter of fact, while their status was that of property, their mode of exploitation had been close to that of the (Christian) French peasants, who were themselves serfs (from the Latin word servus, slave) living in a feudal system where they enjoyed no freedom of move­ ment or protection from rapes2 and raids. French serfs were peasants who could not be sold or bought, but had forgone their freedom against the “protection” of a nobleman whose lands they were forced to cultivate all their lives, essentially for his sole profit, themselves enjoying only the use of the plot of land they were tied to. They could never sell this land, but were entitled to farm it for their families’ subsistence after removing a sub­ stantial part of the harvests, which was reclaimed by the lord every year.3 Their daughters were expected to marry serfs living on the estates of the same lord; if they “out-married,” their fathers had to pay an additional tax to compensate the lord for the loss of revenue. In cases of out-marriages with free men or women, the condition of the offspring followed that of whichever of the parents was a serf, regardless of gender, based on the saying that “the worse carries away the good” (le pire emporte le bon).4 Finally, when serfs died, another tax had to be paid to the lord by their descendants to inherit their fathers’ tools and household utensils. The two features of French serfdom related to marriage and the condi­ tion of serfs’ children are very similar to some of the defining elements of slavery

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 31

in colonial and antebellum America, which proves that in either country, only the higher castes of White men elaborated and enforced laws to suit their sole interests. However, in the case of medieval France the overwhelming majority of the people were serfs and had no interest in embracing the dominant frame; the racial component came later in the country’s history. This system, which had been generalized in France since the 8th century, had eroded in the 12th century and was nearly extinct by the 13th century, for most local noblemen had run short of money and preferred ceding the lands back to their serfs against specie instead of crops, thus letting them buy their own free­ dom. Hence, Louis X’s edict was not as revolutionary as it sounds, for it was accompanying a social transformation already under way and meant that the subjects who were still in serfdom were invited to buy their enfranchisement from the Crown. Its wording nevertheless powerfully turned the land of France into an official, hallowed symbol of the value of freedom. Meanwhile, slave trafficking went on unhampered in the Mediterranean. Africans from North Africa and Sub-Saharan countries as far removed as Ethiopia were bought mostly through the Moroccan slave trade via cities like Genoa in Italy. These enslaved Africans appeared among the other prisoners who did forced labor on plantations, construction sites and in various crafts through the 15th century in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Cyprus, but also in Provence, which was not a part of the Kingdom of France until 1483.5 Yet the 1315 edict’s firm assertion that “by the right of nature, everyone must be born free (franc)” so that the Kingdom of France may truly deserve its name as, literally, the land of the free, created the first frame of national virtuousness and destiny 474 years before the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. In particular, the edict’s almost religious, performative statement that “the soil of France enfranchises the slave who touches it” has powerfully shaped a national narrative in which metropolitan France is reputed to have been preserved from the moral taint of human traf­ ficking.6 In 21st-century France, patriotic sentiment remains deeply rooted in the principles articulated in this text, even if most people do not know when it was authored or by whom, let alone in what economic context. This attachment is understandable, insofar as it offers a convenient way to erase from the national psyche France’s aggressive colonial involvement in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, and persistently frame French people as exclusively White. This founding myth of a land granting liberty for all exactly fits Joe Feagin’s description of the “White virtuousness” subframe as a form of protection from collective guilt, allowing denial of White privilege, past and present.7 Renaissance France seems to have retained very few, if any, traces of the pre­ sence of Africans on metropolitan soil. The next famous royal edict concerning slavery was proclaimed in 1685, in the context of the French triangular trade. By that time, the kingdom’s imperial policy had planted in the West Indies, as early as 1625, colonies based on slave labor, and the practice of slavery had subse­ quently been authorized by King Louis XIII in 1642. The Code noir of 1685 was

32 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

a collection of statutes initially elaborated by King Louis XIV’s Minister JeanBaptiste Colbert to define the duties of slaves and masters on the plantations of the French Antilles—that is, the tiny island of Saint-Christophe as well as those of Guadeloupe, Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) and Martinique. On the latter island, the first census of 1660 indicated a ratio of almost 1:1 between Europeans and enslaved Africans (Carib natives and “mulattoes” being a small minority of 17 and 25 respectively). The next census in 1682 showed a tripling of the population with a 68% figure for enslaved Africans and twelve times more mixed-race indi­ viduals than in 1660, with 314 persons registered—as many as in the English possession of Barbados, where the slave population was eightfold that of Marti­ nique but intermarriage had been actively repressed. The French Crown was aware of the imbalance of the male-female ratio on the islands and sent female volunteers from France to Martinique (250 women) and Saint-Domingue (65 women). However, the White male settlers kept preferring “colored” women (whether native or enslaved) over these White “foreigners” who did not belong to their Creole (i.e., American-born) culture, while female slaves sought eman­ cipation for themselves and their children by seeking relations with European men.8 This shows that White Creole men had begun developing an alternative racial frame that of course served their interests as the local elite, but out of which women of color could also operate to gain their own liberation from oppression. This alternative racial and gendered frame left White women and enslaved Black men with less agency. The Governors and Royal Intendants of the islands, all of them White men of the metropolitan or Creole elite, elaborated the sixty articles of this first version of the Code noir. As Vernon Palmer demonstrates, this legal text was promulgated in response to the need felt by the King to harmonize the legal practices already existing at a local level in each of the islands, incorporating the views of these royal officers on the best way to regulate the institution of slavery. The Code noir was augmented in 1724 by King Louis XV by amendments which shall be dis­ cussed below, for they included the status of slaves during stays in metropolitan France. This text remained the law of the land for two centuries in the French West Indies—with a brief interruption during the short-lived first abolition of slavery by the French Revolution between 1794 and 1802—until the final abo­ lition of slavery in 1848. Articles 8 to 13 of the 1685 Code directly addressed the sexual mores of slaves and their masters’ moral duties and rights in that matter, as well as the different conditions of the children born to slave mothers or fathers—in a spirit of classi­ fication which Palmer contends was typical of Colbert’s mind, that is, pragmatic and centralizing. These articles planted the seeds of the Napoleonic Code, which organized common law in metropolitan France from the early 19th century up to this day. Article 8—in a language reminiscent of that used in the 1662 Virginia statute condemning fornication between a “Christian” and “a negro man or woman”9—

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 33

declared null and void any future marriages between Christians and non-Chris­ tians, and defined as concubinage (cohabitation) all such unions and as “bastards” all their offspring. However, no penalty was specified, though other articles in the same version of the Code noir give specific details regarding the punishments to be meted out to fugitive slaves. Besides, it is worth mentioning that in Article 2, the King commanded that all slaves be baptized and catechized in the Catholic faith; he ordered his Protestant subjects not to hinder the instruction and baptism of their slaves in the Catholic faith (Article 5). This article thus seems to have targeted more specifically Carib-European couples than Afro-European or mulatto-European ones. Article 9 is the most specifically addressed to interracial couples, and its word­ ing clearly marks a concern with public morals and the sanctity of marriage bonds. It first criminalized as fornication (still using the stigmatizing term con­ cubinage) sexual relations between free men and enslaved women, fining the men 2,000 pounds of sugar, as well as the masters who had been complicit in letting them cohabit with their slaves. Then, in the same sentence, it specified that in case the offending man was the master himself, he should not only pay the fine, but be separated from the slave woman and their children, who would all be sent to the Hospital (ruled by members of religious orders) without any possibility for them to ever be emancipated. Although—notwithstanding the title of the document—none of the articles of the Code noir mention “Blacks” or “Whites” in any way, but only refer to “masters,” “slaves,” and “freedmen” (affranchis), this provision was clearly aimed at discouraging enslaved women from seeking freedom by begetting lighterskinned children. A famous Creole term to designate light-skinned persons, among the myriad that were created by the pigmentocracy of the French Antilles, is peau chapé, coined from the words peau, meaning “skin,” and échap­ per, meaning “to escape.” The White lawmakers also implicitly acknowledged the possibility of genuine attachment of White Creole men for their African or mulatto concubines, although they implied that only unmarried White men with an exclusive love interest in a single female slave could use the institution of marriage to emanci­ pate their concubines and offspring. This awareness is clearly expressed in the final provision of Article 9, which stipulated that if the offending man is an unmarried master, he shall marry his slave concubine following the rules of the Catholic Church, thereby emancipating her and making their children (even those already in existence) “free and legitimate.” Emancipation, however, entailed a public statement as well as the payment of taxes—two provisions likely to make a respectable man think twice about his reputation and his purse. At any rate, not only did the male members of the planter caste remain the single purveyors of emancipation, but also, marriage as a way out of slavery was only accessible to those women who had elicited the exclusive and passionate attachment of a wealthy White Catholic. The Code noir’s insistence on having planters abide by

34 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

the rules of the Catholic Church serves as a reminder of the presence of White Protestants and Jews in the French West Indies, who were clearly considered as a minority within the ruling class. The relative reverence shown by the French lawmakers towards slave marriage is another stark difference with the legislation enacted in North America in the colonial and antebellum periods as pertains to the treatment of slave couples and families. For instance, Article 10 declared marriage to be as solemn (and hence valid) for slaves as for free persons, although it significantly replaced the necessity for the parents’ consent with the necessity for the master’s consent in the case of slave marriages. This made all slaves minors by law—an understanding that is confirmed by Article 48, whereby slaves were declared legally incapable of pos­ sessing or bequeathing any material commodity. Article 11 reinforced the pre­ dominance of the master as legally responsible for his slaves, by forbidding all priests to celebrate a marriage between slaves without any proof of the master’s consent. It also barred masters from forcing their slaves into a marriage against their wills—a provision whose enforcement was clearly left in the hands of the clergy, as slaves’ testimonies in court could not serve as legal evidence, but only as advice to help the judges make a decision (Article 30). Article 47 also forbade the separate selling of slave husbands, wives, and their prepubescent children, and the annulment of any sales that would have split slave families—a form of legal pro­ tection which slaveholding lawmakers never granted, either in colonial or ante­ bellum periods. However, it must be borne in mind that enforcement lay entirely in the hands of the planter caste, with very slim chances for defendants of color to win their case, even with support from sympathetic White clergy members. Finally, Articles 12 and 13 addressed the more complex cases of the offspring born of two different types of out-marriages (if the feudal term may be borrowed in this context). Article 12 dealt with the condition of the children born to slave parents who were joined in marriage, but belonged to two different masters. It stated that these children should be the sole property of their mothers’ master, much in the same non-racialized language as colonial Virginia’s 1662 statute, which followed the Roman maxim “partus sequitur ventrem” whereby the child followed the condition of the mother10. Article 13 specifically addressed the cases of couples including one free spouse, proclaiming that in this case also, the offspring, regardless of their gender (which was not specified in Article 12) should follow the condition of the mother, even if the latter was free and the father was a slave. But this protection, again, applied only if the two parents had been married in the first place and were not living in extramarital cohabitation—which implied the consent of the free woman’s par­ ents, certainly a difficult prerequisite to comply with if the woman was European, unless she was an orphan and free of any legal tutelage. Unsurprisingly for the times, this relative protection of such families did not place the free wives (be they White, African-born, native Carib, or mulatto) in any legal capacity to emancipate their lawfully wedded enslaved husbands. On

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 35

the contrary, male members of the planter caste were entitled from the age of twenty to emancipate slaves during their own lifetime or by will, without having to give any justification for so doing or even having to secure their parents’ con­ sent, although they were still five years away from being legally of age (Article 55). This last difference made it possible for masters to avoid being fined under Article 9 and enfranchise their “colored” mistresses before they could be denounced for concubinage, as well as marry them if no family or financial constraints stood in their way. It also thwarted any possible plans by “colored” women to first gain their emancipation as a reward for sexual services to their masters, and then marry an enslaved man to help him be free. Hence, the gendered racial frame limited the degree of agency of women of color. This caution on the part of the White lawmakers is easier to understand when one reads the language of Articles 57 and 59. The latter granted the same rights to Creole freedmen and women as those enjoyed by the (metropolitan) freeborn subjects of the King, even if born in foreign countries (in other words, nonEuropean) and without their having to show any letters of naturalization—the French equivalent of the American “freedom papers.” However, the perspective of attaining this degree of freedom—as the philosopher Louis Sala-Molins11 warns in his impassioned commentary of the text and its applications—was thinkable only insofar as the whole set of articles aimed to mentally condition slaves to perceive themselves as property, “tools” in the hands of their masters. Their acceptance of their oppression under the dominant racial frame, particularly in Saint-Domingue, was essential so that France may become the leading pro­ ducer of sugar for the rest of Europe. Significantly, Article 58 admonished freedmen and women to show “unusual” respect to their former masters as well as their widows and offspring, under threat of a more grievous punishment than if any other (White) person was offended. Meanwhile, Article 39 anticipated the possibility that freedmen might give shelter to maroon slaves, providing for a severe financial penalty of 300 pounds of sugar per day of absence of the fugitive in this case, as opposed to a fine of ten pounds of money for any other free person helping a fugitive slave. The enforcement of the text, both in its initial and amended versions, was confronted with the inevitable obstacle of local interpretations of its spirit, and in this respect, the distinction between the French West Indies and the mother country loomed large. Because much of its application depended on the good will of all-White colonial institutions and religious orders situated at a great dis­ tance from the control of the Crown, the Code noir was not enforced in all of its stipulations. French planters in the Antilles found it too much of a constraint to apply the provisions most concerned with the protection of the slaves—such as the ban on torture or maiming, stipulated in Article 42. On metropolitan soil, the status of the Code noir proved paradoxical, and brought to light the contradictions of a nation that upheld the liberty-for-all principle on “actual” French soil and the contrary on the territories of its

36 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

colonies. Because it introduced the institution of slavery on French metropolitan soil as a fact, without specifying any origin for the slaves or even providing any kind of justification for the practice, several Parlements (i.e., courts) in metropoli­ tan France refused to apply the Code noir, which they saw as blatantly contra­ dicting French law and tradition. In the following examples, we see elite metropolitan White men or women challenging the White racial frame elabo­ rated in the West Indies in the name of the Freedom Principle (the White vir­ tuousness subframe) mostly for political reasons, in defense of judiciary autonomy. As early as 1571, the Parlement of Bordeaux had castigated a French captain from Normandy for attempting to sell a handful of enslaved Africans in the city, liberating them on the grounds that “France, the mother of liberty, may tolerate no slaves.”12 However, from 1707 onwards, kinship ties between Colbert (and his successors at the French Ministry of the Navy) and the governors of the Antilles led to amending the 1685 Code noir. The aim of these amendments was to allow families of the planter caste from the West Indies to reside in metropo­ litan France with their slaves without running the risk of seeing the latter petition for their freedom. The first encroachment on the Freedom Principle was that slaves who had willingly returned to the Antilles (i.e., not resisted their master’s intentions of taking them back to the West Indies with them) after a stay in metropolitan France could not claim to benefit from a free status that was only valid on French soil.13 In October 1716, after nuns from a local convent had refused to return to her mistress a young female slave whom she had temporarily entrusted to their care, thereby freeing the woman by law, the mayor of Nantes (one of the major French ports in the Triangular Trade) put pressure on the Crown to clarify the law. In response, a royal edict further specified in 15 articles that “inhabitants from the American Isles” (i.e., planters) were allowed to bring with them to France any slaves whom they intended to provide with training in certain trades that “would be very useful to the colonies.” They were also supposed to use their one-year stay on metropolitan soil to improve their religious education. These slaves would not be entitled to sue for their freedom, provided that, prior to their departure, their masters had duly asked the Governor of their colony for permission to remove them and likewise registered each of them with the Admiralty offices within eight days of their landing on metropolitan soil. Masters had to give each time their names and each of the slaves, and the ages and descriptions of the latter. Absent strict compliance with these formalities, the slaves would automatically “be free and … not able to be reclaimed.”14 The Parlement of Paris—to which the Duke of Orléans owed his new position as the sole regent of Louis XIV’s 5-year-old heir—refused to comply with this violation of French custom; but those of Rennes, Rouen, and Bordeaux (three cities located on the Atlantic façade of the country) readily did so, as early as December 1716. Historians insist on the ideological and geographical divide between these sovereign judicial bodies. Sue Peabody stresses that “[t]he

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 37

Parlement of Paris, whose jurisdiction comprised one third of the realm, and its appellate Admiralty courts consistently ruled in favor of blacks seeking their freedom right up until the Revolution.”15 Erick Noël highlights the tension between two sections of the country. On the one hand, there was “Atlantic France” whose understanding of law was an extension of that of the West Indies, coupled with eastern France, where serfdom had survived in legal statuses. On the other hand, Paris with its large jurisdiction, along with other non-Atlantic cities’ Parlements, held fast to the traditional Freedom Principle and staunchly refused to enforce the royal edict of 1716.16 According to historians, the number of Black persons thus registered upon their arrival on French soil was relatively small—from three in 1717 to eight in 1718 to fourteen the following year, eventually reaching an average number of sixteen per year between 1720 and 1740. Up to the French Revolution of 1789, it is estimated that never more than 5,000 Black people lived on metropolitan soil in any given year.17 The “training” period mentioned in the edict was limited to the duration of the masters’ vacations,18 as well as the freedom of movement of the “Nègres” they brought from the so-called “maritime territories,” or “Colo­ nies.” Yet, although the duration of their stay had been quickly extended to three years, to cater to the demands of the wealthy absentee landowners who wanted to spend time in France rather than on their plantations, the law did not explicitly forbid intermarriages or compel Blacks to carry a residence permit until 1777. Article 7 of the Edict of 1716 even “equated slaves’ marriage with tacit manu­ mission,”19 though with the provision that they should first secure their masters’ consent to said marriage. These servants were typically in their late teens or early twenties, and all of them had been baptized, in accordance with the provisions of the Code noir. Hence, there existed no legal impediment to their marrying metropolitan French women or men, a loophole which was not lost on the slaves concerned—all the more so as they could be parties in a civil law suit, a right the Code noir denied them on “colonial” soil. In 1738, a man named Jean Boucaux, the cook of one Sieur Verdelin, sued his owner for his freedom. He took advantage of his master’s failure to register him in detail, both before leaving Mrs. Verdelin’s property in Saint-Domingue and on their arrival on French soil, nine years earlier, and of their permanently residing in Paris since then. Boucaux had gotten romantically involved with a metropolitan French woman, a Catholic like himself, presumably White, for her race is never mentioned in the records,20 whom he had recently wedded without his owner’s permission and who was expecting his child. This had resulted in what his lawyer described as increased mistreatment by the irate Verdelin, who had him arrested in his kitchen and put in jail for rebelliousness and disobedience, claiming that his marriage contravened the Code noir and the Edict of 1716, and that Boucaux was planning to escape. Boucaux’s petitions for back wages for his nine years of unpaid services, release from jail, clearing of his record, and financial compensa­ tion for cruel treatment by the Verdelins were filed in July and August with the

38 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

Paris Admiralty Court, and the prisoner’s case was defended by Mallet, a White French lawyer.21 Mallet’s plea passionately reaffirmed the Freedom Principle as pertaining to French customary law,22 buttressed by the Christianization of the country’s mores and the “natural” aspirations of all human beings. He hammered home that the legislative texts of 1685 and 1716 were nothing but “exceptions” granted by the King to the planter class for purely commercial, profit-making purposes and which, he claimed, remained strictly confined to the geographical limits of the “maritime country” and the economic activities carried out in these colonies—namely, farming the land. Significantly enough, although Boucaux’s race (“Nègre”) is mentioned in the title of his lawyer’s brief in lieu of a legal status for the plaintiff, none of the arguments developed by Maître Mallet revolved on racial matters. By virtue of his baptism and of his being born a subject of the King of France, Jean Boucaux was acknowledged as “a man equal to us” and “a citizen” by the procureur du Roi, whose role was “to represent the interests of the state in each case”23—that is, to analyze from the perspective of the Crown the arguments of each of the parties. Although the Verdelins’ lawyer did insist that the Freedom Principle was true for “any slave other than a negro slave,”24 in an attempt to racialize the White metropolitan virtuousness narrative, the Admiralty Court considered above all Verdelin’s non-compliance with the stipulations of the Edict of 1716. Its judges decided to free Boucaux, strike his imprisonment from the record, and sentence his former masters to pay him 4,200 livres in back wages—for which they suc­ cessfully appealed to the King in September of the same year, offering to free him themselves provided the court’s decision were overturned. In a letter dated from September 12, 1738, the King upheld the sentence that had freed Boucaux. However, he acceded to their request of not paying his wages, by ordering that he should leave Paris within eight days of the issuance of the letter, and be banned from returning to Paris or Saint-Domingue or any of the other islands of the French Antilles, and from further prosecuting the Ver­ delins. The letter justified the denial of the victim’s rights to a financial reparation by the explicit aim of quelling the commotion around his case.25 By giving the case such a coda, the Crown had clearly chosen to isolate a troublesome man of color and deny him the wages of nine years of labor, rather than fully embrace the idea that he was entirely equal to any other law-abiding citizen living on the soil of France. The planter caste had failed to racialize metropolitan justice, but its financial interests remained prioritized. Boucaux’s success became a landmark case, prompting the government to call to order the slave-owners from the West Indian colonies and preclude any ripple effect by strengthening the edict of 1716 with a new piece of legislation—the Royal Declaration of December 15, 1738.26 This new text, issued three months after Boucaux’s liberation, stipulated that any slaves whom their masters would not have taken back to the West Indies at the end of the three-year training period would be automatically confiscated by the King, and returned to the Antilles to

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 39

work there for his profit. Contrary to the Edict of 1716, it also included a ban on intermarriage with free metropolitan French subjects, with or without their masters’ consent, as part of the measures intended to keep slaves from “contract[ing] a spirit of independence here which may have troublesome results.”27 Clearly, the King and his counsellors knew that they had more to gain by favoring the interests of the White planter caste—who made huge profits and could always decide to pledge collective allegiance to the United Kingdom—than by upholding a colorblind “Freedom Principle” that could increase the agency of Black French subjects struggling for their freedom. However, the Parlement of Paris again refused to comply with the planter-friendly piece of legislation, on the grounds that this declaration implied further recognition of the institution of slavery and reneged on the 1315 edict by Louis X Le Hutin. By contrast, those of Rennes, Rouen, and the major slave trading port of Bordeaux readily endorsed the new law, followed by those of Dijon and Besançon, in the eastern provinces of the country, where serfdom had survived in milder forms.28 Because of this two-tier legal system, and because this new piece of legislation was not properly enforced even in the cities whose Parlements had endorsed it,29 the 154 men and women of color who sued for their liberty between 1738 and the Revolution of 1789 all won their cases, instead of being confiscated and sent back to the Antilles. Most of these cases were judged by the Parlement of Paris between November 1752 and 1790.30 This is why the young Sally Hemings could have successfully petitioned this French court for her freedom when she came to Paris in 1787; having learnt some French thanks to her brother who was trained as a cook, she was aware of the advantages of her new situation. Some anxious planters, knowing they would not return to their plantations after three years in the metropole, had stopped registering their slaves upon arrival, in order to preclude their confiscation by the Crown. Other absentee owners registered their slaves as manumitted servants (affranchis) who were still bound by contract to accompany and serve them until they were actually emancipated by will31—a situation not unlike that of indentured servants in colonial America. These stra­ tegies by elite White men and women to restrain the agency of their slaves show that they did not intend to renounce their own racial frame; but now their financial interests were unusually dependent on the cooperation of their slaves in maintaining the master-slave relation. Servants or unregistered slaves who suffered beatings at the hands of their masters, even as their presence on metropolitan soil was inscribed in such legal limbo, increasingly took their cases to the courts from the 1750s—a juncture when historians have shown that attitudes to domestic abuse began to change in France.32 The Minister of the Navy, the Duke of Choiseul, tried to crack down on masters and slaves to have the Declaration of 1738 better enforced and stop the Parlement of Paris from granting their freedom to litigious-minded servants. On June 30, 1763, in the wake of the French defeat in the Seven Years War (whereby the country chose to cede Quebec rather than the profitable French

40 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

West Indies) Choiseul sent a circular letter to his administrators all over metro­ politan France. He ordered them to have all slaves speedily returned to the colonies (under penalty of confiscation by the King) and prevent all Blacks, whether enslaved or free, from traveling to France, in an explicit attempt to geographically contain “Blacks and mulattoes,” limit their freedom of movement, and police their contacts with the native French. His overt concern was that the presence of many more Black servants on metropolitan soil—following their masters, expelled from North America by the victorious British troops—would entail much “disorder,” namely, “sexual contact… with the whites,” resulting in “a population of mixed blood [sang-mêlé] which multiplies every day.” Still, he was not able to have them all indiscriminately sent back to the colonies where they came from. As early as the early 1750s, the governors of the colonies, par­ ticularly Saint-Domingue, had already expressed concern at the prospect of receiving masses of slaves who had spent time in metropolitan France. These were “[a]lmost always the leaders of revolts and the worst subjects among the blacks and mulattoes,”33 they complained. The reason, they contended, was that “you did not have in France the same type of authority over these people as we do in the islands, and the Whites did not balk at mixing with them [les Blancs ne faisaient point de difficutés pour se lier avec eux].”34 Of course, this fear of seeing the White racial frame of the West Indies threatened by the metropolitan White virtuousness frame could not but grow in the following decades, as the written objections of the colonial governor of Guadeloupe in 1764 also showed. Paradoxically, thus, slave-owners’ freedom of movement and their insistence on keeping the same standards of living and status symbols in the mother country as in the colonies had resulted in the royal authorities’ perception of parallel fer­ ments of subversion of the established order—rebelliousness in the isles and racemixing in metropolitan France—which both resulted directly from interracial equal-status relations. In 1762, in his report on a case won that year by a “mulatto” servant, the procureur du Roi had explicitly warned the Crown that “[w]e will soon see the French nation disfigured” by “[t]he introduction of too great a quantity of negroes in France.”35 Yet, the data analyzed by historians for the year 1762—when people of color (whether free or enslaved) had to be registered by the Admiralty clerks pursuant to a royal Ordinance—give an estimated number of only 159 “Blacks” (including persons from the Indian Ocean region and the Indian port colonies) and “mulattoes” in Paris. 110 of these were male and 49 female, out of a total population of 500,000 to 600,000 Parisians.36 As Sue Peabody emphasizes, the French authorities could not but see as a possible threat to public order the fact that young males aged between 11 and 30 outnumbered females of the same age bracket by a 3:1 ratio.37 However, she points out that the authorities’ fear of widespread interracial unions as a result of the presence of these young men in the capital was exaggerated, as very few births of mixed-race babies were regis­ tered during the period.38

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 41

Ironically but unsurprisingly, the greater proportion of the “mulattoes” residing in metropolitan France at the time were in fact planters’ grown sons and daugh­ ters, brought to Paris or the major slave port of Bordeaux (where the rates of literacy among self-registered people of color were higher) to follow their parents and receive an education.39 Erick Noël’s study points to the presence of young men and women brought to metropolitan France specifically for purposes of sexual entertainment of women or men from the aristocracy,40 a custom that may have influenced Thomas Jefferson in 1787, when he stayed alone in Paris as a widower with the teenage Sally Hemings. However, it is also possible to read patterns of implicit or overt legitimization by White planters of their unofficial master-slave couples and their offspring between the lines of the registrations of servants, pupils and trainees, as well as in manumissions “for good services” and inheritances.41 Throughout the second half of the 18th century, as in the ante­ bellum Louisiana custom of plaçage (inherited from French Creole practices, since Louisiana was French territory until 1803) or the Reconstruction cases described by Peggy Pascoe for the U.S.A., several French women registered as “negro” or “mulatta” inherited sizeable amounts of money after the deaths of their former masters or fathers.42 At any rate, although the year 1762 saw a peak in the number of French resi­ dents from the West Indies and Indian colonies, the “servants” continued to go unreported or underreported from 1763 on. The Minister’s circular letter had failed to both intimidate masters—particularly among the French aristocracy and foreign élite—into registering their slaves every following year and shake the inertia of the administrators, who apparently did not proceed to any confiscation, especially in central ports of the triangular trade such as Nantes, where the interests of the planter caste prevailed.43 It was not until August 1777 that the French government found a way around the resistance of the Parlement de Paris. Yet another Royal Declaration was issued, its 13 articles giving new urgency to the enforcement of the Declaration of 1738 and reiterating the danger of letting Blacks stay on metropolitan soil, particularly in Paris, where they created “disorder” and acquired a “spirit of independence and disobedience.”44 This new “Police of the Blacks” (Police des Noirs) stipulated that all “Negroes, mulattoes and other people of color” trying to enter the kingdom would henceforth be arrested upon their arrival on metropolitan soil, kept in jail, and taken back to the closest port, to be shipped back to the Antilles and (re-)enslaved (Article III). Those already residing in France would have to register again within a month with the office of the Admiralty closest to their dwelling (Article X). This time, however, the text specified that both categories remained bound to “return to the colonies in the same state as when they departed from the latter” (Article XII). The thirteenth article explicitly forbade interracial marriages, regardless of the masters’ consent; but the King consulted representatives of the Church on the topic and they objected to this clause, as did the representative of the Parlement de Paris. Consequently, this article was struck

42 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

out and the final text, signed by King Louis XVI on August 9, 1777 in Versailles, was limited to the first twelve articles and interracial marriages continued to be officially recorded across the country, with the help of the courts when masters or priests expressed opposition.45 Yet, the 1777 “Police of the Blacks” was found wanting insofar as it still left a number of rights to persons of color already living on metropolitan soil. On April 5, 1778, a new royal decree banned marriages between French subjects of either sex and Blacks, mulattoes, and “other people of color,” in terms that seem to indicate that the previous measure had encouraged couples to legalize their unions in hopes to prevent forced separation. The text read, “His Majesty was informed that Blacks of either sex who were [in France] prior to said Declaration [of 1777] have intended to enter matrimony with Whites, which it would be contrary to good order to tolerate.” The decree made it mandatory to verify the state of any person of color applying for permission to marry a White French subject; it also provided for the fining of any judicial officer who signed such marriage contracts, and the immediate “return” of any offender (of color, pre­ sumably) to the colonies.46 However, this decree also seems to have been inconsistently enforced and did not stop couples from trying to secure dispensations—as in the 1787 case of Frédéric, the “free mulatto” servant of a Countess, who repeatedly asked for permission to marry his partner, an unnamed White girl from the northern town of Maubeuge. The archives available state that the woman had eventually become pregnant by Frédéric, and that the King might accede to their request provided they registered with the Admiralty or a judicial officer to formally promise they would depart for “the Isles” after “the wench” (“la fille”) had delivered their child.47 The stigmatization of the woman’s sexual mores is evident in the fact she remains unnamed throughout the document. It is impossible to know whether the couple complied or chose to move to another French region in hopes of going unnoticed by the authorities. A sea voyage for the mother and infant would probably have been unaffordable, and represented a serious health risk, given the number of royal officials who died of the yellow fever at the time. These examples show that throughout the 18th century, men and women of color consistently pushed against the White planters’ racial frame to use the dis­ sonant versions of the metropolitan White virtuousness frame, particularly preg­ nant in the increasingly anti-monarchical French judicial system up to the Revolution of 1789,48 for their own liberation and social recognition. However, the men’s agency was more restricted than their women counterparts’, since they represented the most evident threat to the White planter caste’s power, in both the West Indies and metropolitan France. Over the next century, in periods of political turmoil or relative peace, patriotic attachment to the hallowed Freedom Principle and professions of belief in the sacredness and protection of religious sacraments were still invoked by interracial couples seeking legitimacy in metropolitan French courts. The Revolution of 1789,

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 43

which put an end to the monarchy, also established marriage as a civil contract outside of the control of the Catholic Church from 1791 to this day. In the West Indies, the White Creole planter class had initially tried to take advantage of the political turmoil to claim full autonomy and elect all-White assemblies with full powers, superseding those of the Governor General sent by the metropole. But in response to armed protests from the free people of color (mostly “mulattoes”) in late 1790, the new régime first granted them civil rights, then eventually abolished slavery in February 1794, in the context of General Toussaint Louverture’s war for the independence of Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) and slave uprisings in Guade­ loupe. This proclamation caused alarm and outrage among planters, who fiercely resisted sharing French citizenship with their former slaves and held fast to their White racial frame. Following these transformations, interracial couples living in metropolitan France were entirely free to seek official recognition, at least for a half-decade. Things changed for both the West Indian and the metropolitan French when in November 1799, Napoleon took power thanks to a military coup. The new ruler and military hero, whose wife Joséphine de Beauharnais came from a family of rich planters from Martinique, was loath to antagonize a class whose financial backing could prove vital to his imperial ambitions. Indeed, the sugar extracted from cane fields in the French West Indies provided the metropole with an invaluable financial asset, and metropolitan consumers’ dependence on the pro­ duce gave the planters considerable political traction. In May 1802, Napoleon proclaimed slavery legal again in the French West Indies, sending troops to try to restore French domination over the now-independent Haiti, and sparking revolts in Guadeloupe and French Guiana, which were crushed pitilessly. Meanwhile, on metropolitan soil, an 1803 ministerial decree ordered local authorities to stop registering any marriages between White men or women and persons deemed “Black” (i.e., with no visible European ancestry, the terms “noir(e)” or “nègre” being used indiscriminately in the different versions of this proclamation). As historian Jennifer Heuer explains, The decree, which seemed to reinstate a 1778 edict, went hand in hand with the reestablishment of slavery after the French Revolution. It was officially applied to metropolitan France, rather than the colonies, and was circulated throughout the continental Napoleonic Empire. It would remain in effect even after Napoleon fell from power, quietly disappearing only in late 1818 and early 1819 … [A]uthorities decided to apply it only to those deemed black, not those of mixed race. This policy contrasts dramatically with the “one-drop” rule that would be applied in the United States, in which anyone with black ancestry was legally prevented from marrying a white partner. In Napoleonic France, anyone with a drop of white ancestry was potentially permitted to marry a white spouse.49

44 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

Just as in the previous century, then, “Black”–“White” couples resurfaced in the archives via petitions for marriage dispensations. In these legal texts, they typically insisted that both partners were Christians and persons of good moral character, who sometimes had given valuable individual service to the French Republic (such as Army veterans) and, as such, could not be fairly deprived of access to French citizenship and the right to legitimize their offspring. Thus, the couples kept operating out of the White-virtuousness subframe dear to the judicial bodies in the metropole. Heuer’s research in the French National Archives covered 50 such petitions lodged during this period—a significant number, given the total of 5,000 recorded “Black” and mulatto persons then living on metropolitan soil. She is certainly right in speculating that there were more such couples “that did not make it to the attention of central authorities, especially if local officials tacitly approved their liaisons,”50 given the lack of zeal shown by French law enforce­ ment authorities in such matters over the previous century. Literacy and gender do not seem to have been obstacles for these lovers, who showed a degree of perseverance not unlike that of their U.S. counterparts: Couples who were barred from marrying often petitioned repeatedly, usually when changes in regimes or marriage law gave them hope of a better deci­ sion. Some of their pleas were clearly written for them, noting explicitly that would-be brides or grooms were illiterate.51 At least one of these French petitioners was a female, one Catherine Prunague from the southwestern city of Montpellier, who was educated enough to write her own petition to the government in 1820. She did so for the sake of the children she had had by her “black African” partner, for whom she was not afraid to profess her love; she wanted them legitimized by the state, so that they could inherit her possessions when she died. Such confidence in the principles of equality of the French Revolution (the nineteenth-century version of the “lib­ erty-for-all” White metropolitan subframe) is worth noting, for whatever stigmatization she may have had to put up with in a city where very few nonWhites lived was clearly no match for her determination to have her offspring’s property rights officially recognized. As Heuer remarks: After 1791, couples in France seeking to marry were required to do so civilly. They could also wed religiously if they chose, but only the civil bond legitimated their marriages in the eyes of the state. This meant that unlike in the United States, sympathetic or hostile clergy could not determine who wed, although they might exercise unofficial influence. Instead, couples went to the local mairie or town hall to formalize their unions. There officials approved liaisons they deemed to be in order. Administrators with ques­ tions—or looking for reasons to oppose a marriage—turned both to the Napoleonic Civil Code (after 1804, the most important basis for defining the

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 45

conditions and procedures for marriage) and to the decrees or clarifications of higher administrators; [the] Minister of Justice [being] the ultimate voice of authority on such matters.52 Another striking case, which was filed in 1803 and dragged on for 16 years, involved Charles Fanaye, a White veteran from Napoleon’s 1798 Egypt cam­ paign, and Marie-Hélène, an Ethiopian-born woman who had saved him from the Mameluks in Egypt, been shipped back to France with him, and gotten baptized on French soil in the Cathedral of Avignon. Contrary to Catherine Prunague and her partner, this couple did not seek to legitimize any children. Their petition explicitly insisted that their union would not contribute in “the fear of mixed blood on the continent.” It read: one can observe that the couple has cohabited for more than sixteen years without children, and since Marie-Hélène was born in oriental climates, where women become fertile young, and is now at least forty, it seems unlikely that she will ever become a mother.53 This particular claim was left unanswered. In his petition, Fanaye also explicitly sought to dissociate his partner’s Blackness from any slave background and the political interests of the planter lobby. He highlighted that Marie-Hélène had been born a free woman in Ethiopia and followed him voluntarily, so that granting her a dispensation from the ban would in no way challenge the goal of “maintaining the supremacy of Europeans in the colonies”54—in other words, the White planter racial frame. The two were finally allowed to marry in January 1819. This was one year after another Army veteran, Jean Marcel, born in Guadeloupe, was allowed to marry his White lover. The authorities seemed unable or unwilling to determine whether Marcel was biracial or not, and his case seems to have constituted a turning point in the attitudes of mayors and the Ministry of Justice, as a change in the régime now gave freedom of movement to all “blacks, mulattos and people of color on metropolitan soil.” In both cases and all subsequent ones, the marriages were not to be made public, to avoid sending any signs of “encouragement” to other interracial couples in search of official recognition. Here, a new avatar of the “liberty-for-all” White metropolitan frame, more closely tied to revolutionary and military ideals of virtuousness, countered the White planters’ racial frame. This could be taken as an implicit message to French women, insofar as these matters were—and remain—inseparable from patriarchal concerns, in France as in the United States. Indeed, while petitions could be lodged by White French men such as Charles Fanaye, research on pre- and post-Revolutionary France tends to show that the majority involved White, metropolitan-born women seeking to extend their citizenship rights to their partners, thereby complicating the gen­ dered lines of family authority:

46 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

The overwhelming pattern in France was that of a black man or homme de couleur [i.e., mulatto] involved with a white woman. In certain respects, this is not surprising. The population of blacks and people of color in late eight­ eenth and early 19th century was predominately male. Pierre Boulle has established that three quarters of the 765 nonwhite individuals living in Paris between the years 1777 and 1790 were male. An 1807 survey of blacks and gens de couleur in France (excluding Paris) similarly showed twice as many men as women. … Anthropologists and historians have shown that such relationships provoked controversy in almost every modern colonial empire. … Both in the colonies and in France, the post-revolutionary regimes sought to reinforce paternal power after the relative equality of Revolutionary family law. The creators of the Napoleonic Civil Code [of 1804; see above] sought to avoid the possibility that a woman could have a separate nationality from that of her husband,55 and thus undermine his authority as the head of the household; separate racial status could also appear as a threat to family unity.56 The fact that several Black or mixed-race petitioners were veterans of the French Army further challenged local and national authorities’ efforts to keep them beyond the pale of citizenship and marriage rights. This emphasizes once again the contradictions between the White virtuousness subframe (i.e., the supposedly universal values of patriotism, planted by the French Revolution and cultivated by the Napoleonic Empire) and the political and economic concerns over social and moral order, both on metropolitan soil and in the French Antilles, shaped by the White planters’ racial frame. As the first half of the 19th century saw the former kingdom of France morph durably into a Republic in need of new founding myths to sustain its patriotic narrative of exceptionalism, the specificity of these Caribbean colonies based on slave labor gradually disappeared behind new colonial ventures, supposedly more modern and enlightened. In the wake of a second revolution in February 1848, the French Republic definitively abolished slavery by a decree published on April 27, amid slave insurrections in Martinique and Guadeloupe. Black representatives of Martinique and Guadeloupe (one of them a former slave) were immediately elected to the French Parliament, where they competed with representatives of their islands’ White settlers. But far from rejecting the institution of slavery in itself and reflecting on the dehumanizing nature of its plantation system—as had been the case during the first French Revolution and with British abolitionism, whose example it emu­ lated fifteen years later—, the government again deferred to the White planters’ racial frame. It ensured the economic revival of plantations in its Caribbean and South American colonies, by not only granting the planters financial compensa­ tion for each of the 263,000 freed men, women, and children, but also allowing the former to import contract workers (travailleurs engagés, also known by the

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 47

racial slur “coolies”) from southern India, China, Malaysia, Madagascar and Mozambique. These men and women lived and labored in conditions close to bondage, mingling with the former slaves without ever challenging the pig­ mentocracy of the plantation system—and at times even adding extra layers to its hierarchy of skin tones, as they brought with them their own racial frames. Today, the former plantation colonies of the French Antilles, French Guiana and Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean are all lumped together under the hazy, bureaucratic designation of Départements ou Régions d’Outre-Mer et Collectivités d’Outre-Mer, or “overseas territories” since a law passed in 1946, prior to the decolonization of France’s other colonies. Most metropolitan French have very little knowledge of their histories and ethnic specificities, and routinely forget that these French people of color are their fellow citizens, minimizing the con­ sequences of their ignorance whenever they are called out about it. A typical example was given in the news coverage of a tragic plane crash that occurred in Venezuela on August 16, 2005, when several metropolitan anchors and news­ papers expressed relief that “no French fatalities are to be deplored” because the 152 passengers of the flight were all Black natives of Martinique. On March 27, 2017, following a campaign tour to the French West Indies, future President Emmanuel Macron referred to French Guiana as “an island” on his visit there in the midst of a deep social crisis. The Guianese and Caribbean French deemed unconvincing his later arguing that Cayenne is an island, for in December 2016, he had referred to a metropolitan French mother living in Guadeloupe as an “expatriate.”57 As the historian Françoise Vergès has made clear, the representa­ tions of France’s former plantation colonies and their inhabitants have remained dominated by the White virtuousness subframe. This has allowed for a unapolo­ getic denial of the persistent psychological, social, and economic legacy of slavery in the teaching of French history and thus in the French psyche at large, for the sake of maintaining the illusion of a successful model of colonization which sup­ posedly culminated in equal, colorblind citizenship: Inhabiting the margins of colonial history, absent from both the national nar­ rative and the postcolonial field of study (for the latter is incorrectly restricted to the countries which liberated themselves from the colonial yoke) the over­ seas territories are still excluded from [French] history while remaining part of the territory of the Republic … Understanding the presence/absence of the overseas territories means embracing two spaces at the same time—the overseas territory and the metropolitan territory. Both now belong to the same body politic—the [French] Republic. Yet the building of overseas territories preceded that of the Republic, so that not only did the latter inherit them on the advent of the Revolution [of 1789], but it also claimed them as “part and parcel” of France. Such continuity between the dream of the Bourbons [the last dynasty of French kings] and that of the Republic gives these spaces a particular dimension. As seen from the colonies, the “metropole” appears as “eternal

48 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

France” rather than the Republic; while, as seen from the metropole, the Overseas territories appear as the dream of a successful model of colonization, a colonial utopia, without any slaughter of natives or genocide.58 By 1848, France had also begun expanding its empire to Africa, with the military occupation and colonization of Algeria—a lengthy process, which had been initiated under the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1830 and was con­ tinued by the Second Republic (1848–1852), Napoleon III’s Second Empire (1852–1870), and the Third Republic (1870–1940). Until the end of the First World War in 1918, each decade brought the nation more colonies, in West Africa (Senegal, Tunisia, Guinea, present-day Benin and Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Togo) Central Africa (Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon) East Africa (Mayotte, Djibouti, Madagascar, the Comoro Islands) Southeast Asia (Indochina, i.e. present-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) and the Indian Ocean (Tahiti, New Caledonia). In spite of the military and often ruthless nature of these conquests—which, as in all other industrialized European powers, were actively called for by financial and business interests—the White metropolitan population was comforted in the jingoistic belief that by extending its influence overseas, France was fulfilling its unique “civilizing mission” among “savage” and enslaved peoples. This imper­ ialistic White racial frame partly concealed the fact the country needed these new colonies to bolster its competitiveness vis-à-vis the British champion and also nurse its national pride, severely hurt after the 1870 defeat against Germany, which had cost metropolitan France several of its highly industrialized north­ eastern regions. The anguish of decline was thus compensated by a rhetoric of “adventure”59 which extolled the bravery and virility of French officers, but also the conquered men and women’s “exotic,” desirable otherness, as well as their deprivation, moral depravation, and ultimately untamable nature.60 Contrary to the Caribbean men and women who had been taken to the metropolitan territory with their masters, the newly colonized “natives” (indi­ gènes) were faraway people, who were never meant to have any contact with the population of “eternal France.” Geographical distance, as well as the economic system defining their unequal relations with the metropole, supposedly precluded any risk of intermingling between White French citizens and these “subjects” of the French Empire. The White metropolitan frame thus rapidly became racialized and gendered, durably casting francophone people of color as economically dependent and worthless, since only the colonies’ resources were considered valuable, not their inhabitants. From the 1850s to 1870, when France belatedly joined in the Industrial Revolution, the presence in major French cities of around one thousand Black traders, dock workers, sailors, domestic workers, participants in colonial exposi­ tions61 or students from African colonies and the Antilles rekindled the interest of painters and photographers as well as scientists. Meanwhile, police forces were

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 49

instructed in an 1851 decree to keep precise statistics of these “migrants” and make sure that each of them had a job and accommodation, and clear plans to return to his/her island or colony.62 This is both reminiscent of the treatment of Blacks by the monarchy in the mid-18th century, and indicative of a new denial of civil rights, as Blackness was now equated with migrant status, making it harder to use the “liberty-for-all” White virtuousness frame to secure decent treatment. Clearly, the citizenship status of the French men and women hailing from the Antilles made no difference in the way the Republic policed them. This was even more the case under the dictatorship of the Second Empire (1852–1870) when all the Black representatives from the Caribbean colonies were dismissed by Emperor Napoleon III and sent away from metropolitan territory, while non-aristocratic White French élites were welcome to the court. The 1870 war against Prussia, which saw the demise of the Second Empire, also entailed an entirely new form of Black presence in metropolitan France. The colonial infantry regiments (tirailleurs) created thirty years earlier in Senegal and Algeria, earned national fame for their fearlessness in battle, triggering the overt interest of the female inhabitants of northeastern France and durably inspiring popular journalists and songwriters.63 A new stereotype was born to consolidate the White imperialistic frame—that of the fierce warrior, who had been safely tamed by the colonial enterprise, but whose inherently “savage” nature was always apt to resurface in the shape of petty larceny (theft of chickens) as well as in his taste for alcohol and womanizing. This justified his being constantly reined in by White metropolitan commissioned officers and, presumably, also justified his significantly lesser pay, a blatant inequality which persisted until very recently.64 The ambiguous racist stereotype of the tirailleur is one of the specific features of the White racial frame in France, as compared with the U.S. White racial frame. On the one hand, the paternalistic images, songs, and paraphernalia around these soldiers of color make it akin to blackface minstrelsy insofar as these images still feed the national psyche with reassuring representations of Black childishness, fostering an enduring nostalgia for the imperialistic grandeur of France that remains mingled with a sense of longing for lost childhood. The best evidence of this is given by the thick-lipped and wide-eyed, grinning tirailleur that has embodied the cocoa powder brand Banania from 1913 to this day, in spite of many protests. On the other hand, celebrating the manliness and bravery of the tirailleur would have been unthinkable in the U.S. White racial frame of the late 19th century, given the powerful taboo of entrusting a Black man with deadly weapons in U.S. history, from the 17th century up to the transformation of the NRA in the late 1960s. Again, geo­ graphical distance and the near absence of any freedom of the press under the Second Empire made it easier to conceal—or even romanticize, as in the case of Algeria65—the existence of resistance to French colonization in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. It comforted the White imperialistic frame by ingraining the belief that natives actually had gained in humanity by becoming French subjects (rather than British ones) and felt grateful for such “progress.”

50 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

Under the Third Republic (1870–1940) left-wing politicians influenced by scientific racism, such as future Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, wrote that it was preferable to avoid bringing Blacks to metropolitan France, owing to the presumed absence of any “Black civilization;” only a tiny Black elite could be accepted. Scientific racism had been part of the European racial frame for a cen­ tury: for example, in 1770 the abolitionist French thinker Father Guillaume Raynal, a believer in the existence of a genetically inferior “black sperm,” had warned against the mingling of “white and black bloods,” which he perceived as a “danger for the French nation.”66 In the late 19th century, the only defender of interracial unions as a form of eugenics was an anthropology professor and gov­ ernor of the Indochina colony who later became the Minister of the French Navy, Jean-Louis de Lanessan. However, he carefully prescribed that the Black– White interracial mixing (already called métissage) should remain confined to the colonies of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Réunion island, explicitly hoping that it would lead to the extinction of the “pure” black race there and better pro­ ductivity. This example shows how persistent the White planter racial frame could be in the new imperialistic context. Meanwhile, Lanessan encouraged French élites to follow the example of U.S. statesmen by facilitating the natur­ alization of “our neighbors from the North and the East” instead of protecting the metropolitan population from these migrants’ economic competition.67 His call would be answered in the next century. By 1881, the Third Republic had its first “colored” minister (the Cuban-born Severiano de Heredia,68 naturalized in 1870, also the mayor of Paris) and new Black lawmakers from the Antilles, as well as some students from African colonies and the Caribbean in elite military and scientific schools. However, being only tolerated as tokens of the nation’s “civilizing mission,” these Black French pio­ neers were powerless to challenge the prevalence of scientific racism in both popular and academic metropolitan culture in their day and age, and their pre­ sence in élite circles has been conspicuously erased from collective memory. Heredia did not have a street to his name in Paris until October 5, 2015, and even then, Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo and George Pau-Langevin the (Black female) representative of the Hollande government in charge of overseas French territories, insisted on associating this reparation of “guilty oblivion” to a renewed rejection of the concept of race.69 The news of this late tribute, however, received next to no coverage in metropolitan French media. These Black men’s extraordinary academic merits (and, in Heredia’s case, friendship ties in French Freemason lodges)70 protected them from contestations of their citizenship rights, but not from racist slurs whenever they were public figures. Meanwhile, outside of metropolitan France, the Third Republic had put in place a new set of laws, known as the Code de l’Indigénat, to create a specific status for the natives of the colonies. This status would distinguish their rights and duties from those of European migrants. The latter’s presence was increasingly felt on metropolitan territory—particularly the rapidly growing communities of industrial

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 51

and agricultural workers from Italy, whose assimilation into French society was already seen as problematic, but who could compensate for the low fertility rate of the metropolitan French population and give the nation much-needed young men for the mandatory three-year conscription.71 Devised between 1840 and 1880 to give exceptional powers to colonial governors and officers in the after­ math of the conquest of Algeria, this “code” was first voted in 1875 in Algeria and finally inscribed into French law in 1881 to give a more stable legal frame to these exceptional, essentially repressive practices, until the territory was “paci­ fied.” However, the rule was subsequently imposed on all72 natives of French colonies by 1887; it was re-authorized every seven years, augmented with each new addition to the Empire, and enforced until 1946. Its main purpose was to assign all of the duties, but none of the rights, of French citizens to the colonial “native” subjects, on the basis of their belonging to conquered races and non-Christian religions. More precisely, it actually subjected the natives of colonies to forced labor, curfew restrictions, collective punishment, per capita taxation and the arbitrary requisitioning of lands, prop­ erty, workers and soldiers whenever the metropole needed them, without any right to be judged by a tribunal. Some clauses of this new White imperialistic racial frame were reminiscent of the Code noir, such as the one forbidding natives to give hospitality to undocumented vagrants without permission from the local authority, or the one forbidding natives to live in isolated houses. Like the Code noir, its original purpose was to simultaneously justify and control73 the degree of brutality of existing repressive practices, while attempting to bridge the gap between the universal, secular-humanist principles of the French Republic (the “liberty-for-all” White virtuousness subframe) and the political need to maintain colonial domination over conquered populations who were always likely to stage insurrections. It is difficult to give a precise account of the perceptions of French colonial rule by the so-called “subjects,” as literacy rates remained low throughout this period, and also because any criticism of “authority” was punished by imprisonment or forced “relegation” (i.e., depor­ tation to parts of the colony or other colonies). But in Algeria, for instance, the Code de l’Indigénat was quickly and tellingly nicknamed “code matraque,” or “billy-club code;”74 and uprisings took place during the First World War in present-day Mali (spring 1915) and Burkina Faso (June 1916) when forced enrollments reached a peak, only to be brutally repressed.75 While still claiming to embody the universal values of liberty, equality and fraternity, the Third Republic had thus gradually racialized French citizenship. On the one hand, it had created second-class French subjects of color, whom it considered fit to fight but not to vote. On the other hand, it made automatic the access to citizenship of second-generation European immigrants with the new law on French nationality of 1889, which made sure no males born on French soil of foreign parents could renounce French nationality at age 21 and thereby escape conscription. The process historically differed from those of enfranchisement of

52 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

European migrants and disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States, but ultimately pursued the same goal of preserving political, patriarchal, and property rights for White men by keeping right and might in their hands only. However, as mentioned earlier, this same political system still allowed Black representatives to express their views in the French Parliament (usually in leftwing parties). The tension between the “liberty-for-all” White virtuousness subframe and the White imperialistic frame is perceptible in this effort to restore some balance between the interests of White settlers and those of the native populations of the Antilles and the four cities of Senegal whose inhabitants had citizenship status— Saint-Louis, Rufisque, Dakar and the island of Gorée. The Senegalese member of Parliament Blaise Diagne consciously embodied this paradox. Born in Gorée, he had studied in Aix-en-Provence and graduated from the national school of colonial customs officers in 1891. He claimed to be in a unique position to represent the interests of the entire French population precisely because he was a Black man with two cultures, married to a White woman, and the father of biracial children.76 Paradoxically, no legal measures were voted during the seven decades of the Third Republic (1870–1940) to ban interracial marriages. However, many White metropolitan officials and scientists warned about the dangers of importing “too many” Black workers on metropolitan soil; and in 1907, the society of anthro­ pology of Paris created a permanent commission on the study of the Métis (i.e., mixed-race persons) to study the evolution of Afro-Caribbean populations and demonstrate the risks of racial mixing in metropolitan France. It was not until 1918, just after the First World War that lawmakers specified the citizenship status of biracial children, stipulating that a métis person would be deemed a French citizen if one of his or her parents—either the father or the mother—was “of European stock.” This law did not apply to the mixed-race children born in metropolitan France to citizens from the colonies in the Caribbean, French Guiana, or the four cities in Senegal, because the citizenship of these children was a fact regardless of color. Indeed, race mixing between White men and Black women, out of whether coercion or consensual sex, had been part of these colonies’ histories, and had been absorbed into the White metropolitan frame after the abolition of slavery in 1848. The point of this law was to clarify the inbetween status of biracial children who were defined as the products of “acci­ dental race mixing” (métissage accidentel) because they were born to women defined as French (i.e. White) or of European stock and men designated as “natives” (i.e. non-White “subjects” of the French empire, not citizens).77 The racial and sexist overtones were clear, for the legal status of the non-White fathers was unchanged. This law was obviously deemed necessary after the participation of colonial troops in the “Great War,” which had facilitated interracial intimacies to a much larger extent than the War of 1870. This was particularly true in factories, where

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 53

“colonial workers,” who had replaced White metropolitan workers fighting on the front, shared unskilled positions with White women, and to a lesser extent, near military posts where colonial troops were stationed. In the five years from 1914 to 1919, Black presence on metropolitan territory was eightfold the size it had been in the three previous centuries, with a total of around 500,000 people. These numbers included African American troops, whose bravery had been appreciated in integrated French regiments, particularly the famous Harlem Hellfighters, but who, contrary to the colonial troops, were not allowed to par­ ticipate in victory parades, but promptly repatriated instead.78 Between November 1916 and March 1919, French military authorities actively censored the mail sent by African and Asian colonial soldiers to their friends and family, blocking the consciously subversive sending of postcards showing nude White women or photographs of (actual or fictitious) interracial couples, as well as love letters sent to their paramours by White French fiancées or married lovers. They also replaced female nurses by male ones to stop romances between the metropolitan French personnel and men who “were not used to being treated with so much care” and “became confused.”79 Still, in spite of elected officials’ efforts to discourage White families of all social backgrounds from accepting nonChristian (especially Muslim) men as suitable husbands for their daughters, some of these couples eventually wedded—much to the chagrin of the military cen­ sorship authorities, who found these unions “depressing” and “shameful.”80 Besides, lone women forcibly separated from their military lovers by the latter’s abrupt demobilizations were sometimes left pregnant, as their intercepted mail indicates; they, too, birthed biracial children. These cases were numerous enough for lawmakers to address the legal situation of the children born to non-White soldiers and workers on metropolitan soil: in May 1920, even as the vast majority of colonial soldiers and workers had been sent home, the military censors still counted 231 interracial couples and 1,131 secret liaisons.81 They chose to let the “native” husbands remain on metropolitan territory with their spouses, rather than further discredit the prestige of the nation by send­ ing the White women off to the colonies, where their presence might cause dis­ ruption in the minds of the natives. Consciously appropriating the counter-frame that durably cast White metropolitan women as prostitutes or easy women, the lawmakers defined the children of these consensual unions as “accidental,” as if there had been no official weddings, but only unmarried White mothers. For all its sexism, this law also sent a clear warning to colonial officers and soldiers about the legal status of their unions with, and offspring from, native partners in the colonies. Contrary to what some rich planters had done under the monarchy, it was out of the question for them to bring their interracial families to metropolitan France and secure a status and an education for their biracial chil­ dren. Any marital union with a native woman would remain beyond the pale of metropolitan French law, so that metropolitan soldiers and officers who lived with so-called “colonial spouses” typically treated them as temporary partners to

54 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

be bequeathed to their best friend when they were repatriated; they were under no legal obligation to provide for their offspring. Part of the appeal of enrolling in colonial regiments of the French Army was precisely this greater sexual freedom. Men who had often received a strict Catholic education could experiment with what could be seen as state-sanctioned polygamy or prostitution, as long as they had enough “sense” never to mention their life under the tropics. This situation was not unlike that of the sons of Southern planters in the U.S. who were expected to treat African American women as sex slaves, but never as partners in actual marriages.82 However, the decree of March 28, 1918 did grant citizenship rights to biracial (métis) children who had been claimed by their fathers in the colonies. They were now entitled to attend schools reserved for French settlers instead of the schools for natives in their home colonies, and even boarding schools on metropolitan soil—which meant they were separated from their mothers, under cover of ben­ efitting from a higher-middle-class education inspired from the British model. Besides, the process of official acknowledgement of paternity was closely mon­ itored by the state and could be nullified if fraud could be proven.83 Here again, as with the law concerning biracial children born on metropolitan territory, French lawmakers considered it their duty to protect presumably feeble-minded White Frenchmen from the consequences of their romantic passions or sexual infatuations, by controlling the equalizing effects of the institution of marriage. With the celebrated presence of African American artists and athletes in Paris in the interwar period, appreciation for new Black (or rather, “New Negro” given the coincidence with the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance movement in the U.S.) cultural expressions became more and more fashionable in intellectual and artistic circles. Meanwhile, colonial exhibitions went on unabated, along with political professions of faith in “scientific” racism. At this juncture, American Blackness began to crystallize around fantasies of eroticism, embodied by Josephine Baker in particular, as well as a romanticized image of metropolitan France as a welcoming place for non-White elites. African American expatriates, and the Afri­ can and Caribbean students who had proven their virtuosity in mastering the intricacies of French language and philosophy by entering elite institutions of higher learning,84 willingly or unwillingly contributed to construct the virtuous White imperialistic frame. In this idealized, benevolent and enlightened “eternal France,” talent was valued regardless of skin color and the racial situation would never reach such extreme forms of barbarity as lynching. This virtuous White imperialistic frame is still firmly embedded in the French White racial frame, among both conservative and progressive circles. Meanwhile, the Third Republic had reneged on the promises of citizenship for all native subjects that had been made to the African members of the French Parliament (particularly the Senegalese Blaise Diagne) in exchange for the massive mobilization of so-called “Senegalese” troops in all the countries of Francophone West and Central Africa. Political discontent rose as the “évolués” (literally, the “evolved”)

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 55

students from African colonies mingled with their Caribbean counterparts and exchanged with Pan-African activists and intellectuals following the second PanAfrican Congress, which was held in Paris in 1919 under the aegis of W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore, and Blaise Diagne. But their denunciations of colonialism and of the racist treatment of natives were considered peripheral at a time when the nation was determined to focus on reinforcing its power and numbers. A significant example of this climate was the 1927 law on French nationality, which signaled once more the determination of public authorities to facilitate access to citizenship status for European immigrants by shortening from ten to three years the waiting period and lowering from 21 to 18 the age of eligibility. Meanwhile, the law deliberately excluded colonial subjects from these provi­ sions, and even refused to consider the cases of those married to French women who had children born (with citizenship status, as explained above) on metro­ politan soil. With this law, White lawmakers created an equation between Whiteness and French nationality—a White racial frame which had never existed so clearly before. In spite of the cultural preeminence of the French language, it was assumed that European migrants would better absorb French culture and customs thanks to the beneficial influence of their spouses. While lawmakers argued that it would be politically suicidal to deprive French women of their nationality at a time when depopulation had become critical in the wake of massive war losses, the exception they made for interracial “mixed marriages” was a clear statement that non-White presence of metropolitan soil was unwelcome and presumed to be unassimilable. However, colonial subjects spoke French and had been exposed to French cultural influences for longer periods than European immigrants had.85 When African, Caribbean, and African American participation in the Second World War (from 1939 to 1945) led to further interracial contact and unions, French public authorities kept the same position towards racial mixing, whether they collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces or fought for the Liberation of metropolitan France. By the summer of 1944, metropolitan women were actively deterred from joining their veteran husbands in the Francophone colonies of West Africa, which, contrary to metropolitan territory, were already under the control of Allied forces. Meanwhile, a letter from the Minister for Justice warned the officiers d’état-civil (the French equivalent of justices of the peace) against per­ forming wedding ceremonies between French women and “native subjects.” Whenever such marriages had already been validated, as in the post-World War I situation, the Ministry for Colonies recommended that the couples be “stabilized” (“fixer”) on metropolitan soil rather than sent to the colonies, for fear of causing untenable (“ingérable”) situations there. This policy was confirmed and continued after the liberation of metropolitan France.86 At the same time, as in earlier periods of French history, some high-ranking officials expressed concern about the consequences of allowing a possible multiplication of interracial mar­ riages on metropolitan territory. On May 2, 1945, just before the capitulation of

56 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

Nazi Germany, French General Ingold (a Gaullist resistant who had commanded African troops since World War I) voiced his opposition to “such a matrimony,” which “may bring on French soil in one generation four new strains of Black stock and, in two generations, sixteen new strains. … It cannot be denied that creating a mixed race [une race métisse] in France is not desirable, whether in terms of health, psychology, or prestige.”87 The increasingly tight connection made in the 1928–1945 period between legal language on the rights and qualities of wives and offspring on the one hand, and considerations on race and genetics clearly pertaining to Social Dar­ winism and scientific racism on the other hand, posed the question of French citizenship in more explicitly racial terms than ever. The very concept of a “French race” is even more problematic than that of an Anglo-Saxon race, given the history of invasions the country has always had as the westernmost territory on the European continent. Equating French nationality and White­ ness became a necessity precisely when it became clear that the geographical distance between the metropole and its colonies would no longer suffice in maintaining the colonized subjects in a state of abjection. Hence, a White racial frame that came closer to the U.S. one replaced the White imperialistic frame. Between 1940 and 1944, because it espoused Nazi anti-Semitism, the infamous Vichy régime had stripped Jewish citizens of their property rights, sometimes of their French nationality, and denied them both the right to be civil servants, journalists or artists, and the protection of the state during the four-year occu­ pation of France by Nazi troops. Now, the Fourth Republic declared that the previous régime did not represent “eternal France” and nullified these racist “exceptional laws;” but it still retained the legal weapon of enshrining French citizenship and making it a receptacle of purity as a means to determine who was a desirable or undesirable addition to the population. In the long span of history since the foundation of the kingdom of France in 496, White minorities such as Jews or Protestants had been denied the protection of the state, sometimes persecuted, dispossessed, and expelled from metropolitan territory for religious as well as economic motives. But after the two world wars, it had become clear that the once-hallowed value of patriotism, as evidenced by the sacrifice of life and limb for the “mother country,” would never trump race in determining inclusion in French identity. This was precisely because these two conflicts between imperialistic nations had brought on metropolitan soil unpre­ cedented numbers of men whose freedom of movement was incomparably greater than it had ever been, and who clearly understood that France owed them a measure of gratitude for liberating metropolitan territory.88 Even though mili­ tary authorities were quick in corralling them into separate camps to preclude further fraternization with the local population, and tried to ship them back immediately, many of these veterans expressed their outrage at the systematically delayed payments. Some refused to budge until they had received their due; others waged actual rebellions in camps on metropolitan soil or in Senegal.89

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 57

The postwar White racial frame dealt with non-White presence on metropo­ litan soil, but it had to be adjusted to the new political demands of French elites from the colonies, who had developed a counter-imperialistic frame during the war, which they articulated in a global context dominated by the push towards decolonization. Colonial subjects from Martinique, Guadeloupe and Réunion islands as well as French Guiana had been promised full French citizenship thanks to the activism of the Black elected officials, which led to the political integration of these four colonies from the slavery period as new départements (provinces) in 1946, on a par with metropolitan provinces. General de Gaulle (one of the main coordinators and leaders of the French war effort, first from London and after 1942 from Algiers) had also announced in a famous speech delivered in Brazza­ ville, Congo on January 30, 1944 that African colonies should be more closely associated to the metropole within a sort of federation. He called the ensemble “the French Union.” Contrary to a popular re-reading of this speech as proving de Gaulle’s pres­ cient vision of the historical necessity of African independences (to which he acceded in the 1960s), he never intended to grant independence to these countries at the time. His goal was to prove to Franklin Delano Roosevelt that France could still be a world economic power by maintaining an empire while remaining a democracy. His lyrical address held on the one hand, hazy promises of greater political autonomy for those countries whose elites would have demonstrated a full degree of assimilation of French culture, and, on the other hand, equally blurry proposals of reform extending French citizenship to the natives while giving them no political representatives at the French Parliament in Paris. The successive heads of state of the politically unstable Fourth Republic (1946–1958) never solved these contradictory alternatives. In reality, the majority of French members of Parliament were loath to ratify laws that would have created more French citizens of color than White ones, and de Gaulle himself warned them about the risks of race mixing on metropolitan soil, by introducing into French society only desirable (i.e. European) immigrants, “in a methodical and intelligent manner.”90 Such political indecision, against the backdrop of two traumatic wars of independence in Indochina (1946–1954) and Algeria (1954–1962) as well as brutally repressed rebellions in Madagascar (1947) and the Ivory Coast (1948– 1950), eventually led to the parting between the metropole and its African colonies. In 1956, a law organized the peaceful access to independence of the sub-Saharan African colonies of France, making sure the latter would sign cooperation agreements and maintain strong economic ties with the mother country. When a military coup during the Algerian war led to a change in the French régime in 1958, General de Gaulle inaugurated the Constitution of the current Fifth Republic, which greatly strengthened the executive branch. The same year, the new President embarked on a tour of francophone Africa, in order to convince his partners to opt for autonomy for their states within a

58 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

newly formed Franco-African Community (CFA). In fact, this attempt at building a federation was never intended to give full citizenship rights to the former subjects, so the move towards independence was inevitable,91 and was completed by 1960 for all former African colonies. Yet most of them remained part of the ensemble, which was revamped into an economic and monetary Commonwealth including a common currency (the Franc CFA) and binding trade and military agreements. This neo-colonial arrangement secures the pro­ viding to France alone of strategic raw materials such as oil, gas, and uranium, and the stationing of French troops on military bases, in exchange for technical assistance from France and a monopoly on the French market for such goods as cocoa, coffee, pineapples, and bananas. In the fifteen years of economic prosperity that ensued for metropolitan France, the unprecedented need of industries for low-paid workforce triggered an influx of Black workers. French political élites used the country’s colonial assets to respond to the needs of capitalist productivity, apparently dispensing with their previous concerns about keeping citizenship for White migrants only. The gov­ ernment organized the coming to the metropole of male and female Caribbean French citizens in order to lower the unemployment rate in the Antilles and reduce tensions there.92 Beginning in 1975, it also recommended that the families of the isolated West African migrants should join them on metropolitan soil—a right inscribed in French law since November 1945, at a time when foreigners were presumed to be Europeans,93 which would automatically grant citizenship to the future children born on French soil. Even after the oil crisis of 1973 and the beginning of the subsequent economic crisis, specific sectors were still in need of unskilled labor, such as the construction industry, the hotel trade or the sanitation sector, as a result of the ageing of the native White French population.94 The African migrants, who, contrary to the West Indian citizens, had been considered as a temporary workforce in the 1950s and 1960s, were thus encouraged to put down roots in France. However, from 1972, the successive governments consistently tried to restrict the issuance of residency permits, imposing on the candidates various conditions of “decent housing” or proof of employment or resources.95 These restrictions were similar to those imposed on Blacks in France in the second half of the 19th century, within the White imperialistic frame. Even before the economic crisis of 1973 made itself felt, this situation had fostered new popular representations of Blacks as illiterate, polygamous, and unassimilable migrants who settled in France to take advantage of its Social Security system and send most of their wages to their rural villages in Mali or Senegal. This White racial frame is very close to the anti-immigrant dimension of the current White racial frame dominating U.S. political discourse since the 1970s, which similarly erases the colonial relations between the U.S.A. and Mexico. However, in France the 1970s witnessed a diversification in the origins and social backgrounds of the African migrants. An increasing number of male as

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 59

well as female students arrived from large cities in West and Central Africa to attend universities in France. They had not initially intended to remain on French soil but eventually did so, often due to political instability and ethnic or gender discrimination in their home countries.96 This category of migrants was—and still is—treated with scorn or well-meaning paternalism, as if they were necessarily unskilled and could not possibly have an education. In reaction to the increasingly visible presence of families of migrants from the former African colonies, native French citizens first expressed strong feelings of rejection towards the natives of North Africa—particularly Algerians, as a con­ sequence of the cruel war between the two countries which has left scars to this day. Meanwhile, they tolerated Sub-Saharan migrants better, assuming that they would eventually return to their home countries, since most of them were only delivered temporary work and residency permits. However, both North and SubSaharan African migrants moved from hostels for single male workers (built in the late 1960s) into newly built, soulless housing projects at the periphery of Paris and other large French cities. There, they shared precarious living conditions with working-class native White French people, and rapidly built ethnic or genderbased support groups, to facilitate their adjustment to their new environment and counter their stigmatization as visible “Others” by employers, neighbors, or their children’s teachers.97 In 1983, the first generation of French-born young adults of North African descent (self-identified as “Beurs”) demonstrated, with 100,000 marching across the country from Marseille to Paris to demand the end of racial discrimination and equal treatment with other French citizens by employers, law enforcement and public opinion. Meanwhile, Sub-Saharan African families living on French soil attracted little political and media attention; the French White racial frame makes a distinction between “Arabs”98 and Blacks, much in the same way as the U.S. White racial frame makes one between Latinos and African Americans. The French-born sons and daughters of the first generation of Sub-Saharan African migrants would only come of age in the early 1990s. However, through the 1980s, these figures of Black citizens and the legal status of their parents were displaced by the extremely effective scapegoat embodied by the illegal African migrant, which has durably shaped the racial framing of Blacks in France to this day. The first laws substantially modifying the Ordinance of November 1945 were passed in 1980 and 1984 respectively, assimilating undocumented foreigners with disturbers of the public order fit to be deported, and refusing legalization to those relatives of residents who requested the temporary residency permit while already on French soil. Their highly publicized enforcement in September 1986, when the right-wing Min­ ister of the Interior Charles Pasqua forcibly shipped 101 Malians back to their country (and 6,400 more migrants over the next four months) durably ingrained in public opinion the representation of Blacks as illegal aliens and fake asylum seekers trying to invade the country by the millions. Yet, the census of 1992

60 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

indicated that only 22% of the 3 million foreign nationals living on French soil were African-born—that is, 660,000 people out of 60 million.99 The conflation between this form of Othering and the stigmatization of African families living legally on French soil was completed by the mid-1990s, when the undocumented parents of children born in France decided to become visible by starting hunger strikes in Paris to denounce their situation as non-deportable illegals. While the government increased ID controls, stored fingerprints on a database and tightened requirements for visitors from African countries, it also put an end to the automatic access to citizenship of children born on French territory, partly because of the increasing success of the Front National, a xenophobic right-wing party led by the charismatic, populist orator Jean-Marie Le Pen. The successive Ministers of the Interior have each amended the Ordinance of November 1945 until the latest laws, passed in 2007. However, foreign nationals still have to prove that they have actual family ties with long-term residents (there is no permanent residency status in France) or citizens in order to be given a visa, and the acquisition of French citizenship by French-born descendants of two foreign nationals must be requested at age 18 in order to be definitive. Media attention was focused on the undocumented migrants who were shown on TV uncompromisingly demanding legalization for single persons as well as families, spreading mats and sleeping bags on the floor of the churches they were occupying, and building barricades inside until the church doors were ripped open with axes by police forces. These images elicited gut reactions of rejection among many voters, even though this movement was supported by some church leaders as well as many celebrities and intellectuals. Meanwhile, a spate of articles in the press also alerted public opinion about the allegedly widespread practices of female genital mutilation, forced marriages, repudiation, and de facto polygamy in the projects where most working-class African families lived with their Frenchborn children.100 This sensitization of the public to the situations of African or African-des­ cended females living in France reached a peak in 2001. That year, one of the state-owned network TV channels broadcast a fictional movie entitled Fatou la Malienne, 101 in which the heroine, a French-born young woman, is forcibly married in Paris by her parents and extended family to a cousin from Mali, who rapes and sequesters her. She escapes her fate thanks to her native White French friend (the “White savior” figure, a recognizable feature of the White racial frame). The impact of the movie, which had 8 million viewers, not only led to the release in 2003 of a government-sponsored study estimating at 70,000 the number of migrant or French-born females at risk of being forcibly married, and those concerned by female genital mutilations at 35,000.102 The film’s very title also further blurs the distinction between presumably uneducated migrant women (living in France either legally or illegally) and young Black French citizens edu­ cated in France. Implicit is the suggestion that the latter’s insulation in urban

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 61

enclaves predominantly peopled with African migrant families deprived them of any critical distance vis-à-vis ancestral traditions. These young women are sup­ posedly subjected to both parental ignorance and tyranny, and the indifference of French public authorities, which ignore some parents’ or husbands’ strategy of resorting to holidays to the home country as pretexts to engage in practices for­ bidden by French law.103 The ultimate message to young women of African descent is to try their best to remain on French soil for their own sake, while public opinion still persistently identifies them as irredeemably foreign, steeped in primitive customs and coarse smells of West African incense. In this neo-imperialistic White frame, shared by both liberals and conservatives, these descendants of colonial subjects are only potentially civilizable, provided they will renounce their African-ness—an impossible injunction in a context where second- and third-generation migrants remain constantly Othered by political leaders as well as by their fellow citizens. The right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, in his successful 2007 campaign for presidential office, probably gave the best example of this paradox. He simulta­ neously pledged that French citizenship would be granted to all “persecuted” women all over the world,104 and reminded Muslim families in general, and African ones in particular, that polygamy, excision and the slaughtering of sheep in bathtubs were incompatible with French law.105 While both promises seem in keeping with the White virtuousness subframe of liberty for all, the former was clearly devoid of any serious intention to deliver, in a period when 80% of asylum seekers’ petitions are denied. As for the latter pledge, it targeted with coded racist language “Arab” and Black racial minorities, whose color and names will always speak against them, no matter how far removed from ancestral cus­ toms they may be. Yet, even as the media image of African families was thus degraded, the gen­ eration that came of age in the 1990s resisted the stigmatization process. Since the early 1990s, before the victory of the multiracial (“Black–Blanc–Beur”) French soccer team at the FIFA World Cup of 1998, young French adults of African and West Indian descent have preferred to be identified by the general public as “Blacks.” The English word has been used instead of the French Noir as part of a counter-frame to turn the stigma of color into a positive identity marker, espe­ cially after the release of Spike Lee’s widely popular movie Malcolm X in 1992. At the same time, though, they have maintained strong ties with the home island or country of their families. Many of them not only eat typical cuisine, don tradi­ tional outfits on special occasions and braid their hair in traditional patterns, but also understand and even speak Creole or African languages in their families, cultivate extended family ties, and visit their relatives in the West Indies or in their parents’ home countries whenever possible. Over the past 20 years, the construction of Black French identity has bor­ rowed from three sources: the (allegedly colorblind) French educational system, African or West Indian traditions as transmitted by the parents and extended

62 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

family, and commodified African American culture. As such, the process of identity formation of the Black French has not substantially differed from that of other young French “ethnics” (Sephardic or Ashkenazi Jews, North African Muslims or Asians) with whom they grew up in more or less integrated settings. The urban riots of 2005, which were triggered by the tragic deaths of two teenagers (of North African and African descent) chased by police officers in an impoverished town in the greater Paris area, symbolized the generation’s despair with lack of economic opportunity and with law enforcement as a symbol of state repression. As such, they may be compared with the Ferguson riots in the summer of 2014 in Missouri. However, many politicians and part of the media attributed the rioters’ vio­ lence to their African origins, regularly insisting on polygamy as the cause of the lack of integration of young Blacks in France,106 in keeping with the neo­ imperialistic White racial frame, instead of treating the problem of urban poverty as a national priority. Yet, far from remaining secluded in ghettos, Black French culture, in its many diverse forms, has increasingly become part of urban culture. Comedians, in particular, have shared the codes of their ethnic heritages by simultaneously celebrating and critiquing their cultural backgrounds while subtly denouncing discrimination and institutional racism. Comic duets such as that of Élie et Dieudonné107 from 1990 to 1997 and individual skits have become the hallmark of U.S.-inspired French standup comedy under the aegis of the activist comedian Jamel Debbouze in his popular show Jamel Comedy Club since 2006. In such a context, Black–White couples have been perceived in two opposite ways. On the one hand, they appear as a natural consequence of the integrated character of education (both public and private) and universities, which, beginning in the 1970s, have increasingly served students from all socio-eco­ nomic backgrounds and have always welcomed foreign students from former colonies. Probably the most emblematic sign of the increased visibility and acceptability of interracial couples among the younger generation was the award-winning hit “Kolé Séré.” This love song was performed in 1988, in French and Martiniquan Creole, by Jocelyne Béroard, the (Black) female lead singer of the world-famous band Kassav’, and the (White) crooner Philippe Lavil, the descendant of a family of planters established in Martinique since 1750. The song, relatively typical of “zouk love” musical style, had initially been a hit in the French West Indies two years before. However, in 1986 the male singer was Jean-Claude Naimro, a Black musician who was also part of Kassav’, and the lyrics for his part of the duet were in Creole, as for Jocelyne Béroard’s part, so that the song’s audience was confined to the Creole-speaking public. It was Philippe Lavil who offered Jocelyne Béroard to make a cover of it with him. It was a time when the metropolitan public was keen to discover African pop music (then popularized by Manu Dibango, Selif Keita, Alpha Blondy or Mory Kanté) and West Indian culture at large, from food to music (with the bands La Compagnie Créole, Zouk Machine, or Kassav’).

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 63

As in the initial version, the singers impersonated an estranged couple who expressed both their regrets for not trying harder to stay together and their excitement on being unexpectedly reunited, taking the opportunity to apol­ ogize to each other, heal their wounds and dance again in the zouk style, “collé-serré,” that is, hugging each other tightly and snugly. The video clip showed the young woman in Paris, elegantly dressed, sporting a short afro and putting a coin into a phone booth to call her ex-boyfriend, who was seen living in the Caribbean countryside. The two sang their parts alternately over the phone, and finally got reunited on a Paris street, where they walked side by side with one arm around each other’s shoulders, singing the chorus lines. The video clip ended with images of Caribbean children and adults in the countryside and on boats, looking happy, some of them singing along.108 Much less explicit than the lyrics in the suggestion of the physical bond and tenderness bringing the pair together again, the images rather insisted on the common attachment of the two singers to the Martiniquan culture and way of life. The male singer’s fluency in Creole belied his Whiteness and hinted at his planter family background. The underlying theme of reconciliation between the descendant of planters and the descendant of slaves was also facilitated by the choice of showing Jocelyne Béroard as a successful professional woman strolling in the streets of Paris and taking a taxi. The underlying conclusion was that the two Martiniquans would ultimately resume life together in their common homeland, out of choice and not economic necessity. In contradiction with this idyllic counter-frame of a happily diverse French identity, the increasing politicization of the theme of immigration also led inter­ racial couples to be perceived, and portrayed in the media, as contributing in the threat of dilution of French citizenship. Since the 1990s, conservative politicians and the mass media had regularly warned the public about the supposedly wide­ spread practice of so-called “white marriages”—that is, marriages in name only, whereby a foreigner fraudulently obtained French citizenship against money. This conspiracy theory resurrected the suspicion of fraud that prevailed in the early 20th century, when lawmakers insisted on verifying paternity claims of biracial children. Because media representations had preserved and perpetuated the equation between Frenchness and Whiteness, interracial couples were more sys­ tematically suspected of such scams than couples sharing similar racial features, regardless of nationality. Following the urban riots of 2005, the state authorities further reinforced the control of couples including a foreign national, requiring evidence of employment to issue a long-term visa. In the broader context of reform of naturalization law, in 2006 the number of years of life in common required for the foreign partner to be eligible for naturalization was augmented from two to four years, in order to deter fraud. In 2007, the newly elected conservative government under President Sarkozy released preoccupying figures: out of 100,000 naturalizations, 30,000 resulted from marriages with a French citizen, while the number of long-term residency

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permits issued every year to partners of French nationals (estimated at 50,000) was twice as important as those delivered for professional motives. These figures being used to present international marriages as “the main source of immigra­ tion to France,” public opinion was implicitly encouraged to consider the 84,000 marriages including a foreigner (out of a total 273,500 in 2008) as complicit to the spiral of abuses by migrants and unpatriotic French nationals (whether White or non-White) threatening the traditional French way of life. Conservative President Sarkozy (2007–2012) pledged to put an end to this supposed plague.109 The country had moved from the defensive White imper­ ialistic frame of 1918, which considered White French partners as unwitting participants in the loss of prestige of the nation, to a more aggressive White racial frame haunted by the fear of invasion and dilution of French identity through the loss of Whiteness. Eventually, the more recent modifications of the law have included since 2011 “grey” marriages, whereby the unsuspecting (presumably White) French partner is considered to have been deceived by the foreign partner. This White citizen is encouraged to report the latter, so that he or she may be stripped of their resi­ dency permit or proof of citizenship, excluded from French territory for ten years or for life, sentenced to 5 years in jail, and forced to pay a 15,000-euro fine. Interestingly, a similar act of deception between two nationals entails no other sanction than the annulment of the marriage.110 As with “white” marriages, it is difficult to obtain accurate figures to assess the seriousness of what the govern­ ment and the media presented as a “plague” between 2009 and 2012. Then Minister of Immigration Eric Besson had initially alluded to “thousands” of cases, but the number of complaints lodged in the wake of the law does not seem to have exceeded three thousands.111 The typical image of such pairs, as inferred from testimonies on websites for victims112 and press articles on the topic, is that of a White French woman (often past her forties) and a younger man of North or Sub-Saharan African origin. Less frequently, the image conjured is that of a North or Sub-Saharan African woman lodging a false complaint for domestic violence against her French husband (often of North African descent, or White and dis­ abled); and, much more rarely, that of a White French man past his forties and a young Russian or Ukrainian woman. Since the socialist François Hollande succeeded President Sarkozy in May 2012, media attention to this issue has subsided. The Roma minority’s issues and the presence on French territory of thousands of homeless illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia or Syria, blocked en route to the UK, suddenly embodied more immediate fears of invasion and triggered explicit expressions of rejection or violence on the part of local populations. Yet, among these, an increasing tendency to racialize French identity has recently emerged in political discourse beyond the far-right Front National and media provocateurs such as the right-wing journalist Eric Zemmour. The former conservative minister and cur­ rent Member of the European Parliament Nadine Morano came under fire in

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 65

October 2015 for asserting in an entertainment TV program that France is “a White-race country with a Judeo-Christian tradition.”113 Very few mainstream politicians had so explicitly associated Whiteness with religion and the defense of national boundaries, in the midst of a massive immigration crisis triggered by Islamic Fundamentalist control of war zones in Syria and Iraq. Although her statement sparked outrage, particularly from West Indian socialist lawmakers, and eventually caused her to be expelled from her party for refusing to apologize, she seemed genuinely convinced of the obvious truth of her assertion and successfully reached out to a number of voters, not just from the National Front. Arguably, the long process of hallowing French soil ultimately served the same purpose as the consecration of White Southern womanhood in the United States—the defense of citizenship rights as a vital privilege to be reserved for Europeans only, and the policing of interracial couples as potentially introducing disruption and fraud into the socio-political order. However, a significant var­ iance with the Alabamian case is the attitudes of White French political elites and media circles, which, through the 19th and 20th centuries, seem to have instilled in the rest of the population their particular fear of social and racial mixing114 in a more pressing manner than in the former Confederate state. Because metropoli­ tan French elites identify less closely with the plantation system than White Ala­ bamian lawmakers, their reaction to Black presence on French territory was not systematized until the Republic’s imperialistic frame entailed increasing contact between Black soldiers and workers and White French women during the two world wars. Because they believed in eugenicist theories attributing cultural decline to mixing with “inferior” peoples, metropolitan French lawmakers then felt compelled to racialize access to citizenship privileges in increasingly explicit ways—albeit in persistent denial of the now-evident equations of French citi­ zenship with Whiteness, and Whiteness with Christian tradition. These complex webs of political rhetoric, patriarchal legal policing, and sexual fantasies rooted in distinct historical processes of Othering Blackness provide both the framework for the lived experiences of present-day interracial couples, and a prism through which they may be analyzed and compared.

Notes 1 Jacques-Paul Migne, Encyclopédie théologique, ou, Série de Dictionnaires sur Toutes les Parties de la Science religieuse, vol. 3, Paris: Ateliers catholiques, 1855, entry “Servage,” 885–8. 2 Beyond the controversy over the legal reality of the “droit de cuissage” (a custom whereby a nobleman was allegedly entitled by law to rape each of his female serfs on the night of her wedding) the philosopher Geneviève Fraisse reasserted the reality of sexual oppression in medieval France as an early form of sexual harassment, com­ parable to the unofficial, yet extremely common, practice of sexual oppression of female slaves in America. Geneviève Fraisse, “Droit de cuissage et devoir de l’his­ torien,” Clio 3, 1996,, accessed on April 20, 2012. See also Marie-Victoire Louis, Le Droit de cuissage, France, 1860–1930, Paris: Éditions de

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3 4 5


7 8


10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

l’atelier, 1994; Alain Boureau, Le Droit de cuissage, la fabrication d’un mythe, XIIIe-XXe siècle, Paris: Albin Michel, 1995. See Marc Bloch, La société féodale, Paris: Albin Michel, coll. Bibliothèque de “l’Evo­ lution de l’Humanité,” [1939] 1994. Migne, Encyclopédie théologique, 885. Philippe Bernardi, “Esclaves et artisanat: une main-d’œuvre étrangère dans la Prov­ ence des XIIIe–XVe siècles,” in Société des Historiens Médiévistes de l’Enseigne­ ment Supérieur Public, L’étranger au Moyen-Âge: XXXe Congrès de la S.H.M.E.S., Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2000, 79–94. See Marcel Koufinkana, Les esclaves noirs en France sous l’Ancien Régime: XVIe–XVIIIe siècles, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2008, 17, Jacques de Cauna, “Les oublis d’une mémoire sélective de l’émancipation des esclaves: Deux grands abolitionnistes, Polvérel et La Fayette,” in Elyette Benjamin-Labarthe and Eric Dubesset, eds., Emancipations car­ ibéennes: Histoire, mémoire, enjeux socio-économiques et politiques, Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010, 42, or Lucien Pierre Peytraud, Esclavage aux Antilles françaises avant 1789, New York: Cambridge University Press, [1897] 2010, 373–4. See Joe R. Feagin, The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and CounterFraming, New York: Routledge [2009] 2013, 67, 87, 94, 129, 133. See Chantal Maignan-Claverie, Le métissage dans la littérature des Antilles françaises, le complexe d’Ariel, Paris: Karthala, 140; Léo Elisabeth, La société martiniquaise aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris: Karthala, 2003; Louis Sala-Molins, Le Code Noir ou le calvaire de Canaan, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, [1987] 2002; Marie-José Tubiana, Le code noir et autres textes de lois sur l’esclavage, Saint-Maur: Sepia, 2006; Vernon Valentine Palmer, “Essai sur les origines et les auteurs du Code noir,” Revue internationale de droit comparé, 1998, no. 1, 111–40, ridc_0035-3337_1998_num_50_1_1120. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. and Barbara K. Kopytoff, “Racial Purity and Interracial Sex in the Law of Colonial and Antebellum Virginia,” in Werner Sollors, ed., Interracialism: Black–White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 102 and footnote 97. All translations from French texts are mine, unless indicated otherwise. Ibid., 84–9. Louis Sala-Molins, Le Code Noir ou le calvaire de Canaan, 5th edition, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, [1987] 2012, 186–96. See Koufinkana, Les esclaves noirs en France sous l’Ancien Régime, 103 and Sue Pea­ body, There Are No Slaves in France: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, 2 and 19. Erick Noël, “L’esclavage dans la France moderne,” Dix-Huitième Siècle, vol. 1, no. 39 (2007), Paris: Editions de la Découverte, 366. See also Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 3. Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 6–7. Ibid., 5. For religious and political reasons behind the resistance of the Parlement of Paris to the Edict, see Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 9–12. Noël, “L’esclavage dans la France moderne,” 367–8 and 369 (map). See also Pea­ body, There Are No Slaves in France, 6. See Erick Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Tallandier, 2006, 95–7, and Pierre Boulle, Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime, Paris: Perrin, 2007, 169–71. Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 73.

Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 8.

Ibid., 26.

Ibid., 367.

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 67

22 As Sue Peabody demonstrates, the Freedom Principle was not unique to French legal traditions, but also existed in English law and other European legal systems. 23 Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 26 (“a man equal to us” and “a citizen”) and 24 (role of the procureur du Roi). 24 Translation by Sue Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 26. 25 Ibid., 29–30. 26 The “mémoire” (brief) of Boucaux’s lawyer, Mallet, is part of the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and is available online at 12148/bpt6k125545v, accessed on November 14, 2012. See also Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 13–26 and 29–30, for a complete analysis of the case. 27 Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 27, 29. 28 Noël, “L’esclavage dans la France moderne,” 366–7. 29 See Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 39 ff. 30 See Thomas E. Kaiser, review of Sue Peabody’s There Are No Slaves in France in The Journal of Modern History, vol. 70, no. 3 (September 1998), 706. See also Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 29 and 45. 31 This was the only provision for manumission included in the Declaration of 1738, which otherwise forbade the emancipation of slaves on metropolitan soil. See Pea­ body, There Are No Slaves in France, 43. Regarding the under-registration of Blacks and mulattoes as the norm in Paris before and after the Ordinance of 1762 making their registration and self-registration mandatory, see Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 65. 32 Cissie Fairchild, Domestic Enemies: Servants and Their Masters in Old Regime France, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984, 124–5, mentioned in Pea­ body, There Are No Slaves in France, n. 20, p. 146. See also Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 41–2. 33 Letter from the administrator of Saint-Domingue to the then Minister of the Navy, Count de Maurepas, quoted in Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 40. The exact date is not given in the endnote (32, p. 147) but the year is 1752. Regarding Fénelon of Guadeloupe’s similar arguments 12 years later, see Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 76. 34 Letter from the administrators of Martinique to Rouillé (Maurepas’s successor as Minister of the Navy) dated January 30, 1753, quoted in Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 75. 35 Guillaume Poncet de la Grave in De la Haye, “Sentence de règlement rendue en l’Amirauté de la France concernant les déclarations à passer pour les nègres et les mulâtres,” April 5, 1762, quoted in Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 63–4. Sue Peabody insists on Poncet de la Grave’s “obsessive determination to arrest and interrogate black prostitutes” and his “vivid preoccupation with the control of illicit sexuality, whether in the form of prostitution or miscegenation” (endnote 11, p. 154). 36 Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 65–6. 37 Ibid., 68. 38 Ibid., 68–9. In his study, Erick Noël stresses that the male/female ratio was 53% in Marseille, Provence, where interracial marriages tended to be more frequent, with records indicating a proportion of a quarter of non-White children under the age of ten, mostly born on metropolitan soil and registered as mulattoes (Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 105 and 109–10). 39 Ibid., 71. 40 Ibid., 123 and 140–1. 41 Ibid., 104, 125, 126, 127, 132–3, 138 and 140. 42 In 1785 Louisiana, then under Spanish rule, Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró sought to force both free and enslaved women of color to stop dressing luxuriously

68 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

43 44 45 46




50 51 52 53 54

and cover their hair in public, to show subservience to White Creole women— particularly the wives or potential fiancées of their White “protectors,” who resented the competition for these men’s sexual attention. However, instead of ingraining in women of color a sense of racial and social inferiority, the “Tignon law”(from a French word designating the bun hairstyle) was promptly and creatively circum­ scribed by these same women, who designed elaborate head wraps made of colorful madras material, tied in such ways they resembled the hats forbidden to them. They were imitated in the French West Indies and in the Southern U.S.A. This is an example of women of color successfully working out a counter-frame to the White racial frame imposed by the White planter caste. See Virginia Meacham Gould, “A Chaos of Iniquity and Discord” in Catherine Clinton and Michelle Gillespie, eds, The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, 232–46, and Lisa Ze Winters, The Mulatta Concubine: Terror, Intimacy, Freedom, and Desire in the Black Transatlantic, Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2016, 77–79. For images, see Barbara Wells Sarudy, “Turbans, Voodoo, & Tignon Laws in Louisiana,” November 7, 2013, https://b-womeninamericanhis, accessed on August 15, 2018. See also the African American sociologist and photographer-activist Ayana V. Jackson’s 2015 work “Tignon,” juct-2016, accessed on August 15, 2018. See Peabody, There Are No Slaves in France, 76–7; Noël, “L’esclavage dans la France moderne”; 373–4 and Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 76–7. Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 81. Noël, Être noir en France au XVIIIe siècle, 84, 134–5. “Arrêt du Conseil portant défense de célébrer mariage entre les blancs, noirs, mulâtres et autres gens de couleur, et à tous notaires de passer aucun contrat entre eux,” April 5, 1778, in Alfred Jourdan, Decrusy, Isambert, Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, depuis 420 jusqu’à la révolution de 1789, vol. 25 (“Du 10 mai 1777 au 31 décembre 1778”), Paris: Belin-Leprieur, 1826, 257–8, 2onl3ga8C&printsec=frontcover&hl=fr&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=one page&q&f=false, accessed August 14, 2013. “Frédéric, mulâtre libre, demande l’autorisation de se marier avec une fille de Maubeuge, blanche, mariage contraire à l’arrêt du Conseil du 5 avril 1778 (1787),” French National Archives, 2w/?dossier=/collection/INVENTAIRES/Ministeres/SEM/E/&first=241_211A/FRC AOM06_COLE_241211A_0145&last=241_211A/FRCAOM06_COLE_241211A_01 46&title=Frédéric,+mulâtre+libre,+demande+l’autorisation+de+se+marier+avec+une+ fille+de+Maubeuge,+blanche,+ma.riage+contraire+à+l’arrêt+du+Conseil+du+5+ avril+1778+1787, accessed August 14, 2013. See Michel Figeac, “Les magistrats en révolte en 1789 ou la fin du rêve politique de la monarchie des juges,” Histoire, économie et société 25–3, Echec et magistrature, 2006, 385–400., accessed on August 16, 2018. Jennifer Heuer, “The One-Drop Rule in Reverse? Interracial Marriages in Napo­ leonic and Restoration France,” Law and History Review, Fall 2009, University of Illinois Press for the American Society for Legal History, presented online in asso­ ciation with the History Cooperative, =lhr/27.3/heuer.html, accessed March 9, 2012. Ibid.



Quoted in ibid.


Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 69

55 I will discuss this point later in this chapter, when the 1928 law on French nation­ ality is mentioned. 56 Heuer, “The One Drop Rule in Reverse?” 57 “Emmanuel Macron et ‘l’île’ de Guyane,” Le Point, March 27, 2017, www.lepoint. fr/presidentielle/emmanuel-macron-et-l-ile-de-guyane-27-03-2017-2115006_3121. php, accessed on August 16, 2018. 58 Françoise Vergès, “L’Outre-Mer, une survivance de l’utopie coloniale républicaine?” in Pascal Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel and Sandrine Lemaire, eds., La fracture coloniale: La société française au prisme de l’héritage colonial, Paris: Éditions La Découverte, 2005, 70, 71. My translation and additions; emphases in the text. 59 On the recent political attempt by French lawmakers to permanently inscribe in history schoolbooks language on the “positive role” of French colonization in Algeria (March 2005), see Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, “Sur la réhabilitation du passé colonial de la France,” in Blanchard et al., La fracture coloniale, 122–8. 60 See Nacira Guénif-Souilamas, “La réduction à son corps de l’indigène de la République,” in Blanchard et al., La fracture coloniale, 199–208. 61 The first colonial exhibition took place in Paris, in the context of the World Fair of 1855; the next ones took place in the World Fairs of 1867 and 1878 (400 “natives” from the whole Empire, but also citizens from the French Antilles, were shipped to Paris on this occasion). The fascination of the Parisian public with the exoticized “Other” was such that these exhibitions became more systematic: the infamous “human zoos” began in 1877 and were staged every year in major French cities and smaller towns until 1937. Inspired from the Barnum show, but confined to metro­ politan France, these itinerant colonial exhibits displayed in enclosed spaces, behind bars and often in the company of wild beasts, native “subjects” of all ages and from each colony of the French Empire. Their aim was to insist on the discrepancy between the “savage” performers and the “civilized” viewers, in recreations of “life scenes” which were an extremely popular form of entertainment for families—in spite of, or because of, the quasi-nudity of the male and female performers from African colonies as well as Pacific and Indian Ocean possessions. See Nicolas Bancel et al., eds., Zoos humains: Au temps des exhibitions humaines, Paris: Editions de la Découverte, 2004. 62 Pascal Blanchard, ed., La France noire: Trois siècles de présences des Afriques, des Caraïbes, de l’Océan indien et de l’Océanie, Paris: Editions La Découverte, 2011, 42–3. 63 In the diary he wrote as a prisoner of war during the war of 1870, Lieutenant Louis de Narcy noted the fascination of the French villagers who used to visit his camps and have a closer look at his troops: “… it is our turcos, particularly the Negroes (‘Nègres’), that the women are hungrily staring at” (Louis de Narcy, Journal d’un officier de turcos, [1870] 1902, quoted in Blanchard, La France noire, 43). See also the ambiguous recognition expressed towards the same “Turcos” (Algerian tirailleurs) in the lyrics of the Marche des tirailleurs, written in 1890 to pay tribute to the sacrifice of the regiment of 1870, who seized six Prussian cannons in a heroic uphill charge: “These heroes are quite a sight/As they die, their mouths still joking/ The Turcos are black Frenchmen,” one stanza asserts, while the chorus repeats, “the Turcos are good children.” See 64 The military pensions of all the veterans of colonial regiments (except those of their White officers) remained frozen at their 1959 amounts until President Sarkozy “de­ crystallized” them in July 2010, at a time when most war veterans were already dead or very old. An initial lawsuit had been brought by a Senegalese veteran against the French state at the European Court of Justice in the early 1980s, to no avail. See Blanchard, La France noire, footnote 24, p. 334. 65 I am alluding to the many paintings representing the surrender of the Algerian chief Abd-el-Kader with his extended family, which pay tribute to his military talents and

70 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France


67 68 69

70 71



dignity in ways reminiscent of artwork of the same period that celebrated Vercin­ gétorix, the vanquished icon of Gaul resistance to Roman invasion. Late-nineteenth­ century metropolitan French élites were obsessed with the anguish of losing ground to superior races of conquerors as their own ancestors had done, for the history of France has kept nearly no traces of Gaul culture or even language, since the latter was unwritten. The mingling with the Roman invaders had given rise to a refined Gallo-Roman civilization, but with the defeat of 1870, the nagging fear of France being wiped out by the rising Prussian empire surfaced underneath reassuring imperialistic rhetoric and imagery. Guillaume-Thomas Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes, vol. 4, Amsterdam, 1770, 120, quoted in Andrew Curran, “Buffon et l’Histoire naturelle des Africains,” Dix-huitième siècle, vol. 44, no. 1 (2012), Paris: La Découverte, 183–99, e-siecle-2012-1-page-183.htm#re14no14, accessed on August 17, 2018. Jean-Louis de Lanessan, Principes de colonisation, Paris: Bibliothèque scientifique internationale, 1897, 26–27, 30, teImage, accessed on August 17, 2018. See Robert Fikes, “Heredia, Severiano de (1836–1901),” entry in the BlackPast Online Encyclopedia Index, no-de-1836-1901, accessed on August 17, 2018. Philippe Triay, “L’hommage de Paris à Severiano de Heredia, maire noir de la capitale et ministre de la République au XIXe siècle,” France info Outre-mer la première, October 5, 2015, ge-de-paris-severiano-de-heredia-maire-noir-de-paris-et-ministre-de-la-republique-a u-xixe-siecle-292827.html, accessed on August 17, 2018. See Paul Estrade, Severiano de Heredia: Ce mulâtre cubain que Paris fit “maire” et la République, ministre, Paris: Editions Les Indes savantes, 2011. See “Historique du droit de la nationalité française,” French Ministry of the Interior official website, March 12, 2013, ccompagnement/L-acces-a-la-nationalite-francaise/Historique-du-droit-de-la-na tionalite-francaise, accessed on August 5, 2014. See Emmanuelle Saada, “Une nationalité par degré,” in Patrick Weil and Stéphane Dufoix, eds., L’Esclavage, la colonisation et après …, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2005, 193–226, and Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison, De l’indigénat: Anatomie d’un “monstre” juridique: le droit colonial en Algérie et dans l’Empire français, Paris: Edi­ tions de la Découverte, 2010. There was, however, one exception to this rule. In 1870, in the immediate aftermath of the demise of Emperor Napoleon III, the Third Republic had automatically granted French citizenship to all Jewish Algerian natives by a decree (the Décret Crémieux) while making it almost impossible for Muslim Algerian natives to earn French citizenship. The justification for this unequal treat­ ment was the fast pace of cultural assimilation of the French language and values by Jewish Algerian communities since the conquest of the territory in 1830. This was seen as proof of their higher degree of civilization and assimilability—actual syno­ nyms for Whiteness in the French construction of the concept, at a time when the overwhelming majority of Muslim natives lived in tribes in rural areas with no access to education or health care (a situation which was still observable a century later). This decree, which was abolished under the anti-Semitic rule of Vichy (1940–1945) and re-enforced a year after the liberation of North Africa by British and American troops in November 1942, was to become one of the causes of the Algerian war for independence. See Isabelle Merle’s book review of Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison’s De l’indigénat, in Les carnets de Genèses, September 24, 2011,, accessed on August 5, 2014.

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 71

74 See Le Cour Grandmaison, De l’indigénat. 75 Blanchard, La France noire, 101. 76 Blaise Diagne, Blaise Diagne, sa vie, son œuvre, Paris: Nouvelles éditions africaines, 1974, quoted in Blanchard et al., 2011, 72. 77 Blanchard, La France noire, 78. 78 Ibid., 105 and 102–3. 79 Jean-Yves Le Naour, “La question de la violation de l’interdit racial en 1914–1918. La rencontre des coloniaux et des femmes françaises,” Cahiers de la Méditerranée, vol. 61 (2000), Politique et altérité: La Société française face au racisme (XXe siècle) [Actes du colloque de Nice, décembre 1999], 178, 2000_num_61_1_1299, accessed on August 17, 2018. 80 Ibid., 177. 81 Ibid. 82 This unspoken rule was still felt in the midst of decolonization wars thirty years later. My father, aged 21 in 1949 when he embarked as a non-commissioned officer in a cavalry regiment of Moroccan Spahis to fight on the Sino-Vietnamese border, repeatedly mentioned the taboo of bringing home to France a non-White fiancée. He quoted as an eccentric the one friend who had officially married a native Laotian woman and taken her and their children to metropolitan France after the defeat of Diên Biên Phu (1954). 83 See Emmanuelle Saada, “Paternité et citoyenneté en situation coloniale. Le débat sur les ‘reconnaissances frauduleuses’ et la construction d’un droit impérial,” Politix, vol. 17, no. 66 (2nd term 2004, L’Etat colonial), 107–36, t/article/polix_0295-2319_2004_num_17_66_1018, accessed on August 6, 2014. 84 I am alluding to the founders of the literary-political Négritude movement, launched in 1935: René Maran from French Guiana, Léopold Sédar Senghor from Senegal, and Aimé Césaire from Martinique. 85 See Elisa Camiscioli, “Intermarriage, Independent Nationality, and the Individual Rights of French Women. The law of 10 August, 1927,” French Politics, Culture and Society, vol. 17, no. 3–4 (Summer/Fall 1999), 62–5. In this article, Camiscioli explains that the lawmakers’ major concern was with the protection of French women from polygamy and domestic violence, risks that were presumably higher with North African, Sub-Saharan and Asian husbands than with European ones. Hence, they insisted on having the law stipulate that a French woman would now automatically retain her nationality unless she explicitly declared her desire to opt for her husband’s. See www. Rights_of_French_Women, accessed August 11, 2014. On the other hand, a law passed on November 28, 1928 demanded that biracial children (métis) of unknown fathers prove their “French origin and race” to benefit from citizenship rights and a French education. This actual invention of a “French race” was to lead to the forced separation of 4,500 fatherless Franco-Vietnamese children from their mothers and their placement in orphanages, first in Catholic institutions on colonial soil, then on metropolitan terri­ tory after the defeat of the French Army in 1954. See Emmanuelle Saada, Les enfants de la colonie: Les métis de l’Empire français entre sujétion et citoyenneté, Paris: Editions de La Découverte, 2007. See also the testimony of one of these 4,500 “orphans” in the doc­ umentary “Né sous Z” by Frédérique Pollet-Rouyer, INA and France Télévisions, 76 mn, broadcast on the public TV network channel France 2 on January 21, 2014, www. and /VDD11037452, accessed August 11, 2014. 86 Blanchard, La France noire, 189. 87 Quoted in Blanchard, La France noire, footnote 84, p. 342. My translation. 88 West Indian and African soldiers participated in all the battles leading up to the lib­ eration of the country from 1940 to 1945, but out of concern for the objections of

72 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

89 90 91

92 93

94 95 96 97


99 100 101 102 103

American military authorities (who found French forces insufficiently segregated) the chiefs of the French Resistance government accepted to keep them from liberating Paris in August 1944. On occasions, they forced them to give part of their equip­ ment to White civilian insurgents, particularly communist activists, who had waged the guerrilla against the Nazi occupants. Black French troops were finally permitted to march down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées on the memorial days of November 11, 1944, June 18, 1945 and July 14, 1945. See Blanchard, La France noire, 188. See Blanchard, La France noire, 188. Address to the Assemblée consultative, March 3, 1945, quoted in Blanchard, La France noire, 190. See René de la Charrière, “L’évolution de la Communauté Franco-Africaine,” Annuaire français de droit international, vol. 6, no. 6 (December 1960), 9–40, www., accessed on October 26, 2014. See Blanchard, La France noire, 217. See Samuel Laurent, “Petites et grandes erreurs factuelles d’Eric Zemmour sur l’immi­ gration,” Le Monde, October 13, 2014, 10/13/les-petites-et-grandes-erreurs-factuelles-d-eric-zemmour-sur-l-immigration_45 05198_4355770.html, accessed on October 26, 2014. For the ordinance of November 1945, see Ordonnance 45-2658 of November 2, 1945, Article 29, www.legifrance.; djo16v_3?idArticle=LEGIARTI000006336472&cidTexte=LEGITEXT00000606918 5&dateTexte=20080130, accessed on October 26, 2014. See the website of the French Museum of Immigration, www.histoire-immigration. fr/dix-themes-pour-connaitre-deux-siecles-d-histoire-de-l-immigration/emigrer/ de-1975-a-nos-jours, accessed on October 26, 2014. “Evolution du droit des étrangers en quelques dates,” defense-des-droits/rubriques/80-historique, accessed on October 27, 2014. See Mahamet Timera, “L’immigration africaine en France: regards des autres et repli sur soi,” Politique africaine, no. 67 (1997), 43–4. See Blanchard, La France noire, 298; and Catherine Quiminal, “Comment être afri­ caines en France? / How to Be an African Woman in France,” Journal des anthro­ pologues, no. 72–3, Nationaux, étrangers? Logiques d’état et enjeux quotidiens, 1998, 49–61,, accessed on October 28, 2014. I use quotation marks to point out that the extremely common use of this ethnic designation in French is actually a racial one, which lumps together Berbers (the first inhabitants of North Africa) and Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East (who may be Christian). Blanchard, La France noire, 264. See Blanchard, La France noire, 260, 264, 296. Daniel Vigne, Fatou la Malienne, Cinétévé and France 2, 98 minutes, broadcast on March 14, 2001 on the state-owned TV channel France 2. The film received two awards and a nomination for an Emmy Award as best drama. Philippe Couve, “Pour la défense des droits des femmes immigrées en France,” July 3, 2003, archive of Radio France Internationale, rticle_22884.asp, accessed on October 28, 2014. I am not implying that such practices do not exist. The latest case that received media attention was registered in July 2018 and concerned a 29-year-old elected official from President Macron’s party, Mounia Haddad, who was sequestered for two days by her own family near Tours. They objected to her having a boyfriend (even though he is also a Muslim of Algerian descent) and wanted to force her to marry another man of their own choosing in Algeria, under threat of death. She was saved by her own resourcefulness (she pretended to accept the suitor, in order to

Black Otherness in Metropolitan France 73


105 106 107




111 112


return to France under cover of preparing for the wedding) and by her boyfriend’s family, who signaled her kidnapping and had police intervene to free her. See Sté­ phane Kovacs, “Touraine: une jeune élue LaREM séquestrée par sa famille en vue d’un marriage forcé,” Le Figaro, July 30, 2018, 2018/07/25/01016-20180725ARTFIG00317-touraine-une-jeune-elue-larem-seque stree-par-sa-famille-en-vue-d-un-mariage-force.php, accessed on August 19, 2018. The problem is that media exposure of such cases obscures the existence of more peaceful and law-abiding families, perpetuating the negative framing of all (North) African French people. Nicolas Sarkozy, speech delivered on Sunday, April 29, 2007 in Paris-Bercy. See Alexandre Piquard, “M. Sarkozy promet la nationalité française à ‘toute femme martyrisée dans le monde’,” Le Monde, May 2, 2007, rticle/2007/05/02/m-sarkozy-promet-la-nationalite-francaise-a-toute-femme-ma rtyrisee-dans-le-monde_904671_3224.html, accessed on October 28, 2014. Nicolas Sarkozy, “J’ai une question à vous poser,” broadcast on the TV channel TF1 on February 5, 2007. See Blanchard, La France noire, 302, and François Durpaire, France blanche, colère noire, Paris: Odile Jacob, 2006, 225–36. Élie Semoun and Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala are two comedians of national fame, who have known each other since they were in high school in the 1980s. Their duet became a symbol of anti-racism in the 1990s because they were the first artists to ground their humor on their ethnicities (Sephardic Jewish and Franco-Cameroonian) to reflect the prejudices of the broader French society against both identities. The pair ultimately parted in the early 2000s after Dieudonné’s politics veered to antiZionism and anti-Semitism. Jocelyne Béroard and Philippe Lavil, “Kolé Séré,” ltePLiHk, accessed on November 7, 2014. See also Marie-France Brière, Entre deux liens … sous les tropiques, documentary, La curiosité, 2010, broadcast on France 3 on July 1, 2011, 90 mn, where Philippe Lavil explains how he dismissed the doubts expressed by his friends on the propriety of a descendant of slaveholders singing this duet with a descendant of slaves. Justine Lafon, “Après les ‘mariages blancs’, Besson lance l’offensive contre les ‘mar­ iages gris’,” Libération, November 18, 2009, 18/apres-les-mariages-blancs-besson-lance-l-offensive-contre-les-mariages-gris_ 594362, accessed on November 8, 2014. See ENAM Avocat, “Les sanctions contre la fraude au mariage,” www.enam-avocat. fr/domaines-d-intervention/les-sanctions-de-la-fraude-au-mariage, accessed on Octo­ ber 29, 2014; Sabine Haddad, ““Mariage gris ou mariage blanc: mêmes sanctions,” December 14, 2012, ge-blanc-memes-10275.htm#.VF5K82eny2c, accessed on November 8, 2014. “La grande colère des victimes de mariages gris,” Le Parisien, February 2, 2012,­ gris-02-02-2012-1842165.php, accessed on May 5, 2013. See the website of ANVI (Association Nationale des Victimes de l’Insécurité),, accessed on November 8, 2014. In its national peti­ tion to public authorities, the organization claims to have estimated at 14,000 per year the number of victims of “grey” marriages, on the basis of polls and the statistics established by its lawyers. For images of Ms. Morano’s interview and relevant commentaries on the political cli­ mate in France, see Marc Perelman’s TV program “Face-Off,” aired on October 7, 2015 on the TV channel France 24:­ french-politics-morano-republicains-sarkozy-controversy-race-identity, accessed on November 1, 2015, and “French Euro MP is Sidelined after France is a ‘White Race’

74 Black Otherness in Metropolitan France

Remark,” The Guardian, October 1, 2015, french-euro-mp-sidelined-after-france-is-a-white-race-remark, accessed on November 1, 2015. For a cogent portrait of Morano as a gaffe-prone politician, see Angelique Chrisafis, “Nadine Morano, Nicolas Sarkozy’s Super-sniper, Takes on All Comers,” The Guardian, February 1, 2012, s-sarkozy-heroine, accessed November 1, 2015. 114 The concept of “mixophobia of the elites” was coined to refer to this attitude and first made popular in 2005 by the Green party activist Stéphane Pocrain; see Sté­ phanie Binet, “Grande gueule noire,” Libération, June 20, 2005, ortrait/2005/06/20/grande-gueule-noire_524059, accessed on November 28, 2014. See also Durpaire, France blanche, colère noire, 252–4, and his apt parallel between the myths of classless America and raceless France (p. 14).


Comparative Sociological Analyses. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”: Internalizing and Contesting the White Racial Frame in The Realm of Intimacy Today

3 INSCRIBING RACE AND GENDER IN A “COLORBLIND” ERA How Partners are Socialized against Dating “Out”

[S]ystems of oppression often succeed because they control “the permission for desire”—in other words, they harness the power of deep feelings to the exigencies of domination. —Patricia Hill Collins1 White by the way is not a color, it’s an attitude. You’re as white as you think you are. It’s your choice. … [B]lack is a condition. —James Baldwin2 That the physical body offers transparent evidence of its history, identity, and behavior is a deeply held cultural fiction in the United States. —Siobhan Somerville3

The millennial generation came of age in a period of U.S. history characterized by what Eduardo Bonilla Silva calls “racism without racists.”4 This White racial frame represents a post-Civil Rights Movement reassertion of White virtuousness where the persistence of systemic racism, in the form of both negative emotions transmitted during the socialization process and patterns of discrimination affect­ ing the lives of minorities, can be readily denied. As Joe Feagin explains, “[s]ince the 1960s, increasing numbers of whites have repeatedly insisted that they, and the United States in general, are fair, tolerant, and ‘no longer racist’ and that the continuing social, economic, educational, and political problems of Americans of color are mainly of their own making.”5 Recent works, such as Utz McKnight’s The Everyday Practice of Race in America, 6 have stressed the difficulty of combating the legacy of de jure and de facto segregation in the post-Civil Rights United States, where the connection between race or ethnicity and socio-economic inequalities is consistently denied.

78 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

In France, because the Constitution proclaims the French Republic’s neutrality vis-à-vis race and religion, and refuses to even consider the existence of racists by crossing out the word “race,” racial and ethnic statistics are forbidden, as Chapter 2 has shown. Consequently, race-based discrimination is easy to deny and very difficult to prove, while the legal status and loyalties of non-White citizens are constantly questioned. Still, in both societies, White parents’ arguments against dating and marrying “out” reflect a clear awareness of the persistence of racebased inequalities of opportunity. As one French respondent said, “My parents said, ‘Marrying a Black man?! That’s OK for a secretary’!” In this chapter, I contrast the forms of socialization of young Black and White men and women in Alabama and in France, to analyze how, building on each country’s White racial frames, families, peer groups and even strangers ensure social reproduction and protection from loss of racial status within each commu­ nity of belonging, in explicit censorship or implicit warnings given in the private sphere or in public places.

Family Talk against Dating Out in Alabama As in any situation where race and popular assumptions about race are central to defining individuals’ social position and “place,” the joint issues of visibility and invisibility are of immediate and vital urgency to interracial couples. Suddenly, it can no longer be denied that associating intimately and visibly with the other race entails transformations in daily social interaction and is apt to significantly modify self-definition, for both those partners identified as White and those identifying as Black. While, by necessity, African American children and teenagers are taught from an early age about the potentially lethal risks appertaining to their condition as Othered citizens when confronted with law enforcement authorities (this is known as “the Talk”7) they are not necessarily warned so systematically about the emotional or physical dangers of dating “out of their race.” In the families of most of my African American respondents, there had been no particular “talk” about the need to avoid cultivating or eliciting any romantic interest in a person from “the other race,” simply because the de facto segregation of day centers, schools, and boys and girls clubs presumably kept such possibilities from arising. Between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s, particularly in states of the Deep South, private schools known as “academies” were created with the all but explicit purpose of preserving White children from attending integrated public schools.8 A student of mine and his wife had enrolled their eight-year­ old son in a Christian academy in Tuscaloosa County “to make sure he would receive a Christian education;” but only a few months into the academic year, they received a phone call from the parents of a little White girl who had developed a close friendship with the boy. “We don’t want our daughter hanging out with a Black boy during recess, so you need to do something about

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 79

this,” the parents told them. Although my student and his wife showed under­ standing for the White parents’ concern and asked their son to take some dis­ tance from his friend, the girl’s parents called for a parent-teacher conference. The institution requested that the boy be transferred to another class, to make sure the two friends would stay away from each other. His parents eventually chose to remove him from the academy to protect him from further emotional distress, and opted for homeschooling, to develop a healthy counter-frame for him and their other children. This is an increasingly frequent choice among middle-class African American families, for many reasons besides this type of incident: in 2015, about 10% of homeschooled children were African Amer­ ican.9 This is one of the many facets of the Black counter-framing activity, which over four centuries of racial oppression in the U.S.A. have made a necessity for families and individuals alike. However, the talk about forbidden love interests had been given more system­ atically to African American interviewees whose parents were or had been in the military. The importance of military lifestyle cannot be understated in a Southern state like Alabama. Army institutions have been a crucial part of the local culture for Whites since the mid-19th century and all-Black units such as the Tuskegee Airmen have also been key to building Black pride on military values—providing young men with a solid counter-frame in a hostile context. At the University of Alabama, a significant proportion of African American students were enrolled in the Army, both for financial reasons and out of family tradition.10 A female respondent shared a vivid memory of the culture shock she experienced when my Mom and Dad sat us down on our return from Germany. They’d been stationed there for quite some time. They told us, “We’re in Alabama now, it’s different now. There’s no question of y’all dating White boys no more.” We could tell from the way they said it that it was something serious. This same respondent, the lone mother of a three-year-old when I interviewed her, said she had told her daughter to stop playing house with a little White boy at the day care center, because she did not “want any problems with the parents [of this little boy].” These examples show that comparable messages sent by U.S. parents to their children on either side of the color line stem from different sets of priorities. White American parents, acting out of the Southern White racial frame, are more concerned with the reputation of their families and the dread of hypogamy (i.e., loss of social status through marriage with a person from a lower caste or an otherwise discredited group). African American families are acutely aware of the range of humiliating or traumatizing experiences to which their children may be subjected from a very early age,11 by institutions as well as individual White persons, and put their efforts into trying to shield their sons and daughters from going through what may rationally be considered as unnecessary pain.12

80 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

In Southern culture, family conversations seldom get into the specifics of sexual life and orientation. This is due to deeply anchored notions of propriety which may be partly traced to the moralizing enterprise of the American Mis­ sionary Association13 among freedmen and women as well as poor Whites during the Reconstruction period. Quite probably, it also has roots in the “Southern etiquette” cultivated in antebellum culture, where it can be surmised that even within the relatively safe space of each racial community, sexual practices, let alone desires, were not easily verbalized. Among the written documents left by African Americans, slave narratives occasionally mentioned “foul talk” by masters to teenage or adult female slaves.14 Speeches by aboli­ tionists such as Rev. Henry Highland Garnet15 expressed outrage at the inevi­ table “moral corruption” of African American girls and women used as sex slaves, whose fathers, husbands and friends were forbidden to help them pre­ serve their physical safety and psychological stability. Among White abolitionists and feminists, the British journalist Harriet Martineau denounced in her analysis of antebellum Southern society the “harems” kept by the males of the planter caste,16 but hardly ever sympathized with the latter’s victims. Meanwhile, the proslavery writer George Fitzhugh went so far as to implicitly laud sexual slav­ ery for keeping the South free of the prostitution plaguing working-class com­ munities in industrial Great Britain.17 But regardless of the author’s approach to the realities of interracial sex in antebellum Southern mores, 19th-century moral codes enforced a form of selfcensorship which left unaddressed, and practically unthinkable, the possibility of interracial attraction or preference as a spontaneous feeling devoid of violence and domination. It is significant that this possibility was explored in fiction works on the antebellum or Reconstruction South, such as the episode of the doomed and unrequited love of a planter’s son for a Black Creole schoolteacher in Ernest Gaines’s novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman 18 or the 1975 film Mandingo adapted from Kyle Onstott’s 1957 novel, which was consumed as a forbidden book by generations of young White Americans. In the families of my Black Alabamian respondents, in keeping with traditional features of African American respectability19—which families and communities cultivated precisely to counter the institutionalized existence of sex slavery—, sex life was not considered as a suitable topic of discussion with the parents. Warnings about the unacceptability of dating out of one’s race were typically given without further explanation, along with other warnings about the dangers of premarital sexual activity. In a generation for whom access to sex education was already restricted by the intervention of faith-based organizations into middle- and highschool curricula, there were two socially acceptable messages. The first was that abstinence was the only way to preserve oneself from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The second was that staying away from interracial romances was an essential part of a son or daughter’s duty to their parents and extended families. Neither abstinence nor race loyalty were negotiable. As a

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 81

consequence, peer groups stood out as the only alternative space of discussion, where guidance was often sought about the actual degree of unacceptability of sexual interest in a person from the forbidden racial group and/or gender. The parallel with sexual orientation is striking in this regard. Advice from peers typi­ cally included warnings about the irreversible moral taint caused by the “wrong” choice, the need to pray against a temptation likely to cause the person’s estrangement from their family, or exclusion from their group of friends if s/he persisted in the pursuit of a forbidden love interest.

Peer Pressure against Dating out in Alabama White American respondents reported receiving very similar warnings from high school or college friends, who apparently felt entitled to assume the authoritative voice of the kinship group in order to rein in any expression of romantic interest considered deviant. This was particularly true when the respondent had not been raised in a former Jim Crow state, and peers thus assumed this person “had to” be taught about Southern etiquette. For instance, a 22-year-old Pennsylvania-born White woman explained that fellow White female undergraduate students had warned her in her first months at the Uni­ versity of Alabama, “down here, the only kind you date is White. Once you’ve dated out, you’re done for, there’s no turning back.” The language of racial purity here clearly superseded the ideology of premarital abstinence. What was at stake in the peer group and the broader society outside of campus was the woman’s reputation as either accessible to White males (regardless of virginity) or irreparably “tainted,” as the same respondent was told by a random White male customer at a bar where she was having a drink with her Black Alabamian fiancé. Other sociological studies documented a very similar perception of interracial attraction as sexual deviance in Southern White culture. When asked how he would feel if his child married a Black person, the leader of a local business answered, “I’d be sick to my stomach. … I’d probably take a lot of the blame for that. I would feel like probably I failed out on the job along the way or they would not have those tendencies to do that.”20 In this very culturally specific context, it is not so much the actual existence of interracial sex as its publicizing that is still perceived as problematic by the domi­ nant group. As historical studies have demonstrated, the cult of secrecy in this matter was particularly crucial to the preservation of the planter caste’s interests, so that even in the face of indisputable evidence, the reality of interracial sex between masters and slaves could still be considered unthinkable or, at least, impossible to address in public without breaching Southern etiquette.21 This unspoken rule of the Southern White frame applied even more to women of the planter caste, who ran more risks of social downfall than their male counterparts did, and sometimes resorted to infanticide to keep their reputations safe.22

82 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

From Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, this aristocratic concern with family honor became a hallmark of Southern culture beyond class lines, as the ideology of defense of White women’s “honor” or “purity” provided a sys­ tematic pretext for the maiming and/or murdering of “offenders” regardless of the social status of the women concerned, let alone the possibility of consent. That young adults in 2010 felt entitled to reassert the value of a woman’s repu­ tation, and even police it within such spaces as student dormitories, university corridors or parking lots, is an indication that social norms inherited from the antebellum and Jim Crow South were still explicitly passed on across generations to preserve a common heritage. The case mentioned above shows that this Southern White frame can also be transmitted across sectional lines. Anna’s experience further belies the assumption of post-racialism, as her life story poses the problem of policing and shaming of interracial couples across the color line and within an all-female group of co-workers. An Alabama-born African American woman, aged 34 and the mother of a teenage Black girl, Anna holds a Master’s degree in early childhood education and works in the field of instructional support. This respondent is currently in a relationship with Kevin, a former high school classmate she has known since 1997 and with whom she reconnected in 2016 via social networks, after years of celibacy. She explains that when she and her boyfriend decided to make their relationship public after sev­ eral months, my African American friends were fine, but my White friends seemed to act differently towards me. I have had a couple to unfriend me on social media. A couple of the girls that I work with now act differently toward me. They knew I was dating someone but I never told them that he was White. It was months before we decided to “come out” as a couple on Facebook. After that, the girls at work don’t talk to me as much on a personal level and we were all very close before. I felt as if they were okay being friends with me because they didn’t perceive me to be an equal. But now that they know that Kevin is White, things are totally different. One of the younger girls had this look of shock and disgust when I was showing the picture of Kevin and I together. She said, “wait, is this who you’ve been dating?” Her tone sug­ gested that she thought I had done the impossible. One of the older ladies asked me what my family thought of him, as if she was waiting for me to say something negative. I just get the feeling that they expect the worse. Her analysis of her co-workers’ reactions highlight her consciousness of the highly political dimension White Alabamians of all generations still assign to the very existence of interracial couples. Even if she admits to working with “a group of very conservative Southern ladies,” she had expected their warm and friendly attitude towards her to be a sign of racial inclusiveness and probable readiness to overcome internalized bias against dating out of one’s race. She recognizes she

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 83

had expected her difficulties adjusting to the “different looks and stares when we are out and about in the Birmingham area.” However, she makes a clear dis­ tinction between the impact of strangers’ reactions and the more verbalized ones of friends she had trusted across the color line: I was hesitant because I know how attitudes towards interracial relationships are in the South. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to deal with the emotional aspect of it. It never occurred to me that I would get that from my close friends. This experience and the respondent’s willingness to break it down to the central issue of equal rights and equal status further highlights the active role taken by White women in perpetuating the White racial frame.23 Their facial and verbal expressions of disgust not only translate the force of the internalized taboos about race and the preservation of Whiteness, but also their expectation never to come close to anyone whose lifestyle challenges the segregated worldview.

Family Talk against Dating out in France In the answers given by White French interviewees, such explicit warnings about sexual taboos did not seem prevalent in the forms of socialization undergone within kinship or peer groups. One explanation for this is that the national middle-school curriculum includes mandatory sex education classes in 8th grade. The purpose of such lessons is precisely to make sure teenagers have access to comprehensive information about human reproduction, STDs, and possibly, be given answers about sexual practices of which they are known to be cognizant as a result of casual, if accidental, exposure to pornographic images.24 This allows parents to avoid addressing these issues with their offspring if they feel uncom­ fortable doing so. It may also partly account for the fact that few families, whe­ ther from metropolitan France, the French Antilles or African francophone countries, have ritualized “talks” about life choices with their children. In spite of the significant impact of U.S. series on French society, appropriation of U.S. cultural norms does not seem to have affected educational patterns in this respect. Instead of sitting their children down to teach them the dos and don’ts, Frenchspeaking parents rather seem to send them messages about sexual taboos in indirect ways. This is done by making ironical or barbed comments on anecdotes involving people from work or school, or on news reports discussed around the family table, typically with relatives from the extended family, so that the children do not always feel entitled to react or ask disturbing questions in an effort to determine how these messages apply to them. These strategies were observable not only among the experiences of younger White French respondents, but also in the life stories of White men and women who remained financially dependent on their families until their late twenties or early thirties.

84 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

African and West Indian respondents reported receiving the same type of implicit or explicit warnings or judgments from parents or relatives. Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli have noted how the sons and daughters of sub-Saharan African migrants tend to face more economic obstacles in their search of auton­ omy in terms of accommodation and finances, particularly when they have not been able to access higher education.25 In this context, job discrimination (which also hits those who hold Master’s degrees and Ph.D.s) is combined with various cultural and ethnic taboos about intermarriage with men and women from other ethnic groups (including from other islands of the French West Indies) and warnings about “living like the French, not living with a French partner.”26 Because religious practice remains a distinctive parameter of African and West Indian families in metropolitan France, most Muslim, Catholic or Evangelical Protestant parents of African descent emphasize this dimension of identity as a priority in the choice of a “suitable” fiancé(e). This is due partly to the negative perception of native French families as giving an excessively secular education to their sons and daughters, with very little exposure to traditional values such as respect for the parents and the elderly, religious rituals or sacred texts, and no control over their behavior outside of the classroom and in the home itself. This image is both widespread in the media and popular culture, and confirmed by the comments made by the teenagers about their native French classmates on returning from school. In African families, the importance of finding a mate with a similar religious background is also rooted in the cherished custom of the dowry, whose crucial significance is both social and religious. Indeed, the honor and reputation of a family (within its ethno-cultural frame of reference, both in the migrant community and in the home country) are preserved and enhanced every time one of its sons or daughters allows it to officially associate with another respectable family. As both the male and female respondents put it, it is about uniting two families, not just two individuals: “the dowry has a very sacred value: it allows the suitor and his family to show their consideration for the bride and her family”; “it is about getting the blessings of your elders, your ancestors”; “respect and dignity are at the heart of the process and the love between the bride and groom is extended to include all their relatives, both close and distant.” Similar professions of reverence towards the parents and extended families were recurrent in the explanations given on either side of the color line by my Ala­ bamian respondents who decided not to proceed with an interracial romance: “My grandmother suffered too much during the Civil Rights Movement at the hands of White people. There’s no way she could’ve accepted a White woman into the family. So we decided to split up, seeing how complicated it was with her family too,” a 27-year-old African American male told me. In France as in Alabama, those interviewees who had been educated in families emphasizing filial duty similarly stressed how the quest of a suitable partner was to some degree

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 85

shaped by the acceptability criteria of their parents. This counter-frame remained influential, even if their own access to a different set of values through higher education had given these young men and women a different understanding of the value of homogamy, as is shown in the account of a 30-year-old Congolese respondent from the Democratic Republic of Congo: I was raised by my elder sister and her husband after my father died, from the age of eight until I was 28. Our mother was too poor to provide for her last two kids, so my sister stepped in because she was married to a rich and powerful man, and they lived in the city where we lived. She had always had a say about my girlfriends, warning me I couldn’t marry those who were not from our ethnic group, even if she welcomed them in her home when they came to see me. Then I moved to France for my graduate studies, and after five years there, I told her that I was getting married to a French woman like my brother. She let out a sigh of frustration. I knew what she meant—she was thinking of our mother, who would have yet another daughter-in-law with whom she could not exchange. My mother is illiterate and speaks very little French. Her definition of a good wife is not mine: she doesn’t care how educated she is, as long as she is welcoming, chatty, well-dressed, and hos­ pitable to the guests. So when our elder brother decided to get married after his studies in Canada, they all arranged for him to have a wife of our ethnic group, so that she could go and stay with them until the visa paperwork was done, and our mother was happy with that daughter-in-law. That is, until they found out she had a serious health problem! In both samples, 33% of the White and Black parents had explicitly warned their sons and daughters against premarital cohabitation, out of concern for their family’s reputation within the neighborhood and among relatives from the extended family, but also for religious reasons, linked to Catholicism, Judaism or Islam. In France, West Indian and African female interviewees explained that their parents often expressed anxiety about their friendship groups, commenting that they “might well end up with a White boy” and immediately warning that they would not accept anyone “using us like playthings and not being com­ mitted,” as one 25-year-old West Indian woman explained. This reflects a culti­ vation of the memory of slaveholders’ predatory sexual behavior quite similar to what could be found in African American mothers’ warnings.27 In France, where the culture of dating is not nearly as culturally codified as in the U.S.A., White as well as Black parents with strong religious beliefs had threatened their children with not receiving boyfriends or girlfriends, regardless of color, for as long as relationships remained unofficial. In 5% of the couples surveyed, parental attitudes of rejection of the child’s partner went as far as boycotting the wedding cere­ mony, even when performed in a church or synagogue.28 In these cases, parental estrangement from their own children could last for years, sometimes, but not

86 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

always, ending with the birth of the couple’s first child. In two of the cases sur­ veyed, the White families welcomed the offspring into their family and religious (Jewish) circles but demanded that the Black fathers (one Martiniquan and the other Cameroonian) be sent away and not allowed to visit. In a third case, the couple remained united, but, in spite of his wife’s will, the Black husband was not allowed to bury her in his native Senegal, where both of them had chosen to live: the woman’s father went to court to have the body repatriated and buried in the family vault in France. With a majority of Black French interviewees as with a minority of White French respondents, expressions of disapproval from relatives sometimes con­ tinued to be sent several years into their married lives. A Congolese-born male respondent mentioned a family reunion with a nephew who, after expressing frustration with his legal status as a foreign student in France, emphatically vowed in Lingala he would “never fall so low as to marry one of those creatures just for the papers,” in the very presence of his White French aunt-in-law. Faced with such slights, the partners chose to either let their families freely vent their pre­ judices in hopes that the strength of their bond would prove their relatives wrong, or cut ties with the most opinionated of their kinfolk. Sometimes this meant living in isolation from at least one of the two families, as shown in the examples mentioned earlier. Significantly, female respondents of African descent did not report similar incidents with their parents or relatives. Instead, they mentioned rather ambiguously humorous plays on racial stereotypes about Afri­ can cultures, such as doubts about the fiancé’s readiness to comply with the financial obligations attached to the payment of the dowry or the circumcision ritual implied by a conversion to Islam. In the case of West Indian families, jokes revolved around his ability to eat habanero peppers, drink large amounts of rum, or dance zouk with style. In the cases of couples including a foreign White male partner, jokes about the possibility of the official union boiling down to a “grey” marriage were especially common on the part of the Black French families. This counter-frame came as an explicit reminder of the existence of what would be called White privilege on the American side of the Atlantic, but is not articulated as such in metropolitan France. Any interethnic couple is likely to have experienced similar expressions of prejudice or concern thinly disguised as inconsequential talk or play; but the political dimension behind the racialization of French identity is uniquely emphasized and critiqued in the reception of interracial couples by their respec­ tive families. In both the Alabamian and the French case, the national rhetoric of equal rights, “colorblindness” or post-racialism was clearly debunked as an impractical basis for building a durable, indisputably legitimate couple. Partners were separately or jointly instructed that their kinship groups not only had a say in their life choices, but would make sure they remained vulnerable to the cul­ tural pressure of stereotyping.

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 87

Racial and Sexual Policing by Strangers in Public Places: Women’s Experiences The (re-)socialization of the partners to the racial codes of their environments is also achieved outside of the family sphere, by strangers in public places. This is usually a form of intrusion in their intimacy whose emotional impact on the couples is deliberately minimized or even denied by both partners, particularly when they insist on being interviewed together instead of separately. However, these reminders of the vulnerability of interracial couples also need to be under­ stood as forms of racial oppression meted out to men and women who remain publicly identified as capable of transgressing dominant sets of sexual norms, and therefore apt to be scapegoated by the gatekeepers of each racial group. The most recent example of such understandings of the legitimacy of sexual policing and shaming by strangers was unwillingly provided by a celebrity couple. The star tennis player Serena Williams’s engagement with the co-founder of the website Reddit, Alexis Ohanian in 2016, after months of dating in secret, triggered torrents of accusations of betrayal from Black males on the internet. To defend her, journalists had to point out Williams’s early experience of racism, public commitment to social justice for African Americans and to Black feminism. They lamented that “the underlying factors in the racial comments directed at Wil­ liams’s engagement are problematic and, in hotep fashion, lack context about her blackness and how she can be pro-black and yet have a white fiancé.” They also suggested that the accusations were a disingenuous way to retaliate against Black women’s chastising of Black men who married out: These are probably the same black men living under the Kanye West motto of “And when you get on, he’ll leave your ass for a white girl.” … No one has ownership of Serena Williams, or any black woman for that matter. There is a double standard of sorts when Black women date out of their race.29 The gendered framing of these messages and responses is evidently embedded in each group’s understanding of its own history of racial and sexual oppression, as is shown in each combination of race, gender and nationality. A recurrent experience related by the couples in either country was the man­ ifest assumption by outsiders that one of the partners, preferably the female one, was sexually available for the fulfilment of their own desires or fantasies. In her study on same-sex interracial couples in U.S. cities, Amy Steinbugler reported the same finding, pointing out that strangers more commonly assumed that two women in an interracial couple were just friends, and therefore open to unsoli­ cited expressions of sexual interest.30 Indeed, cultural but also political under­ standings of gender performance and the question of the pairs’ visibility as couples hold a particularly crucial dimension in these casual interactions. One White

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American male teacher aged 32 (born in North Carolina) complained about young Black Alabamians who, he said, were systematically engaging in provoca­ tion and catcalls when walking past him and his African wife at shopping malls, calling out to her, “sista, come home” or singing particularly explicit lyrics of rap songs. But lest I should draw biased conclusions, he quickly added, Just for contrast, I can tell you that I am disgusted by white kids seeing me at the mall with my African wife and humming T-Pain to their friends (you know, shawteiy …) Hell, my wife didn’t speak a lick of English when I met her, let alone know who the hell T-Pain was … The song he alludes to (“Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’),” by T-Pain fea­ turing Yung Joc, 2007) associates the woman to a shawty snap, or ginger snap— in other words, a tasty cookie, which leads the male character (T-Pain) to offer her a drink at the nightclub where he meets her, in hopes of getting intimate with her. This respondent’s pairing the two experiences showed his deliberate inten­ tion not to single out young Black men unfairly for behavior they shared with young White men listening to the same rap songs. However, his strategy for making up for the humiliation of his couple was to draw attention to his wife’s non-U.S. origins, as if such assumptions would have been less insulting if she had been African American. In a state where immigration is limited, Blacks and Whites alike assume that any stranger is a fellow American, and behave accordingly. This means that they expect cultural codes to be known as though they were not specific to the South and its particular racial frame. I, too, have often felt the need to counter this Southern White racial frame, but also the counter-frame developed by Black Southerners, by making our Frenchness more apparent and audible in hopes of escaping aggressiveness. This strategy was only mildly successful, given the anti-immigrant climate that was already present in 2009–2010. By contrast, most U.S. couples surveyed deliberately cultivated indifference and oblivion as a counter-frame. When I exchanged with the same respondent two years later, at a moment when the #Black Lives Matter move­ ment31 was gaining momentum, he had apparently forgotten about the inci­ dents at the mall that had so upset him. I was surprised to see him assert that interracial couples no longer caused so much tension in the South, because “we haven’t had a single unpleasant remark in nine years now.” Still, perceptions and memories of unpleasant encounters can differ and be selectively forgotten or retained by men and women across the color line, so paying close attention to the responses of women interviewees took on additional significance. An African American employment security representative from Montgomery, Chantelle, 25, was two years into her relationship with her White fiancé Nick when she gave the following answer:

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 89

I think being in a relationship, especially one that is interracial, is very rewarding. I am happy that we can go out in public together and not be met with looks of disgust but rather with looks of encouragement and support. The disparity between these perceptions and the frequent instances of racebased hostility I and most of my White American female respondents experi­ enced in the same environment and in the same period seems to indicate the presence of a particular set of gender dynamics behind the expressions of racial animosity by strangers. Indeed, it is probably much safer to vent and indulge in racial slurs when the male partner is Black than when he is White. In the former case, the opportunity cost of a fight is much less of a disincentive—in the U.S., Black-on-Black violence is perceived as a cultural norm. Conversely, a White perpetrator may relatively easily pass himself off for a victim and have law enforcement officers believe his version. This is especially the case if the target of his slurs retaliates with violence—as was the case several times with a White Fundamentalist Protestant preacher who regularly came to the campus of the University of Alabama to chastise African American football players for dating White female students. Respondents’ experiences with strangers in public places, as well as my own, seem to point to one fact. Racial animus is primarily voiced by male strangers (of either race), while females (of either race, again) will express their racial resentment and feeling of betrayal in long stares, glares, and body language (such as standing arms akimbo or sucking their teeth, which is known as “tchip” to Francophones). For example, White American female respondents recalled Black single mothers casting hostile stares at them, especially when they were pregnant and accompanied by their partners: “they gave me the side eye, like I stole them something”; “what they think is, I’ve taken one of the few good ones.” This is an allusion to the disproportionate numbers of college-age Afri­ can American men in jail; the phrase is common in the African American community.32 Another White female interviewee, aged 28, recalled: “The other day I was shopping at Winn Dixie’s with my two kids, 5 and 3, in the buggy [cart], and there were these three identical, blonde sorority girls rolling their eyes as soon as they saw us, like I was a slut!” The recent outpour of racist abuse on the internet, following the airing by the cereal brand Cheerios of a commercial featuring an interracial couple, showed that strangers are still apt to feel offended by the existence of interracial families and justified in their urge to express outrage, even if the family in question is fictitious.33 This is particularly facilitated by the anonymity granted by the use of pseudonyms on the internet, which makes it impossible to accurately quantify the ratio of negative responses posted by White males as compared with other cate­ gories of race and gender. Nevertheless, what this nationwide controversy undoubtedly demonstrated is the persistence of prejudice against family-oriented interracial dating beyond the borders of the state of Alabama.

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Racial and Sexual Policing by Strangers in Public Places: Men’s Experiences It is rather unsurprising, after all, to observe that distinct standards of propriety embedded in traditional gender roles are reflected in female strangers’ more implicit manifestations of a negative moral judgment of interracial couples. As Steinbugler emphasized, White male privilege is often unacknowledged by part­ ners in interracial couples, but may frequently explain why U.S. couples made up of a Black woman and a White man, particularly when the latter has a dignified occupation, tend to minimize or even deny the impact of racial animosity in their everyday lives. Yet, this conclusion might be usefully qualified by taking into account the experiences of White men in interracial couples living in predominantly Black societies, as one of my Afro-French interviewees, Emma, 26, pointed out to me. She said: Here in Cameroon, where we have just moved with my longtime partner, men don’t hesitate to grab me by the arm! My boyfriend doesn’t react very well, he even takes it very personally, but given that he’s White and this is going to be our home for the next three years, he’s got to keep a low pro­ file, because violent reactions would be unforgivable, coming from White folks. That’s sad! Since my fieldwork for this study only included Alabama and France, I have too few similar examples of interracial couples in African or West Indian societies to draw conclusions about the sense of safety granted by White male privilege else­ where than in White-dominated societies. Still, it seems fair to suggest the hypothesis that race-based hostility towards interracial couples including a White male and a Black female is more commonly voiced by male strangers if the latter are part of the racial mainstream. Black males in interracial couples also have to face the assumption that they are sexually promiscuous and available to anyone at their beck and call, but this time such assumptions come from White women. Such instances of racist microaggressions are more commonly described as “disrespect” than as sexual aggres­ siveness by the interviewees, but this may be a result of an effort to restore a sense of masculine dignity, by men who added with an awkward smile, “anyway, a man can’t be raped.” One Congolese-born male respondent related that a fellow graduate student, who had invited him and other White French friends to a res­ taurant to celebrate her upcoming wedding, had followed him to the restrooms to request a quick intercourse there: “she said this was her last chance to do it with a Black guy before tying the knot!” When he answered that he “had a ser­ ious girlfriend and did not engage in casual sex,” she kept insisting that this was “something he could do for [her], no one needs to know.” This was by no means

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 91

an isolated incident, either for this respondent or for my other Black male respondents from the French-speaking group, whether of African or West Indian descent. The commodification of the Black male body resulting from the White French imperialistic frame, combined with globalized versions of U.S. cultural stereotypes such as the “Black buck,”34 are clearly at play in this type of assumption. But the lack of respectability of interracial couples also stems from the deliberate refusal by political and religious authorities to grant them full legal protection throughout French history, as shown in Chapter 2. Significantly, the presumed vulnerability of their bond also appears in the French-speaking couples’ interactions with Black outsiders of either gender in public places. White female respondents recurrently reported being challenged on the streets, on public transportation or in restaurants by Black women who ostentatiously flirted with their partners while deliberately ignoring them: “when she came with the bill, the Cameroonian waitress handed my fiancé the restaurant card. She had written her first name and cellphone number on the back—Mar­ lène, 06 something. She had the nerve to do this right in front of me, as if I didn’t exist!” a French respondent complained. All of the African-born male respondents admitted that they were frequently courted by Black women while in company of their partners in public places, family gatherings, or even during worship services. They explained that nonverbal language and codes were nearly always lost on French women, because African and African-descended women “typically pretend to look the other way when they want to get a guy’s atten­ tion,” as one Congolese interviewee put it. Yet in relating these events, he was also implicitly confessing that he may have been on the lookout for signs of interest on the part of a fellow African of the other sex. Such openly flirtatious behaviors are also linked to the widespread assumption among first-, second- and third-generation African migrants that most White French women are raised in a sexually permissive environment, by non-believing families that have a very different understanding of their respectability. This counter-frame was developed during the two world wars, as Chapter 2 has shown. As such, White French women are not deemed “serious” enough to be officially introduced into the family. This was shown by Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli in their study of the mating strategies of young French men and women raised in African Muslim families. Their male respondents typically admitted that they had had numerous premarital sexual experiences with native French girls “just for fun,” or to reassure their male friends about their sexual orientation, until they were ready to settle down and introduce into their families a “decent” fiancée.35 Black female respondents from the French-speaking group did not report being challenged by White women in similar fashion. When asked for a possible explanation for this discrepancy, more than half of them asserted that widespread representations of African and West Indian women as “sex experts”—perceptions stemming from the White French imperialistic frame—accounted for what they

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assumed to be an “inferiority complex” on the part of White women. Five African-born female interviewees even mentioned that it was now “trendy for Black women to become the ‘second office’ [mistress] of a brother married to a White woman, till they break the marriage and become the ‘Mother Superior’ themselves. They say that no White woman stands a chance to keep her man when a sister sets her mind to get him.” “Mind you, they also do this back home; but playing this kind of trick on a White woman has an extra zing to it. It’s something you can brag about,” a 30-year-old female respondent from Guinea explained with a smile. Yet they also emphasized the assumption that a man who has already “crossed over” is easier to conquer and is actually in a position of unwittingly inviting competition among Black women. National specificities were also mentioned as additional “weapons” in this competition, reflecting both pre- and post-inde­ pendence representations of ethnic identities, as well as beliefs on traditional aphrodisiac recipes and charms: “You know, sister-in-law, these Ivorian women are skilled in ways you and I have no clue about. Once they’ve taken a guy where they want him to be, the poor man can’t keep control anymore and does whatever they want. There’s nothing you can do against their ‘medicine’!” the same respondent warned me. Two other women separately conveyed the same representations during group discussions at a funeral wake in which one of my male respondents was a participant: “Congolese men are in high demand, espe­ cially those from the DRC, who are known to take good care of their women. Watch out, or some Cameroonian or Ivorian woman will try to get you for herself”; “What? You split up with your French wife to end up with an Ivorian? Don’t you know, brother, that women from the Ivory Coast and Cameroon are gold-diggers?” A 32-year-old French-born biracial female interviewee of Malian descent, identifying strongly with African values and living in Bamako, bitterly observed that after cheating on her once and “getting away with a severe warning,” her White French ex-husband had eventually left her and their daughter to marry his Malian-born mistress and start a new family with her. She found it particularly revolting that she had him convert to Islam and get his willie cut off, can you imagine, a man past his thirties? I never asked him to do such a thing! She’s got him brainwashed. Since then, he’s tried to return to me, telling me I will always be the one and how the other woman is just for sex, blah blah, but I won’t have him anymore, ever.

The “White Slut” Stereotype in Alabama and France: Group Strategies against Identity Loss While marriage bonds certainly get tested in any couple—whether intra- or interracial, whether heterosexual or same-sex—the interracial dimension cannot

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 93

be taken out of the equation, as the outcome of these sexual challenges never translates in purely individual terms, but also racial and ethnic ones, prone to being essentialized. On this battlefield of sorts, where the behaviors of in-laws and relatives are not radically different from those of strangers, the morals of White female partners are more frequently suspected than those of White males. A 32­ year-old male respondent from Togo reminisced about the wedding present that one of his cousins had offered his wife: He came up to my bride with a small rug, looking very pleased with his pre­ sent. She thanked him gracefully, even if it was not a particularly nice rug. But he made it a point to explain that it was meant to be put in front of the shower, so she could step on it after showering. And all the time he had that stupid smirk on his face, and she had no clue where he was trying to get at, so she just went, “yes, thank you so much, we’ll certainly use it,” in her wedding gown, instead of rebuking him! I felt so humiliated. I can’t remember how many times I got disrespected like this by male relatives or even strangers, who just assumed my wife was free for all, simply because she chose to marry a Black man. I’ve had to train her like a small child who’s got everything to learn about adult life. See, she never had a long-term boyfriend before, when we got married she was still a virgin. So yes, it does include telling her what not to wear when we’re having family or other African guests over, because otherwise it puts me and them very much ill-at-ease. When asked about their perceptions of such incidents, White females generally tended to dismiss them as insignificant and portray their partners as unnecessarily jealous and suspicious of other men, often bringing up anecdotes about Black women’s occasionally hostile attitudes toward them. For instance, a White French female respondent described the behavior of her Beninese brother-in-law’s new Congolese girlfriend as offensive to her: She keeps calling me by the name of his ex-wife, just because she was French like me and my husband and he are twins. Every time he has meals with us on Friday nights or weekends, she makes a fuss and says I have two husbands for the price of one. I never asked him to stop doing his laundry at my place; he’s big enough to figure out what’s most convenient for him. I’m not interested in her man, one is more than enough already! And now every time she has a chance, she calls my man “chéri” or “our husband,” you know, looking me in the eye. At family parties or weddings, she tries to get him to dance with her touchy-feely style. Another French interviewee said that while her West Indian husband was away on a three-month long trip abroad, she was thankful to his younger brother for taking her children to school on the mornings when she had to leave very early.

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However, she also had to counter explicitly other family members’ half-joking assumptions that the young man slept in her two-bedroom apartment. All White French female interviewees with African partners admitted refusing to be called “my rival” by sisters-in-law, even after being reassured that this traditional form of address was never to be taken literally. One of these respondents, a 28-year-old woman, described being chaperoned by her elderly mother-in-law in the absence of her Congolese husband: My best friend happens to be a male friend. He’s like a brother to me. I’ve known him for ages, before I met my husband, and we often work on film projects together, or have long talks about books or films. Well, one time he was having a chat with me at home when my mother-in-law came back from shopping with my husband. We were hosting her at the time, she had come to France to have eye surgery and she stayed with us for three months. The next time my friend came over for a chat, she stepped out of her room and sat in the big armchair in the living room, just to keep an eye on us, all the time he was here. She didn’t really have anything to do in here, because she had her own TV set in her room and she doesn’t speak any French; but since her son was away, she felt it was inappropriate for me to have a male visitor and be on my own with him. My friend immediately saw what was going on and we were just amused, we just kept talking. When my husband returned, she told him, in their language, that she had stayed with us to make sure I wasn’t entertaining a lover. This example is revealing of the collective dimension behind the re-socialization process at work between the two partners: much as the interviewees insist that their choice is purely individual, the in-laws on each side always make sure that the values they instilled in their offspring are not undermined by the partner. This is particularly observable where female respectability is concerned, as Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli have shown in their analyses of the consequences of the surveillance of young French Muslim girls by their mothers in private spaces and their brothers in public places.36 Again, such forms of policing of a married woman’s sexual mores are not contingent on race, and may be observed in same-race couples of any group. But in an interracial context, they give more urgency to the need for each partner to assign a more relative value to gender performances and roles that were formerly accepted as the only possible norms. Each partner must learn new codes for the sake of preserving both the marriage and good relations with each family, as many U.S. and French respondents insisted. However, the two goals may some­ times appear to be contradictory, insofar as either family is made more aware of their own cultural specificities by the presence of a cultural outsider in their midst, and explicitly or implicitly demand that these specificities be acknowledged and addressed in a satisfactory manner. This particularly poses a problem, in both

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 95

societies, to those White men or women who keep insisting that they have to be accepted “just as they are” by the in-laws and denying the impact of cultural differences (pertaining not only to race and ethnicity, but also to class and gender performances) on the workings of their couple. Consequently, interracial couples may suffer more than others of the limits of the White-virtuousness subframe of colorblindness, especially if they have internalized it as an ideal and even as they are regularly celebrated as testimonies to its triumph. For example, one 33-year-old Congolese male interviewee insisted on having become French and pretending not to understand his native Lingala when it was spoken by strangers on public transportation. He had discouraged his wife from using deferential forms of address when talking to his elder brothers and sisters, and from calling the elderly in-laws “Papa” and “Maman” (“Mom” and “Dad”). Even though he admitted this could be taken for arrogance and do her a dis­ service with her in-laws, he explained that he had always rebelled against these “stupid traditions that just aim to keep you in submission” and that it didn’t “make any sense to have her do something I hate in my own culture.” When his sisters-in-law or nephews spoke in Lingala to make negative comments about his wife or call her “the White woman” in her presence, he said he “made it a point to translate everything to her and force my family to address her only in French, so that she would not feel excluded from what people were telling me.” When I discovered that his wife of eight years was of Spanish origin and spoke Catalan with her family in Spain, I tried to find out if she also went out of her way to keep him informed of what was being said in the exchanges; but he finally con­ fessed she never did. He tried to justify the discrepancy by explaining that he did not need to be reassured or protected, contrary to her in African milieus, where the simple fact of smiling to a man could “lead to serious misunderstandings, due—I’m sorry to say—to the reputation of European women among Africans. If you smile or wink at a guy, it will be taken for an invitation to flirt.” This example shows how in-depth reflection on cultural differences does not system­ atically imply equal treatment between the partners, but often entails more deference for the White racial frame, which is still perceived to be superior; this discrepancy was often justified by gender-related beliefs which were presented as unassailable. Conversely, a 25-year-old metropolitan French woman who had learned to speak the brand of French Creole used in Guadeloupe with the goal of saving her in-laws the trouble of speaking only standard French in her presence, overheard one of her husband’s cousins half-jokingly complaining in Creole that now they would have to watch what they said in front of her. Other White French female respondents mentioned that keeping silent was one of the things they had been taught explicitly or implicitly, for the sake of preserving peaceful relations within their husbands’ families. As a 29-year-old woman (in a long-term partnership of 16 years with a man from Benin) put it:

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Anyway, when you put men together, whatever color they are, they’ll want to be the stars of the show. I have no business showing off to anyone but my man. Whenever I did, there was always someone making me tell them about our intimacy and I’d get myself into trouble with him afterwards. He explained to me that because I’m White, whatever I say will be taken at face value, so I quit trying to crack jokes. Just as African American women have to micro-manage their emotions37 when appearing and speaking in public, interracial couples need, more than same-race couples, to be constantly aware of the ways others see them and react to the verbal or non-verbal cues they send (or appear to send). The comparative ana­ lysis of the data tends to show that in the joint effort imposed on the pairs, the male partners of either racial group generally want to keep control over what their partners say and how they say it, and what they understand or do not understand. One important difference between the two countries, which also points to the significantly unequal status of male and female partners, is the greater seriousness of the accusation of participating in “White genocide” in the U.S.A. than in France. This national anxiety was historically given more publicity by U.S. poli­ tical leaders than French ones, beginning in the early 20th century: The widespread scientific and social interest in eugenics was fueled by anxi­ eties expressed through the popularized notion of (white) “race suicide.” This phrase, invoked most famously by Theodore Roosevelt, summed up nativist fears about a perceived decline in reproduction among White Americans.38 This accusation seems to have targeted White women more than White men in a period of suffragist activism and strong xenophobia against immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, in an effort to remind them their duty to give the nation the next generation of citizens and keep the White Anglo-Saxon Protes­ tant group dominant. “In the first half of the [20th] century, demands for birth control met fierce resistance, tainted with the specter of female sexual freedom and the abandonment [of] motherhood, or ‘race suicide’ by white women.”39 Nativist fears focused on the prospect of a decline in the number of WASP babies. In the particular circumstance of interracial couples, it is rather the pre­ sence of mixed-race babies which was, and to a certain degree still is, perceived as a threat to the survival of the White race as a group constructed as both dominant and threatened with extinction. White nationalist or supremacist rhetoric, which never was the sole province of former Confederate states like Alabama, has become increasingly visible since the 2016 presidential campaign, particularly on social media, where the fear of White genocide is regularly stoked.

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Reclaiming French Nationality and Unpacking White Privilege in a Country in Denial In France, such anxiety is largely dampened by the existence, since 1945 (the end of Nazi occupation), of a state-funded policy of benefits encouraging large families. Understandably, most voters are deeply attached to this policy, but in recent years, far-right leaders such as Marine Le Pen have denounced the fact it also benefits families with immigrant (read Muslim) backgrounds. Here, the implicit accusation is that babies born to non-White French families will be raised by unpatriotic parents and be the next generation of unruly young citizens of African descent—a veiled hint at the riots of 2005. Most of my French respon­ dents refused to consider the possibility that their families also might be viewed with suspicion, particularly if one of the partners was West Indian, and therefore French since the 17th century. But at the same time, their answers to other questions about daily life experiences indicated that they, too, often felt com­ pelled to make explicit references to their French nationality in both informal and formal interactions with strangers. One 35-year-old White woman recalled: When I went to the hospital to do the paperwork before the birth of my second child, the gynecologist said he needed to know my nationality and my husband’s. I said, “French” but he insisted that he needed to know about origins, not just nationality or birthplace, because he remembered my hus­ band was “colored,” he said. What he really wanted to know was my hus­ band’s origin. He was just being nosy. I said, “Why do you need this information? Does the hospital keep ethnic statistics?” He explained that some groups of people were more likely than others to develop certain ill­ nesses, such as the Bretons [a French ethnic group of Celtic origin], and that it was for the child’s health. I was not impressed. I told him that he didn’t ask me if my family was from Brittany, and that I wondered what kind of answers he got from people who had been abandoned at birth, or were raised by men who didn’t know they were not their biological fathers. What kind of a question is that anyway? Another experience, shared by a 25-year-old White French woman, stresses the perceived social acceptability of expressions of disapproval of interracial unions by male practitioners in medical professions: It was at the dermatologist’s, a couple of weeks before my wedding. In his waiting room there were nothing but very [politically] conservative maga­ zines, so I sort of knew which side he was on, especially since he had been recommended to me by people from my parents’ church. But my problem was acne. So I had no reason to expect him to bring up anything political during the consultation. He prescribed me a medicine which could be

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dangerous for fetal development and he had to give me detailed explanations before I could give informed consent. So he asked me if I was sexually active, because I absolutely had to be on the pill to take this medicine. I proudly answered I was not, because I was not married yet. He said he’d still have to prescribe a contraceptive pill, because you never know, and I said okay. Then he began asking me if I was marrying a Frenchman or someone from another country. I answered my fiancé was from Benin. And then after a minute, he raised his head with a weird little smile and he said, “There’s something I’ve always wanted to know. Your future husband will ask for naturalization, right? But will you ask to become a Beninese citizen?” I was surprised and didn’t really know what to say, especially at the time, because I was under a lot of pressure from my parents. I said something like “I’m not sure, maybe, not right now.” I felt stupid and ill-at-ease. He looked like he was judging me. The contrast between the reactions of the two interviewees shows the need for White French partners to learn how to anticipate judgmental attitudes outside of the family sphere, an unfamiliar experience for most of them. The second inter­ viewee’s conclusion points to the feeling of greater vulnerability entailed by the lack of family support combined with a relatively hostile political atmosphere. The first respondent’s more defiant attitude towards the doctor reflects a greater familiarity with race-based micro-aggressions and a willingness to challenge the White racial frame, after more years spent living with her partner and raising a biracial child, which allowed her to understand how racial counter-frames are developed by people of color. When asked how they dealt with strangers’ race-based assumptions about them, 62 percent of my White interviewees in both countries who admitted having had such negative experiences also described how they had gone out of their way to challenge these. Paola, a 26-year-old French nurse, said she had yelled at a Black security guard in a supermarket because she was exasperated with his following her and her Senegalese-born boyfriend into every single aisle, every time they went grocery shopping: When we were at the counter, paying for our groceries, I yelled at him, saying, “See, we haven’t stolen anything! You must be pissed off, right? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than follow around people who are just like you? My boyfriend here makes dental prostheses. He’s not a thief!” I was so furious, I didn’t care if the whole store could hear me. My boyfriend told me to calm down, saying this guy was only doing as he was told, but I wouldn’t let it go. Perhaps because they wanted to project a different image of themselves than this category of interviewees, male respondents in both Alabama and France tended

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to give fewer details about their reactions to race-based micro-aggressions coming from strangers. Black males did so because they explained they couldn’t “waste [their] energy on changing the mind of every single prejudiced person,” as one African American interviewee put it, and White males because they tended to deny the importance of such encounters, as the example mentioned earlier sug­ gested. Whenever it was possible to interview the partners separately, or when only the female partners accepted to be interviewed, the Black female respon­ dents more willingly described verbal conflicts between their partners and stran­ gers who had insulted their couples. They hinted that they perceived such reactions as proof of love on the part of their partners but that these incidents also tended to occur when they were themselves too overwhelmed by “race fatigue” (as Amy Steinbugler puts it) to react. As Susan, a 25-year-old middle school tea­ cher from French Guiana, reminisces: Yeah, I’ve had some ignorant people commenting on how good my French is for a foreigner (hello! French Guiana is still part of France!), or even saying my boyfriend must have fun riding a black panther or a gazelle or whatnot. He usually waits to see if I’m going to say something to the guy, because he knows I’ve got a big mouth and I don’t need to have a White knight saving me like a damsel in distress. But when he sees I’m just too blasée to pick yet another fight, he steps in and demands an apology right now. I find it kind of cute, how he spends half an hour after that ranting about how unac­ ceptable the guy’s behavior was, and how he couldn’t let him say that to me, and so on. In conflict-prone situations, Black partners in either country show greater aware­ ness of the risks of physical assault that an escalation could entail. Black males in particular tend to defuse potential conflicts as part of the survival skills they have been forced to develop, either from their early childhood (in the case of African Americans or Black French respondents) or in the process of adjusting to new social and racial environments (in the case of immigrants in either set of respondents). The perceived acceptability of expressing anger after an offence varies greatly between the partners, as a result of the lack of socialization of White men and women to the emotional consequences of racial slights, as well as the wide­ spread denial in both societies of the persistence of race-based discrimination, beyond prejudice. As Peggy McIntosh made clear in her landmark piece “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,”40 it takes White individuals both time and willingness to be re-socialized to interactions with strangers, particularly as regards anger management, and eventually accept to question the assumption that the White racial frame is the only possible frame of reference. These White partners chafe and particularly feel the sting of hypogamy when realizing through such interactions that their love interests are not included into the mainstream in spite of their being in a romantic relationship together, and

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that additionally, strangers feel entitled to probe into their private or intimate spaces and openly cast doubts about the integrity of their characters. The illusion of having the ability to shape and transform one’s circumstances at will is parti­ cularly explicit in the socialization of U.S. children. Within the White-virtuous­ ness subframe of “colorblindness,” they are routinely told both in the private and public spheres that “the sky is the limit” and that they can choose to be whoever they want to be, without any warning about the conditions (namely, that of Whiteness, cis-gender, and middle-class status) and limits of the “can-do” ideol­ ogy (which implies race loyalty). Whenever their choice of a romantic partner is perceived to be transgressive, the White partners, particularly men and women whose family education encouraged them to be ambitious, realize the constraints of racial membership on the validation of their lifestyle—a reality that had so far remained imperceptible. In most cases, their confrontations with instances of sys­ temic racism are first met with strategies of denial (“I’m not going to change just because some people are ignorant”). They are also tempted to blame their part­ ners for the humiliation (which may be compared to the first two stages of grief as famously theorized by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross—namely, denial, anger, bar­ gaining, depression, and acceptance41). For instance, one White French female interviewee, aged 26, confessed: Part of it is also because he is so laid-back and against rocking the boat. Of course, he’s sweet, and that’s exactly why I chose to be with him, but if he acted like a man at times, people would show him more respect. At which point her 27-year-old boyfriend quipped, “That’s not what she thinks. That comes straight from her big sister, whose husband passes for White. You know what? You’re actually interviewing three people in one!”

Couples’ Coping Strategies in Alabama and France: The Ambiguities of Heteronormativity What Bourdieu calls symbolic violence, better rephrased as internalized race­ and gender-based oppression, is particularly effective in shaping and policing behaviors and self-representations. This is because it is premised on social play­ ers’ unconscious acceptance of social patterns of domination as “natural” and “beneficial” to both genders, instead of being recognized as historically and socially constructed and inscribed in the female and male bodies from a very early age with the explicit goal of separating the roles and places assigned to each.42 At this juncture, the intersection between racial place (defined by the White racial frames and the counter-frames) and gender role becomes particu­ larly complex for each partner in an interracial couple, as the historically con­ structed scripts about individual consent and the affirmation of the liberated self eventually clash with perceptions of transgression of the racial and sexual orders.

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Hence the crucial importance of the couples’ negotiation of their own visibility in public places, as shown by Steinbugler in her study of public displays of affection. Public perceptions of interracial couples combine a socially accepted intrusion in a pair’s intimacy with this pair’s efforts to be perceived as “normal” or otherwise “acceptable.” The simple fact that interracial or same-sex couples are no longer outlawed does not entail their respectability under the public gaze, or even in their own perception of their full legitimacy. To cope with this symbolic violence, even when they claim not to care about “ignorant people” or refuse “to let racists dictate our lives,” both partners work to restore a sense of the normalcy of their pair in interactions with strangers. They develop counter-frames of their own, often borrowing elements from the coun­ ter-frames in which the partners of color have been socialized. This explains the recurrent insistence of interviewees, both in Alabama and in France, that their relationships are “banal” or “normal.”43 Without always acknowledging that these are coping strategies evidencing their possible stigmatization, interracial couples in each set of respondents usually choose two types of responses to racist micro-aggressions. The first is to resort to a subversive appropriation of stereotypes, playing on their racist and/or sexist dimensions with the implicit aim of showing strangers that their life choices are unaffected by outsiders’ judgments. For example, each time they felt hostile or curious stares on the street, Delphine and Franck, French respondents aged 23 and 25, described how they playfully and loudly pretended to call each other by racial slurs as if these were their customary terms of endearment, and laughed at the shocked strangers’ bewilderment. In doing so, they were consciously making apparent the White planter frame between metropolitan France (as impersonated by Delphine) and Martinique (where Franck was born before a metropolitan family with Algerian origins adopted him) by inverting the naturalized relation of colonial domination between the two societies and the sexual implications of planters’ domination. By voicing the unspoken insults that they perceived in strangers’ judgmental attitudes, and pointing to the colonial root of the issue these people had with their couple, they used their verbal agency to legitimize the transgressive dimension of their union and attempt to shift the burden of shame onto the onlookers. The second coping strategy is to overemphasize the heterosexual orientation of their couples, in order to make it more visible and significant, in keeping with the normification process identified by Erving Goffman: “the effort on the part of a stigmatized individual to present himself as an ordinary person, although not necessarily making a secret of his failing.”44 Judith Butler, the theorist of queer theory, has written enlightening analyses of the impossible task of making oneself visible when one belongs to “a domain of unviable (un)subjects—abjects, we might call them—who are neither named nor prohibited within the economy of the law. Here oppression works through the production of a domain of unthinkability and unnameability.” She also points out how “it is important to

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retrace the different routes by which the unthinkability of homosexuality is being constituted time and again.”45 This normification of a category of abject, or unthinkable, couples is achieved by appropriating and signifying on the poten­ tially empowering aspects of gendered stereotypes on men and women of either race. Yet, this is also done by insisting on these couples’ distance from other objects of abjection, sexual fantasizing, and phobia. These observations tie in with Siobhan Somerville’s demonstration that the naturalization of sexual categories in U.S. history was—and still is—inseparable from the naturalization of racial cate­ gories as impermeable to one another: [C]ompulsory heterosexuality in the twentieth-century United States has drawn much of its ideological power from the ways in which it buttresses as well as depends on naturalized categories of racial difference. Compulsory heterosexuality has been not simply parallel to discourses of racial segregation but integral to its logic; to disrupt naturalized constructions of racial difference involves simultaneously unsettling one’s relationship to normative construc­ tions of gender and sexuality as well.46 One White American as well as one French respondent unconsciously exempli­ fied this implicit connection, when giving accounts of their pleading with their reluctant parents for the “right” to choose a non-White mate. Émilie, the 25­ year-old French interviewee said, “I feel my father is really being unfair. It could have been worse for a traditional Catholic like my Dad. You know—it’s not as if I were a lesbian!” and the 23-year-old Alabamian interviewee said, “I spent an entire night arguing with my dad over biblical quotes, trying to prove that I had the right to love this man, who’s a good Christian, from our church. Every time my dad fired a quote at me, I fired back with another quote. It went on and on, but there wasn’t anything I could say to convince him.” That these discussions over the “right” to choose a love interest took place with father figures in both examples is certainly not incidental. Both women were trying to minimize the implications of their disruption of racial codes by reinforcing their pledge of compliance with heteronormative sexual orientation. In both cases, they expli­ citly did so with reference to their own internalization of Christian churches’ prescriptive discourse on sexual orientation, and in an effort to make the Black male a suitable, non-threatening addition to the family. At this point in the comparison, it is necessary to point out a significant dif­ ference between the French and U.S. White racial frames with respect to visual representations of Black men. As a result of a distinct treatment of Black troops by the French republic since the Napoleonic period, Black masculinity is not construed as automatically abject47 in metropolitan France as it is in popular U.S. culture. As analyzed in Chapter 2, the bravery and even handsomeness of African men were acknowledged to a certain degree by White (male) observers during the colonial period, and the aggressive dimension of their masculinity was not

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systematically perceived as a threat to White domination, because they were subjected to the authority of White officers and colonial governors. However, these African masculinities were often fetishized in popular representations of tir­ ailleurs sénégalais or North African soldiers (particularly cavalrymen) as fascinatingly animal-like, passionately loyal to their religious beliefs and excessively pre­ occupied with their personal or family honor. These particular cultural features, associated with Muslim identities that then seemed compatible with the French Republic’s definitions of colonial law and order, began to be perceived as increasingly threatening when the former colonial subjects became first-, secondor third-generation migrants on metropolitan soil and the White imperialistic frame morphed into a White anti-immigrant frame. The release of the film Indigènes (Days of Glory) by Rachid Bouchareb in 2006 helped reveal the need for these younger generations of French males of North African and African descent to establish more solid connections with the cultural and patriotic legacy of their forefathers, and find alternatives modes of identification to those provided by commodified African American culture. The latter had offered them only three models of heroic masculinity since the 1990s—namely, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Tupac Shakur. Undoubt­ edly, American or U.S.-inspired hip-hop culture remains the dominant mode of cultural expression for the French millennial generation. However, the stereo­ type of the Black thug, rooted in racist politics of disfranchisement of African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South, proves insufficient to rally around itself their contradictory desires of recognition of French identity and assertion of an alternative, non-hegemonic48 form of masculinity grounded in non-Eur­ opean traditions. The increasing number of enrollments into the French army since the terrorist attacks of January and November 2015 in Paris may be read as an attempt to resolve this tension by making the opposite choice to that of the so-called “homegrown terrorists.”49 Significantly, in a state like Alabama, which cultivates a strong military tradition on either side of the color line, Black– White and other interracial couples are much more common on military bases like Huntsville than on the campus of The University of Alabama, where institutional protection from negative reactions is not guaranteed. The most socially acceptable, desirable performance of Black masculinity—or at least, the one that makes interracial couples assume visibility in public—is to be found among football players there. In developing what they describe as effective coping mechanisms in response to negative framing of their interracial couples by friends, in particular, nearly half of my interviewees felt the need to insist on their partners’ conformity with het­ eronormative gender traits. They also explicitly stressed that they also met ageist and ableist50 criteria of desirability, in order to definitively counter negative assumptions by strangers, friends and relatives about their size, shape or age. For instance, Tounkara, a 24-year-old Malian respondent, dismissed his friends’ pre­ judices by insisting that his French fiancée was still in her twenties (and therefore

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“not an elderly, lonely White divorcée desperate for a man”) and that she was also “petite and stylish.” He pointed out that African males often harbored ste­ reotypical views of interracial couples because of their exposure to the neocolo­ nial, hegemonic North/South realities of global sex tourism in their home countries, where not only women, but also men, trade material security and the prospect of permanent resident status in France against sexual services or even marriage. He added: Some young men aren’t even ashamed to do it with men! In the districts where expats hang out, you can find all sorts of vices we didn’t use to have before, in our parents’ day and age. See? That’s how desperate some people can be now, back home in Africa. Then, perhaps paradoxically given his insistence that “vices” came only with recent White presence, he also mentioned the existence of “gigolos” (or kept men) within all-African milieus, citing the famous example of “Mario.” This is the fictitious anti-hero of the immensely popular eponymous Congolese rumba song by Franco and the OK Jazz band, known across the African con­ tinent since the 1980s. The lyrics ferociously mock a young beau for allowing himself to be entertained by an older woman instead of fighting to earn a living as a highly educated man. Through the seven-minute song, Mario’s lover complains about his macho attitude and hubris. She announces that she is eventually kicking him out of her house after receiving too many beatings from him, so that Mario ends up returning to his parents’ and sleeping in a bed he has outgrown.51 Tounkara and other African-born interviewees, whether male or female, also said that their favorite Nollywood52 series occasionally cast young men in this role with African female partners, as in “Mario.” However, when prompted to explain if they thought such situations were more frequent with White women than Afri­ can ones, male respondents were unanimous in answering that in Africa, only a handful of “nouveau riche” men’s wives could indulge in the type of transgressive behavior which is the norm for their husbands, “because they’re lonely and bored.” Conversely, White women’s presumably more frequent loneliness was explained by the belief that “women here enjoy way too much freedom. They can ask for a divorce on a whim, for no reason at all! And then, by the time they’re 50, they realize they are starved of affection.” Paradoxically, again, even respondents in interracial couples secured their own inscription in dominant, inherited norms of monogamous, heterosexual marriage by conveying a stereotypical representation of Western women as “excessively liberated” and rich, while simultaneously exclud­ ing their own White partners from the stereotype. One 40-year-old Congolese respondent confessed he had once been attracted to a White French woman in her sixties, with whom he had had a brief affair:

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First she kept texting me, twenty, thirty times a day. She was so passionate, she made me think of a teenager. Then after we did what we had to do, she left me without any news for weeks in a row. I felt she had just been using me all the time. French women are too inconsequential. I’m done. The woman I’m seeing now is African; maybe she’s also using me but at least I know what to expect. Stereotypical representations of Black masculinity, clearly inherited from the White French imperialistic frame as well as the massive consumption of U.S. cultural products, also loom large in the way White female respondents insist on their couples’ conformity with heteronormative standards. Jennyfer, a 30-year­ old mother of two and a middle-school English teacher in France, confessed laughingly she had let a class of challenging students believe that her Ivorian­ born husband was “a tall, muscular Black man, because they know he’s a rapper just like me. So they don’t mess with me because they’re scared to death. If they only knew that in real life he’s just a little, featherweight Black guy—I could paste him against the wall if I sneezed a little too hard!” In her words, the figure of the tirailleur sénégalais is unmistakably recognizable underneath the veneer of the U.S.-style hip-hop artist à la Tupac Shakur or 50 Cent. In com­ bining the two stereotypes, she is both projecting the image of the protected woman—which earns her the respect of mostly traditionally educated Muslim students—and suggesting to them that she is smart enough to have tamed the quintessential alpha male, while privately laughing at her successful signifying on both stereotypes. She and two other female interviewees from the French sample admitted that they had been, or still were, the ones “bringing food on the table and often cooking it as well”; but they tellingly did so unwittingly, after giving the initial answer that tasks and financial participation were divided equally between themselves and their partners. These examples show a common priority behind the variety of situations and strategies—the perceived urgency of upholding the dignity of Black masculinity, even at the cost of reinforcing stereotypes or at the expense of compassion for other minority groups or identities subjected to similar relegation to abjection. When Émilie emphasizes that she remains within the boundaries of heterosexual orientation, when Eric’s girlfriend insists that she is not breaking the laws of the Bible because her love interest is a man and a fellow Christian, they are down­ playing or denying the transgressive impact of their choices by prioritizing gender over racial identification. When Tounkara disproves the assumption that his fiancée is undesirable by Western heterosexual male standards, he is also restoring his own masculinity: his partner is someone he can be proud of showing and ready to have children with, instead of appearing as a migrant desperate for a legal status after completing his studies, trading institutional protection against free sexual services. Finally, Jennyfer utilizes the stereotype of the Black “buck,”53 a legacy of the Jim Crow U.S. culture combined with French collective memories

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of the tirailleurs sénégalais, to vicariously buttress her authority over White teen­ agers. Only in private does she admit that she could be the dominant partner in the pair—the one who “wears the pants” and actually the only one who can choose what gender role to perform, when, and how; in other terms, the one who can queer her gender performance and play within multiple frames. At this juncture, Siobhan Somerville’s work on early-20th-century U.S. sci­ entific discourse on interracial pairs with same-sex orientations sheds muchneeded light on the representations that heterosexual interracial pairs still grapple with when they try to negotiate a way out of the margins of sexual and moral pathology. Somerville analyzed the way in which the U.S. sexologist Margaret Otis theorized in a 1913 article entitled “A Perversion Not Commonly Noted,” on the high rate of interracial romances in all-girls institutions. After one White girl had “admitted that the colored girl she loved seemed the man, and thought it was so in the case of the others,” Otis concluded that the girls paired their racial difference with traditional gender roles, by eroticizing the color line while resegregating the Black girls along gender lines. She may well have suggested such a “justification” for same-sex interracial attraction, and apparently did not pay too much attention to Black girls’ narratives:54 She used a simple analogy between race and gender to understand their desire: black was to white as masculine was to feminine. Racial difference performed an important visual function in Otis’s account. In turn-of-the­ century American culture, where Jim Crow segregation erected a structure of taboos against any kind of public (non-work-related) interracial relationship, racial difference visually marked the alliances between the schoolgirls as anomalous and therefore the object of scientific scrutiny.55 The couples surveyed here are more visible as romantic partners than these “anomalous”-looking schoolgirls intimately associating in a same-sex, but racially segregated environment; but they, too, seek to escape the inquisitive gaze and the demand for socially acceptable justifications. They, too, negotiate their normalcy by resorting to strategies that make the eroticization of the color line acceptable, in exaggerating the significance and permanence of traditional gender roles and assigned identities in hopes of reassuring the strangers, friends or relatives judging their lifestyles. As explained above in this chapter, it is a common strategy for stigmatized groups to seek inclusion and develop a counter-frame by explicitly or implicitly pointing to weaker or otherwise marginalized groups, in order to find a place in the broader frame of reference—here, White-dominated and cis-het­ eronormative in both of the societies concerned. In his 1990 study on marital expectations in France, the French sociologist Michel Bozon had highlighted the importance for White French heterosexual women of choosing mates both older and taller than themselves, with two-thirds of his respondents going so far as to explicitly say they would reject a suitor

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smaller than themselves in size. He explained, “[a]ccepting an inversion of appearances means allowing people to infer that it is the woman who is domi­ nant, which (paradoxically) downgrades her on the social scale: with a man who is less than a man, she feels less than a woman.”56 As Pierre Bourdieu makes plain, this behavior betrays a certain acceptance by women of the outer signs of male domination, which is still recognized as founding the couple’s social identity, and therefore its “dignity” and acceptability in the gaze of other men and women sharing the same codes of perception and social hierarchy. What matters is not that the male partner’s domination is actual in the couple’s inner workings, but that onlookers are given reassuring evidence that his superiority is made visible at all times through physical signs of maturity and stability, which are the most clearly and indisputably recognized by all.57 This is consistent with Joe Feagin’s highlighting the gender dimension at the root of the concept of virtuous­ ness, as “vir” designates the man and the hero. It also corroborates his demonstration of the persistence of the White racial frame even as minority groups and individuals successfully develop effective counter-frames and renegotiate their social status: most of us, he explains, operate as multiframers, shifting between the White racial frame and the counter-frames that sustain other senses of identity and self.58 The main reason that makes us comply is that the burden of dissenting with the dominant narrative is often difficult to bear on a daily basis in the public sphere, particularly if our children are in attendance and asking for explanations in public.

Toxic Representations of Black Womanhood and Power Relations in Interracial Couples In the broader context of normative discourses and practices shaping the self-(re) presentation of heterosexual interracial couples today, one of the most damaging and enduring pseudo-scientific narratives about Black womanhood was produced in 19th-century theories on the so-called “Hottentot Venus,” Saartje Baartman. A commodified colonized subject from South Africa, Baartman was not only assigned by élite White male Europeans (among whom Drs. Flower and Murie59) the burden of embodying, beyond “one of the aberrant forms of South Africa,” no less than the putative “missing link” between human beings and apes, but also, as Siobhan Somerville stresses, the possibility of being two-sexed: Although their account ostensibly foregrounded boundaries of race, their portrayal of the sexual characteristics of the Bushwoman betrayed Flower and Murie’s anxieties about gender boundaries. The characteristics singled out as “peculiar” to this race—the (double) “appendages”—fluttered between gen­ ders, at one moment masculine, at the next moment exaggeratedly feminine. 60 Since the 18th century, elite White male Europeans or Americans61 had fanta­ sized around the supposedly interchangeable nature of Black women’s sexuality,

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as surmised from the voyeuristic observation of Baartman’s intimate parts in freak shows in Paris and London and her subsequent sexual exploitation in 19th-cen­ tury Paris brothels. This is a good illustration of Patricia Hill Collins’s observation that “African-American women’s experiences with pornography, prostitution, and rape demonstrate how erotic power becomes commodified and exploited by social institutions.”62 This is also corroborated by my earlier comparisons of the postcolonial anxiety raised in France by the presence of interracial couples with the anxieties around restraining or shrouding sexual attraction for the forbidden Other in post-Emancipation U.S. popular culture. In either case, a eugenicist fear of degeneracy demanded that such unions be relegated to the margins of invisi­ bility, or discouraged through violent intimidation. As mentioned earlier, love for the enslaved woman was to be repressed in public. Physical attraction was less unthinkable, but for fear of betraying the White male’s weakness, it could only be expressed in the most private of the planter caste’s private spheres—the slave quarters, where White women were not frequently welcome, or male spaces in the “big house”—through rape and violence. In a similar fashion, and in the same construction of sexual politics by élite White males, the possibility of love for a Black male could only be equated with a reversal of power relations which enabled the White lover (whether male or female) to transgress gender bound­ aries in socially unacceptable ways. Patricia Hill Collins’s analyses help deconstruct the overarching political frame of these power relations, and the central role thrust upon Black women to secure their maintenance: The intersecting oppressions that produce systems of domination like slavery aim to thwart the power as energy [i.e. the erotic as defined by Audre Lorde, designating the deep feelings that arouse people to action] available to sub­ ordinate groups. The sexual politics that constrains Black womanhood con­ stitutes an effective system of domination because it intrudes on people’s daily lives at the point of consciousness.63 This is why, as the next chapter will show when I relate the experiences of biracial women in interracial couples with White men, the reactions of their African or West Indian mothers unexpectedly reasserted the White racial frame. The perceived necessity to conform to the dominant heteronormative model in order to protect oneself and one’s offspring may, and will often, imply exag­ gerated investment in hegemonic masculinity. What remains today of the pseudo-scientific constructions of Black sexuality in both societies is the recurrent assumption by strangers, relatives or unaccepting parents that any interracial relationship cannot but be premised on “perversion” of “normal” sexual practices at worst. At best, it will be seen as a necessarily temporary exploration of transgressive strategies of gender performance: only with the inferiorized, forbidden race or gender is it possible to stage oneself and

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perform one’s gendered identity as “exaggeratedly” feminine or masculine. Reallife experiences buttressing such beliefs may be found, for instance, in the testi­ monies that the U.S. sociologist Tricia Rose collected among African American women who shared with her their experiences and views about sexuality. The following passages are particularly representative of the unspoken assumptions my U.S. respondents alluded to: I think white men probably desire black women because they’ve heard that black women are animals in bed. I still think white men want us. Not all white men, but I think—what’s that guy, Hugh Grant?64 He’s got a super­ model at home [Liz Hurley], and she is what every black and white woman really has aspired to be. To have this image, this super-model image. And he’s got it and doesn’t want it. Wants that black booty. Having sex with a white man was an entirely different thing. Well, let me tell you something. All of the tricks and white men that I’ve been with, some are perverted son-of-a-guns, I’m telling you. There’s a guy walking around right now, a schoolteacher with my name carved on his chest. I carved my name on his chest with a hat pin, week after week after week, with the scabs on it—peel the scabs off and make it deeper and deeper and deeper. And I know that there’s no way that was ever going to grow back into anything. After I carved my name, I put liquid heat on it. I’ve had white men who had me defecate in their mouth and urinate in their face, tie ’em up and whip ’em and call ’em dirty names and things like that. Now, I don’t know any black people that do that. Ain’t never met one.65 A comparable scene appears in the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adi­ chie’s bestselling novel Americanah. The protagonist, Ifemelu, alludes to “those white men she had read about, with strange tastes, who wanted women to drag a feather over their back or urinate on them” and ends up allowing a White man to masturbate her against a hundred dollars, which leads her to self-hatred, depression, and burning bridges with her Nigerian love.66 In popular representa­ tions of, and fantasies around, Black–White couples, the Black female is thus cast in a role that remains inseparable from the history of perversity inscribed in the master/slave relation, and perpetuated by the White racial frame. Even if she is given sexual pleasure or the domineering part in a sado-masochistic sexual play, she is still expected to obey her White partner’s orders, and this representation in turn shapes outsiders’ assumptions about the motives behind the formation of the pair. As seen earlier, with the reference made by White teenagers to the song “Buy U a Drank” by T-Pain, these assumptions stem from unofficial knowledge of the sexual exploitation underlying the economy of slavery, quite possibly in the form of oral history transmitted from one generation to the next. They also draw on representations of Black women as hypersexual Jezebels in the form of “video vixens” in hip-hop video clips containing more or less explicit references

110 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

to pornography; these representations often came up as matters of concern in class debates around modern-day images of Black women in U.S. culture. Judging from the more recent debates around the political motives behind the repre­ sentations of rape of African American women in films and series,67 the mix of fantasy and abjection elicited by the sight of interracial couples including a Black woman is unlikely to subside anytime soon. Most probably because of their southern education and the emphasis on modesty and respectability, my Alabamian respondents made only brief and veiled allusions to the impact of these misrepresentations on the way they were per­ ceived when being together with their partners in public spaces. Likewise, they did not wish to comment on the matter of public displays of affection, usually dismissing the question by saying, “anyway, me and him don’t like to attract attention so that’s not an issue.” Yet I could not help but notice how the dis­ comfort with being stared at led to a gradual adjustment of my husband’s and my own behavior on campus and in public places. We ended up no longer holding hands and keeping more physical distance from each other, even when in com­ pany of our two children, and chatting in French quite audibly to make it clear to strangers that we were foreigners. I also noticed that I never saw my U.S. inter­ viewees walking together on campus; they came to my office at the university, or the interviews took place on church premises. Only one couple was interviewed on the playground of the condominium where we all lived. One out of Tricia Rose’s twenty Black female respondents mentions similar strategies with her White boyfriend from Kentucky: Race doesn’t come up because we don’t hold hands in public or kiss in public. I was trying to figure it out. Is it because he doesn’t want this pressure of being in an interracial relationship and letting people out there know? Or is it just that he doesn’t like those sorts of displays of affection? He told me he just doesn’t like those sorts of displays of affection. But I think that race might to some degree be an issue, because I asked these really obtuse ques­ tions. I said something like, “So do your parents know you’re seeing me?” I didn’t say, “Do your parents know you’re seeing a black woman?” or “What would it be like if I went to Kentucky with you?” He never came out and told them, but he assumes they know since I’ve met his sister.68 However, the underlying problem of misrepresentation is not restricted to southern states like Alabama or, as in the case above, Kentucky. The most recent example of such representations affected the African American actress Daniele Watts in Los Angeles, California. She was questioned and handcuffed on Sep­ tember 11, 2014 by officers from the LAPD after a “concerned citizen” had seen her kissing her White boyfriend (the celebrity chef Brian James Lucas) in their Silver Mercedes. The self-righteous “concerned citizen”—quite probably, a White person acting out of the White racial frame—had called police to report

Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era 111

on “indecent exposure,” even though she was fully clothed.69 French inter­ viewees had no similar stories to tell, for police would not respond to any such calls, but rather threaten to fine the person making the call for wasting their time, especially under the present state of emergency due to the terrorist threat. Likewise, and still largely as a result of popular representations combined with generalizations on interracial couples—particularly those including celebrities such as O.J. Simpson, Tiger Woods, or Kanye West—the Black male partner is assumed to be both emasculated by his presumed submissiveness towards his White female partner, and hypersexual. He supposedly needs to show her in public like a trophy to affirm, or reclaim, his masculinity—which again harks back to the oscillation noted by Siobhan Somerville about the “Hottentot Venus” being seen as both exaggeratedly feminine and masculine, as discussed above. Yet he is also perceived as publicly insulting the women of his race because he presumably needs to parade with her to affirm, or reclaim, his mas­ culinity and success. This argument is often found in radical Black critiques of interracial couples, particularly in the U.S.A., where the counter-frame developed by African Americans to reclaim their civil rights consciously rejected the accu­ sation that they really pursued intermarriage.70 However, the same argument is also found in French circles influenced by Afrocentric theories and the Nation of Islam. For instance, members of the Black nationalist group Tribu Ka, who call themselves Kemites (in reference to Ancient Egypt) and Whites “Leucoderms,” frown upon race-mixing, calling “primates” and “monkeys” (macaques) those Blacks fraternizing with Whites and barring Jews, Arabs, and biracial persons from attending their meetings.71 I personally experienced such hostility when attending in 2005 in Paris the launching of the CRAN (Conseil Représentatif des Asso­ ciations Noires de France), a civil-rights organization inspired from the NAACP demanding racial and ethnic statistics in France to effectively counter race-based discrimination. The glares directed by some of the younger participants at my one-year-old baby and myself came as a surprise, given the racial inclusiveness of the panels. My Alabamian interviewees refused to repeat the judgmental views voiced against their choices, dismissing them as “nonsense” or “offensive,” but these can be found in other testimonies, such as the following one, from an African American woman in an interracial relationship: “Some of the men I really respected would exclusively date White women,” she says. “It felt like confirmation of my insecurity as a dark-skinned Black woman who was single.” But Brooks, a pediatrician, says she no longer cares who Black men date. “There are some who really think that White or nonBlack women are superior,” Brooks says. “I don’t want these men anyway, because I’m not trying to be a part of somebody’s intellectual development as a partner.” Many of the sisters in her circle take the fact that some Black guys prefer women who don’t look like their mothers personally. “Every time some famous man is on display with his White woman, a lot of my friends

112 Race and Gender in a “Colorblind” Era

will have something negative to say or something that seems like they feel betrayed, as if that man is a representation of all Black men,” Brooks says. Thankfully, she has armed herself with the data that more than 70 percent of Black men are married to Black women.72 In these moral (mis-)representations, the White female partner is also perceived as cynically using her partner, as she is assumed to be both the masculine pole of the pair—“the one who wears the pants”—and a woman incapable of reining in her sexual appetites, regardless of her age. In an uncanny way, these stereotypical representations mirror the female stock characters of U.S. minstrelsy, particularly Sapphire (the loud, sassy woman constantly berating her man for his laziness and moral flaws), and Jezebel (the hypersexual temptress), but in whiteface this time.73 A 26-year-old French respondent echoed the deep anxiety behind this conflation of White French imperialistic and antebellum U.S. racial frames when confessing, My mother said the only real reason why I had picked him was that I’d be “the boss in this whole thing.” Then she and my father begged me to consider marry­ ing an eighty-year-old diplomat I had made friends with a couple of weeks earlier, or even marry my first cousin! They were in such a panic, I couldn’t recognize them and I felt they had no clue about who I was anymore. They compared me to a goat in heat, who’d simply jump on anything that moved. Then my father called me a “negress” with an air of deep disgust, and my mother asked me if I was going to become “Congolized” and change my name, as if I was entering some cult. I was in total disbelief and almost laughed, picturing myself wearing a raphia skirt and a bone through my septum, you know, as in the old Tarzan movies where they dance around a big pot with a guy being cooked inside; but she was serious! This mother-daughter confrontation is an illustration of the complexity of over­ lapping representations, which all aim to control female sexuality. When elderly White female respondents complained to me about their sons’ Black partners, they portrayed their West Indian or African or Malagasy daughters-in-law as vampires sucking the money and life-blood out of their unsuspecting sons. Here, the rebel­ lious White woman becomes the prototypical shrew, not in reference to existing stereotypes of domineering, sassy women in French culture, but because she chooses to partner with a descendant of formerly colonized subjects, and thus loses her dignity as a human being even as she takes the “masculine role” in the pair. Her parents’ desperate suggestions of alternative marriage partners clearly indicate a belief that their daughter is sex-crazed and must be quickly married away, but at the same time, both of the persons mentioned (the octogenarian and the first cousin) are impossible options in her view, as they embody sexual taboos. The final suggestion—that of cultural alienation—again strips her of agency, as the idea of an interracial and cross-cultural partnership is framed in terms of reverse colonization, even, admittedly, in the daughter’s understanding of her parents’ fears.

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In the opposite configuration, strangers or disgruntled relatives or parents simultaneously frame the White male partner in two ways. On the one hand, he is cast as the more effeminate heir of the slave-owner or colonist of old—a weak, unattractive man who needs to pay for sexual service. On the other hand, he is seen as a submissive, naïve spouse trapped in a dysfunctional couple by the wiles and charms of a Black woman portrayed either as a Jezebel (if her appearance fits Western beauty standards) or as a Sapphire (if it does not). Few male respondents, in either fieldwork, were willing to share these experiences with me in as much detail as the female interviewees did. The vast majority responded, “I don’t care about what they think.” I asked a White American male interviewee if he could help me understand the discrepancy between women’s willingness to share painful stories about the formation of their couples and men’s unwillingness to do so. He simply told me, “That’s why the Bible says it’s the man who shall leave his father and his mother to be one with his wife,74 and not the woman!” However, my exchanges with same-sex interracial couples rather tend to indicate that power relations, more than gender roles, are the actual focus of parents’ concerns for their children’s romantic or marital choices. In either case, the subversion by both partners of heteronormative standards of masculinity is central to representations which are entirely informed by imperialistic and antebellum White racial frames, and where the archetypes of blackface minstrelsy75 (in their modern, globalized versions popularized by the U.S. film industry) play a significant part. Even if power relations are at play in all couples, what prevails in the gaze cast by outsiders on interracial couples is the transgressive, post-imperial inversion of the “natural” gender and racial norms of the White racial frame. These traditionally assign the domineering stance to the White male and the submissive one to the Black male and female and, to a lesser degree, the White female.76 The couples surveyed are acutely aware of this gaze and have all implemented counter-framing strategies and coping mechanisms building off this “master” narrative. Among these strategies, the notions of kinship and the concept of loyalty underlying it loom particularly large, as Chapter 4 will now demonstrate.

Notes 1 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge, 2000, 150. 2 James Baldwin, interview in Esquire,, July 1968, reprinted on April 29, 2015 by Esquire editors,, accessed on May 1, 2015. 3 Siobhan Somerville, Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000, 9. 4 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, 4th edition, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, [2003] 2014.

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5 Joe R. Feagin, The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, New York: Routledge [2009] 2013, 87. 6 Utz McKnight, The Everyday Practice of Race in America, New York: Routledge, 2010. 7 See, for instance, Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Letter to My Son,” The Atlantic, July 4, 2015, nd-me/397619/ accessed on January 25, 2016; Melissa Block and Michel Martin, “‘The Talk’: How Parents of All Backgrounds Tell Kids About the Police,” NPR, September 4, 2014, updated October 22, 2014, lk-how-parents-of-all-backgrounds-tell-kids-about-the-police, accessed on January 25, 2016; and Jazmine Hughes, “What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About the Police,” Gawker, August 28, 2014,­ the-police-1624412625, accessed on January 4, 2016. 8 See Herblock, “If the government doesn’t support separate-but-equal schools for our children, it’s guilty of discrimination!” editorial cartoon published in the Washington Post, February 12, 1963, Herbert L. Block Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photo­ graphs Division,, accessed on January 23, 2016. See also Sarah Carr, “In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong,” The Atlantic, December 13, 2012, 12/in-southern-towns-segregation-academies-are-still-going-strong/266207, accessed on January 23, 2016. 9 Brian D. Ray, “African American Homeschool Parents’ Motivations for Homeschooling and Their Black Children’s Academic Achievement,” Journal of School Choice, vol. 9 (2015), 71–96; National Home Education Research Institute, March 11, 2015, research/african-american-homeschool-parents-motivations-for-homeschooling-and-their­ black-children-s-academic-achievement.html, accessed on January 23, 2016. See also Jessica Huseman, “The Rise of Homeschooling Among Black Families,” The Atlantic, February 17, 2015, ong-black-families/385543, accessed on January 23, 2016 and Ama Mazama, “Racism in Schools is Pushing More Black Families to Homeschool Their Children,” The Washington Post, April 10, 2015, reprinted from The Conversation, April 9, 2015, www.washingtonp lies-to-homeschool-their-children, accessed on January 23, 2016. 10 For the academic year 2017–2018, the number of post-9/11 GI Bill recipients enrolled was 1,769 out of 38,563 students, but active military personnel attending via Tuition Assistance were not included in this figure. See the-university-of-alabama/student-life/veterans, accessed on August 21, 2018. 11 See Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin, The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism, Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001, for an extensive study of 58 children aged 3 to 6 in three White-run day care centers in the U.S.A. 12 Joe R. Feagin, Systemic Racism: A Theory of Oppression, New York: Routledge, 2006, 211–17. 13 See James M. McPherson, The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975. 14 See Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861 in Henry Louis Gates and Nellie Y. McKay, eds., The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, New York: W.W. Norton, 1997, 215. 15 Henry Highland Garnet, An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America, in Gates and McKay, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 283–5. 16 Harriet Martineau, Society in America, New York, 1837. See also Fredrika Bremer, The Homes of the New World: Impressions of America, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1853; Mary Boykin Chesnut, 1861 in C. Van Woodward and Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries, New York, 1984; or Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1859 in Virginia Ingraham Burr, ed., The Secret Eye: The Journal of

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17 18 19

20 21 22 23 24

25 26 27 28 29


Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848–1889, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1990. See George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters, Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, [1857], 178, 264–6. Ernest Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, New York: Bantam Books, 1971. The concept of “politics of respectability” was first articulated by Evelyn Brooks Hig­ ginbotham in Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. See also Jane E. Dabel, A Respectable Woman: The Public Roles of African American Women in Nineteenth-Century New York, New York: New York University Press, 2008; Victoria W. Wolcott, Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar Detroit, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013; or Lisa B. Thompson, Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2009; and, from a Black feminist perspective, Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, New York: Routledge, 2004, 72–4. Quoted in Joe R. Feagin, Hernán Vera and Pinar Batur, White Racism: The Basics, New York: Routledge [2001] 2002, 202. See Joshua Rothman, Notorious in the Neighborhood: Sex and Families Across the Color Line in Virginia, 1787–1861, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. See Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997, 137, 150, n46 p. 227, n31 p. 262. See Feagin, The White Racial Frame. This exposure was measured by the government agency in charge of protecting audio­ visual communication freedom: Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, “Les effets de la por­ nographie chez les adolescents,” report on a nationwide survey, published online on November 24, 2004, fets-de-la-pornographie-chez-les-adolescents/Les-resultats-de-l-enquete, accessed on August 5, 2016. Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs: Parcours de des­ cendants d’immigrés, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012, 102–3, 107–9, 115, 151, 155, 157, 162. Ibid., 141, 156. See Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 150. Similar findings are reported about Muslim families in France in Collet and Santelli, Couples d’ici, parents d’ailleurs, 122, 134–7, 141–2, 144–5, 146–8, 153, 156–7, 159, 163–4. See George Johnson, “Serena Williams Owes Black Men Nothing for her White Fiancé,” The Grio, December 30, 2016, liams-owes-you-nothing-for-her-white-fiance, accessed on July 26, 2017. The term “hotep,” originally an ancient Egyptian greeting, is an allusion to the excesses of malecentered Afrocentrism: “Over the past decade or so, the working definition of ‘Hotep’ has morphed into an all-encompassing term describing a person who’s either a clueless parody of Afrocentricity … or someone who’s loudly, conspicuously and obnoxiously pro-black but anti-progress. … Hotep logic takes this the-straight-male-is-the-center­ of-the-universe way of thinking and adds a dollop of Afrocentricity to it. Ultimately, they don’t want true equality. They want to replace white male patriarchy with black male patriarchy.” Damon Young, “Hotep, Explained,” The Root, March 5, 2016,, accessed on July 26, 2017. Amy Steinbugler, Beyond Loving: Intimate Racework in Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Inter­ racial Relationships, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 55–62.

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31 For historical perspective on the launching of the movement, see Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2016 and Christopher J. Lebron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea, New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 32 For example, in Waiting to Exhale (dir. Forest Whitaker, 1995), in the conversations between the character of Bernadine (played by Angela Bassett) and her friends after her successful businessman of a husband has left her for his White secretary. 33 See, for instance, “Cheerios ad with mixed-race family draws racist responses,” Scott Stump, Today, June 3, 2013, ily-draws-racist-responses-6C10169988, accessed on November 21, 2016. 34 See Donald Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films, New York: Viking Press, 1973. 35 Collet and Santelli, Couples d’ici, parents d’ailleurs, 117, 120, 137. 36 Ibid., 116, 118, 133. 37 I am indebted to Dr. Brittney Cooper for this insight, which she shared in conversa­ tions on social media. 38 Somerville, Queering the Color Line, 30. 39 Jodi Vandenberg-Daves, “Twentieth-Century American Motherhood: Promises, Pit­ falls, and Continuing Legacies,” The American Historian, November 2016, 28. 40 Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peace and Freedom Magazine, July/August, 1989, 10–12, a publication of the Women’s Interna­ tional League for Peace and Freedom, Philadelphia, PA, https://nationalseedproject. org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack, accessed January 30, 2020. 41 Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, On Death and Dying, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1969. 42 See Pierre Bourdieu, La domination masculine, Paris: Seuil, 1998, 46–7. 43 These findings were already recurrent in Robert P. McNamara, Maria Tempenis, and Beth Walton, Crossing the Line: Interracial Couples in the South, Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. 44 Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, New York: Simon & Schuster, [1963] 1986, 31. 45 Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” in Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale and David M. Halperin, The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 1993, 312. 46 Somerville, Queering the Color Line, 137. Emphasis mine. 47 The term is here used with reference to Julia Kristeva, The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, translated by Léon S. Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. It designates a paradoxical reaction of disgust and fascination to a threatened loss of the distinction between subject and object, or between the self and the Other. James Baldwin’s writings on race relations in the U.S.A. revolve around a very similar notion. 48 The concept of hegemonic masculinity was first defined in Tim Carrigan, Bob Con­ nell and John Lee, “Toward a New Sociology of Masculinity,” Theory and Society, vol. 14, no. 5, Renewal and Critique in Social Theory (September 1985), 551–604. Connell then offered new critical perspectives on it in Raewyn Connell and James W. Mes­ serschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,” Gender & Society, vol. 19, no. 6 (December 2005), 829–59. It designates the system of beliefs and repre­ sentations which is used to justify and sustain the subordination of women and of those men who, being perceived as “feminine,” are marginalized in a given society. 49 In October 2015, just before the attacks of November 13, 2015, the French Army’s recruitment services reported more than 170,000 enrollments nationwide, up from 120,000 in late 2014. “Depuis les attentats, l’armée de terre croule sous les volontaires,” Le Point, October 17, 2015,­

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54 55 56 57 58 59

60 61

62 63 64

terre-croule-sous-les-volontaires-17-10-2015-1974470_23.php, and “L’armée face à un afflux de volontaires,” Le Figaro, November 19, 2015, updated November 20, 2015,­ face-a-un-afflux-de-volontaires.php#, accessed on October 11, 2016. The concept of ableism designates the discrimination against, and exclusion of, indi­ viduals with physical and mental disabilities from full participation and access to resources within a given society. See Maurianne Adams, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Rosie Castañeda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zúñiga, eds., Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, New York: Routledge, 2000, 320–78. François “Franco” Luambo Makiadi and the OK Jazz, “Mario,” 1985. See Muriel Devey Malu Malu, “Cinq chansons qui ont fait danser le Congo,” Jeune Afrique, July 6, 2010,, ac cessed on May 10, 2017. Nollywood is the popular nickname of the Nigerian film industry and the fourth biggest sector of the country’s economy, accounting for 5% of its GDP in 2012. See Alex Ayengho, “Inside Nollywood: What is Nollywood?,” The Vanguard, June 23, 2012,, acces­ sed on July 19, 2017. About sexual racism and the discriminations suffered by gay men identified as Black on online dating sites, see Jesus Gregorio Smith, María Cristina Morales, and Chong-Suk Han, “The Influence of Sexual Racism on Erotic Capital: A Systemic Racism Per­ spective,” in Pinar Batur and Joe R. Feagin, eds, Handbook of the Sociology of Racial and Ethnic Relations, New York: Springer, 2018, 389–99. See Siobhan Somerville, “Scientific Racism and the Invention of the Homosexual Body,” in Brett Beemyn and Mickey Eliason, Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Anthology, New York: New York University Press, 1996, 251–2. Somerville, Queering the Color Line, 34–5. Michel Bozon, “Les femmes et l’écart d’âge entre conjoints: une domination con­ sentie,” I: “Types d’union et attentes en matière d’écart d’âge,” Population 2, 1990, 327–60, quoted in Pierre Bourdieu, La domination masculine, p. 41. My translation. Bourdieu, La domination masculine, 41–2. My translation. See Joe R. Feagin, The White Racial Frame, chapters 8 and 9. See C.W.D., “Flower and Murie on the Dissection of a Bushwoman,” The Anthro­ pological Review, vol. 5, no. 18/19 (July–October 1867), The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 319–24,, accessed on July 26, 2017. Somerville, Queering the Color Line, 26–27. My emphasis. See Jan Nederveen Pieterse, White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Pop­ ular Culture, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, [1990] 1992, 38–43. The unscientific belief in the sexual “preference of the Oran-utan for the black women over those of his own species” famously appears, among other texts, in chapter 14 of Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, 1780. Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 150. See also Rachel Feinstein, When Rape Was Legal: The Untold History of Sexual Violence During Slavery, New Critical Viewpoints in Society Series, New York: Routledge, 2018. Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 151. Alluding to the scandal around the White British actor Hugh Grant, who got arrested in Los Angeles on June 27, 1995 for “lewd conduct” in his car with an African American sex worker; he had allegedly told her, “I always wanted to sleep with a black woman. That’s my fantasy.” See Jason Rodrigues, “Hugh Grant Arrested with Sex Worker 20 Years Ago,” The Guardian, June 26, 2015, ve-blog/2015/jun/26/hugh-grant-arrest-prostitute-divine-brown-20-1995, accessed on July 23, 2017.

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65 Joclyn’s and Linda Rae’s testimonies in Tricia Rose, Longing To Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy, New York: Picador, 2003, 132–3 and 114–15. See also Amparo’s testimony about feeling “used” by White men who had “a thing for exotic women,” ibid., 144, and Cocoa’s testimony about not being attracted to White men because one of her high schoolteachers had been pursuing her and later being grabbed and kissed without her consent by a young White co-worker, ibid., 164–65. 66 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah, London: Fourth Estate, [2013] 2014, 153–5. 67 See the controversy around Nate Parker’s 2016 feature film Birth of a Nation (dis­ tributed by Fox Searchlight), where the hero, Nat Turner (a preacher who instigated the historic slave uprising of 1831 in Virginia), is represented as being pushed to take up arms by the outrage felt when dealing with planters’ and patrollers’ sexual violence on enslaved women. Not only is this catalyst not documented by any archive on Nat Turner, but the film sparked outrage because the filmmaker and co-writer (both of them Black men) had been embroiled in 1999 in a college gang rape case involving a Black female victim, who committed suicide in 2012 after Parker had been acquitted. See, for instance, Kelly Lawler, “How ‘Birth of a Nation’ Mishandles its Portrayal of Rape,” USA Today, October 7, 2016, 10/07/birth-of-a-nation-nate-parker-rape-gabrielle-union/91694398,and Salamishah Tillet, “How ‘The Birth of a Nation’ Silences Black Women,” The New York Times, October 12, 2016, tion-silences-black-women.html, accessed on July 26, 2017. See also the controversy around the new HBO series entitled “Confederate,” launched by the (White) creators of the series Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which represents a fic­ tional America where the Confederacy did not lose the Civil War: Caroline Framke, “Confederate, a Civil War Dystopia From the Game of Thrones Creators, is Already Controversial,” Vox, July 21, 2017, confederate-hbo-game-of-thrones-new-show, and Roxane Gay, “I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction,” The New York Times, July 25, 2017, 2017/07/25/opinion/hbo-confederate-slavery-civil-war.html, accessed on July 26, 2017. 68 Rita’s testimony in Tricia Rose, Longing To Tell, 88. 69 Emily Thomas, “Police Allegedly Mistake Black Actress Kissing White Partner for a Prostitute,” Huffington Post, September 14, 2014, updated September 16, 2014, www. html, accessed on July 23, 2017. 70 See Randall Kennedy, Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption, New York: Vintage Books, 2003, 25–6. 71 Tribu Ka was created in 2004 and banned in 2006 after its twenty-something leader Kémi Seba, a former member of the Nation of Islam in France, led his followers into the Jewish neighborhood of Paris in search of a fight with Jewish student unions. Re­ created in 2007, it was banned anew in 2009. Its membership is estimated at a hundred followers, but its activity on social media was and remains quite perceptible whenever Africana topics are addressed. Seba has been based in Senegal since 2011, and has become a radio and TV show personality there. See Mehdi Bâ, “Kémi Seba, de la Tribu Ka au Sénégal,” Jeune Afrique, January 6, 2014, 135060/politique/kemi-seba-de-la-tribu-ka-au-s-n-gal, accessed on July 25, 2017. See also “Kémi Séba, ex-leader de la Tribu KA et proche de Dieudonné, incarcéré,” Le Parisien, September 14, 2014, l-kemi-seba-ex-leader-de-la-tribu-ka-arrete-a-paris-14-09-2014-4134229.php, acces­ sed on July 25, 2017, and Camille Jourdan, “Kémi Séba, du radicalisme noir à l’ex­ trême-droite,” Les Inrocks, September 16, 2014, 09/16/actualite/kemi-seba-radicalise-jeune-age-11524474, accessed on July 25, 2017.

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72 Lottie L. Joiner, “Love in Black and White: The Complex Reality of Multicultural Dating in 2016,” Essence, December 21, 2016, lex-reality-multicultural-dating-2016?iid=sr-link1, accessed on April 19, 2017. 73 See Bogle, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks; W. Fitzhugh Brundage, ed., Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890– 1930, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011; and Elizabeth Ann Beaulieu, ed., Writing African American Women: An Encyclopedia of Literature by and about Women of Color, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006. 74 A reference to Genesis, 2:24. 75 See Marlon Riggs’s documentary film Ethnic Notions (1987). 76 Siobhan Somerville shows how evolutionary theory in the 19th century put adult African Americans and White women at the same stage of evolution as White male children or senile White men. Somerville, Queering the Color Line, 24.


Whether we analyze French or U.S. society, the political framing of couples is not only present, but inherent in the way heterosexual relations are defined and policed. As Patricia Hill Collins observes: Avoiding being reduced to the “genitalia and the paycheck” requires devel­ oping a comprehensive analysis of how prevailing sexual politics influences Black heterosexual love relationships. In developing this analysis, however, it is equally important to keep in mind the analytical distinction between the interpersonal domain of power where men and women as individuals inter­ act, and how broader overarching structures or power operate to encourage these individual outcomes.1 In the particular case of partners in heterosexual interracial couples, they are designated, and expected to view themselves, as men and women who “do not know where to draw the sexual line” and thus engage in “contested relation­ ships.”2 As such, these individuals have to contend with the double burden of the system of gender oppression, which defines and sexualizes them in extremely specific, limited ways, and of the system of racial oppression, which assigns them social places that must not be traded or otherwise challenged. This chapter is centered on the counter-frames developed by partners in interracial couples as they face the pressure of their respective racial and gender groups and try to negotiate a sense of belonging within these intersecting groups. One major difference between the two societies is the importance of broader racial politics in the perceptions of interracial couples within kinship or racial groups. The concept of “race traitor” is unique to the White supremacist racial frame and the resulting African American counter-frame, where the implications

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of accusations of “selling out”3 or cultural appropriation are much more wideranging than in France. This is because of the specificity of that nation’s slaveholding and imperial past, and because of the taboo attached to the notion of community in that country’s national narrative. Indeed, in metropolitan France, the term “community” itself is understood as implying cultural separatism and an explicit manifestation of an individual or collective rejection of the secular prin­ ciples of the French Republic, stemming from a conscious will to remain differ­ ent from, and unassimilable to, the White mainstream. Respondents’ experiences with embracing the other culture are inseparable from these histories, even though these couples insist on being considered as individuals, not representatives of an oppressor or subordinate group. Among the French-speaking respondents, the distinguishing feature is the greater fluidity of cultural boundaries between, in particular, African or Africandescended families and French individuals who are accepted as “our wife” or “our husband” in processes of re-socialization by the in-laws. Past studies on Black–White couples in the U.S.A. have already shown the greater degree of acceptance shown by Black families. What this fieldwork unveils is the impor­ tance of gender performance in the work of cultural integration accomplished by the partners, both on an individual basis and as a “team” focused on obtaining full recognition of their existence by the kinship group.

Gender Performance and Financial Loyalty to the Kinship Group To assess the negotiations of the principle of loyalty to the kinship group, the financial issues met by the couples surveyed are a good place to start. In several instances, Black male interviewees, whether in the French or U.S. sample, recognized they had had to come to the rescue of a sibling in trouble, as part of the unwritten rule of family solidarity, and even if this meant potentially endangering the pact of mutual trust founding their own couples. For instance, one newlywed Alabamian interviewee accepted to serve a two-month jail term in the place of his brother, who had received a ticket while driving the car he had borrowed from him. When a Cameroonian-born French respondent received a phone call from his bank announcing him that he could no longer write checks because of a bank suspension, he found out that his twin brother, whom the bank had mistaken for him, had written bad checks and exceeded the overdraft limit of his account. The bank’s phone call had come at a time when he and his wife were struggling to pay their bills, so he did not tell her until he had sorted out the matter with the bank and found money to help his brother out, for fear of her reaction. Some of the examples the respondents shared with me were not isolated inci­ dents such as these, but rather seemed to indicate the impossibility to refuse assistance to a family member, or at least the need to find non-confrontational strategies to avoid saying an outright “no” while preserving the inner workings of

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the couples from outside control. For example, a 38-year-old male interviewee from the Democratic Republic of Congo explained that his elder brother, a father of six, had asked him to state that he had two children when filling in the paperwork for his wedding to a French woman. He explains: My brother said, “Give them the names and dates of birth of [his two younger sons] so they may get the papers too. The White woman doesn’t need to know. She’ll find out when it’s too late.” I answered, “But we fill out the forms together! She’ll see whatever I write and hear whatever I say.” So he left me alone. [My wife] was shocked and asked me why I hadn’t said that this type of scheme would have jeopardized our marriage itself. But he simply wouldn’t have accepted no for an answer. At this point in the interview, his wife felt the need to explain: You see, this was ten years ago. Since then, I’ve been able to see for myself how in African families, uncles act towards their nephews and nieces as if they were their own children. So, even if I still find it took some nerve to ask such a thing of my partner, I’ve come to appreciate the genuine affection his brother has for our children. He acts much more like a father to them than any of my brothers, and that’s something that means a lot to me. It seems significant that these interviewees’ partners were the ones who sponta­ neously brought up these incidents and insisted on telling them or having them told by their men, clearly in the intention of stressing the latter’s perfect loyalty to their kin. Precisely because such instances of family solidarity are more common in West Indian and African families with traditional value systems, but also in African American families, these Black partners seem to make it a point to behave no differently from those relatives who married inside the racial group, and logi­ cally wanted these acts of duty to remain inconspicuous. Of course, it is impos­ sible to assess to what extent such proof of loyalty may be a sign of deeply buried guilt for “marrying out.” Yet it comes across as just that when related by the White female partners. They, in turn, seem torn between a sense of revolt against what they consider to be the in-laws’ unconscionable sense of family priorities and hierarchies, on the one hand, and a sense of admiration and pride in the dependability of their men on the other hand. As will be seen in other instances as well, respondents frequently sought to disprove common racial and gender stereotypes. In this case, White women made it clear that they meant to challenge the common assumption, in the racial counter-frame shared by many African, West Indian and African American families, that Whites do not cultivate family loyalty. The phrase “just as mean as white folks,” commonly heard since the days of slavery in the United States,4 has its equivalent among African and West Indian families in France. I often heard

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the saying, “White folks don’t like other people” in the sense of “White men and women don’t practice hospitality,” or “White women only cook individual por­ tions and can’t cook big meals.” Meanwhile, these interviewees also stressed that they had Black female friends, raised in France, who were just as critical of tra­ ditional African and West Indian value systems, and who shared their impatience with what Patricia Hill Collins calls “the self-imposed restrictions that accompany norms of racial solidarity”5 especially when the female partner earned more than the male. One of my Afro-French interviewees, for instance, complained about her sister-in-law’s carelessness with customs rules: I have a sister-in-law who’s from the same ethnic group as my brother and me, and they all live in Montreal, Canada. She has a job there but she also has her own informal business, selling other African women weaves foodstuffs and from our home country. Well, the other day she told us to go and pick up a parcel for her at the airport and bring it to her in Montreal, where my hus­ band was supposed to go on a business trip. I went myself, because I could smell a rat and I didn’t want him getting in trouble because of her schemes. And sure enough, the parcel had been impounded by customs at the Paris airport because of the quantities of weaves and stuff her folks had packed in that bag! If [my White French husband] had been there, or even my sister’s African husband who’s in the military, they would have freaked out and left the bag to be destroyed, that’s for sure. So I had to pay the 250-euro fine and they threatened to put me in jail next time it happened. I told my brother what happened; but because she doesn’t earn as much as me and only thinks about her profits, they didn’t even bother to refund me. She just laughed it off and thanked God I was lucky! Can you believe it? Oh, well. Next time they have something to ask, they’ll go bug someone else, because they’re indebted to me now. See, that’s how you buy peace in a African family! In couples where the female partner was Black, there seemed to be fewer tensions over similar situations than in couples including a White woman: when the woman in the pair had decided to save part of her income for her parents’ or siblings’ emergency situations, this was presented by both interviewees as unpro­ blematic and part of a mutual arrangement. This may be due to the White male partner’s concern to preserve his own sense of his masculinity in front of the interviewer, as any expression of frustration could have indicated his financial dependency on his partner. Besides, it is to be noted that in West African as well as Central African societies, while men are expected to provide for the needs of their sexual partners (whether official or unofficial) women’s earnings are often considered to be their exclusive property, without any obligation of account­ ability. It struck me that U.S. couples involving a Black woman seemed to follow a similar pattern.

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In each sample of respondents, one couple were even acting as the primary caregivers of the teenage child of the Black wife’s sister (a boy in the Alabamian case, a girl in the French one). The clear will on the part of respondents to pre­ sent such family arrangements as informal adoptions is comparable to the cases of other Black female interviewees who raised their partner’s children from a former same-race union, or White female respondents who remarried a White partner after their interracial marriage had ended. In each of these cases, the White male partner was praised for his willingness to understand kinship ties and embrace parenting in more inclusive ways than the individualistic, White middle-class definition of the nuclear family. Contrary to the belief—commonly held in the U.S.A.—that men and women who “marry out” are necessarily “lost” to their racial group6 and seeking to dis­ tance themselves from it, these findings tend to show that it is possible for couples to negotiate traditional prescriptions about family solidarity or race loyalty and build intersectional counter-frames. This is done in ways that facilitate not only com­ pliance, but even understanding and adhesion by mainstream individuals, even if these couples’ life choices are not always understood or even accepted by their respective extended families. These decisions seem to combine an internalized sense of duty to the kinship group with a more personal gender performance as a pro­ vider figure, particularly in the case of men, who seemed to find a sense of fulfil­ ment in being recognized as such by their nuclear and extended families.

The Significance of the Dowry in Couples Including an African Partner To measure the couples’ strategies of negotiation of explicitly patriarchal traditional gender roles, I asked those involving female partners of African descent how they perceived the African tradition of the dowry. This custom may be observed in so many West African and Central African ethnic groups that it may be considered as part of the fabric of most African social systems, not only surviving Islamic as well as Christian influences, but informing them. This is a mandatory offering, to be paid by the groom’s family in the form of cash and gifts requested by the bride’s parents and relatives, partly in recognition of their efforts to raise a well-educated young woman, and more crucially, to preserve the couple’s future (or existing) children from witchcraft attacks coming from either of the two families.7 The Alabamian respondents including an African female partner had avoided the ritual altogether, arguing that the U.S. was too far away from the African continent to organize such a big and lengthy family reunion. By contrast, the French-speak­ ing women were all surprisingly attached to the symbolic value of the ceremony. They made its explanation an important step in the recognition of their love interests by their parents and the building of their lives as adults, even if they did not organize it (or intend to organize it) in strict compliance with their respective ethnic traditions. Most of them were critical of the excessive demands of some

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families in their parents’ home countries, skeptical of their relatives’ belief in witchcraft, and quite aware that European men who readily comply with the bride’s family’s demands without bargaining are regularly portrayed in the African media as gullible victims of a system of legal “ransom.” However, they unam­ biguously stated that their partners at least had to discuss the significance of the tradition with their fathers to have a clearer sense of where they came from, even if the couple ended up organizing a much lighter ceremony. Contrary to the popular assumption that even more than men, women who marry interracially engage in a form of racial and gender insubordination (to borrow Judith Butler’s phrase8), the respondents emphasized the importance of having their place in the kinship group clearly affirmed by their parents, speci­ fically their fathers. Several women described the aim of the ritual as a gauging of the other family’s mores through prolonged bargaining, while others insisted on its spiritual function of giving the couple as many “blessings from the ancestors” as possible. All of the 29 women surveyed for that project stated their preference for a ceremony held in their parents’ home countries, because of the festive atmosphere that could hardly be replicated in a European country. They also stressed that the initial goal of the dowry is to allow the two families to engage in a contract involving everyone’s responsibility and publicly stating their shared interest in seeing the couple last and flourish. In African traditions, across denominational lines among Muslims and Christians, the shared defini­ tion of the marriage ceremony is that it serves to unite two families durably by preemptively eliminating any possible source of conflict.9 It therefore secures the new couple and their future offspring, by extending the community of kinship to include the in-laws (who are traditionally called by that title by every relative of the spouse). This notion of shared responsibility is more prevalent when both partners are African, than in the case of interracial marriages involving an African partner. This is because European or U.S. families tend to view marriage from a very different angle, understanding the notion of contract between the two parties in the form of prenuptials rather than a bargaining ritual involving the trading of proverbs and jokes. The White parents who most opposed their children’s matrimonial projects even insisted on the necessity to anticipate divorce and make sure the African spouse and kin would not take away the material possessions that they considered belonged to their family. Still, and regardless of the gender of their child, the African families always made it clear that no love interest (even of African descent) would be worthy of any real consideration unless there were plans for a marriage, and consequently, a preliminary meeting between the two families. Indeed, as Tonya, a 25-year-old Congolese-born respondent explained, “the elders know better than us if we made the right choice. They are less focused on the future son- or daughter-in­ law than on the kind of people the parents are. They are better situated to see trouble from afar, or give us the green light, or even just warn us about what

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might happen. My elder sister married a man from Congo but she didn’t pay attention to our parents’ and aunties’ warnings; maybe she wouldn’t be divorced by now if she had listened and not followed her heart’s desire.” Interracial mar­ riages are then seen like any other marriage, whether inside or outside of the racial and ethnic group: the point is to establish a contact with the people who raised the person wishing to become part of your kinship group and who will raise your future (or existing) grandchildren. The tradition of the dowry makes the negotiation between two families a particularly sensitive matter when the couple is interracial, which is why the respondents concerned all mentioned a one-on-one discussion between the fiancée’s father and her boyfriend, which took the form of an explanation rather than a bargaining ritual, and thus completely transformed the principle. Like­ wise, the list of presents was not set up by the bride’s family, but a symbolic amount of cash was requested instead: one French respondent of Ghanaian descent explained that her father had asked her fiancé to prepare 40 euros in 20 cent coins. In other cases, the groom’s family provided the wine or caskets of beer without necessarily understanding in depth the symbolic value attached to this element in traditional African rituals, because their sons had preferred dis­ guising it as the typically French discussion over which family should have the privilege to buy the wine and liquors for the wedding dinner. The female partners of African descent as well as their families clearly put a lot of effort in avoiding culture shock on the part of the European partner and in-laws. However, the effect of socialization in France and the parents’ immigrant experience are also felt in the various forms of reinvention of tradition at work in all-African couples tying the knot in France. When asked if they had regrets about the absence of a dowry in the French system, African-born male respondents rather expressed unmitigated relief, espe­ cially those who had been forced to renounce serious relationships back home in the past for lack of money, only to see their love interest married away to an elderly cousin of theirs. One informant, a relative of one of my respondents, mentioned his dismay on discovering that the woman he intended to marry was not considered the perfect pick by his parents, although she belonged to his ethnic group, because their genealogical trees indicated that their parents were distant cousins. He was forced to part with “the love of [his] life” and said that since then, he and his circle of friends and relatives had decided to not only marry outside of their ethnic group, but consider marrying European women in order to escape family dictates and community control. Men who had been through such experiences or witnessed them were much more critical of the abuses of the dowry system and African matrimonial traditions in general than the female respondents in interracial couples. Occasionally, though, the White partners of some of these men half-jokingly expressed the feeling that they were not “worth as much” as an African bride because the engagement had “cost [the man] nothing.” In nearly all cases, these

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women were also alluding to the fact they had had to dispel their own parents’ and friends’ concern that they were being used only to secure French nationality for their husbands, who could then possibly show their true colors, get a divorce and have their “real” (read African) wives join them. One French respondent said she had interrupted the wedding procedure after her parents and friends had shown her evidence that her Ivorian fiancé already had a wife in his home country. “I don’t think all Africans are dishonest like him, but these things are real too. So I tell other people about my experience whenever I have a chance, because this broke my heart and I don’t want others to be fooled in the same way,” she said. Although this was the only example of “grey marriage” in my sample of French-speaking informants and respondents, the trope of the naïve White woman being cynically manipulated by a soft-spoken womanizer in search of legal documents was recurrent in their pre-marital experiences, particularly with French naturalization services. Like all transnational couples wishing to marry, they had received summons to be interviewed separately by law enforcement officers at the préfecture (the regional district authority that issues drivers’ licenses, resident permits, national ID cards, and passports) prior to their weddings. My experience in 2000 was exactly similar to those of my married respondents. The officer first asked me the series of questions meant to assess the cultural assimila­ tion of immigrant individuals and families (“Do you have French friends? Do you have cultural activities with French people? Do you belong to local community organizations? What language do you speak at home?”), exactly as if I had not been born and socialized in France for almost three decades. Then, on a more informal tone, he warned me that I should check my fiancé’s background very closely to make sure he was not fooling me in the interest of a wife and children he might have back home: “You know, they have to give municipal authorities a certificate of celibacy, but these are easily forged over there. So you need to be extra careful and tell us right now if there’s anything that doesn’t look right. Don’t wait until it’s too late to come back to us and cry over spilled milk, because once you’re married we can no longer stop him.” Other French respondents in Franco-African couples reported having to answer disingenuous questions about their possibly asking for naturalization in their spouses’ home countries. Sometimes these questions were not even asked by naturalization offi­ cers, but by physicians (as in a case mentioned earlier) or strangers on social net­ works, eliciting responses ranging from dumbfounded shock to sarcasm. Thus, even if the phrases “race traitor” or “sellout” are distinctly American and shaped by the history of the U.S. White racial frame, a vast majority of my French-speaking respondents have had to deal with similar suspicions of weak­ ening the preservation of their group’s interests and recklessly underestimating the value of belonging to a kinship group or a national community. The charges were of comparable symbolic violence regardless of the gender of the person accused. The politics of cultural survival underpinning such overt or covert

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accusations are not lost on them in their urgency, and the couples’ careful coun­ ter-frames prove that contrary to the popular dismissal of interracial couples as rebellious, they do take these arguments into account, whether they have con­ sciously or unconsciously internalized these concerns.10

The Cultural Significance of Food and Cooking in French Interracial Couples In five of the couples in the French sample, food was even a locus of tensions that both partners identified for me. Three White women complained about having had to give up cooking pork, duck or lamb meat because of their husbands’ tastes or religious taboos. Two White French men said they refused to eat traditional African dishes and even left the room when their partners served these to their uncles, to protest the latter’s traditional right to request special meals of their nieces. They all said in half-defiant, half-joking tones that they “took [their] revenge” by bringing to the table a smelly French cheese. While the men did not mention any exchanges with friends on these matters, the women did so, stressing that it was often a topic of conversation with their female friends and that they were often advised to have their partners cook a separate meal for themselves, rather than let them impose their tastes and taboos. One of them admitted she only cooked pork for herself and the children when there was a separate meal ready for her husband or when he was away on business trips. She drew my attention to a drawback entailed by her strategy: whenever they disliked what was being served, her children demanded separate meals, which she found an increasingly frequent situation as they were in their early teens. She and her husband frequently had arguments about this behavior, which he found no fault with, whereas she perceived it as a flaw in their sons’ upbringing. She feared that because of their father’s “setting a bad example,” they would “never find women who’ll accept to bend over backwards like I do to please their every whim!” When I asked her if she thought African women would be more pliable, she answered: I see my in-laws serving two or three meat or fish preparations with several different side dishes, but this is at family gatherings, or when they want to treat us to some delicacies we don’t often have, because they’re fond of me. But you’ve got to understand that this means a lot of work, and I’m on my own, I’m not being helped by lots of nieces and sisters and whatnot! I’m knackered when I return home so I can’t do this type of fancy stuff all the time. Plus, I don’t think [second-generation] Black girls born here will be happy to spend so much time cooking for someone picky like [my son]. I know quite a few Black girls who don’t like to cook and won’t have any of this craziness! One of my younger in-laws, a cousin, was on her second date with an African guy who showed up at her place with some meat and a big

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fish; he laid it all in her kitchen for her to cook, you know, it was his way of telling her he trusted her enough to cook for him. She didn’t say a thing and prepared the meal, but she kicked him out afterwards and said she never wanted to hear from him again. I don’t want my sons to act macho like that and think they can get away with it. Her telling me this anecdote shows that she framed the incident less as a racial issue than one revolving around culture and culturally assigned gender roles, which she could understand well enough to spell them out for me. Indeed, it is true that because of prevailing beliefs in African cultures on the transmission of witchcraft via food and sexual intercourse, it is very symbolical for a man to ask a woman to cook for him. But while she was aware of these belief systems, she still did not wish to embrace them uncritically, let alone pass them down to her off­ spring as the norm for a modern couple. She insisted on transmitting to her sons a “more Western” view of gender roles, as a sort of duty that she felt she owed the women of the next generation in her family. Another French interviewee vented frustration about similar cultural issues regarding customs around cooking and consuming the food. Here is what she had to say: What really gets me is the Christmas and New Year’s Eve meals, when I have to cook and cook and cook, loads of food until I’m dog tired and beyond; while all these guys are over there in the living room lounging in sofas and chatting, and it’s so clear they couldn’t care less about the person who’s cooking the meal. And just when I’m done cooking for us and the kids plus my husband’s brother and his two teenage sons, another couple of nephews turn up and they too eat twice as much as I could take, so I have to go buy more food to cook another full meal and get back into the kitchen, just when I thought I couldn’t cook anymore and was getting concerned about the amount of money I’d spent on groceries. I’ve tried to tell him this isn’t right, I’ve tried to show I wasn’t happy with their whole system, but there’s just no way to make myself heard, I’m made to feel like someone insignificant, like some little kid throwing a tantrum. I’m stuck between their system where the women do all the cooking, but with the help of loads of nieces and sisters and cousins, and the system here in which I was raised, where guests are supposed to be mindful of the socalled “hostess”11 and appreciative of her efforts. Then again, in their system there’s no set hour for meals, so it’s okay for the women who do the cooking to keep the guests waiting up to 4 or 6 pm until lunch is ready. And in the meantime, they can munch on something while they’re busy in the kitchen, or even have the little ones and the old folks be served part of the food before the rest. But in France, it’s just unacceptable to eat aside from your guests, or before they arrive, when you are the hostess—it’s just not done, it’s disrespectful for the guests and it also

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feels like you’re cheated of your right to see them enjoying the meal you’ve cooked. I can’t bring myself to do this. I would feel like some headscarfwearing Muslim housewife in a traditional household. And even if I did that, I would be the only one seeing this as a sign of protest. They would not even notice, they’re so excited to get together and chat for hours over some good food! This rant is instructive in its mix of frustration and understanding of differences in the daily lives and obligations of women in African and French societies. On the one hand, the respondent expresses her disapproval of male behaviors that she considers to be patriarchal. Yet on the other hand, she does not distance herself from her female in-laws. Instead, she resorts to the highly politicized and stig­ matized figure of the traditional, hijab-wearing Muslim woman as an embodi­ ment of the woman she does not want to become. At the time of her interview, political debates were raging in France around the ban on niqabs (full veils) and burkinis (bathing suits worn by traditional Muslim women on the beach). In doing so, she implicitly shows that she does not find it acceptable to express cultural prejudice towards the women of the racial group she has integrated, but feels more at ease building a front against macho behaviors, even if it means tar­ geting other formerly colonized cultures and people, belonging to a scapegoated group in the French anti-immigrant racial frame. It is worth noting that this respondent was the same woman who had had a heated exchange with her mother about her possible loss of French identity a dozen years earlier. In an unconscious manner, her rejection of stereotypical or traditional Muslim gender roles may be read as a way to signal to me her loyalty to secular French gender roles and the imperialistic frame that claimed to protect women from barbaric customs (see Chapter 2). Male respondents from the French sample were also aware of and sensitive to kitchen chores as a possible source of conflict. One West Indian man told me how, very early on in their relationship, his girlfriend had brought home a bag of onions and dramatically set them before him on the kitchen table, along with a knife for him to peel and cut them. He clearly understood this to be a litmus test, and proceeded to peel the onions without commenting on her attitude. Even in couples prioritizing openness to African(-descended) culture(s)—often in connection with the project of raising children (or future children) with a coherent religious foundation combined with pride in their African roots12—one partner or the other recognized that they frequently found themselves reassuring their kinship group (and sometimes even strangers) that they had not renounced their ethnic identities. These signs were commonly associated with eating or drinking customs typical of either culture (such as having a glass of wine with their meal, or eating traditional meals with one hand) harking back to the child­ hood memories they shared with their relatives. Yet as indicated previously, in half of the cases they also included financial participation in family projects such as

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the collective financing of a sibling’s children’s college education or of a burial in Africa or the West Indies. Among the Alabamian respondents, food and drink were less of an issue in couples’ daily lives than in the case of the French/Francophone pairs. Soul food (including such delicacies as fried chicken, collard greens, okra, black-eyed peas or gumbo) is familiar to both Black and White Southerners, and the love of barbecue is equally shared on either side of the color line. Taboos on alcohol, or on the contrary, bootlegging techniques inherited from the Prohibition generation, were also shared by both groups, depending on religious affiliations and family traditions. However, awkward moments could also be experienced by Black partners when watermelon, Kool-Aid, or chicken wings were served at White family reunions. Indeed, stereotypical images that are part of the legacy of blackface minstrelsy have remained deeply embedded in the modes of consumption of certain foods. This led several White partners to have explicit conversations with parents and relatives about these matters, asking them not to include these foods and drinks in family gatherings, to avoid any awkward feelings. More often, however, the Black partners opted for a non-confronta­ tional behavior (typical of the African American counter-frame) and pretended to ignore the culturally loaded food and drink rather than take the risk of ruining the party.

Financial Pressure as a Means of Control of Women in Interracial Couples Financial issues, which may equally be the source of tensions or a form of cement for the couples (insofar as contributions materialize the degree of dependability of a man or a woman in the eyes of both their partner and their kinship group), are also inscribed in many of their early histories. Indeed, money is for many adamant parents a means to thwart marriage plans and “save” their child as well as the family’s reputation. The data collected among the couples who had been, or were being, subjected to financial pressure from one of the partner’s families indicated— to my surprise—that this method was used by Black families as well as White ones, whether in the U.S.A. or in France, but always on their female children. Several of my biracial female interviewees in the French-speaking sample reported the existence of pro-White, class-based prejudice in their own parents’ expectations, particularly their interracially married or divorced African or West Indian mothers, who explicitly rejoiced on hearing of the existence of a White boyfriend and immediately inquired about the financial stability of the male partner. Enzo, a 23-year-old White male, most explicitly reported this: Her parents are still financing her studies, but what I really want is that once we get married we may be totally independent from them, and make our

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own choices without anyone else interfering. … I’m scared her mother might say, “Here’s a man who can’t even take care of our daughter!” His partner Lou, whose mother is a native of Burkina Faso, echoed him in a separate interview: We’ve been together for three years now, and we got into a civil partnership so we could keep our scholarships. My mother didn’t take it that well, she’s a devout Catholic from Burkina Faso and likes traditional stuff. Enzo is the one who brought up marriage, right after the terrorist attacks in Paris [November 2015], saying that life is too short. I’m not really into it, but it would be unkind to say no, and then a wedding ceremony’s not going to kill me. Though if I had it my way, I would just go to the town hall and get it over with, but it’s not done to get married in secret. But no matter what my parents say, we’ll finance the wedding ourselves, so they can’t invite people we don’t like. My mother’s such a control freak, already when I was a child she competed with her friends about what ceremony she would organize for my sister and me, and I was like, “Ewww.” My parents behave like nou­ veaux riches, they think they can just buy everything and I don’t want to be controlled by their money anymore. Among the U.S. sample of respondents, White females consistently stressed the fact their parents had threatened to cut their monthly allowances if they persisted in dating a Black man. One of them, Emma, 23 years old when I interviewed her, had to fold in the face of psychological and financial pressure that left her without any agency: My dad and mom called me in their room and told me I was not going to go with Cedric. They said that if I were to start dating Cedric, that people, White people would view me as a slut, Black men would view me as easy, that I would be disowned by my family, that our kids would never be accepted, and that they disapproved us being together. … My dad told me he was not racist, he just did not want me dating a mixed boy, in fear for me. I told him I did not care what the world viewed me and he said that he did. He then told me I had to pick between my family, college, car, and money or Cedric. I told my parents I would call Cedric and tell him I could not go on the date and no longer date him. Cedric was upset but it was not the first time he was in this situation. I went to my dad multiple times with Scripture defending that what I was doing was not wrong to the Lord, and that was all that should matter. My parents did not want to have it and our relationship took a major downfall. The next month, my dad took a group of my friends down to Mississippi to do relief work. Cedric said he wanted to come and prove to my dad the

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kind of man he was, and what he was about. During the course of the trip my dad gained respect for Cedric and liked him as a person. After we got back from the trip, Cedric waited till everyone left, to talk to my father one on one about the issue. He told my dad, if he had any problems with him to tell him to his face and asked for permission to pursue me. My dad told Cedric that he was glad he met him and respected him, and that he was sorry and the decision was up to me. So Cedric came and told me what they talked about, and so Cedric and I started to date again. The next day, my parents called and told me I had to choose and date Cedric or give up everything they had said earlier. My dad said he was sorry, but that one day I would understand, and that he hates that it is this way but that’s the way it is. I told him then he should stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution, but nothing I was going to say would change their mind. Needless to say Cedric and I are no longer dating; Cedric said we should respect my father and his wishes. This life story is an excellent reflection of the way parents can use their daughter’s financial dependency as a powerful means of pressure to impose their own choices upon her, while forcing her to take responsibility for ending a relationship. Emma’s story is very similar to what I had to face from my own parents. However, being 27 and financially secure at the time, I was much less disempowered by the threats and actually in a position to make a choice and help finance our wedding without asking for permission. What is also striking in her account, from a comparative standpoint, is her boyfriend’s insistence on sorting out the matter between men and respecting the codes of Southern masculinity. The phrase “asked for permission to pursue me” is particularly telling of a shared system of values, which never appeared in interviews from French-speaking respondents, and would most probably have sounded quaint had the phrase been used in one of the questions. Conversely, the absence of any verbatim account of her mother’s comments seems to suggest that her influence on her apparently mollified husband may have been more decisive than Emma makes it sound in her retelling of her doomed relationship. It may be surmised that the concerns about Emma’s reputation had been pressed more forcefully by her mother than by her father, even though she remained bent on blaming her father for her heartbreak throughout the inter­ view. However, she did mention at the beginning of her life story: My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all born and raised in the South. … My dad’s side of the family has always been incredibly poor. They never had the, quote, luxury of owning slaves, but they used slaves as labor on the farm.13 We don’t have any records on my mother’s side of owning slaves either, but they were part of the KKK.

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The Ku Klux Klan’s White supremacist rhetoric remains inseparable from the obsessive dread that White womanhood would be desecrated by African Amer­ ican men enjoying equal rights. This is why it is difficult not to stress the simi­ larity between this core belief of the hate group and the way Emma’s parents spelled out their fears for their family’s reputation, rather than for her sake in reality: “Black men would view me as easy” (emphasis mine). In this case, the use of the financial lever is very different from what it was in Enzo’s and Lou’s case, as it touches much more directly to the question of survival, as opposed to a public performance of social success and a reassertion of the parents’ influence in the family hierarchy. Because higher education is much less costly in France than in the U.S.A., the other French interviewees who were of college age could also escape the type of dilemma into which her parents had forced Emma.

Experiencing Race-Based Frustration and Fatigue without Family Support In spite of this significant difference, those who persisted in pursuing an interracial relationship occasionally confessed that they were not immune to feelings of guilt for having betrayed their kinship group or lost in prestige or status. Strikingly, French respondents are the ones who expressed such regrets. By contrast, Alaba­ mian respondents adamantly refused to admit that anything could make them doubt their choices. When they did own up to any feelings of frustration, they rather expressed anger at the systemic racism which made their lives more compli­ cated than those of same-race couples and families, as in the following story, shared by Kate, a 36-year-old computer programming instructor and web developer: My daughter is of mixed race, and could be mistaken for Middle Eastern or Hispanic—and often is. Children ask me if my child is adopted. People who see me with my daughter and one of her White friends assume the White child is my child and comment on how beautiful she is and how she looks like me. How can that feel to my child? All of this to say, race is constantly in my family’s face. I thought I had a good understanding of the pervasiveness of racism—until our family took a trip across the country last summer [in 2013]. We took my daughter’s White friend with us. We are driving in a Prius with a luggage carrier on the roof through states who might ask for [our daughter]’s birth certificate because she could be an illegal. My husband without me in the car, back at the hotel for instance, automatically looks suspicious with two female teenaged children who don’t look like they belong to him. This was con­ stantly at the back of all our minds. One day we needed air in the tire. We stopped at a gas station somewhere in Wyoming or Montana or Idaho or one of those states that didn’t look like Alabama at all. There was a large sign that offered the use of an air hose that was on the side of the building and stated that you didn’t have to ask, “Help

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yourself.” My husband waited for the mechanic on duty to get his attention, to ask if he could use the hose. I was getting impatient, and I was a little bit embarrassed that my husband would bother this man when the sign clearly said to go ahead and use the air in the garage. I tapped him on the shoulder, “Go ahead! The sign says go ahead!” He held up a finger for me to wait a second—and I looked at his eyes. He looked a little bit scared, nervous—I don’t know. I stopped then and got back in the car. I had looked around. He was the only Black man there. If he had took that hose, he might have looked sus­ picious. It wasn’t placed in a way that it was clearly available to customers, except for the sign. You had to step inside the garage and take the hose out. He was afraid to take it without express permission. I felt so ashamed of myself at that moment. I hadn’t realized. One of the main differences between the French and Alabamian respondents lay very clearly in the greater awareness on the part of Alabamian interviewees of the existence of a White racial frame. They knew that their answers would serve not only as a vindication of their life choices, but also a testimony of their moral growth, and possibly have a positive impact on friends, families, and even other interracial couples in the midst of painful soul-searching. This consciousness and agency were made quite clear when several White female respondents in the Alabama sample spontaneously insisted on their partner’s parenting skills, as will be seen in the last chapter. Here, in the way Kate tells about her family’s coping with the ever-present risk of micro-aggressions and racial violence against her Black husband, the central notion that she says she had to learn about and integrate in her everyday behavior is that of White privilege and the terrifying implications of the lack thereof. White privilege has been defined in detail in Peggy McIntosh’s classic article14 and helps readers unfamiliar with the pervasiveness of the White racial frame in everyday life to fathom the extraordinary lengths men, women and even young children have to go to in order to preserve their sense of dignity and even their physical integrity in the face of hostility. When Kate implicitly says she wishes she and her family did not have to go through such stressful coping strategies, she is not laying the blame on her hus­ band or concluding that she is unfit to do her part as the partner of a Black man and the parent of a biracial child. Yet the experience she relates is precisely the type of incident that would be used to demonstrate that interracial couples cannot last because White partners cannot divest themselves of White privilege and be “down with the cause” or “woke,” that is, pro-Black. I heard such arguments myself at conferences, voiced by African American colleagues who repeated say­ ings they had grown up hearing, such as “if she can’t use your comb, don’t bring her home!”15 However, when the sociologist Heather Dalmage explains in her book how an elderly Black stranger taught her the hard way that she was helpless

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to protect her partner from racial hostility,16 she concludes that this experience was necessary for her growth as an ally to the cause of racial and social justice. Still, she admits strangers will keep judging her on her looks rather than her politics, because of the pervasiveness of the White racial frame in every Amer­ ican’s life. Law professor Judy Scales-Trent, who is African American but passes for White, related very similar experiences of being chastised by both Whites and Blacks for dating darker-skinned men in the 1970s.17 What to do when you are not an ally but a member of the targeted racial minority? Because French interviewees perceived their couples and families under a much less political light than U.S. ones, expressions of doubt, shame or guilt were more frequent among this group, particularly female respondents who tended to share more personal stories with me. Among the White women interviewed, these ambivalent feelings were not always acknowledged as signs of guilt. They could be inferred from uneasy mentions of prenuptials “to ease my parents’ fears, and because you never know, even with a White guy” or the choice of keeping one’s maiden name “because it’s easier to bear than a foreign­ sounding name—you know, people might think I’m an immigrant—and then it took me a long time to get used to my father’s name in the first place.” Regarding African-sounding last names, the influence of disapproving parents became clearer when these interviewees commented on the strategies they implemented to protect their children from race-based prejudice: “My parents said such mean things about his name, calling it ‘a name for a monkey’! They begged me to give my name to our children so they could pass for French. But I felt it was his right and his pride to have his kids bear his name, so I refused to give in.” Others gave their children both names, “since the law allows you to do that now, and so they can choose when they’re bigger.” In one case, an African father actually requested that his children bear his wife’s name, precisely to protect them from racial stigma. He pointed to Marine Le Pen’s steady rise in polls and explained that an Ashkenazi Jewish friend of his had done “something similar, only he put his wife’s name first and his own second, so that his daughters would not be called anti-Semitic slurs when going to school.” West Indian interviewees in the French sample did not raise the issue of names, because their ancestors were traditionally given first names as last names, and these, by definition, sound French. Those White female respondents who accepted to address the possibility of race-related financial hurdles blamed their own parents for the loss of purchasing power that they experienced after beginning life together with their partners. “That’s because I was raised like a princess, I had everything I wanted, so I had to grow up because that kind of thing couldn’t last forever.” This argument was also heard from Black and biracial women in the French-speaking sample. Another White French woman said, “we had a hard time at first because my parents refused to help us, just out of spite, but it just made our bond even tighter. My partner comforted me with a saying from his country—that when two people

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suffer together, there’s nothing strong enough to destroy their love.” Meanwhile, her African husband drew my attention to his partner’s evolution away from the dominant White racist frame in which she had been raised: “She’s come a long way, you know. I don’t think she remembers, but the very first times she invited me to her parents’ place in their absence, she never left me alone in the apart­ ment because she thought I might steal something!” Unsurprisingly, finding a home for the couple was a challenging experience for several White female interviewees. Three of the White French women inter­ viewed described as an unnecessary burden having to visit apartments on their own and make the decision to rent their homes without the presence of their partners. Yet they made it appear as a good trick played on potentially racist landlords, saying, for instance, “I wish you could have seen their faces when we came to get the keys! I had to reassure them, saying, ‘You know, he’s the one who turns down the volume on the TV set.’” One of them went on to confess that she had never dodged paying the metro or bus fares all the time she was single, but did now because of financial woes, and that she felt her parents would blame her new behavior on her partner’s race if they knew, because she “wasn’t raised that way.” She also mentioned “discover[ing] what a bank overdraft was since [she] got married” and admitted she often thought of her father’s warnings against marrying a Black man: I remember my dad telling me, “Do you really want to be struggling at the end of every month? We didn’t give you an education so you’d have to do cartwheels to avoid being in the red.” I knew he had a point, but I refused to listen, and even if I love my man to death and would still marry him all over again, I can’t help thinking of my dad’s warnings every time the account balance hits zero—that is, around the tenth of each month—and we have to do some subbing [i.e., replace workers on sick leave] to get by. I hate myself for doing that, but I can’t help thinking he warned me. I never told my father about how we were struggling, he would’ve been too happy! Now my dad’s dead anyway, but it’s still painful to have to admit he was right on this point. One last point where the issue of living standards, money and dignity were particularly at stake appeared in relation to second-hand clothes. All the couples were interviewed in the aftermath of the subprime crisis of 2008, which affected both countries, and a majority of U.S. as well as French respondents had to resort to thrift stores to furnish their homes and spend less money on clothes. However, a common point was the refusal by Black partners of either gender to accept hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors, which often led to cultural misunderstandings with White partners with an incomplete command of the counter-frames.

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The similarity between U.S. and French-speaking interviewees regarding this point was made clear thanks to the U.S. sociologist Judith Rollins’s deconstruc­ tion of the sociology of domination and of the notion of malevolent paternalism. In her pioneering study of Black domestic workers’ relations with their employ­ ers, she explains that the former pretended to accept the latter’s gifts of old clothes but threw them away to keep a sense of dignity.18 Because giving hand­ outs of clothes is very common among groups of friends and relatives in metro­ politan France, five White French women said they could not understand their West Indian or African partners’ negative reactions to what they saw as acts of kindness. They perceived them to be “too proud” or “too imbued with their manliness” when asked if they could understand their partners’ perceptions of humiliation behind outwardly friendly behaviors. Their responses tended to blame the potentially paternalistic attitudes of friends on the lower pays of their partners, or dismiss what they called “Black guys’ tendency to see race and racism everywhere” and “feel humiliated even where there isn’t any particular slight.” Their partners, when questioned about this point, retorted that they felt that French women “liked to whine about everything” and “did too much talking about family issues and complaining about money to their lady friends, instead of keeping a stiff upper lip and sorting things out between the two of us.” The latter comment was supported by a reflection on the importance of keeping private matters private, a belief that all five men, as well as other male interviewees in each of the two samples, felt was particularly crucial in keeping interracial couples united. Two men, a 32-year-old Congolese social worker and a 28-year-old Afri­ can American graduate student, were willing to spell this out for me, and their explanations were strikingly similar. Both respondents pointed to the heightened need for any couple, but particularly interracial ones, to avoid sharing their private issues with extended family, as African and African American families were prone to take matters into their own hands and meddle in the personal lives and choices of their sons and daughters. Sometimes families appeased conflicts in doing so, but more often, they worsened the tensions if some disgruntled relative (typically an envious aunt) perceived an opportunity to manipulate one of the two partners and cause the marriage to end. Numerous Black female interviewees, both in Alabama and in France, confirmed this in informal conversations, outside of the scope of the discussion on financial hurdles. They insisted that such meddling was very frequent also in all-Black couples, especially if these involved a partner from another island in the West Indies or another African country, who was made to feel foreign, untrustworthy (with several interviewees mentioning accusations of witchcraft that also extended to the pairs’ children) and culturally unassimilable.

White Partners Embracing New Family Values White male respondents had a different approach to the matter of preserving personal dignity and avoiding exposing the couple to outside gazes from friends

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and relatives; but this appeared in discussions of other issues than financial hurdles. As many as six French interviewees and four U.S. ones admitted that being in a relationship with a Black woman had had a transformative impact on their per­ ception of themselves. The following answer, from a 32-year-old teacher, was particularly illustrative: I have been struggling with low self-esteem since I was a kid. My stepfather was abusive and kept saying I was good for nothing. All these years we’ve been together, [my partner] has taught me how to build a sense of my self-worth, stop blaming myself for everything, and no longer let people walk all over me. Black women are just incredibly resilient, you can see that in [the film] The Help, where Viola Davis tells the little girl, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” Black ladies are so together, I respect them immensely for that. I feel I’m learning from her, she’s the best thing that could ever happen to me. The way this respondent articulated his answer emphasizes the connection between the inner workings of a couple and the White partner’s sense of inclusion within a distinct set of values. One 28-year-old French male inter­ viewee (a father of two) stated earnestly, “What I discovered thanks to my wife is the African family. Now that’s a concept I have embraced, really. She was born here but her folks are from Cameroon. The conversations I have with my mother-in-law, I don’t even have with my Mom. If I ever split with my wife, I’d still be part of her family.” The female respondents who had children all emphasized how the strength of Black families’ love for their children had transformed their self-perception and made them feel “special” and “valued” for enlarging the family. This was another common point between the different ethnic backgrounds of both samples of interviewees, even though the respondents insisted that the strength of family solidarity around newborn and younger members was specific to their partners’ culture (be it African American, West Indian, or African). One French respon­ dent told me how she had initially felt disrespected when her African female inlaws put their hands on her belly to check whether she was with child in the months following her wedding, and even inquired about her possible barrenness (a sign of attack by witches in African belief systems): I had a hard time accepting my partner’s argument that this was just a sign of affectionate concern, and I understood better how deeply they love children in his family when I saw everyone in his family showing up at the hospital and at our apartment to give blessings to the baby. They called him, “our blood,” and that meant the world to me. Especially when I think of my own family’s behavior, with my brothers and sisters just bringing gifts but not really caring, their objections to his middle name being African, or my father’s awkward jokes about the baby hunting elephants before his birth, he

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probably thought it was funny. My in-laws have cherished me more than my own family ever did since we got married, and now I just try to understand when they do or say something that I find strange or shocking. I’ve taught myself to not react on the spot anymore, but ask for explanations first; but it took years for me to get used to them, and them to me. This respondent articulated the need for a form of cultural training within inter­ racial couples, which had to be given in both societies and focused particularly on bridging the gap between distinct sets of family values. In one third of the inter­ views, the White partner (male or female) was comfortable enough with the other culture to be able to explain differences and appreciate them; in half of the cases where both partners could be interviewed, the exchange itself provided opportunities for decoding African (diasporic) traditions in a more neutral envir­ onment. Depending on the White respondents’ exposure to other cultures while growing up or dissatisfaction with the way they had been raised (as in the case mentioned above), such explanations were more or less well received. The longer the couples had lived together, the more willing they were to listen and put themselves in the shoes of their partners and in-laws. In this respect, the matter of financial contributions to weddings and burials was a good test of White partners’ cultural flexibility and sensitivity to the specificities of Black families. In African and African-descended cultural systems, it is important to have many guests at funerals and weddings, and every member of the family has a duty to contribute financially to the success of the event. Younger partners tended to voice impatience with this system, while those who had spent more than three years together displayed more understanding, as did a French male respondent, a certified public accountant aged 36, whom I met at a funeral in a Congolese family: You know, when you marry an African, you don’t just marry into the family, you marry the family as well! [Laughs] You become “their man,” or “their woman,” and sometimes they give you tough love. You have to accept being part of the family, warts and all, otherwise there’s no point marrying an Afri­ can in the first place. I no longer mind the never-ending funeral wakes, I’ve taught myself to forget about the passing of time when I’m attending African events, of whatever kind. At first it drove me crazy because I had so much to do and I felt it was a waste of time, but she and the rest of them couldn’t care less anyway, and I had to drive her back home. So I forced myself to observe what was going on and why they didn’t mind spending an entire night on a chair, chatting with the folks attending a funeral wake, even if they had to wake up early too the next morning! One of my in-laws who’s a doctor explained to me that it helped people feel less lonely after their loss, because they felt some comfort seeing how many friends and family turned up to show sympathy. Come to think of it, that might be a better option than popping anti-depressants, after all. Don’t you think so?

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Connecting these remarks with observations on my in-laws and the comments heard from Black interviewees from both samples on the importance of being present at family reunions and funerals in particular, I see a deep cultural parallel between African American traditions around mourning rituals and African ones, which may be noted in accounts of funerals on plantations in mainland Amer­ ica.19 Such events are when the sense of belonging to a family unit is the stron­ gest, which is why attendance is not to be misconstrued as mere compliance with rules of civility. Here again, the notion of loyalty to the kinship group is central, and even financial contributions are to be understood as the material proof that relatives can count on one another in times of hardship. My West Indian and African interviewees also emphasized the difference in atmosphere between fun­ eral wakes “back home,” where space is less of a constraint, and those held in cramped apartments in the greater Paris area or in Tours. However, the limit that could not be trespassed by White additions to the families was the moment when “family councils” were held in African milieus. In these dramatic moments, which are part of the bereavement process regardless of the age of the departed and the causes for their passing, the elders of the family call for a meeting. There, responsibilities for the person’s death must be found and potential secrets revealed until a sense of closure is reached at the end of a trial, which is organized under the guidance of the eldest male member of the family and some­ times a traditional seer and conjure man (also known as “witch doctors”).20 My African respondents all agreed that these are periods of uncertainty for the extended family, because accusations of witchcraft are common, particularly against aunts and uncles—though they may also target children. These may result in rifts between relatives, because the person accused is believed to have caused the death of the departed for his or her own profit—that is, to gain power by stealing their souls and holding them captive in the “invisible world,” where he or she forces them to work for them. In many African societies, widows and orphaned children may also be stripped of their property rights by the relatives of the dead husband and father; so much so that legal efforts have been made in recent years under the aegis of the United Nations to protect African widows.21

Black Partners and the Preservation of Family Loyalty I asked my African respondents in both samples if they felt personally at risk of such accusations. They all answered that even though no one could ever be entirely sheltered from accusations of witchcraft, “especially with the mush­ rooming of evangelical pastors in West and Central Africa who wreak havoc in couples and families by denouncing witches everywhere,” their marriages with White men or women made them less easy targets. Even though, from a tradi­ tional perspective, the absence of payment of a dowry, or of a proper palaver with the White in-laws should be considered as leaving their couples and off­ spring exposed to witchcraft, they were saved by the superior belief that “black

142 Black–White Couples and Representations

magic doesn’t work on White folks.” This belief was also found on U.S. planta­ tions during the antebellum period. However, among female African interviewees and younger male ones, the responses emphasized a deep rejection of African traditions surrounding mourn­ ing. Six women explicitly told me that they had decided to have a non-African partner, in some cases avoiding any wedding ceremony, precisely to be “free from all the drama and nonsense of African families.” One 29-year-old male interviewee, the son of a Congolese father (from the DRC) and a Beninese mother, confessed he was not in a hurry to have children because of all that I had to go through while growing up. I had one aunt and all of her side of the family calling me a warlock when I was only nine, just because of my mother’s origins [Benin is the birthplace of vodou, a preChristian system of beliefs founded on animism, which involves the harnessing of good and evil forces]. My mom even beat me up because my cousins had said I had bragged about wanting to become a warlock. I am glad I don’t have anything to do with that side of the family. I’ve chosen my Beninese side, but I have had enough drama with African families for the rest of my life. On a less tragic note, interracial partnership was also perceived as a possible way out of some of the constraints of patriarchal systems for African-born or secondgeneration African women, who are not held accountable to the same agenda of racial loyalty as their U.S. counterparts, but may have ambivalent feelings about the traditions from their (parents’) home countries. For instance, Love, a 24-year­ old student from Gabon, was both critical and ironical on the expectations of her parents and relatives. They clearly put a lot of effort trying to raise daughters who “know how to keep a house,” how to clean and cook the food properly and in sufficient quantities for impromptu visitors, and talk and dress modestly in the presence of family and strangers. After classes, with as much talent as a standup comedian, she mimicked for her fellow students the attitudes and reactions of her father and the many “uncles” (i.e. friends of the family) visiting her parents’ place. She concluded that she would have “none of the craziness my mom has to put up with” when she eventually settled down with a partner. Loyalty to one’s family unquestionably emerged from the two fieldworks as the value on which Black partners most strongly insisted; even the interviewee quoted just above kept exchanging regularly with his mother and siblings. White partners in each country were willing to burn bridges with their families and chose their love interests over kinship ties. By contrast, African American, West Indian and African men and women all demonstrated how deeply kinship loyalty had been ingrained in their socialization and value systems. As one African American male interviewee told me, “you can lose friends and make new ones; but you can’t do that with family. Family’s all you got, so you got to make it work, you can’t turn your back on them.” Although White U.S.

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respondents perceived themselves to be less indebted to family loyalty and obligations than their partners, these interviewees still respected the latter’s choices to stay in Alabama for as long as their parents lived there, “even though women’s salaries here are much lower than what I could earn in another state,” a 23-year-old woman added.

Negotiating Women Partners’ Reproductive Rights In each sample of respondents, women also tended to feel hard-pressed to earn from their parents or in-laws the symbolic right to start their own family and literally step out of the White racial frame in which they or their partners had been socialized. White mothers and mothers-in-law in particular seemed quite aware of this, as they sent implicit or explicit messages discouraging the young couples to have children. This stood as a striking difference from the way African (-descended) cultures defined interracial families as part of the kinship group. Besides the experience of Emma, whose parents had warned her that the children she was contemplating to have with her biracial boyfriend would never be accepted, I remember the tense voice of Stephanie, a newlywed, light-skinned 21-year-old African American student when she answered my question in one breath: “We’ve been married for three months. He wants to have kids, I don’t. His mother doesn’t want us to.” I was struck by the parallel with my own experience of being ordered by my devout Catholic mother to use birth control once it became clear my marriage would take place even without my parents’ consent. I had to put up with my parents’ expressions of fear that my future sons would be “taken for thugs” due to their visible mixed-race identity, or that I would be incapable to comb my future daughters’ hair (because my grandmother had never managed to do a proper job with my mother’s own unruly, frizzy hair). By contrast, my interviewees clearly had to cope with resistance based on the deeply rooted racist legacy of the one-drop rule, even more than on their parents’ certainty of having visibly African American grandchildren. This finding fully corroborates Heather Dalmage’s conclusion that White border patrolling, that is, the perceived “right and obligation to act out against interracial couples” had everything to do with “the desire to maintain the façade of a pure white family … The myth of purity is maintained by controlling white women’s wombs”22—and also Black women’s, now that their unions with White men can be official and lead to the transmission of property and reputation. Even though the couples surveyed did not remain childless if their intention was to become parents, it is notable that all of them took their time (between two and four years after the wedding) before having their first child. In their study of couples involving one or two descendants of migrant Muslim families in France, Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli showed that the accusation of “selfishness” levelled against a rebellious child who chooses not to follow the path of tradition is never taken lightly. It always implies the risk of finding oneself

144 Black–White Couples and Representations

excluded from one’s kinship group and deprived of support in hard times—a risk women are particularly sensitive to when they intend to become mothers.23 This finding contradicts both the assumption that interracial couples are irre­ sponsible and don’t give enough thought to their children’s future, and the popular notion that Black and White women get into interracial relationships because it is fashionable to have biracial babies. It rather tends to indicate that especially when the couple has been formed without the blessing of one of the two families, it took time for each of the partners to find their bearings and gain a feeling of legitimacy and a sense of their rightful place in the new family dynamics and structure they were creating without a model. The next chapter will focus on the processes of negotiation and reinvention of traditions at work in the couples as they consolidate their partnership, integrate small-group dynamics, and picture themselves as parents.

Notes 1 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge, 2000, 155. 2 Ibid., 151. 3 See for instance Randall Kennedy, Sellout, New York: Pantheon Books, Random House, 2008. 4 See Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South, New York: Oxford University Press, 1978, 296. 5 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism, New York: Routledge, 2004, 175. 6 See Randall Kennedy, Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal, New York: Pantheon Books, 2008, 58–64; Randall Kennedy, Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption, New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 2003, 109–123; or Heather Dalmage, Tripping on the Color Line: Black–White Multiracial Families in a Racially Divided World, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000, 5–6. 7 Cécile Coquet-Mokoko, “Regards d’Afropéennes sur la dot,” Afropéa, un territoire cul­ turel à inventer, Africultures, no. 99–100, Paris: L’Harmattan, 304–310. 8 Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” in Henry Abelove, Michèle Aina Barale and David M. Halperin, eds., The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, [1991] 1993, 307–20. 9 See Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs: Parcours de descendants d’immigrés, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012, 213–14, 220, 234, 236, about negotiations around the free choice of the fiancé(e) within North African or West African Muslim families. 10 On the impact of perceptions of interracial couples as rebellious, see Maria P. Root, Love’s Revolution: Interracial Marriage, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001. 11 This is my translation of the French term maîtresse de maison. 12 These concerns, expressed by my non-religious, Christian, Jewish and Muslim respondents alike, also appear in Collet and Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs, 200–1 and 245. 13 In the antebellum period, it was customary for planters to hire out slaves to non-slave­ owning Whites for harvests or to fill other temporary jobs. 14 Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peace and Freedom Magazine, July/August, 1989, 10–12, a publication of the Women’s

Black–White Couples and Representations 145

15 16 17 18 19


21 22 23

International League for Peace and Freedom, Philadelphia, PA, https://nationalseedp See Jarrod Brown, “If She Can’t Use Your Comb,” September 28, 2015, https://a, accessed on July 26, 2017. Dalmage, Tripping on the Color Line, 42. Judy Scales-Trent, Notes of a White Black Woman: Race, Color, Community, Uni­ versity Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1995, 83–6. Judith Rollins, Between Women, Domestics and Their Employers, Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1985, quoted in Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 205. Cécile Coquet-Mokoko, “Words That Make Whole: Funeral Sermons as Meeting Points Between the Here-and-Now and the Hereafter in Antebellum African Amer­ ican Culture,” in Katarína Labudova and Nóra Sellei, eds., Presences and Absences: Transdisciplinary Essays, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, 69–79. See, for instance, Sylvie Ayimpam, “The Cyclical Exchange of Violence in Congolese Kinship Relations” and Aleksandra Cimpric, “Kill the Witch! Violence in the Central African Republic,” in Jacky Bouju and Mirjam de Bruijn, eds., Ordinary Violence and Social Change in Africa, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014, 101–16 and 117–29. See “UN Statement for International Widows’ Day,” June 23, 2017, http://africa., acces­ sed on July 27, 2017. Dalmage, Tripping on the Color Line, 44, 45. See Collet and Santelli, Couples d’ici, parents d’ailleurs, 121, 122, 130–31, 134–6, 146.

5 INTERRACIAL FUSION? Maintaining a Partnership and Starting a Family with More than One Cultural Model

Very few of my respondents had other examples of interracial couples in their families prior to dating out of their racial groups. Part of my fieldwork consisted in gaining insights into the strategies they implement to both protect each other from systemic racism in a White-dominated society, and learn to navigate the pitfalls of cross-cultural communication. These challenges include issues linked to their kinship groups’ insistence on loyalty, as was analyzed above, but also the ever-present risk of allowing their respective racial frames to muddy issues which might otherwise have been restricted to gender relations alone, or to the dynamics of any couple, regardless of sexual orientation. When these partners decided to “get serious” with each other, as in any couple, each of them had in mind an ideal of the type of person he or she felt they wanted to be with, based on previous experiences, including the observation of their own parents as models or counter-models of successful relationships. This chapter seeks to explore how, for each set of respondents, the influence of racial and ethnic difference in the gender performance of the other partner is integrated or neutralized in the counter-framing strategies of preservation and maintenance of the relationship, and what happens when these strategies fail.

The Significance of Gender Solidarity for Partners in Interracial Couples In both societies, female partners of either race have to adopt a “front”1 (that is, a public persona they present to strangers, including facial expressions, body lan­ guage, speech patterns, dress and looks) in order not to be labelled as “easy women.” This stereotype comes from the slaveholding and imperial histories of both countries, and is shared by both racial groups, as I discussed earlier. This

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significant burden entails a responsibility in their gender performance, which forces them to invent complex public personae with a double intent. The first is for the individual woman to earn the respect of strangers and family. The second is to signal to all that her relationship with her partner is not susceptible to judgment and shaming. All of the male respondents, in each of the samples sur­ veyed and across the color line, insisted heavily on their partners’ appearance when they answered the interviews, which struck me at first. Indeed, while male respondents systematically emphasized the importance of beauty among their selection criteria, dismissing race as having no particular impact on their definition of “their type” of woman, female interviewees rarely brought up the matter of their partner’s looks when responding. They consistently highlighted the pre­ eminence of emotional stability and commitment in a man, certainly in part because 70% of them reported having met their current partners just after a painful breakup, at a time in their lives when they did not feel “ready” for another relationship. But when the men’s expressions of pride in “being able to show a beautiful woman in public” were contrasted with their partners’ verbal and non-verbal cues about the management of appearance in public, it became clear that this was a matter of high importance for the women as partners in couples deemed more suspicious and less “legitimate” then same-race couples. As one 23-year-old Black student said: They say we dress preppy because we date interracially, ’cause we [are] sup­ posed to think we’re better than the rest. But they got it all wrong! Almost every Black girl I know on campus spends a lot of time on her appearance, because whenever we have a bad hair day, folks start calling us ghetto. Just imagine if we dressed casual with our boyfriends. We’d lose all self-respect! Similar views were echoed among the married French women respondents, 80% of whom said their West Indian or African husbands had asked them to refrain from wearing close-fitting garments in public, because these “put [them] ill-at­ ease in the presence of other men, especially with male friends or relatives,” as one 28-year-old female interviewee explained. Conversely, Black female respondents in the French sample did not have anything to say about this ques­ tion, simply answering they appreciated the freedom to dress and do their hair as they pleased and enjoyed being valued as they were. Under such circumstances, gender solidarity plays an important role in the counter-framing work done by these partners in both Alabama and France. This tends to show that traditional models of couples are deconstructed by the respon­ dents with the help of peer groups, including, but not only, other interracial cou­ ples, and redefined to fit the core ethical values on which the pairs were initially formed. This finding is consistent with the French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs’s theory of the influence of small groups, particularly those founded on elective

148 Interracial Fusion?

friendships and shared emotional experiences, in shaping not only personal mem­ ories, but our individual conscience and systems of beliefs.2 One 32-year-old Afri­ can American respondent, who had married a White French woman four years before I interviewed him, explained how, in spite of his closeness to his mother, he could not imagine sharing with her his frustration about incidents with his partner. Instead, he had to rely on close friends to vent and ask for advice: Can you imagine, two of my mom’s sisters flew from Birmingham, Alabama, to Paris so they could tell me to my face, right in the middle of the wedding, that they disapproved of my marrying a White woman and a French woman, and they hoped my marriage wouldn’t work out. I know if I ever had a problem with [my wife] they’d be the first to know and they’d be only too happy to make things worse! Most of the interracial couples I surveyed appeared to be fusional, especially if they had been forced to cope with relatives’ or strangers’ hostility based on ideologies of racial loyalty (what Heather Dalmage calls “racial border patrol­ ling”3) coupled with race fatigue at a macro level. In such cases, the Black or White partner tended to be idealized as the man or woman who could success­ fully embody the gender performance sought by his or her partner. For nine of the White Alabamian women, the Black partner was, or would be, “the best dad ever,” “much more concerned about the kids’ education my own dad ever was,” “the contrary of what people think—never runs around chasing women.” For seven of the White French women, he was “not the domineering type,” “defi­ nitely not a macho,” “the first man who respected my wishes.” For nine of the Black French women, the White male partner was considered to be, as a 23-year­ old student explained, “much more romantic than Black guys, because Black men, at least in Africa, like to have several girlfriends at the same time, while White men aren’t so afraid to show their emotions and be vulnerable.” Black Alabamians generally refused to comment on their views of differences between having a Black or a White girlfriend—no doubt avoiding any slippage that would have made them appear as “race traitors.” Yet the African male respondents freely admitted that after dating Black women, they felt relieved not to have a rela­ tionship where they were, in the words of one 32-year-old respondent, looked up to as your girlfriend’s provider. Sometimes it gets really hard when you have to send money to your parents back home and on top of that you have a girlfriend who’s asking you for pocket money all the time, on top of her own wages at that! And then you find out after a year or two that she’s been asking the same thing of another poor dude who was just as unsus­ pecting as yourself. I’ve seen this happen a little too often! So I’m not ashamed to say this is what makes a relationship with a White woman a little more sincere—at least, from my experience.

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But, paradoxically, the process of idealization and fusion tends to be profoundly transformed, and sometimes dissolves, along gender lines when the “racework” (to borrow Steinbugler’s useful notion4) needs to be pursued at a micro level, in the sphere of intimacy. For instance, regarding the request to avoid close-fitting garments, most of the White women in the French sample admitted this was an occasional cause for strains in the relationship, sometimes causing them to wonder if they had made “the wrong choice” and seeking for advice and guidance out­ side of the intimate sphere of the couple. This is where friendship groups first appear as a necessary circle, which acts as a buffer zone with the public sphere, but also between the partners themselves. All of my White female interviewees as well as seven of the Black men in the French sample said they had frequent discussions, both within their racial group and across the color line. They chose friends who shared the experience of having a Black husband or a White wife to debate whether they should challenge or conform to traditional gender roles in private and public spaces. White women especially expressed a sense of commonality and freedom of speech when exchanging with their Black female friends in non-judgmental atmospheres where humor helped relieve the tensions and advice was both sought for and freely given. This possibility to share more or less intimate details of married life was explicitly described as “a sort of safety valve,” a necessary space for commu­ nication about gender relations in which race was addressed, but in combination with gendered roles and attitudes inscribed in comparable socio-cultural tradi­ tions, and did not necessarily work against mutual understanding. A shared reference to standup comedians of African descent was implicitly or explicitly mentioned by all female interviewees, but not by male ones, as a deci­ sively facilitating elements in such discussions. This generational trait is worth noting, because these comedians’ skits (made popular by the Jamel Comedy Club, mentioned earlier) typically revolve around cross-cultural conflict between Afri­ cans, West Indians and Europeans, and, more cautiously though, systemic racism. These comedians are themselves at the juncture of several cultural backgrounds and provide a critical perspective on the assets and liabilities of each system of values. As such, they provide a safe space for discussions of race where Black and White females do not need to go through preliminary stages of mutual reassur­ ance about one another’s politics, contrary to what happens in U.S. contexts. In Alabama, White females in interracial couples have to combat the assump­ tion that they have “stolen” a “brother.”5 By contrast, in France, provided they do not show any unwillingness to integrate a group of Black or multiracial friends, they receive a warm welcome into these peer groups on the grounds that they “married one of our brothers” and “should be helped to treat him well and keep him happy.” This again reflects the crucial importance of extended family ties in the socialization of young French people of African descent. Even Black strangers of either gender and across generations are apt to voice encourage­ ment and appreciation when seeing public displays of affection in interracial

150 Interracial Fusion?

couples. Like many of my male and female interviewees, I have been able to experience this sense of belonging countless times on the Paris metro, espe­ cially when wearing on a hot day outfits made from typical fabrics worn in African countries, such as wax. In one third of the cases, my French interviewees had met and begun dating precisely within multiracial friendship groups, made up of persons of European, North African and African descents, which are much more common among teenagers in France than in Alabama. Consequently, when feelings of frustration have to be vented and cultural explanations given, French-speaking partners can find resources outside of the couple without having to disclose sensitive intimate issues to siblings, parents or other relatives who may have a stake in pushing for a breakup. Advice from Black women will be more willingly heeded. Indeed they either chose to marry interracially, and thus won’t feel offended by criticism against Black males, or they married within their racial group but have built enough critical distance to counter tendencies to essentialize Black men. Thus they can do the work of bridging cultural differences that the Black partner may not have been in a position to do himself. No doubt this is also due to the fact the vast majority of my French interviewees had benefited from higher education up to the Bachelor’s degree at least. This had equipped them with critical tools enabling them to work out cultural differences and understand the interest of training their own racial sensitivities as well as others’, in a context where dis­ cussions around the acceptability and recognition of the values of the non-Eur­ opean cultures present in France is ever-present in political and media discourse.

The Limits and Effectiveness of Cultural Multiframing Both Black male interviewees and White female interviewees in the French sample describe themselves as being part of a generation whose shared culture is by essence multiracial, as a result of the racial and cultural diversity of schools and universities in the country. They feel a sense of commonality with their peers because they all describe themselves, explicitly or implicitly, as multicultural to some extent. For instance, African and West Indian male respondents admitted that after living with White partners, they had become impatient with the slow pace or lack of organization they observed in their families, while White females said they had never taken the full measure of “Western selfishness and obsession with money” until they discovered about African values. Female respondents of African descent explained that they were blamed by their parents or relatives for “acting like European women” because they were not interested in learning how to cook, or did not dress modestly enough in the presence of African relatives and visitors, or talked back to elder siblings. Yet these same relatives simultaneously sent encouragements to their children’s White friends who showed that they did not stick to a sense of racial and cultural superiority inherited from the White imperialistic frame, telling them, for instance, “You’re a real African.” However,

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the interviewees who had spent most time together made it clear that multi­ framing—that is, occasionally behaving within the counter-frame while comply­ ing with the dominant White racial frame—was also a very common tendency. In these groups of friends gathering women in same-race and interracial cou­ ples, the re-socialization of White partners may also be continued with a view to preserving the couple. For example, eight female respondents mentioned receiv­ ing friendly warnings against cultural openness that they would not have heeded if their partners had sent them on a one-on-one basis; one of them, a 31-year-old insurance executive, spelled the risks out for me: too much cultural openness makes you appear as “everybody’s wife” in the family and extended family, so that relatives or strangers can decide to take you places without your husband. I thought nothing of that, and found that kind of behavior rather innocent and friendly, and I even remember calling him paranoid. But several African girlfriends of mine told me that they had seen people do that to see how far they could manipulate a White woman into doing their bidding, by requesting special meals when they visit the couple (which amounts to disrespecting the husband, because that’s taking his place). Or they’ll have her buy them shoes or purses under the pretext that in-laws are supposed to act like that towards elder sisters. Or they’ll take the liberty to share her cellphone number with their own friends, because that’s not con­ sidered private among Africans. A friend’s friend had this happen to her: one day a policeman called her number and her husband answered, only to hear that his wife’s business card had been found in some African guy’s wallet that had been found in a train station in another town. She was in trouble—her husband thought she was cheating on him. However, as in any process of cultural assimilation, White female partners in particular could be criticized for embracing their Black partners’ culture too uncritically, by incomplete or overzealous substitution. The same criticism is fre­ quent among Black men and women who may accuse one another of “acting White,” “talking White” or “thinking White,” but this finding appeared more frequently in the perceptions of White women in interracial couples expressed in these multiracial groups of young adults. For example, several of my younger interviewees in the Black French sample mocked their White women friends who asked them to bring them traditional African outfits just because they had boyfriends from French Guiana or the West Indies, where African clothing is neither part of the culture nor even popular. Here, the eagerness to fit in an imaginary Black identity was perceived not only as naïve but also as evidencing a lack of appreciation by these women of their own native French culture, which led to an implicit questioning of these White women’s possibly narcissistic moti­ vations in choosing to date Black men: “Is it just for show? To look cool? Or because they hope to have biracial babies?”

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This example, which implicitly poses the sensitive question of cultural appro­ priation of Africana cultures, is reminiscent of the satirical 20th-century version of the schoolmarm embodied by the character of Miss Morello, Chris’s school­ teacher in the popular sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, 6 who toys with the idea of dating Black men while harboring a deep superiority complex vis-à-vis her few Black students. Cultural appropriation designates the selective adoption of cultural elements by members of a dominant group, who display superficial intentions (treating traditional outfits like costumes, for example) rather than political ones and problematic insensitivity to the diversity existing among, in particular but not exclusively, African and African diasporic cultures.7 In this case, because Guiana is part of the American continent and each of the West Indies has likewise developed a Creole culture that is only partly African, the woman’s attempts are correctly perceived as misguided, for they lead her to seek an understanding of her partner’s identity in the wrong places. For this reason, in this woman’s case, it was clear that the support of the group would not be obtained unless she first accepted to go into some serious cultural training. It is much more common for White French women than U.S. ones to dress in tra­ ditional Asian, Indo-Pakistani or (less frequently) African outfits in public or pri­ vate spaces. In the U.S.A., this is rather the province of pop artists such as Madonna,8 later imitated by Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé Knowles, Rihanna, or Nicki Minaj. But even then, when one compares the dominant group’s perception of men or women in traditional African clothing as opposed to men or women dressed in traditional Asian or Indian outfits, a difference is perceptible insofar as African clothing in France still remains more explicitly associated to immigrant identity and undocumented status, due to the neo­ imperialistic White frame.

Reclaiming and Protecting Black Masculinity in Healthy Counter-Frames Among the more experienced couples, the findings tended to show that more than cultural appropriation, what is at work is a complex process of negotiation and selection by the partners of the fronts, cultural elements, and core values they intend to discard or retain, first as couples and then as parents or future parents. These processes of trading and adjustment, which Steinbugler has defined as “racework,” do not remain static, but evolve with the couples themselves. Fronts are the object of particular efforts, as they put to the fore the issue of the psycho­ logical well-being and even physical safety of the couples. In both samples of respondents, White women admitted they had been shocked to discover the extent of systemic racism and discrimination that their Black fellow citizens, or African migrants, had to cope with on a daily basis, and that their first reflex had been to try to protect their partners. They all began openly and vocally expressing outrage when confronted with discriminatory behaviors, particularly in institutional settings,

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and finding themselves hushed by their partners, who knew that such reactions were likely to trigger more hostility and, in the case of U.S. respondents, the pos­ sibility of police brutality. After one of her blog posts went viral in late December 2014,9 collecting 300,000 page views on the first day, then-20-year-old Ashlyn Sullivan, a White American female student from Kansas in an interracial couple with her African American partner Ra’Montae Green, received death threats on line. She saw her address published on White supremacist websites, so that her partner ended up sleeping at her place with a metal bar, on a couch they had placed against the door, in order to protect them.10 In the interviews she gave as well as in her blog post, Ashlyn admitted she had “a big mouth” and although Ra’Montae is sup­ portive, it may be inferred that he could have done without the publicity and intimidation. None of my Alabama respondents had had to go through such ordeals, but during the Spring 2010 semester I was told about a White father threatening his teenage daughter with a rifle because she was inside the family home with her Black boyfriend from high school, so that the pair had been forced to call the police. Although there was no such escalation in the stories of my French respondents, several Black male interviewees said they had been confronted with intimidation from skinhead or other neo-Nazi groups and had had to make their partners aware of the need to avoid certain events or places where White supremacists might be encountered. With the heightened terrorist threat after the attacks of 2015, the issue of protection has loomed even larger in the French couples’ preoccupations. This is where the emphasis on the performativity of masculinity in these cou­ ples was most perceptible. I could detect expressions of frustration and almost resentment from those White female respondents (whether French or U.S.) who had to admit that their partners’ inability to ensure economic stability or defend them against verbal or physical aggression was largely due to the racial prejudice. They understood how their men felt disempowered first as human beings, and then as men in patriarchal, Eurocentric social systems. Of course, they did not put these feelings in so many words. Yet the tension was palpable as they tried to articulate traditional beliefs about the protective role assigned to the masculine partner, particularly when defined as a (future) father figure. The reality of the White racial frames also clashed with their representations of Black masculinity as powerful and determined (quoting Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali), imposing on them a growing consciousness of the limits of their own agency in battling racial hostility, whether subtle or overt. In this matter, Black female partners of White respondents displayed much less anxiety; witness this answer from Chan­ telle, a 25-year-old employment security representative: I do love my boyfriend very much and if God is willing I hope we can get married one day whenever the time is right. I think being in a relationship, especially one that is interracial, is very rewarding. I am happy that we can go

154 Interracial Fusion?

out in public together and not be met with looks of disgust but rather with looks of encouragement and support. And with all the racial tension going on lately in the news and society, it makes me feel proud that we are together, love each other, and will not be influenced by the madness of the world today. Thus, gender plays a crucial role in the couples’ racework, especially when Black masculinity has to be demystified, reappraised, and sustained in creative and safe counter-frames by the pairs. Patricia Hill Collins’s deconstruction of the symbolic importance of the protective role assumed by heterosexual Black males in the U.S.A. since the days of slavery and segregation is helpful to understand the difficulty of such a task: A good deal of Black male energy went into protecting Black women from both economic and sexual exploitation. Given this history, efforts by Black men to protect Black women become valued. Many Black women want protection … [T]his important choice to protect Black women, for many men, became harnessed to ideologies of Black masculinity in such a way that Black manhood became dependent on Black women’s willingness to accept protection. Within this version of masculinity, a slippery slope emerges between protecting Black women and controlling them. … Tensions character­ izing Black women’s necessary self-reliance joined with our bona fide need for protection, as well as those characterizing Black men’s desire to protect Black women juxtaposed to their admiration and resentment of Black women’s assertiveness and independence, result in a complicated love and trouble tradition. Failure to challenge an overall climate that not only defines Black masculinity in terms of Black men’s ability to “own” and “control” their women, and Black femininity in terms of Black women’s ability to help U.S. Black men feel like men, can foster African-American women’s abuse.11 In many ways, interracial couples involving a Black man and a White woman are also inscribed in the complicated love and trouble relation between Black men and women described by Patricia Hill Collins. This is partly because the male partners have been socialized with the implicit goal of perpetuating “Black love” (i.e., love for a Black sexual partner) and reproducing the heterosexual model provided by their parents—in my fieldwork, none of the Black male respondents identified as biracial, and none mentioned being raised by a White step-parent. This passage further helps understand how the divesting of Black male energy in protecting a White female partner can be perceived by Black women as yet another form of symbolic violence and neglect, particularly if they remain trapped in demands of the race-loyalty counter-frame that bar them from dating out of their race.12 It also helps understand how unrealistic the expectations of White women regarding protection may be perceived in political and economic con­ texts where Black masculinity remains undervalued.

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This is where the conversations between women across the color line play a key role in bridging cultural gaps, particularly in the context of discussion of police brutality against Black men following the Ferguson riots of Spring 2014 and the fatal chokehold of Eric Garner in New York City in July of the same year. While friendship groups in Alabama were scarcely diverse as a rule, even if a dozen of my Black female students had White women among their close friends, all of my U.S. respondents said they had very good relations with their in-laws, particularly mothers-in-law, who were nearly always the persons to whom the White partners had been introduced first. Interviewees mostly refused to discuss into much detail what Chantelle called “the madness of the world today,” evidencing a cultural reluctance to express themselves at length on potentially divisive subjects,13 a recurrent cultural feature among Black Ala­ bamians in my experience. Yet casual mentions of the viewpoints of Black sis­ ters-in-law and mothers-in-law during the interviews indicated that the dynamics of interpersonal relations in African American families allow these women to play a necessary part in facilitating the adjustment of the White partners to what one West Indian male respondent from the French sample called “the loss of racial innocence.”

The Significance of Spiritual and Moral Values This process of reinvention of the self occurs in any partnership, because it is about creating another public persona than the fronts used prior to the pairing. In this particular case, the urgency of mutual protection from the destructive influ­ ence of systemic racism on public and private perceptions of the couples begins with the considerable work of breaking down and sorting out the values which both partners agree to prioritize. All but two of the Alabama respondents emphasized the importance of sharing religious faith and having found “a sup­ portive church,” as Jasmine, 25, explained enthusiastically: “we both go to church and are getting more involved with the church we attend. We are both striving to have a closer relationship with God and believe without His presence in our everyday lives, our relationship couldn’t work.” Faith and religious practice (i.e., praying and going to church) were recurrently mentioned as central elements that had brought the U.S. couples together in the first place and helped them navigate the hurdles of dating cross-culturally and interracially, though all interviewees stressed that they were aware that any love partnership poses challenges. One White female respondent, Carly, a graduate student aged 24, said that her boyfriend had taken her to see his pastor in his office, because she was struggling with doubts about her parents’ reactions to her dating a Black man and contemplating marriage and children. She explained that the pastor, an African American man in his fifties, had told her that her parents were “just trying to protect [her] and he could understand where they came from.” He urged her to pray about her relationship “to see what plans God had

156 Interracial Fusion?

for [her]”; but as she felt disappointed and restless, she asked her boyfriend to drive her to his mother’s place, where she asked for support and guidance. She trusted his mother to know better than anyone else if he was the right person for [me]. I respect her immensely, for all that she’s been through, as a law enforcement officer and a woman of God. To me, her advice meant more than the pastor’s, and even if she’s not allowed to preach, she can pray, let me tell you. Well, we prayed together a long time, and I really poured my heart out to her, and she trusted me. She gave me the strength to understand I don’t need to be protected from her son’s love, and the only protection we need can only come from the Lord. This example shows how the symbolic reassignment of the roles of father and mother figures to a Black man and a Black woman alternately complicated and eased the decision-making process for a young woman who felt she needed moral validation and rejected the perception of herself as a rebellious daughter. Again, the gender factor appeared as a potentially crucial parameter in allowing the creation of couples without a model, and the elaboration of an effective, intersectional counter-frame. Among French respondents, only six couples mentioned religious practice as an important element in bringing and keeping them together with their partners, which is not surprising, given the statistics of churchgoing in France: in 2010, while 64% identified as Catholics, only 4.5% said they went to church every Sunday.14 Nine interviewees identified as practicing members of religious denominations, but did not necessarily attend religious services with their part­ ners. Two White women, three African women and one West Indian man were practicing Catholics; two African women were members of Protestant churches (an Evangelical church and Jehovah’s Witnesses), and one West Indian woman converted from Catholicism to liberal Judaism in order to marry her husband, a Sephardic Jew. One of the Catholic women had to overcome her parents’ pre­ judices to marry her Protestant husband and said her mother had ultimately changed her views about him, describing the birth of her grandchild as “her road of Damascus.” Yet, during the four years when her parents had refused to meet or speak to her husband, she had had to rely on her group of interracially married friends for emotional support. In both samples of respondents, couples who put a premium on religious values all described racial difference as “a test” that had served to prove their determination to “follow God’s plan in [their] lives” and “build a stronger relationship.” However, common adhesion to a religious faith may also be considered as part of the work of presentation of the self that interracial couples engage in when they are interviewed for such a project, aware as they are of being framed by negative stereotypes regarding their morality. Building a couple while having to navigate the racial and cultural parameters specific to each country remains a complex task, even

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when outside support is available. When couples from different cultural back­ grounds (regardless of race) are questioned about which ethical values are non­ negotiable and which ones can be discarded or readjusted for the sake of unity,15 they all address the foreseeable consequences of their life choices as a couple on their future children’s professional future and social integration; these will be dis­ cussed later in this chapter. But women in particular lay greater stress on their quest for gender equality in the private sphere. The couples who were still together tended to gloss over the bone of contention of the unequal sharing of household chores, which remains a reality both in France and in the U.S.A.,16 and generally refused to discuss any source of conflict between them. Follow-up interviews of men and women who had become estranged from their partners over the course of this study allowed an insight into the situations where expectations and perfor­ mances stemming from ingrained beliefs about gender roles contradict, or even undermine, the elaboration of counter-frames via the racework of cross-racial unity. The findings discussed below concern mostly the French sample, because very few of my Alabama respondents had broken up with their interracial partners; wherever comparisons were possible, they appear in the lines that follow. Rather unsurprisingly, the French respondents’ perceptions of the risks suppo­ sedly inherent in living with a partner of African descent are shaped by the White French imperialistic frame much more than by globalized U.S. popular culture. In this case, the prevailing attitude of strangers and relatives that most affects the White partners is the widespread assumption that African and West Indian fathers are emotionally inaccessible and possibly engaging in polygamous behavior.17 During the course of their interviews, all of the White female respondents who had parted with their African or West Indian husbands sent me verbal and non­ verbal cues when telling their stories of finding out that there was another woman expecting their husband’s baby: He never took us seriously, really. Can you imagine, he wanted to stay with me and the kids while taking care of his other baby? I told him to pack his things and shack up with that other woman in whatever rat hole he could find. She can probably handle that type of guy, since she’s African too. Laetitia (a 28-year-old checkout assistant and mother of two) bitterly concluded, raising her eyebrows and her chin in an expression of disillusionment that meant, “You think you’re safe but you had better keep an eye on what your man is doing.” Another outraged woman, Patricia, a 32-year-old pharmacist and mother of two, lashed out: That other woman was even encouraged by her own folks to push him to get a divorce from me, leave his children behind, and marry her. Then again, what can you expect—these lazy bitches spend their time watching Nollywood series where they’re told marriage is the only way out of the gutter!

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Of course, when discussing talk shows where all-White couples split over the male partner’s infidelity, the same respondents will admit that polygamous behaviors are not the exclusive province of males of African descent. Yet these moments are typically occasions when their parents’ and friends’ early warnings against choosing a Black mate resurface, revealing that significant elements of the White racial frame had lain rampant all the time the couples had been together. Such prejudices about Black men as polygamous patriarchs are also reinforced by popular standup comedy shows intended for audiences of African descent, where direct references to the comedians’ fathers and mothers have become staple, along with stereotypes on African women as gold-diggers. Respondents who had been exposed to African and West Indian humor typically alluded to skits by artists such as Thomas Ngijol (of Cameroonian descent), Pascal Légitimus (of Martiniquan descent), Claudia Tagbo (of Ivorian descent) or Anthony Kavanagh (of Haitian descent) to point out that these character flaws are also denounced on an essentialist mode by repre­ sentative members of these cultures. It is worth emphasizing that the White male respondents of both samples who had parted from their Black partners much less readily resorted to race-based accusations to condemn the women’s misbehaviors. One of the Alabamian respondents, Calvin, the 37-year-old father of one daughter, was equally pained as the respondents above by his African ex-wife’s “irresponsible behavior.” Yet he explained it as “proof that she’s still completely immature—she’s well past her twenties, but all she thinks about is having fun and clubbing till 2 am while I stay at home with [our daughter]. And now she’s demanding custody!” He did not mention his family’s reaction, but instead emphasized that his wife had no con­ tacts with her family in Africa and that an African male friend of the couple had warned him about his wife’s “misbehaving” while the marriage was deteriorating. Renaud, a 22-year-old business school student in France with no child, confessed to being “heartbroken” after splitting with his longtime girlfriend of Congolese descent, but he never alluded to stereotypes about African customs when explaining that she had hit [him] several times—I love her deeply but I can’t accept domestic vio­ lence. We tried to talk about it but until she stops being in denial, there’s nothing I can do, and I’m just not having this. My parents are sad also because they were proud to have a beautiful girl to show as their future daughter-in-law, but they’re supportive. Whether male or female, Black respondents of either sample who had been cheated on also readily admitted that infidelity was not intrinsically altered by the racial factor. Men and women of African descent repeatedly countered their friends’ contentions with arguments centered on male or female infidelity regardless of race or ethnicity. Some pointed out that their earlier experiences with women or men of African descent had ended over similar issues. Others

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admitted that they had themselves had two or three “serious” sexual partners simultaneously in their late teen years and early twenties; or that they were themselves currently involved in love affairs with married partners, sometimes admitting, “heck, someone did it to me in the first place! There’s no Golden Rule, no pity out there,” as Aymard, a 33-year-old psychologist and father of two, sneered bitterly. This discrepancy with White female interviewees seems to indicate that Black men and women who have experienced interracial intimacy are less prone than White women to internalize negative stereotypes about White male or female partners’ lack of morality. This may be due to the uncommon emphasis placed in the White racial frames of both countries on representations of Black masculinity as dangerous and flawed, paired with the belief in White women’s need for protection, premised on their supposed political and emotional immaturity. Additionally, in the case of French respondents, the suspicion of careless sharing of the privileges of French nationality or French metropolitan status with “undeserving” men, may induce a form of unspoken guilt in the White women who conclude they made “the wrong choice,” as exemplified in a case men­ tioned earlier.

Sharing Everything or Giving the Partner Some Space Given the importance given to the couples’ counter-framing work on preserving their bond and their self-perceptions as seekers of gender equality, a significant source of tension where internalized beliefs about gender roles clash with cultural differences was found in the notion that couples must share all private activities. This norm seems particularly emphasized among White women respondents in the French sample. Indeed, West Indian and African partners have been socialized to spend time freely on their own with their own kin and friendship groups and not necessarily return home at lunchtime or dinnertime, which provides recurrent causes for conflicts when the metropolitan French partner is set in her or his ways about what constitutes life in common. This trait of interracial heterosexual couples in France contrasts with Steinbugler’s findings about lesbian partners going separate ways for certain leisure activities. However, these choices were mainly due to the unacceptability of public displays of affection for interracial couples in queer spaces or all-Black spaces; they may not reflect a specific reinvention of traditional repre­ sentations of daily life in a romantic partnership.18 Besides, African or West Indian respondents also admitted they sometimes experienced cultural fatigue in all-Black, culturally homogeneous environments, because of the strain of gender expectations in these milieus and the latter’s frequent assumption that interracially married Afri­ can men are domesticated at home. Erving Goffman showed how the substance of a relationship lay in the part­ ners’ renouncing material or symbolic territory, which is to be read as the sign by which an interaction is created or maintained.19 French sociologist François de

160 Interracial Fusion?

Singly observed in his study of married women in France that “claims for a strong measure of autonomy for each partner implies that masculine and feminine characteristics become increasingly similar, whereas putting forward the primacy of conjugal fusion is rooted in highly distinct definitions of gender roles.”20 For interracial couples, whether in France or in Alabama, the notion of renouncing a symbolic territory is all too present, and leads to a more acute claim for fusion when the need for mutual protection is stronger. Yet partners also found that their expectations of what “a married man/woman should do or not do” were inseparable from the models they had grown up with. My female respondents’ complaints about the “differences in life rhythms” with their partners were often ambiguous about racial stereotypes. For instance, they said that “you can’t deny that West Indians are much more relaxed than we are,” “I like to have a drink with him every now and then, but you can’t match a West Indian when there’s a bottle of rum, his whole family is like that” as three interviewees put it. Another, married to an African partner, confessed that she often let[s] him go and see his family a couple of miles away so he can spend time with them and speak his native tongue. But then I get mad because he keeps me waiting until 9 or even 10 pm because he has forgotten what time it is, and when he returns he just tells me I could have had dinner instead of waiting for him. What gets me is that at these moments he really embodies the stereotype of the careless Black guy and I feel so frustrated I don’t know how to make him understand. He makes me feel stupid because I am the one who told him to go and see his folks in the first place, and he says I’m lucky because he has many friends who go to nightclubs and don’t return until 2 am to their wives and children. He’s probably right but I can’t help feeling this is not something I had anticipated, and it makes me freak out. Significantly, among Alabamian respondents, the question of sharing was rarely an issue, as most couples stressed the importance of going to racially inclusive chur­ ches together and having friends in common. Besides, hair salons and barber shops were safe all-Black spaces where a sense of togetherness could be found without any tensions opposing traditional representations of gender roles with the fronts and expectations tied to the counter-framing dynamics and racework of interracial intimacy. However, in an interview she gave me in 2009 (before the #Black Lives Matter movement), one 22-year-old White Alabamian female respondent emphasized her sadness on seeing that she was unable to share her boyfriend’s emotion when viewing footage of police brutality against Civil Rights demonstrators. This discrepancy may point to the greater influence of ethnic differences in addition to racial ones in the French sample, insofar as couples had to negotiate cultural differences that had little relation with the macro dimension of systemic racism. For instance, among U.S. interviewees I did not find the recurrent sources

Interracial Fusion? 161

of frustration signaled between the partners in Franco-African couples. These included the need for African partners to have two couches in the living room to seat at least five guests; the importance for French partners to have gifts and flowers on their birthdays or Valentine’s Day; the unacceptability for most French middle-class females of keeping the TV on while listening to the radio or throwing a party; or the lack of interest of many African men in DIY. At this stage in the analysis of couples’ cross-cultural experiences, the question of how to build enough cultural common ground to raise children is a crucial matter of negotiation where partners again reassess their beliefs about gender roles and core cultural values.

Notes 1 See Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Doubleday, 1956. See also Jean-Claude Kaufmann, Quand Je est un autre. Pourquoi et comment ça change en nous, Paris: Armand Colin, 2008. The term “front” will hereafter be used with this meaning. 2 See Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, translated and edited by Lewis Coser, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, [1950] 1992. 3 See Heather Dalmage, Tripping on the Color Line: Black–White Multiracial Families in a Racially Divided World, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000, 43–4, and Melinda Anne Mills, “‘Who Do You Think You’re Border Patrolling?’ Negotiating ‘Multiracial’ Identities and ‘Interracial’ Relationships,” dissertation, Georgia State University, 2008,, accessed on July 28, 2017. 4 Amy Steinbugler, Beyond Loving: Intimate Racework in Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Inter­ racial Relationships, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012, 103–30. 5 Heather Dalmage gives a good example of this perception in her book: “A black professor in a local university explained to me one day: ‘See, the black community wants your husband and your children. We don’t have any use for you’” (Dalmage, Tripping on the Color Line, 6). 6 Everybody Hates Chris, created by Chris Rock and Ali LeRoi, aired by UPN (2005– 2006) and The CW (2006–2009). 7 See E. Patrick Johnson, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. See also Jenni Avins, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Cultural Appropriation,” The Atlantic, October 20, 2015, www.theatlantic. com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/ 411292, accessed on July 28, 2017. 8 See Georges-Claude Guilbert, Madonna as Post-Modern Myth: How One Star’s SelfConstruction Rewrites Sex, Gender, Hollywood, and the American Dream, Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co., 2002. 9 Ashlyn Sullivan, “I am Not Dating a Racial Slur,” December 22, 2014, https://ashlynsully., accessed on July 28, 2017. 10 Emerald Maxwell and Elise Duffau, “États-Unis: Ashlyn et Ra’Montae, l’amour en noir et blanc,” aired on France 24, April 1, 2016, ours-interdites-etats-unis-couple-mixte-afro-americains-racisme, and Roy Wenzl, “Waitress’ Blog Post on Interracial Relationship Elicits Race Comments, Death Threats,” The Wichita Eagle, January 28, 2015, accessed on July 28, 2017.

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11 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge, 2000, 156–7. Emphasis in the text. 12 See Karyn Langhorne Folan, Don’t Bring Home a White Boy—and Other Notions That Keep Black Women From Dating Out, New York: Karen Hunter Publishing, 2010. 13 See Steinbugler, Beyond Loving, 90–2, for an account of a similar uneasiness to discuss racially polarizing events on the part of one of her White female respondents in a heterosexual couple, and the ensuing “emotional labor of racework.” 14 IFOP, Département Opinions et Stratégies d’Entreprise, “Analyse: Le catholicisme en France en 2010,”, accessed on July 29, 2017. See also “Statistiques sur la pratique religieuse en France,” Géo Confluences, December 12, 2016, veille/pratique-religieuse-france, accessed on July 29, 2016. 15 See Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs: Parcours de des­ cendants d’immigrés, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012, 208, 225, 241–43, 251. 16 For the situation in France, see Layla Ricroch, “En 25 ans, moins de tâches domes­ tiques pour les femmes, l’écart de situation avec les hommes se réduit,” INSEE Référ­ ences: Femmes et hommes—Regards sur la parité, Édition 2012, March 8, 2012, www., accessed on July 30, 2017. For the U.S.A., see Abigail Geiger, “Sharing Chores a Key to Good Marriage, Say Majority of Married Adults,” Fact Tank, Pew Research Center, November 30, 2016, ge-say-majority-of-married-adults, accessed on July 30, 2017. 17 See Sandrine Valcke, “Etre de parents ‘blanc’ et ‘noir’ dans la France d’aujourd’hui,” Africains: Citoyens d’ici et de là-bas, Hommes et Migrations, no. 1239 (September–October 2002), 87. 18 Steinbugler, Beyond Loving, 38. 19 Erving Goffman, Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Social Order, New York: Basic Books, 1971. 20 François de Singly, Fortune et infortune de la femme mariée: Sociologie des effets de la vie conjugale, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, collection Quadrige, [1987] 2004, 129. My translation.

6 FANTASIZING THE CHILD How Successfully Do Partners Negotiate Racial Otherness When Reflecting on Parenthood and Parenting?

As recently as 2009, a Louisiana justice of the peace put forward the old, White­ racial-frame argument of preventing an interracial marriage out of “concern … for the children.”1 The trope of the “tragic mulatto/a” in U.S. literature has long served as both a denunciation of race as a social construct and a warning to interracial couples not to have any offspring, and this example shows how per­ sistent its influence remains in certain Southern mentalities. In their in-depth interviews of White college students in three universities across the U.S.A., Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tyrone Forman have shed light on how deeply rooted negative views of the same nature may be harbored behind the positive “racetalk” used to appear tolerant in public and quantitative surveys.2 Today, both in the U.S.A. and in France, the reactions of families and strangers (including doctors and nurses) to mixed-race children remain ambivalent, focus­ ing on the social implications of skin tones and hair textures, to such a point that young couples often hesitate to consider having children at all. As mentioned earlier, the fear of (further) antagonizing White mothers or mothers-in-law was a particularly striking finding in both fieldworks, with anguish focusing on pre­ vailing stereotypes on Black males as pathological and kinky hair as untamable. In this chapter, I analyze how the partners make space for the other culture in their educational choices and practices. I also explore what specific aspects of ethnic identity are reproduced or rejected in an effort to shape the children’s future while taking into account the gendered representations of young and adult biracial men and women in each of the two countries, with a more or less con­ sciousness of the weight of history and the cultural specificity of their environ­ ment. The respondents’ children are not interviewed in this chapter, because I wanted the study to remain centered on the couples’ self-perceptions, fears, contradictions, and hopes.

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Learning Parenting Counter-Frames from Black Families and Friends One 38-year-old French respondent, a mother of two, drew my attention to the paradoxical impact that White strangers’ hostile behavior towards Black children had had on her awareness of racism: You know, one of the main reasons why I was hesitant to start dating [my husband] was that I had been close friends with one girl who was raised by her mom alone because her dad had returned to Africa, and the teachers and the other kids were always surprised when they saw her mom or aunt coming to parent-teacher meetings, and they’d say it out loud and I felt so bad for her all the time. She was always saying she would move to another country because Black people aren’t treated well in France. I had many friends in the same case when I was growing up so I was scared to death of bringing into the world mixed-up kids that I wouldn’t be able to help and defend against the rest of the world. But he reassured me. What he said was, they wouldn’t be the first mixed-race children and we’d give them all the spiritual, mental weapons they would need and I should trust him with that. That was twelve years ago. We still waited four years until we had our first baby boy. Now that I’m a mom, I can say I feel much stronger and I’m no longer scared to call the kindergarten teacher just to tell her she should have a conversation with her class to explain that it’s wrong and hurtful to use racial slurs. My son was four when one of his classmates, who should’ve known better because he’s a Jewish kid, called him bamboula. 3 I was so shocked I picked up the phone and called his teacher immediately. I’ve had to fight a couple of other battles in school, but overall it’s been less traumatic than I had expected. Then again, our kids have been pretty good at using irony and learning how to call people out for the racist or discriminatory things they say, even teachers. … I’d say the experience that shocked me most lately was not something that happened to my kids but to some little kids who were on the metro with their mother. They must’ve been around four or five. There were no seats available when she got on, so she asked if someone would kindly give up their seats for her younger kid. He was holding a bag of chips. I had spotted her immediately and wanted to offer her my seat anyway so I said, “Yes of course,” and got up right away. She barely had the time to say thank you. Now, some elderly [White] people who were seated next to me began yelling at her, saying she was not entitled to a seat, which is not true since everybody knows that we’re supposed to give up our seats whenever there are disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, and little kids under five. They were clearly trying to pick a fight, at least verbally. She showed

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them the sign about little kids being entitled to a seat, but they insisted that hers were big enough to keep standing and that anyway they weren’t sup­ posed to be eating on the metro. Which is nonsense also, because this is not forbidden! So she too got loud, because she could clearly see that it was all about race, really. She said she was just as French as they were, and asked them if they wanted her 3-year-old to fall and get hurt because he had nothing to hold on to. It made me so sad to realize she wasn’t expecting any support from the rest of the car, which was filled with people. When another guy in his sixties began chiming in and insinuating that “these people” were being sassy as usual, or something of the kind, I couldn’t take it anymore and I said out loud that there was nothing wrong with her asking and that I had been happy to give up my seat for her kids. I needed to connect with her, and she saw it, but the people who had started the fuss assumed I was on their side because I was White like them. At that point, her stop came and she got off; we said goodbye and I wished her good luck. I felt ashamed and sad for her and her kids because I had realized how there is no pity, even for kids that young, just because they’re Black. It even made me ashamed to think my kids would probably have been better treated because their mother’s not Black. This moment of awareness represents one of the key common points between the interviewees who were parents in each of the two countries. This respon­ dent’s explanation of her evolution shows, first, the impact of the White racial frame on her early representations of interracial families as deficient. It also points to the building of a counter-frame for the sake of protecting the children more effectively than the partners can protect each other; and finally, an awareness of the commonality with Black families experiencing racial prejudice at every age. This sense of solidarity appeared much more frequently among my French interviewees, because of the racial diversity of the friendship groups they belon­ ged to—a specificity of the French fieldwork, discussed earlier. Also of import in comparing the two societies is the existence of representa­ tions of Black children as non-valuable commodities in the Jim Crow South, particularly in nursery rhymes. This point was brilliantly made by the African American filmmaker Marlon Riggs in his documentary Ethnic Notions. 4 It may be tied to Martha Hodes’s demonstration that lynching only became frequent in the South after African American men had become citizens, and therefore lost the financial value they had been assigned under the economic system of slavery. These representations have a direct link with “zero tolerance” policies applied in U.S. schools, as well as the school-to-prison pipeline, which have no equivalent in France. What Francophone interviewees did stress, however, was the tendency of teachers, headmistresses and middle school principals to consider little Black boys’ acting out under a peculiar light. Three families were advised to seek help from ethnopsychiatrists, who rather specialize in facilitating the adjustment of

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children of migrant parents with strongly traditional beliefs—typically African families who insist on practicing female genital mutilations, for instance. As one male interviewee of Cameroonian descent vented, I know what accusations of witchcraft can do to a child! I’ve been there myself. I don’t want these people from school treating my kid as if he’s raised by ignorant parents who go for that type of craziness. Just because you’re a Black male doesn’t mean you are a “Mamadou”5 or a menace to society! I simply told them we had both been raised in France and a regular child psychologist would do, if he really had to see one. When asked how they worked, or intended to work for the psychological pro­ tection of children, the Alabamian respondents emphasized family bonds more consistently, particularly the agency transmitted by Black mothers as those who know how to raise children of color by giving them a healthy sense of identity. My Alabamian respondents also observed that the racial climate under President Obama had become more positive. Whenever they were invited in majorityWhite settings, such as a Southern cuisine restaurant or a White church dinner, White strangers often came to them in public places to praise the beauty of their children, as if the latter were used as vectors by strangers to deflect their uneasi­ ness about the presence of racial “anomaly” in an all-White environment. But during the time my family and I stayed in Alabama under President Obama’s first term in office, I could personally witness how the hostility of some adults to interracial couples was also extended to these couples’ young children. I noticed unambiguous expressions of rejection and even fear of physical closeness. Also evident were attitudes of avoidance. I can remember the dinner party of an interracial couple’s wedding where a White pair in their seventies looked terrified and actually cringed on their chairs as our younger son, then a toddler, came crawling on all fours towards their table. On several instances, congregants of an all-White church rose from their seats and moved their trays to other tables when we tried to introduce ourselves at “fellowship dinners” where the pastor and his wife had invited us. These experiences of racial avoidance or more explicit mani­ festations of the White racial frame were not limited to Alabama, or the U.S.A. for that matter. My son was first called the n***** word at the age of nine in an allWhite town near Boston in 2013, and one of his biracial friends from France was vacationing in Corsica when his host family forced him to sleep outside of the house for no reason. The shock parents feel on such occasions is magnified by the fact most of them have integrated racial difference (and, to a certain degree, cultural difference as well) as part of who they are as a couple over the years they have lived together. As a result, they often feel unprepared to respond adequately to racebased hostility from strangers when it targets their children. Hence the under­ standable reflex of tightening their bonds with their Black families or in-laws to benefit from a constant source of emotional support and parenting advice.6

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One couple including a Black Alabamian woman and a White Jewish Texan man shows a significant divergence in their anticipation of their need for support in parenting. Deandrea, a 28-year-old sales representative who had dated another White Jewish man just before starting this relationship, wants her future children to benefit from two solid counter-frames: I feel as though the people that I personally know that are Black and Jewish, typically identify as less of a Black person. I felt as though if we were to raise our children as both Black and Jewish, that they may have a stronger com­ munity from having not only a community of Black people to share their experiences, but also a Jewish community to do the same. I feel that this may be extremely beneficial for their identity and self-worth. However, she says her partner is rather in favor of educating children with the help and counter-framing resources of his in-laws and the Black community: My partner does not agree that we should raise the children as Jewish because he believes that they might face discrimination. I think that it will help them in the community, considering they will be half-Black and face plenty of discrimination. Deandrea’s White male partner explains his apparent uneasiness with transmitting his ethnic heritage by pointing to his early experiences with the anti-Semitic version of the White U.S. racial frame. When prompted to share his view on the challenges of growing up as part of an ethnic minority, he answered: Growing up [in Dallas] I’ve always entertained different answers to the question, “Tell me boy, are you Jewish?” My family never really had too much involvement with faith, and as a result I never had any Jewish com­ munity to speak with. This shows his awareness of the crucial need for a child to be nurtured by a closeknit community with a strong counter-frame. However, Deandrea’s answers con­ cerning the dynamics of counter-framing seem to indicate that her partner is still struggling to acknowledge the depth of systemic racism towards African Americans: I wish that he made it more of a priority to keep current with the daily injustices against Black men and women in America. It can be difficult to compare life difficulties, when I sometimes put more weight behind my struggles. Significantly, Deandrea introduced her partner to her Birmingham-based family after they had dated for five months, but when I interviewed her, she had yet to meet with his family, although she had moved to their hometown. She is the first

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Black woman he has dated, but dating out has never been a problem either to him or to his family, who have expressed no objection to their being together and contemplating marriage. However, his answers and relative reluctance to discuss in detail the lack of community support he felt as a minority child point to his prioritizing the choice of a partner with a close-knit family and community, regardless of racial concerns. The pair have frequent discussions on their respec­ tive experiences while growing up Southern, which shows how much energy Deandrea, in particular, puts into educating her partner to the dynamics of the Black Southern counter-frame in the perspective of future parenting. The question of hair inevitably came up in the interviews of White mothers of girls. French respondents were more surprised than U.S. ones on seeing their West Indian in-laws comment on “good hair,”7 because braiding and other African hairstyles are very common in urban environments as well as rural ones in France; and they admitted they had never considered hair to be a problem before. Two French women married to African men, however, commented on their daughters’ “untamable hair” in the presence of the latter, which indicated a lack of contacts with the in-laws regarding this matter as well as a limited awareness of the psychological consequences of such comments on the young girls’ self-image. By contrast, five other White mothers of girls in the French sample answered that they relied on traditional African cosmetics and braiding techniques. Two had learned from in-laws and Black female friends how to take care of kinky or frizzy hair with shea butter and braid it themselves, while the other three sent their daughters to African beauty salons or friends’ houses on a regular basis. One of them pointed out that she had also seen several Black mothers who did not know how to properly take care of their biracial or even Black sons’ afros or their daughters’ hair, and heard her Black female friends “often rant about those women who can’t even make an effort to comb kinky hair correctly. My best friend was just this close to begging a woman who looked West Indian to let her comb her daughter’s hair.” One Alabamian White female respondent not only knew how to take care of her two girls’ hair, but even had her own salon at home, with only African American customers. One biracial interviewee from the French sample, Lou, said that she is confident she will be able to take proper care of her future children’s hair. Yet she feels relieved their hair won’t be kinky and hopes that her future daughter won’t have to feel obliged to relax her hair—as she does, much to the chagrin of her partner. These examples show that for Black and White women alike, the issue is largely a matter of cultural competence and their personal coming to terms with beauty standards elaborated from a Eurocentric perspective. However, hair and aesthetic norms are only a small part of the bigger picture, as Lou explained: To me, what matters is to have kids who will not just look attractive by 21st-century beauty standards,8 but more importantly, know who they are.

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That’s why I’d prefer to raise them elsewhere than in France. Sure, there’s the Social Security system which is good, and there are good schools too, but after growing up in Niger, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Senegal in interna­ tional schools, I had a really, really hard time adjusting to French schools, where other kids told me to go back to my jungle. I don’t want that for my kids. If we can, we’ll go to Canada. Or they’ll go to an international school. In both samples of respondents, parents admitted that from an early age, their children had had to cope with the kind of brutal racist prejudice mentioned by Lou. This explicitly led all of them save one couple (including a French woman of Senegalese descent and a White French man) to give their children first names that did not sound ethnic.9 Likewise, in the French sample, couples including an African man had negotiated long and hard before deciding whether to keep a foreign-sounding last name for their offspring, in a context suffused with the White anti-immigrant frame.

Anticipating and Defusing the Impact of Institutional Racism on Children On this last point, my findings compare with those of Beate Collet and Emma­ nuelle Santelli.10 Female partners kept an African family name at all costs for themselves and/or their children, as a way to proclaim pride in their marriage and compensate for the humiliations suffered by their husbands in the public sphere, where Black masculinity is denigrated and African or West Indian cultures are “not taken seriously and denigrated as inferior to French culture.” One White French mother explained she had supported her 7-year-old son when he had hit another child in retaliation for a racial slur that the teachers had pretended not to notice: He called my son a piece of poop. The teacher was standing next to them and didn’t say anything, just kept talking to her colleague, so my son told the other kid to apologize immediately for saying something mean and racist. The other kid refused and just repeated what he had said, so my son pun­ ched him in the face! Next thing you know, the teacher jumped on them to comfort the little White kid and tell mine off. She wrote a note for us on the message notebook, saying we were lucky that the other kid’s parents had decided not to sue us. I went ballistic. I wrote back to her, saying that the other kid’s parents were lucky we didn’t sue them for their racist education and that she should have a conversation about racial slurs with her class, since this was supposed to be a Catholic school where children are supposed to be given a moral kind of education. She just responded that I “saw racism everywhere” and should calm down instead of accusing 7-year-olds of racist prejudice. It could have gone on and on, because a couple of months earlier she had allowed two little girls in his class to

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falsely accuse him of theft. She had humiliated my son in front of his whole class by forcing him to take off his coat and sit on the playground floor while she was shaking the coat to empty his pockets—in the middle of winter! Of course she didn’t find anything; but she left him pick up his things without even apol­ ogizing to him. My son was beginning to hate school and I was beginning to hate that teacher—who, of course, never found anything in my son’s coat or backpack, but never even bothered to have the girls apologize to him. And he was the one getting his snacks stolen from him, too! But my husband refused to have anything to do with that stupid teacher. [Our son] had to suck it in until the end of the year, and then we moved him to a more diverse school. My husband simply won’t have anything to do with schools; that’s my job. He keeps telling me I have more chances to be heard than him, because that’s the kind of people who think he must be a sanitation worker, and he’s had his fill of humiliations. This gets on my nerves, because I feel it’s unfair to have to fight alone, but I can’t let my kid down. So his dad tells him to “play against the referee” while I teach him to use his wit against other kids rather than put himself in trouble. This was not the only example of a White mother fighting an institution to defend her child. My Alabamian respondents who were parents shared similar stories of warning school principals “not to treat her different ’cause she’s not White, ’cause you know, I’ll always be here for her, so they’d better not mess with her,” as the Alabamian mother of a 14-year-old biracial girl told me. Another White Alabamian mother of three, who holds a degree in cosmetology and has a salon at her home where she caters to an all-African American clientele, shared this story with me: We live in an all-White town in the country. I’m concerned about dis­ crimination against my kids in school. After my son’s first year in kindergarten we had to put him in a private school because the principal was always against him. But even then, he’s treated differently. If he had been a White boy, seeing how he plays baseball, they would have considered him as a god. But since he’s interracial, they won’t admit it. They’re bright and good at school, and if they excel at athletics too, it makes things even worse! I don’t care if people think I’m one of these sorority girls who are the first to hit on athletes but “don’t want Dad to know.” I’m not that kind of person. We’re a normal family, we’re very involved in our kids and their education, so they’ll get the respect they deserve and my husband and I will keep fighting for that.

Transmitting Cultural Heritage as Nuclear and Extended Families Regardless of race, most fathers tended to be less involved in this type of proactive agency, except for Calvin, a White 37-year-old father of one who

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fought in court and juggled two teaching jobs to obtain custody of his 9-year­ old daughter after his African wife left him for an African American. Con­ cerned that his daughter would stop practicing French (the language in which he raised her) and lose the opportunity to go to a school in a “good neigh­ borhood,” he eventually won his case. He keeps consolidating his daughter’s bicultural identity by telling her about his experience in Central Africa as a member of the Peace Corps and showing her pictures of the skyscrapers of the capital, “so she won’t believe anyone who comes telling her nonsense about Africans living in trees or mud houses.” This example offers undeniable par­ allels with those analyzed in Part One, which showed how interracial couples fought to preserve their right to transmit their property to their offspring whether in Alabama or in France. Raising biracial boys or girls with two distinct cultural models again entailed substantial work on the gendered representations attached to persons of African descent in each country, but more significantly in the French case. This difference is due to the presence of stronger cultural differences, which led each couple to select carefully which elements they wished to transmit or discard for the well­ being of their offspring. White French mothers in partnerships with African men, for instance, often refused to allow their male children to be circumcised (an unusual practice in France), while their partners (regardless of their religious affiliation) considered it “unaesthetic and unclean” not to have them undergo the operation, arguing that their boys would be “the laughing stock of the family back home.” West Indian and African fathers in the French sample often objected to their sons being taught about gender studies in class and discussing same-sex attraction and marriage in the family sphere, particularly when the law authorizing same-sex marriage was discussed in the French Parliament. African men and women also asked their partners to avoid exposing the children to positive representations of witchcraft (as in Harry Potter movies, or by buying Halloween masks with demonic features) or bringing home masks, second-hand jewels or toys, as well as food prepared by strangers, due to beliefs about witchcraft which had been ingrained in their own upbringing. For similar reasons, African partners, regardless of gender, criticized the lack of modesty of their White partners and admitted they often had arguments about the unacceptability of walking naked or in underwear in the presence of the children. Finally, Black partners in both samples concurred in finding White children lacking in discipline. Most of the couples who raised this question or accepted to discuss it with me tended to prefer a strict rather than lax model of education for their children’s future well-being and “sense of self-respect.” “That’s something they can never take away from you, is what my parents always told me,” a 28-year-old Black Alabamian father con­ cluded at the end of his interview. This last point leads the comparison to one of the most significant common points between the two samples of respondents. Parents refused to consider that

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their children had to belong to either one group, and rather insisted on letting them enjoy the benefits of both cultures. In the French case, this even meant playing with the racial ambiguity that causes biracial children to be mistaken for North Africans by strangers from this minority, who casually call them “cousin” or “my son” on the street, in public transportation or in barber shops. My two teenage boys regularly benefit from the strong counter-frame offered by the parents of their friends of North African descent, who welcome and feed them as if they were family, or offer advice when we experience systemic racism in school. The practice of collective parenting is strikingly common to African American, (North) African, and West Indian systems of education. Almost all of the couples mentioned their discovery of or attachment to it. Coining the concept of “othermothers,” Patricia Hill Collins described their role in African American traditions in the following terms: Grandmothers, sisters, aunts, or cousins act as othermothers by taking on child-care responsibilities for one another’s children. Historically, when needed, temporary child-care arrangements often turned into long-term care or informal adoption (Stack 1974, Gutman 1976). These practices continue in the face of changing social pressures … At the same time, the erosion of such networks in the face of the changing institutional fabric of Black civil society points to the need either to refashion these networks or develop some other way of supporting Black children. For far too many AfricanAmerican children, assuming that a grandmother or “fictive kin” will care for them is no longer a reality.11 Far from being eroded in either of the two areas surveyed, the role played by extended families and the active participation of female, but also male relatives, and even neighbors or friends’ parents, in the parenting of biracial children was consistently referred to by the White respondents with children as one of the major assets of having an interracial family. My personal observations of the implication of African male relatives of all age brackets in socializing younger children fully corroborate the following remarks by Patricia Hill Collins: Because they are often left in charge of younger siblings, many young Black men learn how to care for children … Thus, differences among Black men and women in behaviors concerning children may have more to do with male labor force patterns and similar factors.12 This finding helps make sense of the strikingly recurrent insistence by my U.S. White female respondents that I begin my study by saying that their partners were good fathers, “contrary to what people say about Black men.” Most of them explicitly said they hoped my transcriptions of their responses would include this comment, which shows both their concern with the respectability of

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their families and a form of politicization, to the extent that they wanted to actively participate in the debunking of media and political stereotypes about African American men as irresponsible, absent fathers.13 Significantly, in the French sample, only the partners of West Indian men displayed similar behaviors, as a result of comparable stereotypes in metropolitan French popular culture, while those with African partners rather complained of stereotypes on polygamy than on deficient parenting. Indeed, African women are spontaneously associated with expert parenting in the French neo-imper­ ialistic frame, mainly because urban White families with no day care solutions commonly hire as nannies women migrants from francophone African coun­ tries. Yet the parenting skills of African men are never represented, even by standup comedians of African descent, in spite of the very real value and affec­ tion invested by men in their offspring, who are always called “our children” or “our blood.” Patricia Hill Collins designates this collective understanding of children’s socialization as “cooperative child care.”14 It could be found in both samples of interracial families, showing patterns of conscious encouragement of the creation of fictive kinship bonds. This can be observed in traditional African settings, such as the West African custom of accepting banter only from the descendants of an ancestor’s best friend. Parents in Alabama as well as in France said they often prided themselves on the physical likeness of their children. They liked to get together with their interracially married friends, or let their children go on out­ ings with just one of the couples, to enjoy the confused looks on the faces of strangers as the latter try to sort out the ages of the children and guess who is whose child. Among couples including an African partner and children, the understanding of the cultural adjustments and ethical implications of collective parenting seemed to have been more transformative of the White partners’ family values, as is sug­ gested by a French mother of three: African families are much more elastic than French families. Sometimes we go to one of our nieces’ for family reunions or birthdays, and there’s always this girl who is not related to them. I asked my niece one day, “have you adopted this girl or what? She’s clearly much more than a babysitter to your kids!” My niece just said, “Well, that’s the African way of life. White folks could learn from us!” [Laughs] Also, my kids can’t call their cousins “cousins” if there’s an older relative around, like an uncle or an aunt or their grandma from Africa. They have to say “brothers” or “sisters,” because “cousin” is for friends and neighbors. If you say “cousin” they feel insulted, so I taught my kids to do as they were told by their African relatives even if French people would call their cousins “cousins.” Kids don’t really care that much, and anyway their African cousins who are raised in France are just as con­ fused when they have to call me “grandma” just like they call my 60-year-old sister-in-law “grandma.” We just laugh it off. But in the end, I find this system

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much better than the one I grew up in, with everyone not speaking to everyone else for years and years and folks only getting together for funerals. Three White French respondents, one male and two females, emphasized the generosity and hospitality of their African in-laws, pointing out that their own families had not given them such values—a comment rarely heard among White Alabamian interviewees, whose socialization indicated a higher frequency of close-knit families and bonding among cousins. One White Alabamian respon­ dent, however, said she was impressed with the spontaneous affection displayed by her African American nephew for her two boys: The other day, he took his car and drove a long way, just to take the boys to the bowling alley, and he insisted on paying for it on his own money. He didn’t have to do that, he doesn’t have a lot and he has his student loan, you know. When I see how much they love each other in [my partner’s] family, and how close they are, I just thank God that my boys will always have someone to take care of them even after I’m gone. Such appreciation does not always preclude the persistence of the White racial frame within the couples. Mentions of the impatience of White partners with the African custom of regularly sending gifts and cash to relatives back home were frequent, such acts of family loyalty being perceived as “profiteering” by relatives who “think money grows on trees.” Allusions to the popularity of biracial boys’ or girls’ curly hair among their children’s West Indian or African cousins were often tinged with pride. A mother of two, reminiscing on her family’s first trip to her husband’s home country in Cameroon, described her African nieces’ aston­ ishment on discovering that her daughters’ hair were not weaves and the admiration with which they asked her if they could comb and braid “White people’s beautiful, soft hair.” A White French mother of two, who complained about her 15-year-old daughter’s attitude, gave another example of a sense of White racial superiority: These days she barely speaks to us; she’s acting as if neither her father nor I are good enough for her. When you see her cuddling up to us, that’s because she wants some money, and when the money’s gone, we’re no good any­ more. I know where that comes from—she’s materialistic, exactly like my sisters-in-law, West-Indian style. Anyway, as the saying goes, les chiens ne font pas des chats [dogs don’t breed cats]. Most White fathers and mothers in the French sample also expressed relief that their West Indian and African in-laws did not challenge their parenting style. “I often hear comments on White kids being allowed to get away with murder, for talking back to an adult for example, or calling adults by their first names,15

Fantasizing the Child 175

whereas my Senegalese wife could not raise her eyes when talking to a grownup when she was a little girl,” a 34-year-old French father of four observed. But when I asked him if his children were disciplined when they stayed in Senegal or with their African relatives in France, he said, the latter wouldn’t dare. Partly because I’m the man in the house, and also, probably, because I’m White and there’s still a lot of respect for White people in former African colonies. You know, I often have brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law coming to me to check whether my wife told them the truth about this or that. They’ll trust my word better than hers, because I have been raised to always tell the truth, while she has to find all sorts of excuses and pretexts not to do something some elder brother or sister asks her to do. We’ve had several arguments about this already. Now she anticipates everything and has me recite what I must answer in case her folks ask me any tricky questions. While this example emphasizes the importance of masculinity, this interviewee’s remarks are also corroborated by my personal experience with African friends and in-laws. The question of discipline appeared to be much less salient among Alaba­ mian respondents, essentially because parenting styles do not appear to have been very different across the color line as far as Southern norms of politeness are con­ cerned. The only difference mentioned was in the less frequent expressions of motherly love in the more traditional African American families of six of my interviewees, but this tended to disappear in the young couples’ parenting choices.

From Parenting Mixed-Race Children to Taking a Stand against White Privilege In light of this comparison between the parenting lessons learnt by interracial couples in Alabama and in France, it may be useful to draw theoretical inspiration from Patricia Hill Collins’s articulation of an anti-essentialist Black women’s standpoint on motherhood. She defined this particular counter-frame as a web of “culturally specific, resilient lifelines that can be continually refashioned in response to changing contexts.”16 The energy needed to develop these qualities and agency is often viewed as incompatible with the cultural baggage and emo­ tional fragility of White females, particularly in U.S. representations of White femininity. However, both samples of interviewees have shown that not only White mothers, but also White fathers, were willing to root out for their children under the guidance of Black parents and friends, and did not hesitate to decon­ struct their own White privilege for the benefit of their children’s emotional growth and education. Beyond motherhood, the issue of parenting children of color in culturally creative ways reintroduces the political dimension Collins had emphasized from a Black feminist perspective as she discussed the rising number of biracial children in the U.S.A.:

176 Fantasizing the Child

[Y]et another issue concerns the growing number of mixed-race children who seek new guidelines of how to negotiate Black political identities. Prior eras granted mulattos and light-skinned Blacks special favors, suggesting that a similar fate may await mixed-race and biracial children. Attending to the political well-being of these children raises entirely new issues for Black women. In large part, these are the children of White mothers, and their understandings of Blackness reflect the range of their White mothers’ will­ ingness to embrace social and political Blackness. … Studies of White mothers of mixed-race children confirm this phenomenon of White mothers becoming politicized in fighting the battles confronting their Black children. Raising their Black children in racist environments fosters new views of motherhood for many of these women. This is an entirely different understanding of poli­ tical activism and empowerment than fighting on one’s own behalf.17 Granted, most of the White parents I interviewed in Alabama still choose to send their biracial children to predominantly White schools, even if this entails finan­ cial sacrifices for the family—in terms of paying for a private school or moving into a less integrated neighborhood in order to have better-quality public schools. Still, in a racially polarized environment, taking a stand for a Black child still sends a powerful message about the progressive shifting of racial boundaries. As Calvin, the lone father of a 9-year-old girl, said to me, “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My kid is as good as anyone else’s, and probably smarter. A child’s mind is a terrible thing to waste, and it’s high time educators in this state began judging children on their abilities instead of their skin color!”

Notes 1 Mary Foster (Associated Press), “Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License in Tan­ gipahoa Parish,” The Times Picayune, October 16, 2009, ssf/2009/10/interracial_couple_denied_marr.html, accessed on July 25, 2017. 2 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tyrone A. Forman, “‘I Am Not a Racist But…’: Mapping White College Students’ Racial Ideology in the U.S.A.,” Discourse & Society, vol. 11, no. 1 (January 2000), 50–85. See also Kristen A. Myers, Racetalk: Racism Hiding in Plain Sight, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005. 3 A racist term applied to African colonized subjects and made popular in metropolitan France during World War I, still used in provocation by some law enforcement offi­ cers during arrests in impoverished neighborhoods around big French cities. 4 Marlon Riggs, Ethnic Notions, documentary film, 57 minutes, California Newsreel, 1987, at 23 min. 5 This is a generic first name given to African men regardless of their actual identity or religion since the days of the French colonial army; it is used today in African milieus to refer to illiterate, usually West African, migrants who performed sanitation work in Paris in the 1970s-1980s and are looked down upon by French natives. This shows the influence of the White imperialistic frame on Africans’ representations of themselves. 6 For a study of multiracial Asian families and their educational strategies, see Sharon Chang, Raising Mixed-Race: Multiracial Asian Children in a Post-Racial World, New York: Routledge, 2015.

Fantasizing the Child 177

7 Among the many excellent books published on the question, the following one offers an insightful transatlantic perspective including Black British and Caribbean women’s perspectives in addition to African American women’s: Shirley Anne Tate, Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics, Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. 8 Stereotypes on biracial persons in France were analyzed in Sandrine Valcke, “Etre de parents ‘blanc’ et ‘noir’ dans la France d’aujourd’hui,” Africains: Citoyens d’ici et de là­ bas, Hommes et Migrations, no. 1239 (September–October 2002), 85–99. 9 About Muslim partners in France finding creative names for their children in order to claim a Muslim heritage while avoiding ethnic discrimination, see Beate Collet and Emmanuelle Santelli, Couples d’ici, Parents d’ailleurs: Parcours de descendants d’immigrés, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012, 201, 203, 208, 229–30. 10 See Collet and Santelli, Couples d’ici, parents d’ailleurs, 208, 225, 241–3, 251. 11 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge, 2000, 178, 183, citing Herbert Gutman, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750, 1925, New York: Vintage Books, 1976, and Carol B. Stack, All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Com­ munity, New York: Harper, 1974. The French historian Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry has shown how these historical studies were published partly in reaction to the patholo­ gization of Black families by the Moynihan Report of 1965 (Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Case For National Action: The Negro Family, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing, Office of Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor, 1965): Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, De l’esclave au Président: Discours sur les familles noires aux États-Unis, Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2010, 139–91, as well as Daniel Geary, Beyond Civil Rights. The Moynihan Report and its Legacy, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. On the erosion of solidarity networks in African American communities, see Jewell K. Sue, Survival of the Black Family. The Institutional Impact of U.S. Social Policy, New York: Praeger, 1988, and From Mammy to Miss America and Beyond. Cultural Images and the Shaping of U.S. Social Policy, London: Routledge, 1993. 12 Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 180. This feature can be found in other ethnic groups, such as Latinos; see Kay E. Sanders and Alison Wishard Guerra, eds. The Culture of Child Care: Attachment, Peers, and Quality in Diverse Communities, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, 161–77. 13 Following the utilization by Ronald Reagan in his 1976 campaign of the isolated case of a female crook who had swindled several husbands as well as Social Security, several conservative scholars contended throughout the 1980s and until the Welfare Reform of 1996 that welfare recipients were primarily African American and undeserving of public help, depicting Black women as “Welfare Queens” and men as gang members. See, for instance, Charles Murray, Losing Ground. American Social Policy, 1950–1980, New York: Basic Books, 1984, and “The Legacy of the 60’s,” Commentary, vol. 94, no. 1 (July 1992), 23–30. For a historiography of this and other stereotypes on African American families, see Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, De l’esclave au Président. 14 Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 179. 15 This is also frowned upon in traditional African American families; see Mommy Noire Editor, “Missed Manners: Should Kids Address Adults as Mr. and Mrs.?,” Madame Noire, May 2, 2016, dults-mr-mrs, accessed on August 1, 2017. 16 Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 177. See also Dorothy E. Roberts, “Unshackling Black Motherhood,” Michigan Law Review, vol. 95, no. 4, Symposium: Representing Race (February 1997), 938–64. 17 Collins, Black Feminist Thought, 183, 194.

CONCLUSION “Love’s Revolution” Will Not Be Racialized

This comparative project began with the hope that the presidency of Barack Obama would change popular perceptions and representations of Black and interracial families in the U.S.A. and in European countries like France, whose colonial and slaveholding legacies remain largely unaddressed in spite of increasing demands for recognition of the existence, history and cultural wealth of its nonWhite citizens. Ten years later, as could have been expected by the critics of post-racialism and in spite of the powerful symbols of having had a Black family in the White House and a Black woman as the French equivalent of the Attorney General, the multilayered White racial frames in each country prove difficult to combat—especially given the resurgence of white nationalist organizations in the U.S.A. as in European countries. The narratives collected here point to the complex ways in which racialized and gendered roles intersect with the history of the country or region and, in the French case, the influence of African American culture as a product of mass consumption. Contrary to assumptions about the Deep South in general and Alabama in particular, interracial couples there have consistently maintained a sense of agency and resilience. It has allowed them to navigate their state’s laws and social norms in order to protect their interests as families as best they could, in spite of the stark imbalance of legal power between White men and Black men in a deeply patri­ archal culture. Their French counterparts have evolved in a society where the humanist proclamation of colorblindness is increasingly belied by evidence of superimposed White racial frames, while national anxieties over the future of the country’s cultural exceptionalism have led more voters to embrace racialized selfidentifications, often combined with renewed pride in religious markers of iden­ tity (be they Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim). Just when the U.S.A. was tempted to declare itself postracial and minimize the persistence of systemic racism, the divide

Conclusion 179

over the Black Lives Matter movement and the election of a president relishing a deeply reactionary rhetoric on gender, race and power have shed light on the continued significance of the White racial frame within its own national narrative of exceptionalism. Yet, both countries stand at a moment in their histories when a growing number of racial and ethnic combinations disprove the reassuring fantasy of assuming that race is “a transparent visual sign,”1 making it less easy to deny the constructedness of Whiteness as a default category. Indeed, since the onset of the 21st century, unprecedented numbers of Americans have been raised by foreignborn parents, who increasingly contest racial categories and choose to identify in terms of nationality instead, as the 2010 census made plain. This refusal to lose their cultural heritages is an implicit, and often explicit, critique of the cultural bluntness and discrete oppressiveness of racial categorization that earlier genera­ tions had felt compelled to accept in the process of Americanization: More than 1 in 50 Americans now identify themselves as “multiracial.” But the pattern of race reporting for foreign-born Americans, is markedly differ­ ent than for native-born Americans. The foreign born are more likely to list their nation of origin when identifying race or ethnicity … “The concept of race and how we view it culturally has changed,” said Elizabeth M. Grieco, chief of the Census Bureau’s immigration statistics staff, which analyzed 2007 data. “It’s a part of not knowing where they fit into how we define race in the United States.” … The changing perception of race is being driven largely by immigration and higher birthrates among the foreign born. While immigrants account for 13 percent of the population, the share of recent births to foreign-born mothers rose to 20 percent. As a result of intermarriage with native-born Americans, a growing number of American children—now more than one in four under the age of 6—are being raised by at least one foreign-born parent.2 Among these foreign-born parents are many Africans and West Indians who do not just fail to understand how to identify in racial terms or object to the use of the Eurocentric, offensive term “tribe” in U.S. immigration documents. They simply do not view race against the same historical backdrop as African Amer­ icans. Operating out of different racial frames than U.S. ones, they do not share the same conceptions of Blackness, race loyalty or respectability: What it means to be African-American … may be redefined by the record number of blacks—now nearly 1 in 10—born abroad, according to the report from American Community Survey data, which was released Wed­ nesday. It found that Africa now accounts for one in three foreign-born blacks in this country, another modern record. …

180 Conclusion

Among the nation’s 37.3 million blacks, more than 8 percent are now foreign born, compared with 1 percent in 1960. Of those, more than half came from the Caribbean. Some 34 percent emigrated from Africa, com­ pared with 1 percent in 1960. The census recorded 10,500 American blacks born in Africa in 1970; in 2008, the number of African-born Americans topped one million for the first time. How immigrants translate their own backgrounds and report their adopted identities “have [sic] important implications for the nation’s racial and ethnic composition,” the Census Bureau said in the report. Nicholas A. Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said that given the likelihood that foreign-born people would identify themselves as German or Irish or Nigerian instead of black or white, the bureau might eventually encourage people to provide more detailed write-in answers to how they define themselves.3 This significant demographic and cultural evolution, coming from the grass­ roots, is not only significant for the Hispanic segment of the U.S. population, on which media analyses tend to focus when discussing “the future of race and ethnicity in America”—or rather, the future of the White racial frame. Such zooming in is due to political rhetoric that criminalizes Latino immigration and citizens of Hispanic descent,4 including those who have internalized the White racial frame. More broadly, the evolution in self-identification will eventually emphasize the limits and inadequacy of race as a concept that elite White men historically constructed precisely to erase ethnic differences by forcibly classify­ ing groups and individuals under racial labels—a literally black-and-white per­ ception that does a disservice to cultural competence, isolating the U.S.A. even among other Eurocentric nations.5 The sole purpose of the White racial frame has been to deny access to citizenship rights to anyone not labeled as White, and to place migrants, residents and citizens on separate and unequal rungs of the social ladder. It is significant that under the Trump presidency, sealing off the country to preserve it from foreigners’ input appears as the solution of last resort to save the White supremacist order. The presence and rising visibility of couples and families carving spaces for themselves against the White racial frame, challenging and negotiating cultural loyalties and racial allegiances on terms increasingly their own, therefore compels scholars to discuss the over­ lapping of culture and race more in depth, with increased sensitivity to the regional specificities of the areas surveyed. The macro approach to race relations is necessary to situate the politicized and gendered perceptions of such couples. However, it often fails to take into account that beneath and within the structures of oppression built in each social and political system, individual resistance and agency have been consistently mobilized by individuals seeking to protect each other from physical and symbolic violence, and improve the prospects of the families they were creating. When a young

Conclusion 181

writer and cultural critic named Touré hailed the advent of a new, “post-Black” generation in the United States,6 many were quick to point out the position of social privilege he was speaking from,7 and the perilous proximity between the post-racial illusion and the post-Black one. In the same vein, the highly popular TV series created and produced by Shonda Rhimes8 may fall under the same criticism of celebrating her up-and-coming circle of friends’ cross-racial friend­ ships, while ignoring the persistence of White self-segregation and the attendant systemic dimension of Black poverty. Yet, unequal opportunity, which is one of the raisons d’être of the White racial frame, remains the root cause of inequality and cultural divide between races and ethnicities in the U.S.A.—and, in less visible ways, in France as well. In many ways, the transformations of the African American middle class have modified the tenets of gender and race loyalty, so that the millennial generation— women in particular—often voice the desire to be viewed beyond the constraints of assigned identities. They increasingly contest the sacrificial nature of African American women’s silent support of their male counterparts, as well as the erasure of Black queer and trans people from anti-racist struggle.9 It is no coincidence that queer Black women—namely, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors— launched the Black Lives Matter movement.10 Still, even as individual aspirations successfully implement the two-pronged approach of social change and social conflict to push for justice for African American men and women, in states less affected by international migrations like Alabama, it remains of vital importance for non-U.S. Blacks to learn African American cultural codes. In my husband’s case, because Black neighbors and members of all-Black churches declined to do so, I had to teach him how to perform Black masculinity in public, for instance by informing him that he should greet anyone with whom he made eye contact. I also used my privilege as a White European woman to signal our foreignness to law enforcement officers, to make sure he would not be in harm’s way. What Sheryll Cashin aptly calls “cultural dexterity” in her latest book11 is indeed of vital necessity for the United States as a nation, if it is to eventually overcome its ferments of division and the longing for White supremacy. In France, partly because Blacks have lacked political representation as a single group to this day, they place less emphasis on preserving cultural authenticity and unity as a racial group, even among West Indians, whose historical legacy is closer to African Americans’. My fieldwork among this segment of the French popula­ tion has shown that much more significance is given to family honor, kinship group loyalty, and ethnic rivalries beyond the Black–White binary. This was verified to the point that racial exogamy is generally perceived to be less threa­ tening to family unity than if one of the members strikes a partnership with another person of African descent having the “wrong” national or ethnic origin. Because of the specificities of the African colonial past, there is a genuine appre­ ciation of any White French person who has embraced African lifestyles and values and pays due respect to family hierarchy and traditions, thus distancing themselves

182 Conclusion

from the White imperialistic frame. This is especially true of sons-in-law who willingly participate in money collections for family events and daughters-in-law who learn how prepare traditional dishes, open their homes to mothers-in-law for extended periods of time, and host family gatherings. Throughout this comparative study, gendered perceptions of cultural authen­ ticity and sexual ethics have been a guiding thread. I have attempted to show how these were inseparable from the historical and political contingencies (re) defining acceptable forms of dating, marrying, and parenting among heterosexual couples in each of the two countries. Further research will be needed to compare these with other combinations of interracial couples involving colonial histories, and their parenting practices with those of homoparental families in and outside the U.S.A. Future scholarship will also call for more in-depth analysis of the variables of class, religious affiliation, and political identification in the dynamics of antagonism and osmosis at work in these couples and families. Representations, including those offered in this book, remain forever incomplete portrayals of the complex demands of building space for the Other while building common ground for a couple to survive and nurture strong men and women.

Notes 1 Siobhan Somerville, Queering the Color Line: Race and the Invention of Homosexuality in American Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000, 64. On representations of mixed-race individuals in popular culture in both countries, see Zélie Asava, MixedRace Cinemas: Multiracial Dynamics in America and France, New York: Bloomsbury Academic USA, 2017. 2 Sam Roberts, “Census Figures Challenge Views of Race and Ethnicity,” The New York Times, January 22, 2010,, accessed on August 2, 2017. 3 Roberts, “Census Figures,” citing American Community Survey, “Race and Hispanic Origin of the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 2007,” www.census. gov/prod/2010pubs/acs-11.pdf, accessed on August 2, 2017. On the refusal by West Indian, Latinx and African-born Americans to discard national identities, see also Kobina Aidoo, The Neo African Americans, documentary film, 57 minutes, CreateSpace, 2007, and Yoku Shaw-Taylor and Steven A. Tuch, eds., The Other African Americans: Contemporary African and Caribbean Families in the United States, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007. 4 See Chris Haynes, Jennifer Merolla, and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Framing Immi­ grants: News Coverage, Public Opinion, and Public Policy, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2016. 5 Joe R. Feagin, The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, New York: Routledge, [2009] 2013, 222–5. 6 Touré, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now, New York: Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 2011. 7 In relating this criticism, I am by no means implying that belonging to the Black middle class shields anyone from prejudice and institutional discrimination. See Joe R. Feagin and Melvin P. Sikes, Living With Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1994; Mary Pattillo-McCoy, Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril Among the Black Middle Class, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press,

Conclusion 183


9 10 11

1999; or Karyn R. Lacy, Blue Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007. Born in 1970, Shonda Rhimes is the creator, head writer, executive producer, and showrunner of Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 2005–), Private Practice (ABC, 2007–2013), Scandal (ABC, 2012–) and the executive producer on Off the Map (ABC, January–April 2011), How to Get Away with Murder (ABC, 2014–), and The Catch (ABC, 2016–2017). She has received several awards for her television series work, including a Golden Globe in 2007 for Outstanding Television Drama, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series, and five NAACP wins for Outstanding Drama Series. See, for instance, Beth E. Richie, Committed to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women, New York: Routledge, 1996; or Paula S. Johnson, Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison, New York: New York University Press, 2003. See, accessed on August 3, 2017. Sheryll Cashin, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2017.


1. Please tell me your gender, age, education (major included, please) and present occupation. 2. Where are you from? What are your family’s roots? How do you racially identify? 3. Are you and your partner married or in a relationship? 4. When did you meet and how? 5. Was it love at first sight? 6. Was it your first time dating out of your race? 7. Were you hesitant before starting this particular relationship? 8. Was it your partner’s first time dating out of his/her race? 9. Did your partner have to face doubts or opposition? From family (including siblings and extended family)? From friends? 10. How long did each of you wait before introducing the other to his/her family? 11. Who did you meet first in your partner’s family? 12. How did your friends react? Did you feel as if you had to justify yourself? 13. Have you ever been called names due to your relationship? 14. Do people express doubts on your commitment to each other? What kind of people do that? 15. Are you planning on having children? And if not yet a parent: how do you imagine your kids’ appearance? Do you think it will matter a lot—and if so, for whom? �

If already a parent: how did people (family/friends/acquaintances) react to the news of pregnancy? How did hospital staff behave towards you, your partner, and the baby? Were there comments on the child’s phy­ sical features? How did you go about the naming process?

Questionnaire 185

Do you think you will have to move to a different neighborhood once you have started a family, or when your child begins school?

16. Is there any source of tension between you and your partner? 17. Is church, or spirituality more generally, important to you? Have you found understanding in your home church? 18. Have your boss and co-workers met your partner (and kids)?


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African American cultural influence in France 53–55, 121, 123, 139, 165, 171, 178, 181–182; New Negro 54; Malcolm X 61 ableism 103, 117n50 African migrant 58–59, 61, 84, 91, 152, 176n5 ageism 103 agency 39, 42, 112, 135, 153, 166, 171, 175, 178, 180 Alabama, Constitution 4, 19–24, 27n6, 29n44; referendum 4; Supreme Court 19–24, 27n6, 29n44 Amalgamation 16, 17, 21, 25; see also miscegenation anti-immigrant sentiment (France) 88, 130, 169 Black masculinity 102–103, 105, 108, 111, 113, 123, 133, 152–155, 159, 169, 175, 181; see family loyalty 26, 122, 141–143, 174; African-born male respondents 91, 126; male behaviors130; Southern masculinity 133; manliness 49, 138; essentialized 93; essentialist 158 Black women 2, 4, 7–8, 25, 52, 87, 91–92, 108–110, 111–112, 139, 148, 150, 154, 176, 181 Boucaux, Jean 37–39 Bourdieu, Pierre 100, 107 Bozon, Michel 106–107 Burns decision 20

Children 16, 17–18, 30, 32, 33, 34, 44, 45, 52, 53–54, 58, 60, 63, 67n38, 71n85, 78–79, 83, 85–86, 97, 100, 122, 128, 129, 130–131, 134–136, 139, 141, 143–144, 161, 163–176, 179; as targets of race-based hostility 89, 132, 135, 166 Code de l’Indigénat (French imperial rule) 50–51 Code noir 31–33, 35–37, 51 Collins, Patricia Hill 77, 108, 120, 123, 154, 172, 173, 175 colonial spouses (French imperial rule) 6, 16, 34, 37, 43, 45–46, 53–55, 157, 182 Collet, Beate and Emmanuelle Santelli 84, 91, 94, 144, 169 Colorism, see pigmentocracy 33, 47; peau chapé 33 Cooking 128–131 coping strategies 9, 100–107, 113, 135, see also the Talk 78–79; survival skills 99; heteronormativity 100–107, 108, 113; ageism 103–104; ableism 103 counter-frames 8, 9, 98, 100–101, 107, 124, 152–155, 157, 164–169 cultural transmission, see raising children 130, 161, 166; dignity 69n65, 84, 90, 105, 107, 112, 135, 137, 138–139; family values 138–141, 173; parenting 124, 135, 163–176, 182; othermothers 172; fictive kinship 172–173

Index 199

deviance (interracial attraction as) 81 Dalmage, Heather 136, 143, 148, 161n5 Diagne, Blaise 52, 54–55 dowry 84, 86, 124–128, 142 easy women stereotype 92–96; slut 89, 92, 132; close-fitting garments 147, 149 eternal France 48, 54, 56 etiquette (Southern) 80, 81 Fanaye, Charles 45 Fatou la Malienne 60, 72n101 Feagin, Joe 2, 7, 31, 77, 107 financial issues; see driving ticket 121; bank overdraft 121, 137; pressure 131–134; hurdles 136, 138–139; contributions 140–141 Freedom Principle 36–39, 42; see also metropolitan soil 31, 35–37, 39–46, 52–58, 67n31, 67n38, 103 gender roles 90, 100, 106, 113, 124, 129–130, 149, 157, 159–161; see also clothes 152 femininity 107, 111, 154, 160, 175; masculinity 102–103, 105, 108, 111, 113, 123, 133, 152–155, 159, 169, 175, 181; gender performance 87, 106, 108, 121–124, 146–148 Gibson decision 20, 21 Goffman, Erving 101, 159–160 Green decision 20, 27n6 grey marriage 64, 73n112, 86, 27 Hemings, Sally 17, 18, 26, 39, 41 Heredia, Severiano 50 Heuer, Jennifer 43–44 Hoover decision 20–21, 28n26 hypogamy 79, 99–100 imperialistic frame (French) 49, 52, 54, 56–57, 58, 64–65, 91, 103, 130, 150–151, 157, 173, 176n5, 181–182; neo-imperialistic White frame 61, 173 indenture 16, 18, 39 Jackson, Linnie 22–23 kinship groups 16, 81, 83, 86, 120, 121–124, 125, 126, 128, 131, 134, 141, 143–144, 146, 181 Kolé Séré 62

laws, in the US 8, 15, 16, 17–25, 28n17, 28n24, 31, 178; in France 36, 44, 50, 51, 53, 58, 61 Loving decision 16, 23, 24; see also Jackson, Linnie Loyalty 9, 16, 26, 80, 100, 103, 113, 121–124, 130, 141–143, 147–148, 154, 174, 179, 181; to one’s racial group 124, 154, 179, 181; to one’s family 26, 122, 141–143, 174; see also financial contributions 140, 141; steal 137; stolen 98, 149, 170 Marriage 3–5, 8, 15–25, 30, 33–34, 37, 42, 43–44, 45–46, 54–55, 60, 63–64, 67n38, 79, 86, 92, 94, 104, 111–112, 122, 125–127, 131–132, 137, 143, 148–150, 157–158, 160, 169, 171, 179; interracial 3, 4, 8, 15–23, 26, 41–42, 52, 124, 140–141, 147–148, 156, 159, 163, 173 masculinity 102–103, 105, 108, 111, 113, 123, 133, 152–155, 159, 169, 175, 181; see tirailleurs 49, 69n63, 103, 105, 106; Rachid Bouchareb 103 medical practitioners and interactions with (pregnant, dermatologist) 97–98 metropolitan frame 45, 48, 52 military 43, 45, 48, 50, 53, 56, 57, 58, 69n64, 72n88, 79, 103, 123 miscegenation 4, 17, 18–19, 20, 21, 22–25; see also amalgamation mixed-race children 17, 52, 163, 164 175–176; see also biracial 45, 52, 53–54, 63, 71n85, 92, 98, 108, 111, 131, 135, 136, 143–144, 151, 154, 164, 166, 168, 170–172, 174, 175–176; métissage (French theories on) 50, 52; mixed blood 19, 40, 45; race mixing 18, 21, 52, 57, 111 moral values 155–159 multiframing 107, 150–151; see “racework” 149, 152, 154, 157, 160 nationality (French) 5, 51, 55, 56, 97–100, 127, 159; see “white” marriages 63, 64; “grey” marriages 86, 127 normification 101–102 Noël, Erick 37, 41 Pace decision 21, 22, 25 Pascoe, Peggy 16–17, 22, 25–26, 41 Peabody, Sue 36–37, 40

200 Index

peer groups 78, 81, 83, 147, 149; see friends 50, 81–83, 150, 155, 159, 165 planters’ racial frame 17, 33–34, 35, 36, 39, 41, 42, 43, 41, 45, 46, 53–54, 62, 63, 101, 118n67, 145n13 policing 2, 15–16, 24, 25, 65, 82, 87, 90–92, 94, 100 politics; see elected officials 2, 4, 53, 57 powerless Whites 18; see also indentured servants 16, 18, 39; lower-class Whites 18, 80; non-propertied Whites 24 Prunague, Catherine 44–45 public display (of affection) 16, 101, 110, 149, 159; see also visibility 62, 78, 87, 101, 103, 108 purity 24–25, 28n24, 56, 81, 82, 143 race fatigue 99, 148 religious practice 33–34, 53, 84, 155–156, 160, 178 respectability 17, 25, 26, 91, 94, 101, 110, 172–173, 179; see also marriage selling out 120–121; see also loyalty serfs (in France) 30–31, 37, 39, 65n2; see also indenture 16, 18, 39 sex education 80, 83 statistics 3–4, 48–49, 73n112, 78, 97, 111, 156, 179–180 stereotypes 3, 49, 86, 91, 92–96, 101–105, 112, 123, 130, 131, 147, 156, 158–159, 160, 163, 173 socialization 8–9, 50, 77–78, 83, 87, 94, 99–100, 101, 121, 126, 127, 143, 149, 151, 154, 159, 172–174 Somerville, Siobhan (see cultural fiction) 77, 106, 107, 111 standup comedians (French) 62, 73n107, 142, 149, 158, 173

Steinbugler, Amy 8, 87, 90, 99, 101, 149, 152, 159 Stigma 16–17, 33, 42, 44, 59, 60, 61, 101, 106, 130, 136; and normification 101–102 systemic racism 2–3, 5, 77, 100, 134–135, 146, 149, 152, 155, 160–161, 167, 172, 178–179 tirailleurs (French colonial troops) 49, 69n63, 103, 105–106 tragic mulatto 163 Vichy régime 4–5, 56 virtuousness subframe 31, 36, 44, 46, 47, 51, 52, 61, 95, 100 White privilege 31, 86, 97–100, 135, 175–176; see cultural training 140, 152; loss of racial innocence 155; awareness 135 White supremacist rhetoric 96, 134; White genocide 3, 96; race suicide 3, 96; White racial frame 2, 6, 9, 25, 26, 36, 40, 43, 48, 49, 54–59, 60, 62, 64, 77,79, 83, 88, 95, 98, 99, 107, 108, 109, 110–111, 113, 128, 135–136, 143, 151, 158, 165, 166, 174, 179–180, 181 loss of Whiteness 64; fraud (scam, grey marriage) 54, 63, 64 86; cultural survival 128; KKK 134 White women 8, 16, 18, 32, 53, 82, 83, 90, 91–92, 96, 104, 108, 111, 122–123, 128, 136, 143, 144, 149, 151, 152, 154, 155, 156, 159, 168; as excessively liberated 104 Williams, Serena 87 witchcraft, beliefs in 124, 125, 129, 138, 141–142, 165–166, 171