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Shades of Jim Crow and the Black Codes, in 2009
October 16, 2009 8:02 AM   Subscribe

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way." Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward in Louisiana, has denied a marriage license to an interracial couple, using Tragic Mulatto reasoning. He claims that children of interracial marriages suffer needlessly, and the couple's union won't last. Previously on MeFi: The Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage
posted by zarq (189 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe it's a class thing? :P

I like how the answer to needless suffering isn't that we should change our society from being shitty and racist, but that we shouldn't have interracial relationships at all. (Somehow I doubt he would apply that same logic to gun control...)
posted by yeloson at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2009 [12 favorites]


So is the judge totally ignorant of Loving v. Virginia or just a dumb rebel?
posted by exogenous at 8:04 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


So I guess this guy's never heard of Barack Obama, huh?
posted by contessa at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2009 [25 favorites]


I think people have spelled out the Tragic Mulatto narrative often on CNN about our President. Especially during the campaign.
posted by glaucon at 8:06 AM on October 16, 2009


He's denied more than one. According the article, he's denied four.

But it's ok, because according to the article he's let black people use his bathroom, so he's totally not a racist.

Obviously that was a joke, but in all seriousness I don't know that he's a racist - it's possible he's just a gigantic moron who enjoys abusing his power to force other people to conform to his world view. Or maybe both.
posted by kbanas at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2009


I was unaware that it was even possible to deny applicants a marriage license, provided the gender and quantity requirements were met.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:08 AM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I think I can definitively say that, yes, this man is a racist.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:08 AM on October 16, 2009 [36 favorites]


it's possible he's just a gigantic moron who enjoys abusing his power to force other people to conform to his world view.

Except that his world-view is also racist.
posted by delmoi at 8:09 AM on October 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


It is astounding what kind of shit a complete idiot will say on record when a journalist puts a microphone in his face. That AP guy must have been quivering with glee when that line popped out.
posted by The Straightener at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom.
posted by Not Supplied at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


You know who never says sentences that start with "I'm not a racist?"

People who aren't racists.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2009 [61 favorites]


Of course the real threat to marriage in this country is the gays.
posted by Avenger at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


So is the judge totally ignorant of Loving v. Virginia or just a dumb rebel?

My money's on just plain dumb.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh sure, he says he's not a racist, but does he have...

I have piles and piles of black friends.

Oh, he does. But I bet they never...

They come to my home

Oh, they do. But I bet they have to use a special...

they use my bathroom.

I guess not. But I bet he doesn't...

I treat them just like everyone else.

Huh, I guess he does. Never mind, totally not a racist.
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2009 [12 favorites]


I think part of what's interesting, though, is that this is a type of racial issue that can be divisive across racial lines; it's not necessarily a "black vs. white" issue, it's a "pro permission to marry whomever you want vs. against marrying people of other races" issue. I think it's appalling, but the judgment is against what is perceived as crossing boundaries, not against people of a specific race per se. That doesn't make it right, it makes it worse because it's more insidious, but I don't think it's as simple as "this guy's a racist".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2009


it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

All I can do here is to point to my beloved and say: "sixteen years and counting, you bigoted jackass."
posted by deadmessenger at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2009 [33 favorites]


As someone in a "mixed-race" marriage: WTF?

I put the quotes around "mixed-race" because ... There might be "mixed-race marriages where the two people involved are different colours or have families from different countries or cultures, but the idea that these relationships result in "mixed-race" people implies that there are also many people who are somehow "unmixed" or "pure", which is a fairly dangerous and loathsome notion at heart.
posted by WPW at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2009 [15 favorites]


Why this binary? Either he's dumb or he's a racist.

He's dumb and a racist! There! We're all happy.

I'm starting to wonder if people have lost the ability to recognize racism. Because refusing the marry interracial couple because black people supposedly don't accept biracial children? That's racism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2009 [18 favorites]


The Hammond Star has more on the situation.
posted by zarq at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2009


Except that his world-view is also racist.

Yeah, ok, that's true. I mean, it seems like his "argument" is that people of mixed race are not accepted into either racial identity and suffer because of it and so he should do everything in his power to stop it from happening. Which is of course completely ridiculous, and even if it were not ridiculous, it would still be none of his fucking business.

Is it just a thing with blacks he has, I wonder? I mean, does he let asians and whites marry?
posted by kbanas at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2009


To be fair, he's also denied marriage licenses to good Southern girls trying to marry carpetbagging Yankees.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


Or, what deadmessenger said.
posted by WPW at 8:17 AM on October 16, 2009


P.S.: That doesn't mean I don't think he is a racist, it just means I think it's more complex (but still racist).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2009


Next comes the Section 1983 claim. It'll be interesting to see if the town pays for the jerk's defense. I hope they let him twist in the wind.
posted by jedicus at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2009


"It's not a racist. I'm just a racist."
posted by bicyclefish at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


"They come to my home [..] they use my bathroom"

Why would a black person using your bathroom be a big deal if you weren't a racist?
posted by MuffinMan at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [35 favorites]


I don't think it's as simple as "this guy's a racist".

In this particular case, I'm pretty sure it is.
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are so fucking fired, douchebag.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2009


kbanas - You kidding? The benefit of the doubt expires forever at "I don't believe in mixing the races."
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2009


Related, last week from Ta-Nehesi Coates:

Guys, I want to expound on that earlier post about Michelle Obama and white ancestry. One very consistent theme in comments is that this is news mainly because white people--in large measure--don't know that black people--in large measure--are a mulatto people. That's short-hand, but I hope you guys get my drift. I understand why one might not know the specifics of housing segregation, slavery, Jim Crow, or the grandfather clause, but the case for black/white admixing seems, uhm, very, very evident. Harold Ford has two "black" parents. But I'm not sure he looks any "blacker" than Barack Obama. There's a reason for that, no?

There's also the fact that, historically, so many prominent black people, (Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Shemar Moore, W.E.B Du Bois, Halle Berry, Muhammad Ali) actually do have white ancestry. This isn't because of some kind of color caste elitism, it's because it's so common. I don't raise it to highlight anyone's ignorance, or to browbeat people, or argue for Black History Month starting in January. I raise it because this is as much about my ignorance as yours. Put bluntly--I thought you knew.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2009 [22 favorites]


I don't understand. How is this even possible?

People still have the legal power to do this with no reprecussions?

Cannot compute.
posted by aclevername at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, he's also denied marriage licenses to good Southern girls trying to marry carpetbagging Yankees.

This kind of opinion is more common than you might think; my husband's grandfather (from North Carolina) didn't come to our wedding because Mr. Pterodactyl was marrying a Yankee. This was just over two years ago.

As Mr. Pterodactyl might rush to point out, this was not his stated reason; he was afraid he'd die up north all alone, even though HIS ENTIRE FAMILY was there. He still calls me "that lady".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I think it's appalling, but the judgment is against what is perceived as crossing boundaries, not against people of a specific race per se.

Isn't it? I'd like to know if he's married any Northern Europeans to Middle European. Or performed any Northern African to Sub-Saharan African marriages. Chinese and Japanese?

Basically, how does this guy divide the world up into "races" to define his non-racist boundaries in the first place? Or is it just "no good-ol' whites with non-whites"?
posted by DU at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I've been a justice of the peace for 34 years and I don't think I've mistreated anybody," Bardwell said. "I've made some mistakes, but you have too.

That's true. The other day, I meant to pour myself a bowl of cereal, but then accidentally upheld some archaic pernicious racism instead. Some days, everything runs smoothly, and some days, you just happen to act like a bigoted fucking jackass. Who can say how it even happens?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2009 [149 favorites]


When I first heard this story I assumed that an important detail was left out or the quote was somehow taken out of context. I was floored to find out that we is, in fact, just a racist moron abusing his position. Good lord!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 8:24 AM on October 16, 2009


kbanas - You kidding? The benefit of the doubt expires forever at "I don't believe in mixing the races."

I don't know. If we take black and white out of it and we're talking about the entire rainbow of races out there, and a person treats all of them equally but refuses to allow any overlap or commingling and wants to maintain some kind of "racial purity" - well, ok, no, yeah, he's a racist. Yeah, he's a moron and a racist. I retract my previous comment that maybe he was only a moron.
posted by kbanas at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.
"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.


After all, there's nothing worse than being discriminatory about discrimination.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why would a black person using your bathroom be a big deal if you weren't a racist?

I suspect he's trying to refer to the history of segregated bathrooms as if to say he's above all that. Like the "some of my best friends are black people" defense he also used.

Perhaps he thinks that by claiming he doesn't racially discriminate in his personal life, he should somehow be absolved of being a racist in his job.
posted by zarq at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2009


If he were refusing to marry a nerd to a jock, I would understand, because that's just asking for a 1980s college sex comedy to break out.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2009 [27 favorites]


That doesn't make it right, it makes it worse because it's more insidious, but I don't think it's as simple as "this guy's a racist".

I don't care if that guy or anyone else labels him a "racist." Shifting the conversation into a discussion about his hypothetical self-justifications for having completely backwards and harmful views just distracts from the actual issue. If he had murdered someone, we wouldn't be discussing whether or not he was really a "murderer" or just some guy who happened to murder some other guy. The point is that there is still a strong bias against interracial marriage in many parts of the country today, including at least in this case a systematic attempt to prevent them from happening.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Jay Smooth on how to tell somebody they sound racist.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009 [28 favorites]


Pro tip: Starting a sentence with "I'm not a racist." makes anything else you say suspect because I'm walking into it with a preconception that what you are about to say is going to be something that makes you sound like a racist.

So unless you are going to follow it up with something like "I am not a racist, but I think kittens are pretty awesome!" you're probably better leaving it out of your daily language.

Particularly when you, you know, say and do stuff that makes you look really pretty fucking racist, because that makes you both a racist and a liar.
posted by quin at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Perhaps he thinks that by claiming he doesn't racially discriminate in his personal life, he should somehow be absolved of being a racist in his job.

I think it's more that by showing he's not racist on daily matters it shows that his racist opinions of larger matters are more defensible as being based on reason. (Which they are not.)
posted by DU at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009


The next black person that uses the bathroom at his house is gonna leave an upper-decker.
posted by shecky57 at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


When I first heard this story I assumed that an important detail was left out or the quote was somehow taken out of context.

It took me forever to compose this damned post without editorializing. I even left out the full quote ("piles and piles of black people" WTF?!) because of it.
posted by zarq at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2009


Sixty years ago, maybe, the kids would have had a hard time of it. And those children decades back already bore the brunt of that particular war, as children so often do for their parents' decisions. Even thirty years ago mixed race heritage was becoming less and less of an issue. Now, though? This guy is like one of those WWII soldiers, forgotten on an island, still waiting for bombers have that long passed.
posted by adipocere at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2009


I don't understand. How is this even possible?

People still have the legal power to do this with no reprecussions?


I don't think he has the official power to deny anyone, but by simply not signing the forms he can effectively de-facto deny a marriage. As far as repercussions, I imagine he could lose his job but who knows.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2009


What year is this again?

My dad (Hawaiian) and my mom (second-generation Czech) didn't dare travel on my dad's business trips together when they were first married in the early 60s when my dad's work as a travel agent took him to Southern states. I know my dad had occasional troubles even renting hotel rooms in some places, at least until the clerk would find out that my dad was Hawaiian, and therefore....I never knew, exactly. Exotic? Not black, and therefore one could rent a room to him?

Anyway, this guy's a jerk, and I hope he never again hold's the power of the state or any other jurisdiction.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on October 16, 2009


Oh man, I just noticed there is a pile of black people in my bedroom.

It's my little way of making up for the OK Cupid fiasco.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


That doesn't make it right, it makes it worse because it's more insidious, but I don't think it's as simple as "this guy's a racist".

I see what you mean, but he's still abusing his power as a government official to discriminate against a couple based on their race. Racial discrimination is an act of racism.
posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on October 16, 2009


Coincidentally, I just picked up a marriage license earlier in the week. Next Friday, I am getting married to a carpetbaggin' Yankee with two biracial children! srsly.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 8:33 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


You can tell how politically naive this man is. Had he just said he was protecting the institution of marriage, a bill would right now be on its way to amend the constitution.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


this man needs to lose his position as justice of the peace - period
posted by pyramid termite at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry, but as someone who has seen horrific lynching photographs, the phrase "piles and piles of black friends" doesn't evoke the image I think he wanted it to evoke.
posted by aught at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


It's good Keith Bardwell doesn't work at a paint store.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't care if that guy or anyone else labels him a "racist." Shifting the conversation into a discussion about his hypothetical self-justifications for having completely backwards and harmful views just distracts from the actual issue. If he had murdered someone, we wouldn't be discussing whether or not he was really a "murderer" or just some guy who happened to murder some other guy. The point is that there is still a strong bias against interracial marriage in many parts of the country today, including at least in this case a systematic attempt to prevent them from happening.

I think he IS a racist, but I think there's more to it than that. I'm certainly not trying to do anything that "distracts from the actual issue", but I think brushing him off as "just a racist" and not questioning what is actually going on here is missing an important opportunity to understand a mindset that is completely foreign to most of us. I don't want to understand it so I can agree with it, I want to understand it so I can figure out what the hell he is thinking and the best way to confront it. Saying that it's not as simple as him being a racist doesn't mean he's not a racist, it means he's a racist AND I think he's racist in a way that needs to be addressed differently and more directly than a casual dismissal.

His "won't somebody please think of the children" is disingenuous and ridiculous, but I don't think that denying that he has what he believes to be an internal logic is helpful, and I think we ignore something that is clearly racist but has evolved into a different strain of racism at our peril.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Coincidentally, I just picked up a marriage license earlier in the week. Next Friday, I am getting married to a carpetbaggin' Yankee with two biracial children! srsly.

Congratulations!! :)
posted by zarq at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Grow up, I actually had one friend who was convinced that while interracial marriage should be legal, interracial reproduction should not be, because the resulting children would be called "milkshakes." This was made doubly weird by the fact that I never once heard anyone use that slur, nor does it make a whole lot of sense as a slur.

For the record: There is no actual evidence that my grandfather refused to attend our wedding because Mrs. Pterodactyl is a Yankee. This is her interpretation of events, which is heavily influenced by her desire to have a crazy Southern in-law.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Could this be an elaborate hoax to make the state enforce robust marriage equality laws?

No, it could not.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2009


piles and piles of black friends

Also, he has his non-racist boy scout badge, and a certificate from an online university in equality and racial studies!

they use my bathroom

Congratulations for not making them piss in the yard! Here's a friggin' cookie!
posted by dnesan at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


But milkshakes draw all the boys to the yard!
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


I think the problem is that a lot of people like to bang the "WE'RE A POSTRACIAL SOCIETY" drum, which means that it's hard for them to accept that there still can be racists, as that acknowledges race is still an issue on some level. That's why we have to wrestle to accept that, yeah, this judge just did something racist for a racist reason.

Besides, claiming society is above these things doesn't do anything to change that. We need to consistently hold ourselves to a high standard, and fight to raise ourselves above racism. Racism isn't the sort of thing that disappears when we imagine it isn't there, and that just gives ignorant racists more power, as they won't even realize that they are being racist.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well... lets hope that he thinks its ok for white, black, and hispanic justices on the supreme court to put their collective supreme feet up his ass...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I see what you mean, but he's still abusing his power as a government official to discriminate against a couple based on their race. Racial discrimination is an act of racism.

Fair enough -- I do think it's a racist act and clearly the first step is to make sure he not be a Justice of the Peace anymore and make sure that the people who wish to get married are able to do that. I also think that after these basic steps are taken, there's some reflection to do about what this man is thinking, whether anyone agrees with him, and most definitely what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future (the obvious answer is to strip anyone of any sort of position as soon as this happens, but if he was a JP for 34 years clearly there should be a better system. Hopefully people will make a lot more noise a lot earlier if anything like this happens again).
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2009


my husband's grandfather (from North Carolina) didn't come to our wedding because Mr. Pterodactyl was marrying a Yankee

I know enough people from Boston who'd do the same thing ;-)
posted by i_cola at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Something along these lines has already come up in Iowa. The Anti-Gay activists have been looking for a JP to refuse gays a license.

Some few JPs stepped down rather than having to issue a license, and I'm fine with this. If your job requires you to do something you are morally opposed to, whether because or your religion or bigotry, then it's time to get a new job (I feel this way about any pharmacist that refuses to doll out legally prescribed medications as well).

This guy is an idiot and needs to lose his job. He can have whatever personal beliefs he likes, and I'll even defend his right to have them and articulate them, but once they impact his ability to do the job he's paid to do...then it's time to get a new JP.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


and what's "funny" of course is that we are all mongrels. The notion of a pure "race" is simply absurd no matter what certain segments of the population wish for. IT'S TOO LATE we are all mixed race his grand vision has failed before even starting.

He is, of course, talking about how people look and how he thinks people act. Schmuck, schmuckity schmuck schmuck that he is.
posted by edgeways at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Obama should totally do another 'teachable moment' and offer to have this guy over to the White House for a beer. Except instead of meeting the justice of the peace with a cold one, the President just coldcocks the jerk and walks away, leaving the media circus to take photograph after photograph of this guy lying dazed on the White House lawn.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2009 [24 favorites]


Well... lets hope that he thinks its ok for white, black, and hispanic justices on the supreme court to put their collective supreme feet up his ass...

Actually... I think it's wishful thinking for Justice Thomas to be opposed to this. He has a strong record of upholding the rights of society's "Flagrantly Evil" minority.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


His "won't somebody please think of the children" is disingenuous and ridiculous, but I don't think that denying that he has what he believes to be an internal logic is helpful, and I think we ignore something that is clearly racist but has evolved into a different strain of racism at our peril.

But the Tragic Mulatto fallacy/stereotype isn't new. It's been around since the 1840's. And the argument against it (that it simply isn't true, but rather is twisted logic used to justify racism) still holds:
The tragic mulatto was more myth than reality; [Dorothy] Dandridge was an exception. The mulatto was made tragic in the minds of Whites who reasoned that the greatest tragedy was to be near-White: so close, yet a racial gulf away. The near-White was to be pitied -- and shunned. There were undoubtedly light skinned Blacks, male and female, who felt marginalized in this race conscious culture. This was true for many people of color, including dark skinned Blacks. Self-hatred and intraracial hatred are not limited to light skinned Blacks. There is evidence that all racial minorities in the United States have battled feelings of inferiority and in-group animosity; those are, unfortunately, the costs of being a minority.

The tragic mulatto stereotype claims that mulattoes occupy the margins of two worlds, fitting into neither, accepted by neither. This is not true of real life mulattoes. Historically, mulattoes were not only accepted into the Black community, but were often its leaders and spokespersons, both nationally and at neighborhood levels. Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Elizabeth Ross Hayes, Mary Church Terrell, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan were all mulattoes. Walter White, the former head of the NAACP, and Adam Clayton Powell, an outspoken Congressman, were both light enough to pass for White. Other notable mulattoes include Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, and Jean Toomer, author of Cane (1923), and the grandson of mulatto Reconstruction politician P.B.S. Pinchback.

There was tragedy in the lives of light skinned Black women -- there was also tragedy in the lives of most dark skinned Black women -- and men and children. The tragedy was not that they were Black, or had a drop of "Negro blood," although Whites saw that as a tragedy. Rather, the real tragedy was the way race was used to limit the chances of people of color. The 21st century finds an America increasingly more tolerant of interracial unions and the resulting offspring.
On preview:
I also think that after these basic steps are taken, there's some reflection to do about what this man is thinking, whether anyone agrees with him, and most definitely what can be done to prevent it from happening in the future (the obvious answer is to strip anyone of any sort of position as soon as this happens, but if he was a JP for 34 years clearly there should be a better system. Hopefully people will make a lot more noise a lot earlier if anything like this happens again).

I completely agree. Three couples were also denied licenses by him this year and apparently took no action.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've heard the same argument expressed by a very intelligent, educated, and in many ways modern, kindhearted and generous person. He grew up in a multicultural area of the country, in an area with many recent immigrants. But the area was all-white.

I once asked him what he thought of multi-racial marriages, and he said he was fine with them but felt bad for the children because of the discrimination they would face.

I see this answer a mix of realism (in his area, the kids do face discrimination), self-perpetuating belief, and racism similar to the Justice of the Peace's in the original post.

I think that, for some racists, anything they didn't grow up with is scary and drives beliefs like this. Not hatred, but an ignorance that they have never actively recognized in themselves.
posted by zippy at 8:46 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Groups of black people are referred to as piles. Everyone knows that. Just like a group of whities is referred to as a privilege.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [20 favorites]


"I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

except I DON'T LET THEM MARRY WHITE PEOPLE.

"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

which is why I will try to make sure that white people ALSO can't marry black people. that way, both sides can't do something.

"I've made some mistakes, but you have too.

in fairness, I have absolutely made some mistakes. It's a shame that, in discussions like these, I always come across sounding like I've never made a mistake in my life. So, to be fair to his honor, let me state for the record that I, shmegegge, have made mistakes in my life.

for instance, this one time I was trying to capture footage from an HDV tape for work, and instead of capturing the HDV tape I thought I was capturing, I actually mistakenly refused to marry an interracial couple.
posted by shmegegge at 8:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Woe unto those who would wed by civil marriages rather than by a man of god, who speaks and accts for god. Secular louts-- ship captains, justices of the peace-- are always to be avoided.
posted by Postroad at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2009


I was unaware that it was even possible to deny applicants a marriage license, provided the gender and quantity requirements were met.

It is not possible. This is a violation of the civil rights of the two individuals. This man's days as a justice of the peace are numbered. A very low number. The Louisiana Supreme Court will likely remove from office within days.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2009


I made a similar mistake once. I was trying to fix the clock on my microwave, and I accidentally repealed Loving v. Virginia.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2009 [17 favorites]


I actually grew up in Louisiana and this sort of mentality is shockingly common. I mean, it's not even classified as racism there. Sometimes people will say those sarcastic douchey racist things and then be all "oh no, I was just kidding," except they actually weren't, everyone knows they weren't and half of those who heard it privately agree with whatever was said. It's been awhile since I've lived there, so I hope I'm exaggerating a little when I say half, but racism was certainly alive and well when I lived there. I basically grew up fearful of 'black people' which I think leads to most of the racist sentiments. Honestly, I didn't get over my fear until I left that place and went to Arizona where I saw all the same shit, except there it was 'mexican' this and 'illegal immigrant' that, or when I went to Europe and it was all about how terrible the 'Turks' were. It's all the same. Instead of integrating and sharing all the common ground that people have, we choose to highlight our slight differences and use those to build walls between groups of people. It's fucking ridiculous and for a long time I wasn't sure how to fix it. I'm still not sure how to fix it, but it does seem like each younger generation has fewer racial problems than the one prior. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's education or maybe it's the mingling on the internet, but I'm confident that somehow all of the hate will pass, and people will simply be people. There will be cultural differences, sure, but I think more and more people will find common ground with each other and let those artificial barriers fall away. It'll take longer in some places (Louisiana) than others, but I am confident that it will happen.

In the meantime, while we let this whole fantasy unfold, some of those couples should begin taking legal action. The reason for this guy's refusal doesn't carry water, and the likely reason he's been able to continue his policy is that none of the previous couples has contested it.
posted by scrutiny at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


All these people who aren't racists are really making it tough for me to pin down the whole concept.
posted by madmethods at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2009


I get that the guy is probably not the sharpest q-tip in the drawer and may not be great at expressing himself in semiformal English. But when he says

I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom.

I have to think: What does he mean by "marry?"

All I know is that black people come to his home, he does something to them that he calls "marrying," and suddenly there's a rush for the toilet. So what precisely is this yutz doing that has that effect?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Woe unto those who would wed by civil marriages rather than by a man of god, who speaks and accts for god. Secular louts-- ship captains, justices of the peace-- are always to be avoided.

Was that a quote from something?
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most racists don't think they're racists. They just believe what everyone else believes right?

...

Right?
posted by scrutiny at 8:59 AM on October 16, 2009


Odds are pretty good that this neanderthal of a judge is probably a pretty staunch fundamentalist/evangelical conservative, too, and probably in the most Glenn Beckian "get the government out of my life" sort-of-way. So I wonder how he chose which of his conflicting principles took priority here: should it be racism > no governmental intrusion or racism < governmental intrusion.

Oh, wait - that dichotomy applies to just about every aspect of the wingnut element.
posted by webhund at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


The near-White was to be pitied -- and shunned.

"Oh, that poor thing. How sad. Now get it the fuck away from me..."

God damn, people suck sometimes. It's too early for me to be this irate at the world.
posted by quin at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2009


"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."

*facepalm*
posted by nola at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2009


Stuff like this is a sideshow.

Instances of racism this egregious almost inevitably end up in the national media so we can all go, "Look at this bad man. He is an overt racist vestige of bygone days and we can all, regardless of political affiliation, gather round and condemn him and congratulate ourselves for having come so far."

This allows us to sidestep more complex discussions about race and racism in America.

But on the upside: Instances of racism this egregious almost inevitably end up in the national media.
posted by StopMakingSense at 9:03 AM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


The couple first met when she asked for his help in busting up an old chiffarobe.
posted by Legomancer at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


This allows us to sidestep more complex discussions about race and racism in America.

Well, it can be used as a stepping stone to them, rather than a sidestep around them. As Mrs. Pterodactyl pointed out, we can take this opportunity to examine why people think this way, and determine how to effectively combat that.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on October 16, 2009


I think he IS a racist, but I think there's more to it than that. I'm certainly not trying to do anything that "distracts from the actual issue", but I think brushing him off as "just a racist" and not questioning what is actually going on here is missing an important opportunity to understand a mindset that is completely foreign to most of us.

I wasn't specifically criticizing you for your comment, just that the debate always ends up in racist/not racist territory. I honestly can not remember a thread on MeFi here about some form of racism that did not include a lengthy discussion about whether or not individual people were racists. And to me at least, the discussion never goes anywhere because we don't really know what the people involved are thinking and we all have different definitions for what we think makes a person a racist.

I don't want to understand it so I can agree with it, I want to understand it so I can figure out what the hell he is thinking and the best way to confront it. Saying that it's not as simple as him being a racist doesn't mean he's not a racist, it means he's a racist AND I think he's racist in a way that needs to be addressed differently and more directly than a casual dismissal.

Personally I don't think racism can be solved by fostering mutual understanding between people who have progressive views and people who have racist views. Bardwell is an adult, he's had plenty of time to hear civil rights advocates argue against the exact kinds of racial prejudice he's using to oppress people. It's not as if someone is going to explain racism to him correctly and he's finally going to get it and do a complete 180. The way to stop racism is to marginalize racist views, tear down or reform racist systems, protect and help victims of racism, and raise a new generation of people who don't carry on the horrible traditions of the past. In this particular case, Bardwell should and will lose his job, and hopefully he can find something else to do with his time that doesn't involve denying people their constitutional rights.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:08 AM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Bardwell is an adult, he's had plenty of time to hear civil rights advocates argue against the exact kinds of racial prejudice he's using to oppress people. It's not as if someone is going to explain racism to him correctly and he's finally going to get it and do a complete 180.

I totally agree with this -- I actually mean that we need to address the issue and the type of racism differently, not the guy himself.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2009


I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.

Ah yes, the infamous "bathroom equality test," one of the three prongs established in Loving v. Virginia to determine the constitutionality of the state denying applicants their marriage licenses. I'm a little hazy on my con law, though... do we get to count "I try to treat everyone equally" and "he came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society" as both the "lip service" and "Bell-Curve-style data wankery" prongs? Or did he need to cite Scripture in order to complete the trifecta?

Vaguely related: I'm impressed by the restraint showed by the couple when they were interviewed. If it were me, I wouldn't be able to disguise my giddiness at the thought that the slam-dunk civil rights lawsuit I was about to file against the state of Louisiana paying for my wedding, honeymoon, and house.
posted by Mayor West at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


After Prop. 8 was passed in California my friends and I waxed sarcastic on how the next thing to come down the pike would be an anti-miscegnation law. Now I expect to see a this judge heading a "Tragic Mullato" act on the next ballot
posted by happyroach at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2009


If I am hearing Mrs. Pterodactyl, she's not trying to bypass a discussion of racism, but, instead, is asking that we examine the specific form this racism takes, especially since it isn't your run of the mill "I hate black people" sort, but something more patronizing and unconsciously paternal, as though he were saving black people from themselves by denying them their rights.

Also. if I hear her correctly, she married into a family of shotgun toting mountain men.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not to change the subject, but is his claim that interracial marriages don't last as long backed up with any statistics? My experience is that it doesn't seem to make any difference but I doubt that qualifies as representative.
posted by tommasz at 9:19 AM on October 16, 2009


All these people who aren't racists are really making it tough for me to pin down the whole concept.

I get it, I finally get it. People who arrest people for being black in an upper class neighborhood and those who dislike the mixing of the races, they aren't the racists. It's us. People who treat others equally without regard to skin color or eye shape, we're the racists.
posted by borkencode at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2009


Thanks, Astro Zombie, sorry if I phrased it badly initially. That's about the shape of it, yes -- I think there's a discussion that can happen here that goes beyond basic ideas about racism.

Well, the first part is right -- Grandfather Pterodactyl is actually quite a refined gentleman who has been unfailingly polite to me when we've met.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2009


"I've made some mistakes, but you have too."

So did the person who appointed you as a Justice of the Peace.
posted by rocket88 at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: I was unaware that it was even possible to deny applicants a marriage license, provided the gender and quantity requirements were met.

We were asked to swear an oath that we were not closely related (1st cousins or better) and that we were entering into this marriage consensually. Also, we had to present birth certificates to verify that we were of age. For reference, this was a year ago, in Wisconsin.

This is totally tangential to the subject, of course, since all of the above are legitimate reasons to approve or deny a marriage license, and race is not (I don't believe gender is either, but that's not legal in WI yet).
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2009


I'm not a racist, but it's a proven scientific fact that the white woman's orifices just aren't built to accomodate the black penis.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2009


We were asked to swear an oath that we were not closely related (1st cousins or better) and that we were entering into this marriage consensually. Also, we had to present birth certificates to verify that we were of age. For reference, this was a year ago, in Wisconsin.

In addition, divorced people remarrying can expect to show proof of divorce.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:33 AM on October 16, 2009


This man's days as a justice of the peace are numbered. A very low number. The Louisiana Supreme Court will likely remove from office within days.

Let this be a metric, then, on how corrupt and bigoted the members of the LSC really are. There should be a burning efigee placed outside the courthouse for every day the man retains his bench.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:36 AM on October 16, 2009


PeterMcDermott, I'm not sure what journal you've been getting your information from, but I can go home right now, tune my televisor to various channels devoted to the subject, and find research arguing vigorously against your position.

It's possible this research might not count as fully "scientific" because of bias from the funding agency, or because the PIs didn't have their IRB-approval ducks all in a row. As well, I'm reasonably sure that this sort of research proceeds using nonrandom samples, but so long as the selection bias isn't too severe this can be compensated for.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


she's not trying to bypass a discussion of racism, but, instead, is asking that we examine the specific form this racism takes, especially since it isn't your run of the mill "I hate black people" sort, but something more patronizing and unconsciously paternal, as though he were saving black people from themselves by denying them their rights

Yeah, I didn't mean to suggest that anyone was trying to bypass the discussion, it's just a pet peeve of mine that discussions include a lot of meta discussion on "What is racism?" and "What makes a person a racist?" rather than actual discussion about the topic. For example, I went to a school that was debating whether or not to abandon a racist mascot, and it was extremely tiresome to have the same discussion over and over again about how racism isn't necessarily about individual people hating individual people of a certain race, rather discussing how the mascot would be viewed by people and what sorts of compromises we could make to resolve the issue. So it could be that I'm just tired of the discussion, but it is a discussion that comes up a lot and sometimes derails other more specific discussions.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2009


I'm not a racist, but it's a proven scientific fact that the white woman's orifices just aren't built to accomodate the black penis.

I feel bad for the guy that's hung like the whole baby (not like a baby).
posted by cjorgensen at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2009


"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."

Well, then, what way do you believe in mixing the races?

Because these races ain't gonna mix themselves, people.
posted by grubi at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


He & people like him are just afraid that us mutts are going to take over the planet with out superior genetics while the purebreds wallow in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Attitudes and people like this is why my dad went to NYC instead of Dixie when he came over from the Philippines in the early 60s. He was offered a better deal on his residency in TN, until he figured out he could get lynched down south for having sex with the woman who would become my mother.

"Never go south of the Mason-Dixon" was the lessons this New-York-half-breed-turned-Northern-Californian learned early on.*

I'm sure I'm missing out on some cool stuff, but as a general rule I can't say it's done me wrong. And it's a big country. Can't see it all, and if I have to write off large sections as not gonna have time to see that part...

This couple should move to Oakland. Interracial couples and beautiful, cafe-au-lait toned children are the norm up here.

* I just remembered I did make weekend booty-run to Memphis once. But it was a slightly disconcerting experience. And the only bar I've been given the "You don't belong here" stare was in Lynn, MA.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


URK! "Our superior genetics", not "out"

*Facepalm*
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2009


Some people believe America is a big melting pot. Others believe it is a series of melting pots, each one containing a different ingredient. Why are we making such a big deal out of it? They're basically the same thing.
posted by snofoam at 9:44 AM on October 16, 2009


Like the great Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat once said, "Two steps forward, one step back."

It's sad but unsurprising that people like this are still in positions of power and act so ignorantly.
posted by reenum at 9:45 AM on October 16, 2009


There should be a burning efigee placed outside the courthouse for every day the man retains his bench

That would ruin your metric though...
posted by scrutiny at 9:45 AM on October 16, 2009


Two pinches Indy 500 and a dash of Kentucky Derby, plus a squeeze of Le Mans and a twist of Daytona 500...

Race-mixing. Yum.
posted by grubi at 9:47 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd like to believe that prejudice against inter-racial marriages is, to some extent, a generational thing that is slowly dying out (although, like racism, it will surely never disappear completely). The article doesn't give Bardwell's age, but if he's been a justice of the peace for 34 years he must be getting up there.

My wife is half-Chinese. Her father came over to Canada from Hong Kong in the late '60s to go to university, which is where he met her mother (who is white). To cut a very long story short, when they decided to get married there was a lot of bad blood on both sides of the family, and when her father died in 1980 (of natural causes) it got even worse. We're talking two separate wedding ceremonies, a funeral in Hong Kong that none of her Canadian relatives were invited to, that sort of thing.

Flash forward 25 years.

Both sides of the family now get along just fine. When we got married (I'm white) several of her Chinese relatives came to the wedding to give us their blessings, and one of her uncles gave a heartfelt speech that had everyone bawling. One of her Chinese cousins just married a white Quebecois woman, and it was all good. It's like a living history lesson. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THAT SHIT ANYMORE. Or, at least, they shouldn't.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


goddammit. I woke up this morning feeling just fine. Now I'm tragic.
posted by strawdog at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have at times internally debated whether the "some of my best friends" argument should get so much flack - I mean, it's a reasonable data point, right, like if you have many close friends in some particular group, it's an indicator, if an imperfect one, of lack of prejudice towards that group - right? Of course, some how ignorant racists like this chucker manage to clarify their attitude towards their "friends" by saying something like they have them in their house and let them use their bathroom.

I'm curious to see how this pans out, if the story stays live. Becoming a Justice of the Peace isn't a basically automatic thing like becoming a notary public, where you jump through the hoops, submit your application and pay your fee and get your stamp or whatever. There are limited number of positions, often a waiting list for applicants - there's background checks and applications to your state's Secretary of State and an approval process by your Governor and some sort of executive board, and your legal powers can vary quite a bit by locality.

The state government can't deny a marriage license on these grounds but I imagine this individual will argue that he has the right to exercise his moral conscience in terms of what marriages he actually officiates/processes and that these people are not being denied any rights because they can get married by someone else. I'm curious to see if any clarity on the responsibilities of JPs comes out of this, though I don't know how much this would mean as it is a regional authority. It is worth noting, though it doesn't for me excuse his choices, that this individual cannot deny anyone the ability to get married.

An equivalent case involving gay marriage in Canada.
posted by nanojath at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2009


I'm not a racist, but it's a proven scientific fact that

I get what you're going for here, but ew, please don't.
posted by cortex at 9:55 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


You are so fucking fired, douchebag.

Fired after 34 years as the justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish?

I kinda doubt it.
posted by blucevalo at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow. It's nice to know that, living in a historically xenophobic country, registering my marriage at the ward office took all of five minutes (much like many of my married friends) with nary a batted eyelash. I did need to make a trip to the U.S. Embassy (least friendly place in Japan) to get a certificate saying that I wasn't currently married to another person, but aside from that, piece of cake.

It's nice to know that even with the xenophobia and racism that does exist in Japan, at least it's not as bad as Louisiana. Then again, that might be setting the bar a bit low.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:59 AM on October 16, 2009


If you think the test for racism is the "I hate black people" attitude, you don't understand what racisim is. Not even close.
posted by 2sheets at 10:00 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I may be a rat racist. I'm really feeling the need to get the hell away from people for a while. Also, I hate rats.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:00 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


How appalling. One forgets just how much explicit racism is still extant. This isn't just a minister preferring not to perform the ceremony, which would still be obscenely racist, but a denial of a civic right, a license to be married, on the grounds of race. I hope he gets sued so hard that his eyeballs spin back in his head.

I'm over 50 and grew up in a culture with pervasive racism. A lot of it is gone. I truly did not imagine I would see an African-American President of the U.S. But we're getting a lot of reminders that racism is very real and very alive.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 AM on October 16, 2009


"Never go south of the Mason-Dixon" was the lessons this New-York-half-breed-turned-Northern-Californian learned early on.

As a former Northern Californian who's moved to the South, I have to say that that rule's not always very useful. May be useful in Tangipahoa Parish and some other scary places, but not the entire South.

And sort of along the lines of your experience in Lynn, MA, the only place I've ever been yelled at with the "faggot" epithet is in the middle of the Financial District in San Francisco. It's extremely peripheral, but it's among the reasons I no longer live in Northern California.
posted by blucevalo at 10:01 AM on October 16, 2009


"Like the great Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat once said, 'Two steps forward, one step back.'"

Ah, I recall that groundbreaking mixing of the human and cartoon cat races.

At any rate, I do remember that she hated cigarettes, but he liked to smoke.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:04 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Chiroptera-merda inasnum
posted by edgeways at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2009


I truly did not imagine I would see an African-American President of the U.S.

And that was only after GW Bush's disastrous Presidency. Then the Republicans ran Sarah Palin on the other side, and even at that, it was a very close vote.

I wouldn't get too proud of the U.S. just yet.
posted by Malor at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think I may be a rat racist

Nah, you'd have to have a preference for either the darker wild rat or the common white Sprague-Dawley lab rat used in research. It sounds like you just hate rats.
posted by scrutiny at 10:09 AM on October 16, 2009


Fired after 34 years as the justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish?

I kinda doubt it.


I think he's on his way out the door. Did you happen to notice, this? (Emphasis mine.)
"Bardwell said a justice of the peace is not required to conduct a marriage ceremony and is at liberty to recuse himself “from a marriage or anything else.”

He said the state attorney general told him years ago that he would eventually get into trouble for not performing interracial marriages.

“I told him if I do, I’ll resign,” Bardwell said. “I have rights too. I’m not obligated to do that just because I’m a justice of the peace.”

So, the state attorney general is aware, but did nothing. He could have issued a complaint, at the very least, or publicized Bardwell's actions in some way.

Up til now, there's obviously been a tacit acceptance of the situation. With this news, though, I can't imagine public opinion of Bardwell (or anyone who defends him,) will be too favorable. Especially since his parish's demographics are approximately 30% Black, 70% White.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on October 16, 2009


I live in Louisiana, about 20 miles from where this happened, and scrutiny is right and is not exaggerrating. Nobody thinks they're being racist, they're just being "realistic." I know one woman who was completely unable to enjoy the movie version of The Pelican Brief because it paired Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington romantically, even though she absolutely loved the novel and both actors. And don't forget about 40 miles in the other direction is the very district that sent David Duke to the state legislature, and he raked in donations like mad and polled 35% or so running for governor.
posted by localroger at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2009




There may well be an attitude amongst the races that makes life difficult for the children of mixed races.

Thank goodness that this Judge is doing what he can to help ensure that this attitude will never change.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2009


From cmgonzalez' link:

"De Blasio, who is expected to win handily against a token opponent in next month’s general election, declined to offer a simple lesson from his win. “We’re not in post-racial politics, but we’re in a politics of racial possibility,” de Blasio said. “Our obligation is to keep pushing it, ... to keep trying all the permutations of it.”"

Well said.
posted by zarq at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2009


I often post this link in topics on race here. It's such an important concept. Glad someone else has taken it up, as I often fear turning into a broken record on the topic.

We don't live in a "post-racial" society. People need to quit with that BS. As long as we use skin tone and physical features to classify people, we live in a racial society. We do live in a "post-racist" society, but even that doesn't mean what people think it does. Racism used to be the law of the land. Now it isn't. voila! post-racism. However, there are many things we have collectively decided were wrong that still happen all around us every day. Things like stealing, and Ed Hardy t-shirts don't just go away. It just means that now we have the means to identify and hopefully correct these wrongs as they occur.

And just as with stealing, your intentions and circumstances may move us to grant you mercy or forgiveness, but that doesn't make the act right. We're not going to legalize bank robbery just because one guy had sick kids to feed. We don't care what's in your heart. I don't care if this guy is not a racist. He performed a racist act.

The other point that is often misunderstood is the idea that racism is bad because it hurts a specific group of people. When in fact, it's detriment to society as a whole is the reason we should be vigilant and more knowledgeable in our attempts to identify it, and less defensive about our personal feelings of guilt and/or oppression.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Goodness gracious, people, it's 2009 and I really shouldn't be hearing the strains of the score of Show Boat when I read the daily news.

On the other hand, the revival of Finian's Rainbow down on Broadway is getting more and more relevant every day, though I'm sure everyone involved in it really wishes it weren't.
posted by ilana at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2009


I was unaware that it was even possible to deny applicants a marriage license, provided the gender and quantity requirements were met.

There are other requirements too. They have to be a certain age, and they can't be too closely related.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2009


In the U.S., poor people have fewer rights than rich people do. This is way beyond a racial thing.
posted by Zambrano at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2009


Yes, but let's stick to the racial discussion for now, as it is the core of this event.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2009


Gosh, this week has been great for new band name ideas. I'm claiming both Balloon Boy and Tragic Mulatto! Look out Billboard charts!
posted by toastchee at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2009


it was a very close vote.

"Very close"? No, 2000 and 2004 were "very close." A "close" win for Obama would have been winning all the safe blue states, plus enough swing states to barely come out ahead, but still losing some major swing states like Florida. He won dramatically more electoral votes than McCain. I don't believe McCain won any swing states, certainly not any big ones. Obama won states that no one a couple years ago would have thought a Democrat was even capable of winning: Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina.

I wouldn't get too proud of the U.S. just yet.

Would it really be so terrible to be proud of the U.S. every once in a while? Let's just admit it: Obama disproved millions of critics of America who said a black person could never get elected. Obama didn't win with an asterisk like Bush -- he won, end of story. It wasn't even close.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


My hilarity dispenser seems to be on the blink today; this just makes me sigh. It's so tiring, and really, much more common than a lot of people seem to think. The only thing remarkable about this story for me is that the guy said it out loud. Otherwise it's the same old thing, and I live in Seattle for fuck's sake, I was promised a tolerant liberal utopia and government-funded lattes all around.

I was really surprised on the day I woke up and discovered the proclamation of a postracial American society, because it looks kind of the same from my admittedly-limited vantage point. I was trying to figure out what "postracial" actually meant, and I think the definition I've settled on is, "we don't want to talk about race anymore, so please stop mentioning it."

As with billyfleetwood, I couldn't care less whether the man is or is not a racist, and I don't feel like the discussion over what epithet to brand on his forehead forever goes anywhere useful, other than perhaps a bit of catharsis for the participants. What he did was racist, and he'll probably continue to do racist things unless forced to step down or act otherwise in his official capacity, the piles of black people in his bathroom notwithstanding.

In the U.S., poor people have fewer rights than rich people do. This is way beyond a racial thing.

Oh, hey, look, turns out it's actually really a class thing, because we're postracial now. Yeah, who didn't see that coming.
posted by Errant at 11:01 AM on October 16, 2009


In the U.S., poor people have fewer rights than rich people do.

The poor usually have fewer opportunities (less of an ability) to make sure their legally-given rights are enforced. On paper at least, everyone's supposed to be equal, regardless of their level of income. Unless you're gay of course, but that's a whole 'nother derail.

This is way beyond a racial thing.

Perhaps. But this JP probably wouldn't have acted differently if the couple were wealthy. And their income level is not really the point, is it?
posted by zarq at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2009


The first thing you learn in law school is that you can be a complete fucking moron and still graduate from law school.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:05 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a perfect time for this to happen.

Not the decision is a good one, but because when this is challenged, and it will be, it will be going to court around the same time that the prop 8 case will be. And both those cases concern the harm done by marriage.

What's interesting is that this case shows, ultimately, how bigoted it is to say that "this marriage here will cause undue harm and distress" because, well, fuck you, what do you know? And on the gay marriage side there's a case saying "umm... we can't prove the harm done... but we know that it is there somewhere, really!"

Now we will have two court cases that will show that any attempt to discuss the harm done by a certain 'type' of marriage is ridiculous. My best counterexample when talking about how bad an idea gay marriage is interracial marriage because it's inconsistent to be okay with interracial marriage while being against gay marriage: the 'institution' wasn't destroyed by what was at the time a radical shift and you can't say as a general rule that interracial marriages are worse or of lesser value that 'monoracial' marriages. The same goes for heterosexual and homosexual marriages.

So, hopefully, this myth of the 'harm' that gay marriages will do will implode: cognitive dissonance or not you can't condemn this decision and stand by the idea that gay marriages does some harm in the other.
posted by litleozy at 11:08 AM on October 16, 2009


What are the laws regarding the ability for a justice of the peace, etc. to deny marriage licenses based on personal conviction? Is someone required by law to marry any couple that presents itself?

Would a Catholic justice of the peace be required to marry two divorcees?

Would a Mormon justice of the peace be required to marry a gay couple?

Does a justice of the peace or a minister or any other representative of the state have a right to personal discretion?

Just curious.
posted by jefficator at 11:18 AM on October 16, 2009


I was trying to figure out what "postracial" actually meant, and I think the definition I've settled on is, "we don't want to talk about race anymore, so please stop mentioning it."

When Daniel Schorr first mentioned it on NPR, the theme of his editorial was really more hopeful that the post-Selma generation had turned out to be more tolerant than its predecessors. Then, candidate Obama's appeal did seem to transcend the debate over his racial background.

Intolerance and racism obviously haven't disappeared. But they most certainly have diminished from where they were a generation ago. That's a good thing. We need to keep focusing a bright light on racism until it becomes a distant memory.
posted by zarq at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2009


Does a justice of the peace or a minister or any other representative of the state have a right to personal discretion?

Don't know. But if they find themselves unable to perform their duties (because of time constraints or some other reason) they are required to direct someone to an available Justice who can. Which Bardwell did.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there's any sort of "conscience clause" he could possibly try to use as an excuse. He's breaking Federal law, after all.
posted by zarq at 11:23 AM on October 16, 2009


I've posted this already in another, related thread, but it seems appropriate to repost it here: Sunday, my wife and I made a sign and went down to the National Equality March. Some people liked it, and took pictures (self-link).
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:24 AM on October 16, 2009 [24 favorites]


...my wife and I made a sign and went down to the National Equality March.

Wonderful! :)
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2009


I'll back up scrutiny here. I've lived in the New Orleans metro area almost all of my life, and you would not believe the shit that some people not only think, but actually say out loud. Southern Louisiana is mentally screwed. Apparently, the majority of us believe that it is our right to pass judgment on everyone with nothing more than a glance around us, and then talk freely and openly about their judgments. Trying to reason with racists and bigots is useless, and I stopped trying a long time ago.

Also: The first thing you learn in law school Louisiana is that you can be a complete fucking moron and still graduate from law school survive, and even thrive.
FTFY

If anyone succeeded in teaching racists how not to be racist, that person would be busier than a one-legged man in ass-kicking contest, at least down here.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 11:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Then, candidate Obama's appeal did seem to transcend the debate over his racial background.

I guess maybe that's part of my point: there was a debate over his racial background to transcend, followed by the (seemingly, to me) smug pronouncement that having transcended the odious spectre of that debate, we had leveled up and race was no more.

But I had not previously heard that NPR story; my first exposure to the term (which may explain why I talk about it as though it were a virus or chemical weapon) was in editorials like this one, in which a person essentially argues that Obama's election and personal success proves conclusively that nonwhites are no longer discriminated against, even if there are throwback "individuals" clinging to outdated, antiquated notions like, oh, affirmative action or white privilege.

Intolerance and racism obviously haven't disappeared. But they most certainly have diminished from where they were a generation ago. That's a good thing. We need to keep focusing a bright light on racism until it becomes a distant memory.

You are, of course, quite right. That this is a news story and provoking outrage is certainly progress, considering that the three previous times he pulled this shit no one said or thought anything of it. I'm just feeling down about this one, so maybe I'm being more negative than I ought to be. Or maybe it's just that I miss living in Louisiana, and today I'm having a hard time remembering why.
posted by Errant at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2009


Since when are kids a mandatory consequence of marriage?
posted by furtive at 11:53 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Since when are kids a mandatory consequence of marriage?

They're rather the point, from a traditional standpoint. Hence the ability to get an annulment (or similar) if it doesn't work out.

(And no, I don't have, and am unlikely to have, kids)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2009


What are the laws regarding the ability for a justice of the peace, etc. to deny marriage licenses based on personal conviction? Is someone required by law to marry any couple that presents itself?

It's my understanding that the Judge in question wasn't even being asked to marry this couple -- only to issue the wedding license.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:14 PM on October 16, 2009


Is this the "enlightened racial sensitivity of Americans" that certain mefites were lecturing Australians about only recently? Because I have to say, I'm not impressed.
posted by rodgerd at 12:20 PM on October 16, 2009


They're rather the point, from a traditional standpoint.

Bullshit. Bullshit. bullshit.
posted by grubi at 12:20 PM on October 16, 2009


Now if it was an American wanting to marry a Canadian, I'd understand. (Damn those William Shatner-spawning hosers!)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:22 PM on October 16, 2009


Given that this is probably the only time Tangipahoa will ever be mentioned on Metafilter, I couldn't help share that I've been there before. Tangipahoa - almost as fun to spell as it is to say - is a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere Louisiana. When I was there about 10 years ago it had one stop light and the local ATM's 'fast cash' amount was $5, which stuck with me for being such a bleak indication of how poor the area was.

This is Tangipahoa on google maps.

The main employer is a penitentiary. I spent a week there as an advocate for Cuban detainees - men stuck in a sort of legal limbo where they had served their full sentences but could not be released because they were in the country illegally and could not be deported because Cuba wouldn't take them. Basically they were in prison indefinitely (though fortunately that has since changed), and the prison was happy to take them.

Rural Louisiana isn't exactly known for progressive attitudes on race. But as conversations with locals (very many of whom have family or friends working at the prison) suggested, the prison, with a disproportionately black population, exacerbates those negative perceptions.

Anyway, thought that might add a tiny bit of perspective on this.
posted by Davenhill at 12:23 PM on October 16, 2009


Yep. He's a moronic racist.
posted by ericb at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2009


Is this the "enlightened racial sensitivity of Americans" that certain mefites were lecturing Australians about only recently? Because I have to say, I'm not impressed.

Good for you.

Seriously though, Australians need to be lectured to more.
posted by chunking express at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2009


Gosh, this week has been great for new band name ideas. I'm claiming both Balloon Boy and Tragic Mulatto! Look out Billboard charts!

I spotted some links to the band Tragic Mulatto when I put the FPP together.
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2009


I know a Tragically Hip Mulatto.
posted by JeffK at 12:43 PM on October 16, 2009


Not to change the subject, but is his claim that interracial marriages don't last as long backed up with any statistics? My experience is that it doesn't seem to make any difference but I doubt that qualifies as representative.

For the purposes of a government official issuing a marriage license, it simply doesn't matter if this assertion is statistically supportable or not, because it is not the business of the issuing office to determine the likelihood of the marriage's success and durability. It is the issuing office's business to see that all legal requirements to marriage are met, to instruct the licensed couple on correct submission of the license after the ceremony, and to make a record of the license. That's all.

When my now-husband and I went to City Hall this summer to get our marriage license, no one speculated on the likelihood of our marriage lasting... or, if they did, they did it for their own amusement. It had no bearing on the legality of our application for a license. Nor does it here.
posted by Elsa at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


My beautiful, beautiful mixed race son tells this asshole to go choke on a bucket of syphillitic cocks.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:07 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well said, Slarty Bartfast's son.
posted by mitzyjalapeno at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2009


From the wikipedia link: [T]he "tragic mulatto" is depicted as the victim of the society he/she lives in, a society divided by race. Because of society's reluctance to acknowledge ambiguity in racial classifications, this character is particularly vulnerable."

I never knew there was a term for my Texan relatives' case against interracial children in which they advocate to prevent the existence of people who break down false racial polarities rather than hold society accountable for its fucked-up racist values.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:23 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Earlier this week, a woman walked into my office and started to tell us all about her woes. She had fees tacked on to her utilities and was railing against the Arabs and Indians who have been hired by these companies and who are now spending their time bankrupting hardworking Americans with extra fees.

Observing racism in action causes me to physiologically enter a fight-or-flight reaction. I get that terrible metallic taste in my mouth and I start to feel woozy. Mostly I'm flighty, very nonconfrontational. But I swear, one of these days some bigot is going to come up to me and say something assuming that I'm a sympathetic ear (I'm a white guy, after all) and I'm just going to take a swing at them.

Or I'm just going to move away again to a more enlightened part of the country where people don't say stupid shit like this. That's more likely.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:27 PM on October 16, 2009


Elsa, you read way too much into my question. I am not proposing this as a criteria for a marriage license (or even to discuss the possibility), I am just curious. The public sphere is full of overheated rhetoric and opinions masquerading as fact, hence I would be surprised if his claim wasn't totally fabricated. In fact, I hope that it's complete bunk.
posted by tommasz at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2009


No, tommasz, I understand your question, and I didn't suggest that you supported his assertion. I get what you're asking, and I'm certainly not trying to cast you as sympathetic to Bardwell's viewpoint.

I'm just pointing out that legally it doesn't matter even a tiny bit whether he's right or wrong in his belief that interracial marriages are of short duration, because that is not a legitimate concern of the licensing entity. And evidently, it needs pointing out, if only to him.
posted by Elsa at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2009


Davenhill, this didn't happen in the town of Tangipahoa, but in the parish. It actually happened in the city of Hammond, which is a fairly large exurb of New Orleans.
posted by localroger at 1:42 PM on October 16, 2009


And I completely understand why you would want to clarify; I certainly don't mean to suggest you had anything but good intent.
posted by Elsa at 1:42 PM on October 16, 2009


There is a Baptist church here that refuses to marry interracial couples because they believe it's an affront to God. Two of my friends are a married interracial couple, who consider that their home church. They both grew up in the church, met at the church, couldn't get married in the church. So, they got married someplace else. The kicker is, they still attend that church.
posted by MaritaCov at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2009


it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long

Really? How many interracial marriages has he been in?

"I have piles and piles of black friends..."

Hey, me too! I had to add a room onto the house, just to keep my piles of black friends in.
posted by steambadger at 2:35 PM on October 16, 2009


What really pisses me off is that if you ban mixed-race marriages, who the hell am I supposed to marry? Hmm?

Anyway, some people think my sisters and I (and my nephews and neices and their children and any children I might have) shouldn't exist. Whatever.

Besides, who needs marriage to make kick-ass mixed babies?? Not anyone I know!
posted by kathrineg at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mixed babies are so much better than stratified babies. I hate babies when all of the baby oil rises to the top, and you try to skim it off, but you can never get it all, and then just when you think you've about got them cleaned up... *bloop, bloop, bloop* ...more baby oil. And what the hell is all that crusty shit at the bottom?! No, thank you. Give me a well mixed baby any day! Stirred, not shaken.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:24 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know. Racist or not, it sounds like he's just got the best interests of their future children at heart. He's protecting them from a lifetime of disappointment and ridicule.

"Sure, you might grow up to President, but you'll be taunted for not delivering on your campaign promises quickly enough, and everyone will make fun of you for winning an international peace prize too soon.."

Who would wish that kind of misery and humiliation on their children?
posted by rokusan at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]




Somebody needs to take a pic of my grandkids, shove it under this man's nose, and explain to him that mixed children are The Cutest Babies in the Entire Universe, and that any marriage that produces them is privileged indeed. And for the record, neither child has had a bit of trouble with anyone not accepting them, to include a fairly racist set of greatgrandparents.

(Also wondering what he'd have done if confronted with a pregnant bride. That would have made the children question moot, I'd think. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:11 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does a justice of the peace or a minister or any other representative of the state have a right to personal discretion?

I have a real issue with the "personal discretion" idea. For this JotP, for pharmacists, for everyone who is trying to enforce their morality/religion/fucked up idea of what is right for everyone. If it's in your job description, and you don't feel comfortable with doing it? Don't take that job. If you are called upon to offer a service that is perfectly legal, and you don't want to/believe that you shouldn't, then maybe that job isn't right for you. Your job is a place where you do work, possibly work that provides other people (who may be very different from you) with vital services. If you can't be relied upon to provide those services, you shouldn't be doing that job. It's a job, not a bully pulpit. If you're so totally uncomfortable with performing your duties, do something else.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


that mixed children are The Cutest Babies in the Entire Universe

I want to agree with this, because the best-looking women I know are all of mixed race (and the more distant the origins, the better... Nigerian/Cherokee, Thai/Jamaican, Cuban/Italian).... but I think saying that makes me racist. Or sexist. Or continentalist. Or something.
posted by rokusan at 5:55 PM on October 16, 2009


And for the record, neither child has had a bit of trouble with anyone not accepting them, to include a fairly racist set of greatgrandparents.

You know, forced integration would fix America's race problems in one generation.

Because all those racist old people would just fucking melt at the sight of their new grandchildren.

Can we get Obama's Sekret Socialist Agenda working on this?
posted by rokusan at 5:58 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Official in interracial couple flap under fire -- "Louisiana’s governor and a U.S. senator join in calls for the ousting of a local official who refused to marry an mixed-race couple, saying his actions clearly broke the law."
posted by ericb at 6:49 PM on October 16, 2009


One of the oldlest laws of human society is as follows: "Beware the small person with a little bit of power."
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:22 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, forced integration would fix America's race problems in one generation.

I have a friend who argues that the surest way to eliminate racism is to just keep fucking and fucking and fucking until, generations later, we've fucked all the color differences away.

I propose that if we did this, we'd find other ways to discriminate against each other.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:08 PM on October 16, 2009


I wish someone had told me earlier that my life is a tragedy. I was hoping for something more science fiction/adventure. Crap.
posted by Marit at 8:14 PM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Because all those racist old people would just fucking melt at the sight of their new grandchildren.

Sounds like a nice theory, but I work with a woman whose Catholic parents have disowned her over the existence of a grandchild not born from an approved-by-them marriage.
posted by rodgerd at 8:22 PM on October 16, 2009


Q: What's this? (look over left shoulder, look over right shoulder, then look directly at audience)

A: The beginning of every racist joke.
posted by Graygorey at 10:31 PM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom.

In that order? He should have a sign out front advertising his services:

"Welcome to the Bardwell residence, home of the hitch-and-shit."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:39 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder how he'd justify denying an older interracial couple. Two 50+ (maybe well over 50) widowed people (then he can't throw in a remarriage-after-divorce card) who want to marry.

What then, Bardwell? What'cha gonna say then?
posted by jgirl at 6:34 AM on October 17, 2009


As a former Northern Californian who's moved to the South, I have to say that that rule's not always very useful. May be useful in Tangipahoa Parish and some other scary places, but not the entire South.

I think it was those Pace Picante Sauce commercials that skewed my analysis.

And sort of along the lines of your experience in Lynn, MA, the only place I've ever been yelled at with the "faggot" epithet is in the middle of the Financial District in San Francisco.

Yeah, the Spirit of Dan White still haunts around the edges.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:14 AM on October 17, 2009


I think we might be able to save some time, Mrs. Pterodactyl. This form of racism is segregationism - it isn't a new strain that needs to be studied intimately in order to be better refuted, but a very common form of racist belief.

The short version is that the races are equal but should not be allowed to mingle, as there are social issues that are created or exacerbated by the mixing of the races, and the negative consequences of these issues are so great that they make an inviolable case against the mixing of the races, and that this case therefore needs to be supported by the law - either by existence on the statute books or, if this is not possible, by those who represent the law favouring this principle over the letter of the law itself, as here.

Of course, the down side of this (if you are not a white racist) is that the power to enforce this segregation, and to decide how it should be conducted, has historically been held by white people, who thus got to decide not just how the races were kept apart but what went on either side of the division. So, segregated schools, for example, were not equally well funded. Men who sickened of their marriages were able to secure annulments and sympathy by revealing the shocking and hitherto unknown fact of their wives' mixed race. Katherineg's question above is a good one - one of these women pointed out that, as she was mixed-race, she would not be able to marry anyone, and that therefore was being denied a constitutional entitlement. It didn't work, and her marriage was annulled.

This idea of separate-but-equal was how Apartheid was marketed in South Africa, and formed the basis of the Jim Crow laws. I think a lot has been written about these things, and the extent to which they could be identified as racist, and how. If there isn't a nuance I'm missing, I don't see any novelty in Keith Bardwell's position, here, so those arguments should probably work as well.
posted by DNye at 4:02 PM on October 17, 2009


I wish someone had told me earlier that my life is a tragedy. I was hoping for something more science fiction/adventure. Crap.

Don't worry about it, Marit. You have about six billion others in the same boat to keep you company.
posted by rokusan at 8:28 PM on October 17, 2009


Louisiana justice who refused interracial marriage resigns.

"Bardwell did not return repeated phone calls from CNN in October, but told CNN affiliate WAFB that he had no regrets about the decision. 'It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong,' he said."
posted by Riki tiki at 6:19 PM on November 3, 2009


Louisiana justice who refused interracial marriage resigns.

Good riddance, jerk.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:31 PM on November 3, 2009


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