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What are anti-miscegenation laws?

Updated on April 29, 2016

Dates of repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws by state


Antimiscegenation laws are laws that were in place to keep people of different races from marrying... and they were still in place less than 40 years ago! Black people couldn't be with White people... It was taboo. It’s fascinating how long these laws were kept in place – and how recently – because of the number of factors that contributed to that fact.

These laws and how long they were enforced set a social precedent for what kinds of relationships are acceptable between what kinds of people. They served as a powerful group sanction by the government that discouraged interracial relationships.

Another important factor is history. European-Americans, as the “majority” group of power in the United States, have had the ability to dictate that there are well-defined, different races, that some races are more superior than others, and that it was good for European-Americans to rule over the “inferior” races. This lead to the oppression of many minority races, including African-American, and this stigmatized those races and really set the stage for the creation of discriminatory legislation and so forth.

Also, education is something to consider as well. Education can affect the way people learn about others and how to refer to them. If you are not as educated, you are more likely to misunderstand labels and language, and not just how they communicate prejudice, but also the very prejudice behind them. Children learn such language from parents, who may have learned it from their parents, and thus they pass on the messages and beliefs behind it.

All of this and more results in societal privilege, which makes it so people benefit from unearned entitlements and fail to understand the lack of equality between people. Such a mindset, of course, makes it difficult for people to see how people are really being treated and that something should be done to change the unfairness of antimiscegenation laws and other such legislation.

The issues of antimiscegenation laws and interracial relationships is basically parallel to the current issue of same-sex marriage. Today, same-sex marriages are often stereotyped as taboo and even inappropriate, as interracial relationships were (and maybe continue to be in some circles). Group sanctions are a huge part of what the two kinds of relationships have in common. Institutions such as the governments in many states, as well as parents, disapprove of same-sex marriages. I watched a TV movie “Prayers for Bobby,” in which the main character was gay and longed for his mother to love him for who he was. His mother, who was a staunch Christian, could not bring herself to accept his orientation and would make attempts to set him up with women, offer advice and present him with psalms against gay relationships, and even refused to talk to him at many points. These actions aligned exactly with the items on the list of what parents could do to sabotage interracial relationships.

Also, factors such as education, history, and privilege allow for such stereotypes and discrimination to occur. Disapproval of interracial marriages as well as same-sex marriages and relationships are in many ways the result of many factors. As antimiscegenation laws prevented interracial marriage, Proposition 8 and other legislation keeps same-sex marriages from being legal, and the people who put that legislation into place and support it most likely have been raised in families or societies that do not approve of such relationships because of their religions, backgrounds, education, and so on. Racial locations and standpoints make it difficult for people to fully understand other groups and see commonalities.


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    • Raine Law Yuen profile image

      Raine Law Yuen 3 years ago from Cape Town

      I am writing about the intersections between east and west and have written a number of hubs about bi-racial identity. I think the world is changing. USA census indicate that by 2050 USA will have a mixed race majority - which means the world is redefining its perception and definitions of the meaning of race and relationships. I hope this will usher in a new era of living where we can value each other for God given talents.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 9 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks you two. Veritas, I appreciate your feedback... While I agree that there are many differences between same-sex and interracial marriages, and there are different factors that come to play, I also feel that it is remarkable how similar they are in terms of discrimination and other things. Your view of marriage is a great addition to this Hub :)

    • profile image

      issues veritas 9 years ago


      While I see your point, I don't see race and gender as apples to apples.

      When you have issues about race and marriage, you haven't crossed the apple line to oranges. BTW, there was plenty of discrimination against people from different countries. There were the Italian and Polish jokes as well as the Irish and others. Yes, there was no law that prevented them from being married but pressure from their own people made it hard for many to cross the line. This was also true with people from different religions. Again, these didn't cross the apple line.

      The concept of marriage should be outside the bounds of the law. With the advent of the no fault divorce in California in 1970, the bonds of marriage are easily broken. All that remains is how the parties divide their property and take care of any children from their marriage. When you distill the marriage from the viewpoint of government it is really just a special type of contract. Remember, there used to be a cause of action, called breach of contract when one of the parties refused to get married.

      The importance and significance of marriage has deteriorated over the centuries. Any protection that marriage affords can be duplicated by a contract between any parties. If you propose an apples and oranges marriage concept then you also have to question the need for separate rest rooms and changing facilities for apples and oranges.

      You would also have to reconsider why more than two people can't get married.

      Marriage at one time protected the children, but today it is the divorce laws that try to protect the children. Divorce causes the children to lose their parents and their family. Bastards are no longer a minority nor are they stigmatized. The whole concept and importance of marriage needs to be re-examined in light of the mores of the world today.

      While rather simplistic, I call a food a pizza when it conforms to the traditional pizza that was created by the Italians in the US. This was an adaptation to their bread that has tomato sauce on it. It was cheese and some basic items, olive oil, dough, meat, vegetable etc. Then over the course of decades, pizza's had many more ingredients added as options. The one that I can't understand is adding pineapple. My point is that the addition of food such as pineapple doesn't destroy the dish as a food item, but I can't consider it a pizza.

      I am more concerned with the failure of marriage rather than adding more ingredients to it.


    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 9 years ago from London

      I'd never even heard the word before - seems so odd that these laws were in place in living memory!