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IV F R U I T S OF P A S S I O N The Dynamics of Interracial Sex WHEN EUROPEANS MET AFRICANS IN AMERICA THE RESULT was slavery, revolt, the sociability of daily life, and, inevitably, sexual union. The blending of black and white began almost with the first contact of the two peoples and has far outlasted the institution of chattel slavery. It became, in some English colonies, almost an institution in itself. It rivaled the slave revolt as a source of tension. It may even have equaled the pressure of daily contact as a mechanism of cultural fusion. Most important, however, was the reticular complex of tensions which arose concerning interracial mixture. These tensions may be viewed in several interrelated ways. The Englishmen who came to America brought with them not merely a prevalent social mood but also certain specific sexual mores and certain more or less definite ideas about African sexuality. Many of them came with more or less explicit intentions as to the proper character of the communities they wished to establish in the wilderness . These intentions were not always, or perhaps ever, fully realized ; they were deflected—again sometimes more, sometimes less—by conditions in the New World. One of the most important deflectors was the development of a racial slavery which itself became one of the New World's "conditions," though of course the character of this condition was not everywhere the same. Presumably all Englishmen would have had similar reactions (allowing for enormous and significant variations among individuals and groups) to the attributes which set the Negro apart if they had perceived these attributes in similar contexts. But of course the Negro was encountered in very different contexts in the various English colonies . Particularly important in making for such differences was the demographic pattern which matured during the first quarter of the [136] Fruits of Passion eighteenth century; variations in the numbers of the races and of the sexes in the English colonies may be shown to be almost determinative in shaping certain attitudes. These attitudes did not of course spring full blown from demographic tables, but demographic conditions did do a great deal to shape attitudes by imparting to racial intermixture distinct social functions and meanings in various regions. Within these varying social contexts, moreover, English colonials acted and reacted in revealing ways which serve to expose how powerfully and pervasively the most basic human biological and psychic energies were in operation and how, too, these energies affected the character of the emergent English communities in America. 1. REGIONAL STYLES IN RACIAL INTERMIXTURE Miscegenation was extensive in all the English colonies, a fact made evident to contemporaries by the presence of large numbers of mulattoes. It is impossible to ascertain how much intermixture there actually was, though it seems likely there was more during the eighteenth century than at any time since.1 Although miscegenation was probably most common among the lower orders, white men of every social rank slept with Negro women.2 The colonists, as well as European travelers in the colonies, frequently pointed to this facet of American life. No one thought intermixture was a good thing. Rather, English colonials were caught in the push and pull of an irreconcilable conflict between desire and aversion for interracial sexual union. The perceptual prerequisite for this conflict is so obvious as to be too easily overlooked: desire and aversion rested on the bedrock fact that white men perceived Negroes as being both alike and different from themselves.Without perception of similarity, no desire and no widespread gratification was possible. Without perception of difference , on the other hand, no aversion to miscegenation nor tension concerning it could have arisen. Without perception of difference, 1. My own impression and that of Edward B. Reuter, The Mulatto in the United States; Including a Study of the Role of Mixed-Blood Races throughout the World (Boston, 1918), 112. An interesting but over-eager world-wide treatment is Joel A. Rogers, Sex and Race; Negro-Caucasian Mixing in All Ages and All Lands, 3 vols. (N. Y., 1940-44) . 2. Explicit references to gentlemen fathering mulattoes were uncommon in the continental colonies; for example, Samuel Thornely, ed., The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 7774-7777 (N. Y., 1924), 164-65; Thomas Anburey, Travels through the Interior Parts of America, 2 vols. (Boston, 1923), II, 223. [1371 W H I T E O V E R B L A C K of course, the term miscegenation...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469600765
Related ISBN
9780807834022
MARC Record
OCLC
861793501
Pages
696
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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