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From Mixed Race America:

A few weeks ago, as I was teaching East of Eden, I ended up explaining why one of the characters, a Chinese American man who goes by the name “Lee” never married. And one of the things I contextualized for my students was in the time of the novel, the first two decades of the 20th Century, Lee’s marriage choices would have been severely curtailed because of two legal restrictions: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which effectively barred Chinese immigration to the U.S., and anti-miscegenation (anti-inter-racial marriage laws), which effectively prevented Chinese men from marrying outside of their ethnic group.

My students had not heard the word miscegenation, so I had to explain what that meant, and then began the line of questioning: which states had these laws and when were they repealed. They seemed genuinely surprised when I told them that Loving v. Virginia finally abolished all such laws in the nation in 1967, and I reminded them that just because it was now legal for two people of two different races to marry, that it wasn’t socially acceptable among some communities and families. For example in Alabama and Mississippi, there are some high schools that have two proms, a white prom and a black prom (and a few years ago a High School principal made national news for barring an inter-racial couple from attending one of these proms–although I can’t remember whether it was the white or black prom they were barred from).

And I mention all this because my students were just shocked and surprised. I suppose some could say that they are naive. But at 18 and 19, what college student isn’t? Read more…

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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