Miscegenation was present in the 17th through the 19th century Americas, but was more widely criticized in British America rather than the South Iberian colonies. The rejection of interracial relationships was more pronounced in North America because of its more distinct stratification amongst the sexes and races. Slave owners often retained the wealth and power that would allow them to manipulate race law and sex in America. The stratification was displayed through the racial hierarchy and gender roles of the era.
The miscegenation, interbreeding between two different races, contributed to the racial stratification by introducing mulattos and mestizos. The interbreeding was frequently the product of a power imbalance. The expression of white male dominance present in relationships between masters and slaves is a prominent example of the power imbalance. The product of inbreeding between races were mestizos, of European and Native American descent, and mulattoes, of European and African descent. These new mixed races created a new level in the social hierarchy, their place was above the Africans and Native Americans but below the whites. They were usually born into plantations, the offspring of master and slave relations and weren’t able to exercise any right as a child of a white man. The Louisiana Supreme Court heard cases that involved white masters leaving an inheritance, and sometimes emancipation, for their slave mistresses and children and the white heirs denying them of both their freedom and what was left for them.1
The superiority complex of the whites is also present in who they decide to have sex with. The rape of enslaved black women is standard convention when discussing sexual abuse of slaves but what about the sexual abuse of enslaved black men. It is less spoken about but still occurred, it was an establishment of power by the slave owner and an expression of sadomasochism.2 Abdur-Rahman highlights a section of Harriet Jacobs’ autobiographical novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, where Jacobs discusses a slave name Luke and his slave owner, alluding to the sexual relationship between the two. Jacobs spoke how Luke was to kneel and was restricted to just a shirt some days.3 Luke’s slave owner had nothing to gain from sexually abusing Luke, he just did it because he could, because he owned Luke. CONTINUE WITH RACIAL IMBALANCE
Sex and economics were also involved in the racial stratification. Slave owners encouraged the female slaves to have children to increase their holdings, they would force sex and/or systematically rape them.4 This expresses the trivialization of these women by their masters, merely a way to advance their wealth.
Miscegenation advanced the gender stratification by further separating the genders. White women’s social entity +TREATMENT would be damaged while men would remain intact if they were to be with slaves or free blacks sexually. Sexual relationships between white masters and enslave blacks were often coercive.5 Slaves of both sexes would face oppression if the relationship were to be discovered, black men would face harsher treatment, but the black women would also be hurt socially. When the wives of the men who engaged in sex with black women recognized the circumstances, the mistress would often be in danger, but the wife would not divorce from the husband. But if the situation was reversed, the husband would almost always divorce from the wife.6 A single woman or a divorcée was looked down upon, so this is one reason women would often stay with their cheating husbands.
Legal actions, such as Virginia restricting interracial marriage in 1691,7 attempted to discourage interracial relations. But the law was tolerant with the white males and their involvement in such relations but was much harsher on white women and enslaved or free black men who engaged in the same activities as the white males. A prime example of white men bypassing the law was that, aforementioned, in Virginia after 1691, white man or woman were penalized if they were to legitimize their relationship with a black individual, the law wouldn’t penalize white men who engaged in sex with their slaves or have a child with them,8 both actions would become a crime when it was done by white women.
The slave owners owned the female slaves and these women would often experience rape and abuse at their hands. Enslaved or free black woman would be denied of their rights and dehumanized by these actions much more than white women were in this period.
1 Schafer, Judith K. “‘Open and Notorious Concubinage’: The Emancipation of Slave Mistresses by Will and the Supreme Court in Antebellum Louisiana.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, vol. 28, no. 2, 1987, pp. 170.
2 Abdur-Rahman, Aliyyah I. “‘The Strangest Freaks of Despotism’: Queer Sexuality in Antebellum African American Slave Narratives.” African American Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 2006, pp. 232
3 Jacobs, Harriet A, Lydia M. Child, Jean F. Yellin, and John S. Jacobs. “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself.” Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000.
4 Morris, Christopher. “The Articulation of Two Worlds: The Master-Slave Relationship Reconsidered.” The Journal of American History, vol. 85, no. 3, 1998, pp. 992.
5 Yarbrough, Fay A. “Power, Perception, and Interracial Sex: Former Slaves Recall a Multiracial South.” The Journal of Southern History, vol. 71, no. 3, 2005, pp. 565.
6 Fortner, Sybil. “Slave Relationships and Their Manipulation of Ethnic Identity.” Rhodes College, 2008, pp. 7.
7 Woodson, Carter G. “The Beginnings of the Miscegenation of the Whites and Blacks.” The Journal of Negro History, vol. 3, no. 4, 1918, pp. 335–353.
8 Higginbotham, A. Leon. “In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process; the Colonial Period.” Oxford University Press, 1977, pp. 45.