Race Law: Why is Justice Painted "White" in America?

The laws regarding race in the United States seem to be as problematic and intentional as racism itself. Historically, especially after the Civil War brought a host of ulterior and biased motives in order to insure the political and economic betterment of the White population. Unfortunately, one of the most effective instruments used in subduing the possibility of Black equality was law. It was law that kept race relevant, despite the many people who fought and died in America’s bloodiest war in hopes of thwarting it. Law is what continued the fight and resentment within Blacks throughout the past two centuries. Law was the golden ticket given to the beneficiaries of the American social order, even if that meant changing the laws time and time again.

Miscegenation serves as the best and constant reminder of the inherently flawed legal response to race. As Davis crystallizes in his work “The Rule Becomes Firm”, the idea of racial purity was not only contradicted by coercive race mixing from White men upon Black women, it also strengthened the idea into law. The one-drop rule completely ignored the malicious and intentional predatory actions of White men, because it allowed White men to rape and create “mixed” babies with Black women without the threat of injecting equality. What took place was a huge influx of the “mulatto” population throughout the American south, all of who had to assume the race and social stance of their mothers. So, if the mother of a mulatto child was Black, that child was considered legally Black, which kept those considered legally White in the racial majority, maintaining political and economic control while satisfying their sexual appetites.

External image

Law has been used to perpetuate a system of White supremacy over Blacks, as mentioned previously, but also has had a profoundly negative affect on other minority groups. As Professor, Clara Rodriguez explains in her work “Redefining Race in 2000”, groups such as Arab Americans were legally classified as White in the United States. Problematically, Arab-Americans have many different cultural and racial values that are not shared by Whites commonly associated with the American majority, leaving them legally underrepresented and invisible. Rodriguez further explains in her work “Changing Race” that the allowance of Arabs to be considered their own legally recognized racial category could possibly bring light to “certain cultural disadvantages that Arab Americans might experience and possibly greater affirmative-action benefits and protections to be gained as a result of identifying as a minority” (Rodriguez, 156).

External image
However, a legal system that has historically revolved around the whims of a White majority wouldn’t stand to benefit from Arabs getting more legal assurance, thus keeping Arabs from joining other voices of dissent. Whites gain from this because they get to lend their category, without fulfilling it’s benefits to outsiders.

Though all of this historical evidence proves race law to be advantageous for Whites in America, it is interesting to note that aspects of racial categorization have historically confounded Whites as well. In Ian F. Haney Lopez’s work, “White by Law”, early in the 20th century, South Asian peoples made their pitch at Whiteness by concluding they were of Caucasian stock. Race science at the time had validated South Asian claims of whiteness both geographically and historically. Yet, in a racist court of law, White interest in being supreme over dark peoples, politically and economically, strengthened the contradiction. So, because South Asians didn’t look “White” they couldn’t legally become “White”, even if they shared a common ancestry of the Caucasian lineage. In the end, the White dominated courts were divided on the issue of race, and scientific investigation was at the mercy of biased interests and external perception. “This person doesn’t look White, so they aren’t White.”

What I pondered after doing this research was the many ways race law may continue in “deracialized” America. I often wonder what my perception of Obama, Adam Clayton Powell, or X would be if they chose to make their pitch at Whiteness? How would the laws have changed if those considered “White” wanted to all be considered another category? What if White folks blew up the Towers? And what future is there for a nation where a group of people implements something so necessary, as law, into something so arbitrary, as race, as their sole means of control and wealth? 

External image