The post–World War II era found Arkansas laboring to reassert its commitment to maintaining Jim Crow laws—those designed to keep African Americans in subjugation. In 1947, concerned about the growing militancy of African Americans and their demands for civil equality, state legislators enacted a slate of provisions that further segregated black and white people. Included was a revised anti-miscegenation law that prescribed specific penalties for people convicted of having interracial relationships. The penalty for a first conviction was a fine of $20 to $100. Second convictions subjected individuals to a $100 fine and up to a year in prison. Third and subsequent convictions would result in one to three years in prison.
Anti-miscegenation laws remained part of the state civil code until 1968. However, in the twentieth century before their eradication, the state appeared to have been frustrated in its limited attempts to enforce the laws. In fact, in the three cases that made it to the state Supreme Court on appeal in the twentieth century, the state lost each case on the grounds that it had not satisfactorily proven that a relationship had existed between the accused people. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the rights of states to ban interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia (1967), the legislature quickly moved to bring the state’s laws into compliance with the high court’s ruling.
“Mixed” unions — intermarriages and long-lasting cohabitations — have become far more common. According to a 2012 Pew report, 15 percent of new marriages cross the major lines of race or Hispanic origin. Some 70 percent of these relationships involve a white partner and a minority spouse. The most common minority partners for whites are Latinos, followed by Asians, though the frequency of white-black marriage also continues to rise.
For much of our racist past, all partly white, partly black individuals were socially and legally defined as black. The “one drop” rule was absurd, of course, yet it has effectively returned, with a vengeance, via statistical categories. There is no justification for viewing as not white all children who are partly white and being raised in a family that includes a white parent and two white grandparents, to say nothing of aunts, uncles and cousins.
In their book “The Diversity Paradox,” the sociologists Jennifer Lee and Frank D. Bean found that individuals with white-Latino and white-Asian backgrounds did not feel excluded by race and enjoyed latitude in choosing their own identities. The story was different for those with one black parent: They experienced racial barriers, showing that visible African ancestry is still the great exception when it comes to the mainstream.