The Thinking 

Mississippi Masala

September 14, 2012


JANE S. writes:

Mississippi Masala (1992) is a movie that explores the issue of biracial marriage rather well (Spoiler alert). It’s about a man who is a third-generation Indian immigrant in Uganda. He spends his entire life in close relationships with blacks. As an attorney, he valiantly defends the rights of blacks. Then Idi Amin comes into power and expels the Indians. The man learns that his dearest childhood friend supports Amin’s decision to deport Indians, including him. He realizes that, at the end of the day, race trumps everything.

He and his family wind up in Mississippi running a motel. Their grown daughter falls in love with a young black man in the community. Her father objects to this strongly. People automatically assume it’s because he is racist and he doesn’t think a black guy is good enough for his daughter. But they are reading him wrong. He’s afraid that, if his daughter marries this guy, every time she gets into a conflict with a black person, her husband will side with the black person. He’s afraid that, if it ever comes down to a choice between her and black people, her husband will choose the latter.

The father is justified in his worries, because that’s just exactly what happens. Been there, done that.

—– Comments —–

Judithann Campbell writes:

Hotel Rwanda is a movie which depicts events which took place during the genocide which occurred in that country. It is based on a true story; simply put, a Hutu man married a Tutsi woman, the two lived peaceably for about a decade. Then the genocide occurred. The Hutu man risked his life to protect his wife and children from the genocidal members of his own tribe; he saved many other Tutsis as well. If we could ask him if race trumps everything, I think he would say that it does not. Corrie ten Boom was a Christian woman who risked her life to help Jews during WWII; she spent years in a concentration camp for her “crimes.” If we could ask Corrie ten Boom if race trumps everything, I think she would say that it does not; if we could ask the Northern Soldiers who gave their lives to end slavery if race trumps everything, I think they would say that it does not.

Some may argue that those who risk their lives and give their lives to save people of other races are not typical; that may well be true, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that his followers could be typical. People like Corrie ten Boom are definitely not typical, but I’ll take them over Laura Wood any day.

Laura writes:

Ms. Campbell believes that anyone who points out the problems inherent in interracial marriage, and who believes society should discourage it, is comparable to a person who refuses to save those of another race from mass murder. In other words, I am as good as guilty of genocide. Once again, we see how anyone who admits that race matters is accused of believing that race “trumps everything.” This stupidity would be laughable were it not so common.

I assume Ms. Campbell believes the same of the many blacks who look unkindly on interracial marriage. See the interesting comments on that issue from a white woman who told her story here about her black in-laws. Josaphine wrote:

We have never experienced white racism as a couple, only intolerance from blacks. All of our friends comment about how annoying it is that we still like each other so much, and that our children are so well adjusted and sociable. We still have date night on Tuesdays and leave the kids on our anniversary to travel to a far off place. My mother-in-law teases that we are always talking about each other fondly and she makes fun of us. But she still denounces our marriage. I don’t blame her. She wants her grandchildren to look like her. I have realized that that is normal for everyone.

 Several incidents have contributed to my racial awakening.

 I once received a call from an older black woman who had at some point been an associate of my husband’s in the arts. They were working on an artist grant program together. She was trying to locate my husband so that she could return a portfolio of his work that she had borrowed a few years back. I told her that she could dispose of the items, that he did not need them. She became offended by this, and mentioned that she could tell that I was white by my “accent,” and that she did not trust me to make that decision FOR my husband (I often work as his office assistant in the sale of his paintings). She demanded to speak with him personally. This black woman continued to tell me that she was a black poetess, and very knowledgable of the “black experience,” and that she did not approve of interracial relationships. She said that her son had married a white woman and that there were children “produced” in the marriage and she could never bond with them. They were not authentically black to her.

Jane S. writes:

Bring up the subject of interracial/intercultural marriage, and you can be 100 percent certain that someone like Judithann will pipe in with anecdotes that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand, but are meant to make her sound superior.

Risking your life to save someone—a one-time event—is completely different than marriage, which involves ongoing, day-to-day interactions and coming to an agreement about countless decisions, big and small. But liberals keep insisting, nuttily, that they are the same thing.

The Indian attorney in Mississippi Masala gets thrown in jail for speaking out against Idi Amin. His black friend—who has been like a brother to him—risks his life to save him. But he still wants him to leave. He wants all Indians to leave. The Indians in Uganda didn’t intermarry with blacks. That’s one of the reasons they were expelled.

Just because someone shows their love for you in heroic ways does not mean they want you to move in with them and be part of the family.

I know a white American woman married to a guy from South Asia. They met in college. They’ve been together 30-some years. They have three extremely successful daughters and four adorable grandchildren. They have a lovely home. They’re active in their community and have a lot of friends. Every time I call her, she’s got a houseful of people.

She told me once that, if she had to do it all over again, she would not marry someone from another race/ethnicity/culture. She told her daughters the same thing. Incidentally, they all married white guys.

Katie writes:

I have read your blog for awhile and as a proud wife, homemaker and mother, I have enjoyed many of your posts. However, I can never again visit your site in good conscious now that I see you take issue with interracial relationships. I am not in an interracial marriage , but my brother is black and his wife is PR. As I look at my beautiful pale blue eyed sons play with their beautiful golden brown dark eyed cousins, I feel sick to think that people like you are so unkind.

Thinking Housewife? More like Bigoted Housewife. You ought to be ashamed of your malicious and callous hate posts. There is nothing wrong with people loving each other. Families are not all the same skin color. Your hateful malarkey has nothing whatsoever to do with thought, Christian love or joyous wife and motherhood.

Laura writes:

And if I were a black woman? Would Katie hate me if I were a black woman writing against interracial marriage and the fact that a significant number of black men are not choosing black women?

I think not.

The fact that Katie attributes ideas to me that I have never expressed — for instance, the idea that dark-skinned children are less lovable than white children — shows what a thorough bigot she is.

Judithann Campbell writes:

Jane S. said, and I quote, ” He realizes that at the end of the day, race trumps everything.” I did not put words in Jane S’s. mouth; she actually said that. I made no mention of inter racial marriage in my comment, and I definitely did not say that those who oppose it are comparable to those who commit genocide. I addressed the issue of genocide because that was what Jane S’s post was about. I didn’t say one word about inter racial marriage.

I go by Mrs. Campbell; I am not a feminist.

Laura writes:

Ah, I see where you got the “race trumps everything” phrase. I didn’t notice that when you made your comment. But Jane S. did not mean that literally race trumps everything. She also spoke of a charcater in the movie “valiantly defend[ing] the rights of blacks.”

And given your clearly contrasting me with someone who would save the lives of others in distress, you were definitely linking my views with someone who supports genocide. And I can only assume, given that this is a discussion of interracial marriage, that the reason why you would link me with those who countenance genocide is my view of interracial marriage.

By the way, as I have said before, “Ms.” can be a useful way of identifying a woman when you do not know whether she is married or single. Generally, those are the only cases in which I use it. I do not use it to imply someone is a feminist.

Jane S. responds to Katie’s comment:
Katie has enjoyed your blog until recently when she learned that you disapprove of interracial relationships. All you had to do was express views she disagreed with on one subject–one–and that’s enough to ruin the entire blog for her. That subject just so happens to be race. See what I mean? Race trumps everything. Thanks for proving me right, Katie.
Jane S. adds:

I recall reading about Jews who immigrated to Chinese port cities like Shanghai, where they were accepted and there was intermarriage with ethnic Chinese. According to Wikipedia:

“Over the centuries, the Kaifeng (Chinese Jewish) community came to be virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese population and is not recognized by the Chinese government as a separate ethnic minority. This is as a result of having adopted many Han Chinese customs including patrilineal descent, as well as extensive intermarriage with the local population. Since their religious practices are functionally extinct, they are not eligible for expedited immigration to Israel under the Law of Return unless they explicitly convert.”

I’ve heard similar stories about Jewish people settling in places where they were not discriminated against. After a century or two of intermarriage, they disappear. So intermarriage is an efficient form of ethnic cleansing.

I also recalled the movie Bulworth, starring the execrable Warren Beatty, where he says, “White people, black people, brown people, yellow people, get rid of ’em all/ All we need is a voluntary, free spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction/ Everybody just gotta keep f***’ everybody til they’re all the same color.”

That’s the essence of totalitarian one-worldism, where we’re all interchangeable blocks of wood. You’ll never feel excluded from anything; there’s nothing to be excluded from.

Laura writes:

What a great line.

That’s the essence of totalitarian one-worldism, where we’re all interchangeable blocks of wood. You’ll never feel excluded from anything; there’s nothing to be excluded from.

Mrs. Campbell writes:

Jane S. has once again stated her belief that “race trumps everything.” I am curious, Mrs. Wood, do you agree with her about that?

Laura writes:

I’ll let Jane speak for herself, but I am confident she does not mean race should trump literally everything or that no fellowship is possible between people of different races

Do I believe race trumps everything? As I have said many, many times, race is one facet of our humanity. I have talked about sex differences again and again, but I don’t believe sex differences trump everything in the sense that there is not something more fundamental and important about the human being. Race is one context in which we live, but we share a common humanity and are all created in the image of God. A person risks going to hell, I personally risk going to hell, by denying charity to other human beings, including human beings from another race. However, it is not uncharitable to acknowledge race differences. In fact, it can be very uncharitable to pretend they don’t exist or to allow the issue to be monopolized by those with extremist views and bitter racial grievances.

Mrs. Campbell writes:

[This comment came in before Mrs. Campbell’s comment above.]

I regret the last line of my first comment; it was the result of sloppy thinking. It was not my intent to link you with those who support genocide. I am sorry.

I was irritated with you for posting Jane S’s post, because in it, she seems to suggest that when people are forced to choose, they will always choose members of their own race over members of another race; you did not initially disagree with her about that. Yes, Jane S. did point out the heroic actions of the Indian man’s friend, but only after my comment: she didn’t mention that part of the story in her original post. That aspect of the story puts a whole different twist on the movie.

Laura writes:

Your apology is most welcome, and there are no hard feelings. I guess I can see how you misread Jane’s comment that “race trumps everything.” Again, I never read it as a literal statement in the sense that the Indian’s defense of basic rights wasn’t more important than racial differences.

However, Jane did mention the Indian character “valiantly” defending the rights of blacks in her original post.

Jane S. writes:

Mrs. Campbell seems quite upset about the phrase “race trumps everything” and wants to know what I mean by that. To be honest, I don’t know precisely, so I’ll go back to the place where I first used it.

The Indian attorney in Mississippi Masala is born and raised in Uganda, and considers it his beloved homeland; he spends his entire life in good relations with blacks, he has a black friend he loves like a brother. All that goes out the window in a heartbeat, and he and his family are deported, just because of their race. He is afraid that his daughter may find herself in a similar circumstance, if she marries a guy from another race. There is no point in saying things like that don’t happen; they already have.

I’ve said before, I’ve only ever met one man I wanted to marry, and he was of a completely different race/religion/culture/nationality. I met with plenty of disapproval over it, directly in my face. I did not care. I loved him, dammit. I do my share of upholding Western traditions. I don’t need anyone else arranging my choice of spouse.

During this time, I learned that few people have any firsthand experience with interracial relationships of any kind, let alone marriage. I have rarely met someone who has anything wise or insightful to say on the subject. Throaty perorations about people performing heroic acts for people from other races are useless.

People are tuned into members of their own tribe in a way that is unique, profound and everlasting. It’s hardwired into you. It can’t be imitated or learned or acquired. It helps enormously to have that working for you in a spousal relationship. Doing without it is like swimming upstream.

That’s why interracial marriages are the exception rather than the rule, because they’re extra hard work. The example of the assimilation of the Chinese Jews shows how interracial marriage leads sooner or later to homogeneity and not more diversity.

Liberals don’t like being told there’s things about you that you can’t change. That’s why they go into fits if you say that race matters.

A reader writes:

I don’t think there would be as much discussion if the issue was uniformly applied that race trumps everything. However the discussion seems to be along the lines of “race trumps everything for those black/other minority folks.” Race didn’t trump everything for the Indian Father, which is why he was shocked at the way his friend treated him in Uganda. Then there is a reference to Josaphine from an early post, who has only experienced racism from black people. Again it seems that the take away message is that for white people, race does not trump everything. If you wish to make the case that blacks are more tribal than whites, then okay. I don’t think such a position can be sustained when one looks at either human history, or relations around the globe. I think a better question would be to ask, why are some folks willing to go against their tribe in cases of injustice, fairness, etc. while others are not able to do so? Is it a cultural thing, a religious thing, etc.?

Laura writes:

I’m not sure why the take-away message was that for white people race does not trump everything, given that the Indian father was not white. Nevertheless, I think you make an important point. The movie, as Jane describes it, was also exploring the very strong inclination on the part of some people to see beyond race. If a certain race was more likely to see things this way, I guess that would mean …. that race trumps everything. Whites do have a stronger inclination than blacks to be motivated by abstractions, which is both a weakness and a strength.

Let’s put it this way, for the modern white liberal, race trumps everything because no matter what a white person says about race, he is guilty.

Clem writes:

I have very much enjoyed the writings and comments about interracial marriage. Like others have said I appreciate your willingness and bravery in tackling this topic. It is what leads other to think. It is ironic how in this country race is always in the forefront, an almost daily topic, in the MSM, politics, schools, and other public venues but rarely, very rarely, is it ever discussed in any intelligent manner. You, among others, are helping to change that.

The whole ‘race trumps everything’ comment and consternation is most fascinating to me. Certainly that is closer to the truth than the ridiculous ‘race means nothing’ mantra that is spouted so often today. Of course ask ten people what race is and isn’t and most likely you will get ten different answers. While it may not ‘trump everything’ considering that race is, generally speaking, kith and kin it is much more that just a small variable in consideration of all things human.

Laura writes:

Thank you.

Interestingly, our president is the offspring of an interracial relationship and yet no one ever questions his full identification of himself as black. For people who think that somehow these relationships can transcend race, Obama is stark proof that they cannot. The fact that his mother was white and his father was black has not prevented him from seeing history in explicitly racial terms.

The reader responds:

Thank you for posting my previous e-mail.

I don’t think your reply properly responds to it. As I mentioned before, one cannot sustain the belief that whites/or any other races are inherently anti-tribal if one looks at history or even various relations around the globe. Now if you wish to say that such is a characteristic that whites tend to express more than most others, then that is fine. However before one says that it is racial, one would first need to rule out other alternatives. I don’t believe that I have seen anything here to rule out other alternatives. I do not advocate that everything is nurture and that there is no nature etc. However, there are things that are nurture/cultural.

As background, I am an unmarried black male. I have an older sister who married a white male. From the time, she was married over twenty years ago until today, my parents have expressed no misgivings/negative closed door comments towards the union. They have consistently stated, that all they cared about was that my sister was properly cared for and encouraged to follow the Lord; absolutely nothing else mattered. Now such anecdotes don’t disprove any generalizations. However, I think it can be used as a small piece of evidence that you are chalking up to nature that could better be chalked up to culture/religious beliefs.

Lastly, if the end game was to show that many folks, with certain races being over represented, cannot see past race, and those who can need to understand such and act accordingly; I have no problem with such a view and agree with it. However when you go much further than that, I don’t think the position can be so easily defended.

Laura writes:

Please tell me when I said that whites are inherently anti-tribal? I said they have a stronger inclination to be motivated by abstractions. That is hardly the same as saying they are anti-tribal, or have no racial loyalties or consciousness.

Of course, many other factors create culture than race and ethnicity.

It is admirable that your sister and brother-in-law have a supportive family. In discussions here about interracial marriage, I have stressed a number of times that there are good, thriving relationships between people of different races. I know of a few myself. Nevertheless, the children of such unions tend to overwhelmingly identify with the culture of the non-white parent. This complicates the task of passing on one’s heritage and traditions.

You write:

Lastly, if the end game was to show that many folks, with certain races being over represented, cannot see past race, and those who can need to understand such and act accordingly; I have no problem with such a view and agree with it. However when you go much further than that, I don’t think the position can be so easily defended.

The end game is to show that society cannot thrive when racial affinities are extreme. It also cannot thrive when these loyalties are denied.

The reader responds:

1)When I restated the point from my first comment, that one cannot sustain the belief that whites/or any other race are anti-tribal, I was not attempting to put words in your mouth about any group being anti-tribal. I was attempting to re-iterate a point which I feel you did not fully appreciate in the previous comment. If one wants to support the view that “race trumps all” however broadly one wants to take such, one has to deal with two groups within each racial group where race does trump all and race does not trump all. For example, it becomes hard to use race to distinguish between blacks with whom race trumps all and those where race means a lot less. It seems much cleaner to start asking cultural questions.

2)You said, “Nevertheless, the children of such unions tend to overwhelmingly identify with the culture of the non-white parent. This complicates the task of passing on one’s heritage and traditions.” When you write about one’s heritage and traditions, what do you mean over and above a robust Trinitarian worldview? I am a confessional Presbyterian, and I cannot come up with anything that a hypothetical child of mine, could not be taught by thoroughly grounded and confessional white couple.

Laura writes:

When you say it seems “much cleaner to start asking cultural questions,” you seem to be implying that I have consigned all to race. Yes, there are influences within races that strongly differentiate individuals. I think what you are saying is that the strong tribalism of blacks today is not innate. I absolutely agree that this tendency has been exacerbated and encouraged to obscene proportions by liberalism, which is a cultural influence.

Your second point seems to be that religion trumps everything and is the sole decisive influence in childhood. While I do not for a minute deny it’s importance, culture is more than religion. While the art, ceremonies, literature and political institutions of any given culture are shaped by the prevailing religious worldview, they also have roots that extend backward into time and express to some degree racial characteristics. So while the Presbyterian black couple and the Presbyterian white one may teach their children the exact same metaphysics, their children will seek affirmation and concrete expression of those beliefs to some extent in the cultural practices and celebrated figures of their own race. I strongly believe a child of yours raised by a white couple will not feel fully at home.

TM writes:

I have been following your threads on inter-racial marriage with some interest. Like many of your commenters, I feel that the media, in its creative productions as well as in its commercials, is trying to “normalize” (or force down our throats) inter-racial couples, particularly of the black male-white female pairing, and like commenter Karl D., I would consider a prior relationship with a black man to be a red flag in a woman I was considering dating. However, commenter Paul’s reluctance to date a Hispanic woman, commenter Shefalia’s discussion about Indian racial mating preferences, and commenter Michael D’s discussion about some New Zealanders’ stigmatization of white-Asian couplings raises a question for me – exactly what is meant by “interracial” coupling?

I am Ashkenazi Jewish, married to a Mexican-American woman with predominant European ancestry, and if I were single would have no hesitation dating a woman of Asian or Indian (subcontinent) descent. However, for me, the bright line is white race – black race. Clearly Paul would have drawn the line at dating somebody like my wife (no offense taken) and it sounds as if Michael D knows of individuals who would not date an Asian. Undoubtedly there are many Christians who would not get involved with somebody who was Jewish (and vice versa), and in Israel, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews have tended to marry within their group.

I just wonder how much of this sorting for mating is racial versus cultural, and of the component that is racial, I suspect that each individual has an internal “map” of race. Using Paul as an example, his map would separate “white” from “Hispanic;” his “white” category might or might not include Asians, for example. My own map would be fairly simple – “black” and “non-black.” It would appear that whether a couple would be considered to be “same race” versus “mixed race” depends upon who is describing them.

Laura writes:

Yes, there are gray areas and culture is a factor. Let’s say Obama were to have married a white woman. Would that be an interracial marriage? I would say, “Yes” mostly because he strongly identifies himself as black. However, let’s say he had the same biological heritage, lived in an overwhelmingly white community and never really identified with a culture that was distinctly different from the prevailing white culture. Would it still be an interracial marriage? Certainly, it wouldn’t seem so much so, right?

So cultural choices are a factor and the nature of the particular society in which a marriage occurs is a factor. Let’s say your wife was part of a very Hispanic community in which people spoke Spanish among themselves and strongly identified with Mexico. You would probably more clearly feel yourself to be part of an interracial marriage.

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