The Historical And Social Meaning Of “The One-Drop Rule”

In 1908, James Weldon Johnson wrote a much-quoted analysis of American racism. At the heart of the American race problem, Johnson argued, “the sex factor is deeply rooted… It may be innate; I do not know. But I do know it is strong and bitter.” The “sex factor,” or white people’s seeming revulsion at the idea of interracial sex and desire to maintain white racial purity, has long been viewed as the key reason whites disapprove of interracial relationships. While these supposedly biological concerns cannot be ignored, they must be qualified. Although whites, especially white women, often disapproved of sex between white men and black women, casual or exploitative interracial sex between white men and black women was not prohibited as long as it involved no serious emotional attachment. As in Strange Fruit, it was emotional relationships rather than sexual relationships between white men and black women that were threatening; white men were not stigmatized or degraded by intercourse with black women.

The idea of sex between black men and white women, however, repulsed most whites and served as an important dimension of the opposition to interracial marriage involving white women and black men. White women, unlike white men, were stigmatized by engaging in interracial sex. They were tainted by the very act of sexual intercourse with a black man, which implied receiving his semen. The use of the metaphor of “blood” to signify race emerged during the slave period and was further codified in miscegenation law and in late-nineteenth-century theories of eugenics. This metaphor held that racial identity was carried in the blood. “White blood” and “black blood” were not only categorically different, but “black blood” always trumped or dominated “white blood.” Having a “single drop” of black blood made a person black. Whiteness was easily corruptible and blackness was all-consuming. This metaphor transformed race into an intrinsic, natural and changeless entity: blood essentialized race.

The language of blood suggested that interracial sex involving white women and black men was far more dangerous than sex between white men and black women. Only men, the assumption went, had the capacity to transfer their blood (through their semen); men were the active spreaders of blood and women the passive receptors. Thus white men could have sex with black women without degrading themselves. White women, however, were tainted through intercourse with a black man, contaminated by his blood/semen. White men could stray and produce half-black children without compromising the “integrity” of the race; the black race might be made more white, but the white race would remain pure and untainted by “black blood.” If white women had biracial children, however, it would make the white race less pure; in short, the survival of the white race depended upon its women, who were designated as the guardians of white racial purity.

Although the metaphor of racial blood conflicted with a postwar critique of the biological basis of race, such ideas still resonated with many whites in the 1940s and 1950s. In his 1944 study of American race relations, Gunnar Myrdal found that whites did not consider the illicit race mixing that went on between white men and black women to be amalgamation, since any offspring would be considered black and would live with their mother. Sex between white women and black men, however, was viewed “as an attempt to pour Negro blood into the white race.” The language of blood was most often used by white southerners to explain their opposition to interracial marriage. Segregationist Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi employed it at length in Take Your Choice, a book he authored in 1947:

“We deplore the conditions which have poured a broad stream of white blood into black veins, but we deny that any appreciable amount of black blood has entered white veins. As disgraceful as the sins of some white men may have been, they have not in any way impaired the purity of the Southern Caucasian blood. Southern white women have preserved the integrity of their race, and there is no one who can today point the finger of suspicion in any manner whatsoever at the blood which flows in the veins of white sons and daughters of the South.”

Bilbo’s construction of racial purity excused white men for any sexual indiscretions while suggesting that white women should be carefully monitored since their actions could be so dangerous. White women had it in their power to end the white genetic line. For white southerners, a southern white minister explained, “the presence of the seed of the Black man in the womb of the white woman was the most dreadful thing that could be imagined.”

Children born to white women and black men represented the trumping of blackness over whiteness. Biracial children were considered black because of the one-drop rule and likely because of their physical characteristics. The white parent’s racial heritage would thus be erased or effaced by the black parent’s input. This was the foundational fiction of the American racial dichotomy—blackness polluted and overpowered whiteness, reflected most starkly in the claim that the children of white women and black men would be “coal black.”

The sexualized stereotypes of black men as lustful, uninhibited, and virile, moreover, raised questions about the virtue and propriety of any white woman who slept with or married them. White women out with black men were often mistaken for prostitutes by both blacks and whites. Although marriage usually legitimated women’s sexuality, especially in the 1950s when marriage experts told the nation that a good marriage required a healthy sexual relationship between husband and wife, interracial marriages continued to carry the connotations of illicit, transgressive sex.

Sexual relationships between white women and black men also challenged the authority and supremacy of white men, politically and sexually, in a way that no relationship between a white man and a black woman could. Although marriages between white men and black women were forbidden by law and custom, white men were far more concerned about controlling and directing white women’s sexual relationships. Women who married blacks not only challenged the racial order but also rejected the authority of their fathers and brothers. Many men saw these relationships as a challenge to their manhood and sexuality, a fight between a black man and white man for the control of the white man’s woman, and they were adamant about preventing relationships that might shame or even “unman” them.

Men sometimes responded to this blow to white masculine authority with murderous hostility. A white father from Norfolk, Virginia, found a 1951 Life magazine story about the interracial marriage of a black jazz musician and a white woman so distasteful that he wrote in to express his disgust. “If my daughter ever entertains such an idea [as intermarrying],” he wrote, “I will personally kill her and then myself, thus saving the state the expense of a hanging. This plan of action has the entire approval of my wife and whole family.” Life did not publish any responses to this horrific threat, which perhaps reflected the not isolated view among white men that a dead daughter was preferable to an “ethnically impure” one. In death, at least, remained some honor.


The Media Disportment Of Reality

Only in a society where race is given primary importance do we even have couples socially constructed as interracial. Still, news reports play up the idea that the numbers of interracial couples are growing, even skyrocketing, and present these unions as so common that interracial relationships barely raise an eyebrow anymore, especially given that America elected Barack Obama, the first black biracial president. Yet according to the latest U.S. Census data in 2000, 94.1 percent of all marriages were between people of the same race, with only 0.6 percent of all marriages between blacks and whites and 0.9 percent of marriages between white men and Asian women. Media attention usually focuses on black-white relationships, even though these unions remain least common, while Asian-white intermarriage is most common, especially between white men and Asian women. If Latinos are separated and counted as a distinct group, interracial marriages between white men and Latinas account for 1.6 percent of all marriages, followed by 1.3 percent of all marriages being between white women and Latino men. Interracial marriages remain a small percentage of all marriages, though media reports may tell us otherwise.


The Internet Trifecta Part Three: The Fear of a Black (Interracial) Planet

Another category of Web sites where interracial sexuality and marriage figure prominently are white supremacist Web sites. These sites are increasingly found on the Internet and are developed by what is commonly referred to as hate groups, who use the Internet to conduct business and recruit members as well as to maintain contact with existing members. There have been identified four different categories of white supremacist thought—the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis, the Christian Identity church, and the militia—with each of these groups sharing an opposition to the mixing of the races. This opposition to interracial sex and marriage comes out of their views on racial superiority and the need to maintain a white power structure. Most of these Web sites code their white supremacist racist language in ways that allow them to argue that this is not hate speech. For example, on the Stormfront Web site a member posted the following: “I do not believe we must push superiority of our race. I think this is a big stumbling block. . . . [Whites] need to be made proud of their culture, then they will feel the superiority which is spoken of so often. . . . You must make the greater calls more subtle.” On these sites the idea of interracial sexuality, especially a black man with a white woman, is widely used to rationalize and justify their ideological positions. A color-blind discourse is not used when discussing the mixing of the races, however. On the contrary, race, whiteness, and racial difference are explicitly discussed. Within the membership requirements of the majority of the Web sites, one not only has to be white—which is defined as “a non-Jewish person of wholly European ancestry”—but one is also ineligible if he or she has a “non-White spouse or a non-White dependent.”A white Aryan Web site outlines hundreds of goals and problems and argues that “racial mongrelism is evil—racism good. . . . Racial homogeneity protects good civil societies from disintegration and collapse, and is the very foundation for beginning civilization itself.”

A major tenet of the white supremacist movement and their Web sites is the perceived threats to whiteness and, in actuality, white power. Interracial sexuality threatens whiteness and white identity because through interracial relations, biracial children, who blur the racial boundaries, can be produced. Race mixing is seen as a way “not to ‘save’ or ‘redeem’ Whites, but to destroy them completely. One Web sites argues that “the purpose of the South’s Jim Crow laws were for keeping black males’ natural proclivity for rape, robbery and murder corralled; anti-miscegenation laws were to prevent contamination of the white race by those heritable proclivities.”

These sites also advocate that something must be done to stop “racemixing.” The National Alliance clearly states that “after the sickness of ‘Multiculturalism’ . . . has been swept away, we must again have a racially clean area of the earth for the further development of our people. . . . We must have no non-Whites in our living space. . . . We will do whatever is necessary to achieve this White living space and to keep it White.” While these hate groups and white supremacist sites may seem extreme in their portrayal of interracial unions as deviant, unnatural, and undesirable, their views actually derive from white mainstream thought and should be understood as an example of racialized discourse. For example, a connection of these sites to the pornographic sites are clear. Both draw from the image of black men seducing and having sex with white women, even if the images are used for different purposes or most likely have different meanings for the viewer. This only points to how ingrained the ideas and discourses on black-white sexuality and relationships are, where the images are reproduced in many different ways. The white fear of black men having sex with white women, which began during slavery, continues today and is used to justify the ideas and actions of white supremacist groups and to provide sexual pleasure on pornographic sites.

Looking at the Internet provides another lens through which to see the images and ideas about interracial couples that exist in society. Ebay, the “world’s online marketplace,” where one can literally buy anything, actually encompasses all of these images. A search for “interracial” on Ebay generally yields about fifteen to twenty items that can be categorized as celebratory, sexual, or racist. The celebratory items—“interracial wedding cake toppers,” interracial figurines with a white and black individual embracing, pictures and paintings of interracial couples, and even an occasional copy of Randall Kennedy’s Interracial Intimacies—serve as reminders of how unusual interracial couples are and how difficult it is to find products that feature an interracial couple in mainstream venues, therefore the need for online sales of items such as interracial wedding cake toppers. Ebay, like the rest of the Internet, markets and sells interracial unions in particular ways.

In short, these two types of Websites and their underlying ideologies paint a picture in which color and race are both everything and nothing. Race and racial difference is explicitly outlined on the white supremacist sites, and to some extent the pornographic sites, the sites promote the idea that interracial couples are deviant. There is no discussion of racial inequality, unless in a distorted and historically inaccurate way. To a large extent, the Web sites reflect the dominant ideologies about black-white couples in the larger society: interracial couples are not the norm or most people’s preference; the couples are overtly sexual or sexually deviant; and the relationships create problems such as children. Furthermore, it is evident that many sites consider interracial couples as deviant—a fetish to be watched or a problem to be fixed. Whatever they may be, interracial unions are not the accepted or expected norm of society.


The Internet Trifecta Part Two: Interracial Pornography And Cuckoldry

In the billion-dollar Internet porn network, interracial sex is a hot commodity. The majority of so-called interracial sites tend to showcase white/ black sex, with Asian and Latino sex acts being categorized separately or on different sites. Most sites focus on either white men with black women or black men with white women, but what is often unclear is the race of those producing the images.

On the Internet, black-white sexuality is fetishized, an erotic spectacle that individuals seek out. As one Web site states, “your interracial prayers have finally been answered.” Interracial sex is marketed as a fetish or specialty sex act like shemales, gangbangs, animal sex, foot fetishes, and sadomasochism, among many. The black-white sexuality performed online, like black-white couples in society, are under a dominant gaze, which posits same-race, heterosexual couples as the norm.

Not only is black-white sexuality marketed as a specialty act, but the sex acts and scenarios draw from historical images and beliefs about blacks and interracial relations. One major theme is the “cuckold genre,” where the images and stories involve white men’s wives having sex with black men. For example, at BlackBachelor.com (subtitled Interracial Slut Central) the feature states, “Meet Amanda a Pregnant bored housewife has been fucking young black stud while hubby is away!” Note how the only raced person is the black man, whereas the wife and hubby, who are presumably white, do not need to be racially marked. This depiction of white women and black men appears in many of the sites dedicated to black-white porn. Another site features the caption, “My wife loves BLACKMEN . . . and she loves to make me WATCH while she has sex with them.” Some even play on slavery images, using the language of “slut wife/slave and black master,” which distorts the historical realities of white masters raping black women. For example, one site uses cartoon images, with one very graphic and stereotypical depiction of what they call “A Black Breeding Girlfriend,” a cartoon image of a pregnant white woman giving a black man oral sex while a white male servant watches with his penis chained. Yet in these sex fantasies (which mainly seemed to be produced by white men for white men), it is the white women who are raped or who willingly submit to sexual acts with black men. Some sites offer private parties for those interested in interracial sex, such as Cynara Fox’s First Interracial Gangbang, which features porn star Cynara Fox (a white woman) and Amber, “a regular [white] bored housewife,” having sex with multiple black men. The site claims they are so popular that the “Interracial Gangbang crew” has begun booking private parties.

Beyond the white slut wife theme, the imagery of young pure white women being seduced by big black men is prominent. For example, numerous sites feature captions such as “innocent college girls get fucked by massive black cocks.” Many of these interracial porn sites focus on white teens engaging in sexual acts with multiple black men, with captions such as “going black.” Again, the race of the white girls is not mentioned, while the blackness of the men is emphasized. Many of the sites feature stories to accompany the pictures. In particular, one site promises “black cock sucking sluts,” and the webmaster writes stories to accompany graphic pictures: “ I know I’m going to hell when I die. . . . But I can’t help it. . . . I love to film these cute girls fucking and sucking these fucking huge black cocks. . . . A friend of friend that told me that ‘she prefers black guys.’” This site is produced by a white man who says he has an obsession with seeing and filming white women with black men. All of the captions that accompany the pictures are derogatory and often racialized.

Furthermore, these racialized and sexualized images are similar to the historical incidents where white men argued against racial integration and equality because it would lead to black men having sex with white women. What is apparent on these sites is that black-white sexuality is not the norm. Most important, these sites draw from dominant images of black men as sexual threats with large penises and of white women as weak and unable to resist black men.


The Internet Trifecta Part One: Portrayal On The Web

A black person and a white person coming together has been given many names—miscegenation, amalgamation, race mixing, and jungle fever—conjuring up multiple images of sex, race, and taboo. Black-white relationships and marriages have long been viewed as a sign of improving race relations and assimilation, yet these unions have also been met with opposition from both white and black communities. Overall, there is an inherent assumption that interracial couples are somehow different from same-race couples. Within the United States, the responses to black-white couplings have ranged from disgust to curiosity to endorsement, with the couples being portrayed as many things—among them, deviant, unnatural, pathological, exotic, but always sexual. Even the way that couples are labeled or defined as “interracial” tells us something about societal expectations. We name what is different. For example, a male couple is more likely to be called a “gay couple” than a gender-mixed couple is to be called a “heterosexual couple.”

The Internet is a particularly interesting social arena that symbolizes for many the future of interaction and society. The images and discourses around black-white unions on the Internet can serve as an important data source that—like the transcript of an interview—can be read and analyzed for content and meaning, including the social, cultural, and political interactions that take place online. The meaning and significance of these Internet discourses and images are “social products in their own right, as well as what they claim to represent.”

The word “interracial” returns thousands of results with search engines such as MSN, Google, Yahoo, and Excite. Surfing through these sites, one can find individual Web pages of interracial couples, large multiracial support sites such as Interracial Voice or the Multiracial Activist, or even pornographic Web sites for those who want to see interracial sex. Based on an extensive review of Web sites where black-white couples or interracial sexuality figure prominently, interracial Web sites can be grouped into three main categories: multiracial organizations/support sites; pornographic Web sites and dating sites; and hate group sites. These very different types of Web sites do not simply represent individual views but are part of the reproduction of certain images and ideas about black-white unions that draw from contemporary societal views. The Internet, like society, has a complicated relationship with black-white unions, accepting them in theory but opposing them in practice.


Black Men, White Women And The Hollywood Shuffle

On-screen, interracial relationships between white women and African American, Latino, or Asian men occur so infrequently that it can be argued that there is an implicit censorship of these unions that demonstrates how certain subjects are rendered outside the realm of what is speakable. Even films that do pair a white woman with a man of color tend to keep the relationship platonic or avoid showing any intimacy in their relationship. For example, interracial weddings are rarely seen or celebrated on-screen, even though weddings are a particularly popular tool used in Hollywood films to end a movie or serve as a backdrop of the narrative. Since weddings legitimize and solidify relationships, the avoidance of legitimizing interracial unions through marriage can be read as a symbolic ban, like the legal ban on interracial marriage overturned in 1967 by the Supreme Court.

Prominent black actors such as Cuba Gooding, Jr., Will Smith, and Denzel Washington have commented on Hollywood’s tendency to avoid the issue of interracial intimacy and the hesitancy of white executives to place a black male lead opposite a white female lead for a romantic story line. When Denzel Washington was asked how people would react to a black man and white woman in bed on-screen, he replied “I don’t know. . . . I wouldn’t do it just for the reaction. If it’s a good story, I’d do it. . . . I haven’t turned down any scenes like that because I haven’t been offered any. So again that’s a question for some guys [waves his arm toward the Hollywood Hills] behind those big gates.” While black male actors are often blamed or rumored to avoid love scenes with a white woman, Denzel Washington, as well as Will Smith and Cuba Gooding, have all acknowledged that it is the filmmakers who make these choices.

In Hollywood today, a black man kissing a white woman is still largely a taboo as far as studio executives are concerned, as evidenced in the large number of movies that pair a black man opposite a white woman that do not include a romantic relationship. Films based on books that contained an interracial relationship, such as The Pelican Brief and Kiss the Girls, altered the story lines from the books they were based on to eliminate any sexual tension or relationship between the white and black lead actors.

In The Bone Collector, Washington played opposite Angelina Jolie, where they did exchange sexual innuendos, yet there was no danger of the two actually having sex since Washington’s character was a quadriplegic who couldn’t leave the house. The Oscar-nominated and popular box-office black actor Will Smith has also been paired against white women in movies such as Men in Black and I, Robot, yet the closest it came to a romantic or sexual encounter in either film was suggestive comments. This phenomenon occurs in a string of films such as Murder at 1600 (1997) with Wesley Snipes and Diane Lane and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) with Samuel Jackson and Geena Davis.

As some have argued, Middle-class American family norms include a guarantee against miscegenation and interracial sex is most problematic if it involves a white woman, given the gendered way that white women paired with men of color are often rendered outside the realm of possibility while white men paired with any woman is a possibility.

For example, in the popular 2005 romantic comedy Hitch, Will Smith plays a “love doctor” who helps other men get women to fall in love with them, focusing on his work with an awkward white guy in love with a beautiful blonde. While able to help other men by teaching them his moves, Will Smith clumsily pursues a character played by Cuban American actress Eva Mendes. As Hitch director Andy Tennant argues, “Unfortunately, if you paired Will with a white woman, that would overpower the romantic comedy. It would suddenly become an interracial love story, and that wasn’t the movie we were making.” Will Smith also commented on the racial politics of casting in an interview with a British paper, the Birmingham Post while promoting Hitch overseas:

“There’s sort of an accepted myth that if you have two black actors, a male and a female, in the lead of a romantic comedy, that people around the world don’t want to see it. . . . We spend $50-something million making this movie and the studio would think that was tough on their investment. So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up—that’ll work around the world, but it’s a problem in the U.S.”

Therefore, racial policing of on-screen relationships can be tricky business, especially when a black male actor is featured, and the fear of the white producers is that pairing him with a white woman will “overtake” the movie or more likely alienate some, yet pairing him with a black woman would change the film into a “black film.” Rather than acknowledge racism, white directors like Tennant problematize interracial unions and excuse the avoidance of these unions as good storytelling.

Relationships between men of color and white women are rarely depicted as long-term or successful and are often submerged in deviance. Furthermore, interracial sex is used to symbolize a major transformation or turn in the lives of young white women on-screen. This is reminiscent of the way white womanhood was viewed as a potential source of crisis after the Civil War. A number of contemporary movies such as Bad Company, Cruel Intentions, Freeway, Pulp Fiction, and Ricochet include an interracial sexual encounter or relationship, yet it is submersed in a deviant world of crime, prostitution, and inner-city motels.

Too often, interracial relationships symbolize chaos, unevenness, the unknown, fitting right into a postmodern or postpostmodern disarray of lives. Beyond what representations we see, it is more about what we don’t see. Interracial weddings are rarely seen or celebrated on-screen, even though they are particularly popular tools used in Hollywood films to end a movie or serve as a backdrop of the narrative. Since weddings legitimize and solidify relationships, the avoidance of legitimizing interracial unions through marriage can be read as a symbolic ban, like the legal ban on interracial marriage overturned in 1967 by the Supreme Court. There are virtually no films that include a happily partnered white woman and black man within the context of a stable, middle-class world. If a white woman is paired interracially, most often it occurs in a deviant setting, it causes problems, and/or is met with opposition, usually from communities of color who are used to symbolically represent the potential problems.

Protecting white women even in the movies remains a prerogative of the predominantly white male producers who control the film images we see. While the earliest films showed the dangers of interracial sex, with a white woman jumping off a cliff rather than be defiled by a black man, today’s white women who engage in sexual relations with a black man on-screen are also damaged, yet now it is symbolized through drugs, prostitution, and disengagement with school or family.

The representations of interracial unions between black men and white women do little to challenge racial boundaries, and often it is safer to pair a black man with a Latina woman, who is almost, yet not quite, white. Black men can be sexual predators, but they cannot be charismatic sexual partners, especially to white women, as we see in how few romantic movies a prominent star like Denzel Washington has been in. In Hitch, the problem of who to cast opposite Will Smith and the solution of pairing him opposite Eva Mendes shows what filmmakers think will alienate viewers and allows the familiar story to be told of a black man who is sexually savvy and slick teaching a white man how to get a girl without the threat of Will Smith wanting a white woman too (thereby also not posing a threat to the white man who he instead is helping). What emerges is that not only is interracial sexuality involving whites, particularly white women, problematized, it also points to how interracial couplings involving white women and black men, whether fictional or not, are still viewed with distaste in contemporary American society.


Target: Black Men And White Women

While interracial sexuality between all whites and nonwhites is taboo in racists’ discourse, the plethora of images and articles about interracial sexuality focuses almost exclusively on white women and black men. The particular relationships between white women and black men serve and reveal racist male desire. Racists continue to produce and consume detailed images and descriptions of these affairs. The overwhelming number of these images throughout racist discourse, while endlessly attacked, betrays some element of desire on the part of those who obsessively reproduce and read these images.

The image of a white woman with a black man is relied upon throughout the discourse and serves as a powerful metaphor for the “danger” of interracial sexuality. This image has a long, entrenched history. The image of the lustful, dangerous black male is firmly rooted in, and reiterated throughout, American history. This narrative that positions the black male as a constant sexual threat is reiterated and manipulated in contemporary racist discourse. As a signifying system of meaning, a photograph of a white woman with an Asian American man, for example, does not have the same symbolic power. The image of interracial sexuality between a white woman and a black man is pregnant with meaning in the American imaginery. Powerful enough to serve as a symbol of all interracial sexuality, it is all more powerful because it links whatever is being discussed with a whole chain of historical meanings.

Throughout racist discourse, black male sexuality is described as dangerous and animal-like, a threat to the maintenance of the racial boundary. Racist publications are filled with articles about black male crime, especially rapes of white women. Photographs of black men are often published with captions such as “wanted for murder and rape.”

The image of interracial sexuality between a black male and white female is predicated not only on this image of the black male, but also on the specific constructions of white men, white women, and black women. Interracial sexuality between white women and black men symbolizes the ultimate threat and insult to white masculinity.

Black males are defined as a threat to white women and therefore to white masculinity and unrestricted access of white males to white women. White women are defined as innocent, frail, and passive, always in need of white male protection. It is white women who racists believe are at risk of being seduced into interracial sexual relationships. In racist discourse, the battle over racial indentity is fought over the bodies of white women. The female body is figured as the passive turf over which racialized men battle for power.

White women in interracial sexual relationships are depicted as literally raped by black men or mentally brainwashed by pro-race-mixing propaganda spread by Jews, the media, or feminists. White women are rarely held responsible for their actions and instead usually depicted as in need of protection.

Exploring the gendered dimension of the threat of interracial sexuality, a central contradiction emerges: while interracial sexuality is taboo, there are virtually no discussions of white men and black women (or any women of color). Historically, it has only been the relationship between white women and black men that has been feared; relations between white men and black women have been ignored. In this discourse, the absence of any recognition of the latter relationships highlights the same double standard rooted in slavery. Access to all women characterizes white masculinity, and the relationships between white men and black women is not identified as a threat to this. Because of the still-present one-drop rule, from a white perspective, black women can only produce black children.

The narrative of interracial sexuality between white women and black men highlights the intersections of race and gender relations and is pivotal to constructing racialized, gendered identities in racist discourse. It serves as a powerful threat and draws its strength from its centrality to American history and its repeated rearticulations in contemporary mainstream cultural politics.