I was undecided about who the malaka of the week would be until late Thursday afternoon. But not because there was any shortage of candidates: there never are, malakatude is ubiquitous. This week's "winner" hails from Hammond, Louisiana, which is not far geographically from New Orleans but exists in a sort of time warp; especially Tangipahoa Parish Justice Of The Peace Keith Bardwell who grabs the brass ring of malakatude this week. Here's why this hitherto obscure functionary gets the nod:
A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."
Piles and piles of black friends? That's an unfortunate image, it evokes bodies stacked like cordwood. Well, at least they get to pee indoors before getting stacked in piles. Some of my best friends are _____ is also, of course, the classic bigot's answer.
Apparently, Mr. Bardwell has been doing this for years but he finally turned down the wrong couple. I guess he's never heard of Loving v. Virgina, which is the 1967 case wherein the Supremes ruled that the state could not say "stop in the name of love" to interracial couples. Okay, I promise not to make that joke again: the Warren Court struck down Virginia's anti-miscegenation law and the legal walls came tumbling down as it were.
It's amazing how this shit keeps coming back over and over again. Just when we think we've made some progress, some peckerwood pops out of some hole and reminds us how stupid and evil people can be. I'm sure Mr. Bardwell doesn't think he's evil; he's "protecting" children from having polluted and mongrelized genes.
I'm particularly interested in this story because I wrote a paper for a legal history seminar in law school about Louisiana's anti-miscegenation and racial classification laws. It was both an enlightening and appalling experience. The Gret Stet had some very elaborate racial classifications: quadroon, octoroon to name but a few. In the end, however, it didn't matter because one drop of black blood made one inferior in the eyes of the law and society. The laws have changed for the better but some people like Mr. Bardwell haven't kept pace with the times. Life as well as mores move at a snail's pace in Tangipahoa Parish, which of course sounds like a somewhat racy place but is not. Some day I'll learn to resist punning. Nah...
Mr. Bardwell's open defiance of the law and eagerness to share his reasoning with the press makes him a classic malaka. Cluelessness and malakatude often go hand in hand and I suspect that Bardwell will be shocked by the reaction to his actions (inactions?) and by what he's saying to the press in justification thereof. I'll let Injustice of the Peace Malaka have the last word:
"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."
If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.
"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.