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Harrowing scene from Imitation of Life

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Published on Nov 29, 2013

The so-called "one-drop rule" was enacted into American state laws in the early 20th century. The idea was that anyone with any amount of African ancestry, even just "one drop of blood," would be legally deemed to be black. Furthermore, interracial marriage was widely thought to be so bad that laws criminalizing it were in the books in 30 states until the mid-20th century and after this movie was made.

Consider what life was like for the people who were represented by the characters in this scene. In that time period, many white men were disgusted by interracial relationships. Thus, not only did mulatto people have to worry about discrimination in general because of things like the one-drop rule, but women of mixed race who were "passable" as white had to fear for their lives when dealing with white men. The movie Imitation of Life might be called a "melodrama," but it portrays an unfortunate reality of mid-20th century life. We may have come to the point where interracial relationships are no longer controversial, but no one ever thinks, let alone talks, about the real-life cases of violent altercations that occurred when bigoted men learned that their girlfriends or wives were legally black. Nowadays, people's notion of the historical controversies over interracial relationships extends no further than imagining that the racists of the past were merely disapproving.

Let's not forget the things like this that actually happened.

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