“Such a conflation created a two-race system–whites and ‘others.'” (Deutsch)

When Harjo and his fellow Snakes returned gunfire, two men, including the son of the sheriff, died in the battle. The white newspapers had a field day, vastly inflating the numbers killed and declaring “WAR WITH SNAKES.” Posses roamed the countryside arresting Indians and blacks. They burned Harjo’s house and looted others, under the guise of putting down a rebellion. White papers demanded “protection and Indian suppression”; the mayor of Henryetta declared, “The Snake Indians and the negroes affiliated with them are a menace to the country and should be captured.”[46] The local federal Indian agent maintained that Harjo would have to admit that “this was going to be a white man’s country.”[47]

The white posse and its allies had strategically conflated freedmen from everywhere, blacks of all sorts, and Creek resisters. Such a conflation created a two-race system–whites and “others.” In this case, “blacks” (unlike in the state’s constitution) became “Indians.” Engaging the script of the Anglo western conquest allowed these whites to pose the eradication of a black settlement as a final Indian engagement, a legitimized whitening of the West against a known external enemy.

Sarah Deutsch, "Being American in Boley, Oklahoma," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 97-122 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204) Deutsch, Sarah. “Being American in Boley, Oklahoma,” in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 97-122. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004., 113.
  1. [46]Quoted in Littlefield and Underhill, “The ‘Crazy Snake Uprising,'” pp. 323-24.
  2. [47]Kelsey quoted in Kenneth Waldo McIntosh, “Chitto Harjo, The Crazy Snakes and the Birth of Indian Political Activism in the Twentieth Century” (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1993), p. 136. The troops never found Harjo, who had sought refuge among the Choctaw Snakes and died in 1911.

“The American community has no social technique for handling partly colored races” (Handman, 1930, qtd. in Foley)

Most Anglos in the Southwest did not regard Mexicans as white, but they also did not consider them to be in the same category as “Negro.” Before 1930s many Mexicans themselves simply thought of themselves as “Mexicanos”–neither black nor white. In 1930 a sociologist, Max Handman, commented: “The American community has no social technique for handling partly colored races. We have a place for the Negro and a place for the white man: the Mexican is not a Negro, and the white man refuses him an equal status.”[6] As Handman explained, “The Mexican presents shades of color ranging from that of the Negro, although with no Negro features, to that of the white. The result is confusion.” No one has been more confused than whites themselves over the racial status of Mexicans, because some Mexicans look undeniably “white,” while others look almost as dark as–and sometimes darker than–many blacks. “Such a situation cannot last for long,” wrote Handman, “because the temptation of the white group is to push him down into the Negro group, while the efforts of the Mexican will be directed toward raising himself up to the level of the white group.” Mexicans, according to Handman, would not accept the subordinate status of blacks and instead would form a separate group “on the border line between the Negro and the white man.”

Neil Foley, "Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 123-144 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204), 127.
  1. [6]

“Neither black nor white, Mexicans were usually regarded as a degraded ‘mongrel’ race, a mixture…” (Foley)

The dyadic racial thinking of white southerners and northerners encountered some challenges in the mid-nineteenth century as European whites began their westward march across the continent. In the trans-Mississippi West whites encountered Mexicans in the present-day states of Texas, New Mexico, and California. From their first encounters, Anglos (the term used by Mexicans for white Americans) did not regard Mexicans as [125] blacks, but they also did not regard them as white. Neither black nor white, Mexicans were usually regarded as a degraded “mongrel” race, a mixture of Indian, Spanish, and African ancestry, only different from Indians and Africans in the degree of their inferiority to whites. Indeed, many whites considered Mexicans inferior to Indians and Africans because Mexicans were racially mixed, a hybrid race that represented the worst nightmare of what might become of the white race if it let down its racial guard. Where whites encountered groups who were neither black nor white, they simply created other racial binaries (Anglo Mexican; white Chinese, and so forth) to maintain racial hierarchies, while the quality that made whites superior–their “whiteness”–assumed a kind of racelessness, or invisibility, as they went about reaping the spoils of racial domination.

Neil Foley, "Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 123-144 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204), 124-125.