HAM WAS THE YOUNGEST of Noah's three sons and by tradition the progenitor of the black race.
After the Flood was over and the family had settled down into the wine business, Noah did a little too much sampling one hot afternoon and passed out buck naked in his tent. Ham happened to stick his head in at just the wrong moment and then, instead of keeping his mouth shut, went out and treated his brothers to a lurid account of what he'd seen.
When Noah sobered up and found out about it, he blew his top. Among some other unpleasant things he had to say was a curse to the effect that from that day forward Ham was to be his brothers' slave.
For generations certain preachers have pointed to this text as biblical sanction for whatever form of white supremacy happened to be going on at the time, all the way from literal slavery to separate but equal schools, segregated toilet facilities, and restricted housing.
"The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose," says Shakespeare, and you can just see him standing up there with his paunch and his black robe citing it. As somebody once said, comparing the church to Noah's ark, if it weren't for the storm without, you could never stand the stench within.