Sunday, August 19, 2007

Black Women White Men, White Women Black Men - interracial relations

Lynn Norment


AS we head into the new millennium, marrying mitt dating across cultural lines seem to be increasing at record rates.

Almost anywhere you go these days, you will encounter mixed-race couples: at the grocery store, the mall, the theater, at a company function, at: a concert, even at church. And while for years the Black man-White woman couple was more prevalent, today many social observers say that the pairing of Black women and White men is just as common.

That certainly seems to be the case in cities such as St. Paul-Minneapolis, where interracial couples long have thrived. But the social trend also is quite evident in other large cities such as Chicago and New York, Atlanta and Detroit, where there is a noticeable and striking increase in the number of mixed-race couples, especially Black women with White mates.

In movies, on television and even on Broadway, the theme of interracial love has become en vogue. Wesley Snipes has starred in a number of movies in which his love interest was not Black: jungle Fever, One Night Stand and U.S. Marshal. The popular sitcom Ally McBeal has the lead character bemoaning a lost love, a Black doctor. Last year, Whitney Houston's production of Cinderella starred Brandy in the title role but the prince was not Black. And a new Broadway musical, Marie Christine, revolves around a relationship in the 1800s between a Black woman (Audra McDonald) and a White sea captain.

"Interracial couples are more noticeable and prominent than ever," says a Midwest-based author who has observed the changes in social trends for some 40 years. "But the recent numbers of Black women being escorted by White men is, well, startling, to say the least."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1997 there were 311,000 interracial (Black-White) married couples, more than six times as many as in 1960. Of those, 201,000 were comprised of a Black husband and White wife, while there were 110,000 couples in which the husband was White and the wife Black. Some estimate that today 10 percent of married Black men have mates of another race.

Some social observers say that the increase in cross-cultural relationships is tied directly to the breakdown of school and residential segregation and the 1967 overthrow of the last laws. That year the U.S. Supreme Court unconstitutional laws barring racial intermarriage in states. A mixed couple in Virginia had challenged the state's 1924 antimiscegenation statute in response to their being forced by local law officials to live apart, to jail or leave the state.

In addition, most grade schools and colleges are integrated, and so are workplaces and neighborhoods. Many middle-class Black kids grow up in affluent White areas and socialize with White kids from kindergarten on. When they adolescent and teen years, they naturally are attracted to those within the same social circles in which they and in which they are comfortable.
Alvin Poussaint, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard School, says there is an increase in interracial marriages this time because Black people are moving more more into what he refers to as the "mainstream of American society," and social barriers are dissolving. He and others also say that taboos against interracial dating and marriage are easing.

"Some of the negative attitudes toward interracial marriage have been lifted considerably," says Dr. Poussaint. "Today you see young people watching MTV [where they see Whites and Blacks interacting in the music videos]. You see more mixed dating and mixed couples. This has become less taboo. You also see an easing of a kind of Black-consciousness mentality. There is not the same kind of pressure on Blacks who are thinking about dating or marrying interracially. That is easing up and allowing people to feel more accepted. When you go to a Links ball or to the Boule, you see people who are interracially married. No one tells them that they can't be accepted into the social group because they have married outside the race. Since there is no social sanction in the Black community, people feel free to say, `I like this person and this is what I want to do, so I'll do it.'"

The specific reasons behind the escalating trend of dating and mating across color and racial lines vary from individual to individual. Some Black women say they were attracted to their White spouses because they had found it difficult to meet Black men on their social and income levels. Others say their mates treat them well and share common interests.

Some people seem to simply prefer to date people of another race. For instance, Robert DeNiro has had two Black wives and has dated a number of Black women, including models Naomi Campbell and Tookie Smith. O. J. Simpson continues to demonstrate a preference for White women, and Whoopi Goldberg consistently dates White guys.

While interracial mating is more accepted in today's society, there nevertheless are stereotypes and other negative aspects to be considered. Society in general has a history of frowning on Black-White marriages, and despite integration elsewhere, many people in the White as well as the Black communities do not approve of integration in the bedroom. In many cases, couples who fall in love and marry outside their cultural group are disavowed by their families, shunned by friends and insulted by strangers. One Black woman who is married to a White man tells how she and her husband were greeted with the proclamation, "Remember O. J.!" when they encountered a group of Black youths. A city judge who is married to his second White wife said he would rather not be quoted by name in this story. "Sisters already are I don t want to upset them further," he said. A Black sports coach expressed a similar sentiment.

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