Sunday, August 5, 2007

Interracial marriages become steadily more common

By By Carmen M. Hubbard

BUTLER COUNTY — Amoury and Alison consider themselves one in the same. Both are college-educated and grew up in an affluent suburb with parents whose marriages span three decades.

There is, however, one obvious difference: she's white, he's black.
"When we're not together, our (two) children clearly identify our relationship," said Amoury, 37, who has been married to Alison, 33, for seven years.

Interracial couples say they're no different from their same, race counterparts. They work every day and want the best for their children. It's just that one, obvious difference, they say, that most people see.

Scott, 35, who is white, and Sharon, 37, who is black, have been married six years, but still feel stares while shopping or dining out.

"My perception when we came up here is there would be a huge barrier between races. It's much more accepted," Scott said. He and his family moved here 10 months ago from Mobile, Ala.

Both couples live in West Chester Twp. and agreed to speak to the JournalNews on the condition that their full names not be used to shield their young children, their homes and even their client-based jobs.

Psychotherapist and diversity expert Dr. Carole Stokes-Brewer of Fairfield said interracial couples have reason to be protective because of their kind of relationship, which is historically taboo.

"The reality of it is, a married couple who is Catholic and Jewish can go shopping and don't get the stares," she said. "But for an interracial couple, it's going to stand out."
"As a whole, marriage is difficult. Each spouse brings different ideas, different religions, different priorities," she said.

Stokes-Brewer added that interracial couples force those who see them to deal with their own issues of race.

Butler County's rapid economic growth and urban sprawl in the past 10 years have attracted families and couples of all kinds, experts say, yet old attitudes are sometimes slow to change.
"Butler County is a county of extremes," said Dr. Rodney Coates, professor of sociology, gerontology and black world studies at Miami University. "Old Butler County, with cities like Hamilton and Middletown, is homogenous and has old attitudes about what's different from them. Then there's West Chester and Liberty townships. These are part of the new Butler County. This whole section is completely different. If you're upwardly mobile, dealing with differences is less of a problem."

Experts say that studies have shown affluent areas attract greater diversity of culture, religion and lifestyle, which in turn fuels even more economic and creative growth.

"Liberty Twp. and West Chester are more affluent and continue to see a very rich array of diverse cultures in the community," Coates said. "It goes to comfort zone. As long as you stay in these zones, you won't feel uncomfortable walking arm and arm with your partner."

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