Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Interracial Marriages Surge Across U.S.

By DAVID CRARY

NEW YORK (AP) - The charisma king of the 2008 presidential field. The world's best golfer. The captain of the New York Yankees. Besides superstardom, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter have another common bond: Each is the child of an interracial marriage.

For most of U.S. history, in most communities, such unions were taboo.

It was only 40 years ago—on June 12, 1967—that the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites. The decision also overturned similar bans in 15 other states.

Since that landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling, the number of interracial marriages has soared; for example, black-white marriages increased from 65,000 in 1970 to 422,000 in 2005, according to Census Bureau figures. Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America's 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.

Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race. "

The racial divide in the U.S. is a fundamental divide. ... but when you have the 'other' in your own family, it's hard to think of them as 'other' anymore," Rosenfeld said. "We see a blurring of the old lines, and that has to be a good thing, because the lines were artificial in the first place."

The boundaries were still distinct in 1967, a year when the Sidney Poitier film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"—a comedy built around parents' acceptance of an interracial couple—was considered groundbreaking. The Supreme Court ruled that Virginia could not criminalize the marriage that Richard Loving, a white, and his black wife, Mildred, entered into nine years earlier in Washington, D.C.

But what once seemed so radical to many Americans is now commonplace.

Many prominent blacks—including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, civil rights leader Julian Bond and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun—have married whites. Well-known whites who have married blacks include former Defense Secretary William Cohen and actor Robert DeNiro.


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