Sunday, October 7, 2007

Love comes in all colors

Interracial couples face all the challenges other couples face - and then some
Before they got engaged, Sherrell Larkin and Jesse Kuhns discussed how their relationship might be affected by one significant difference. They decided it didn't matter that he's 13 years older.

As for the even more obvious difference - she's African-American, and he's white - the Mount Lookout couple says that had no bearing on whether to spend their lives together.

"She has a great personality, strong beliefs that are aligned with mine, great outlook on life, wants to make the most of her life, loves to travel, and we are compatible in many ways," says Kuhns, 36. "Oh, and she is absolutely beautiful!"

"Our (June 2008) marriage reflects how our culture is becoming more integrated," says Larkin, 23, a graduate student in human resources at Purdue University.

Indeed, 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws that ban interracial marriage, such unions are much more common and more accepted in this country.

Mixed-race and interethnic couples might still face challenges ranging from subtle discrimination to objections from family and friends to concerns about how their children will fit into society. But interracial marriage isn't the taboo it once was. Consider:

Twenty-two percent of Americans reported having a close relative who is married to someone of a different race, according to a Pew Research Center survey in late 2005.

Marriages between whites and members of other races increased almost five-fold between 1970 and 2000, from 233,000 to 1.1 million, Census figures show.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans say they approve of marriages between blacks and whites, according to a June Gallup survey. Gallup says that is evidence of "a sea change in public attitudes about interracial marriage," noting that in 1958 only 4 percent approved of such unions.

The pivotal year was 1967. Hollywood set the table with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," a groundbreaking movie about a white woman bringing her fiancé - a black doctor - to meet her parents.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Loving v. Virginia overturned interracial marriage bans in 16 states.

Since then, "with each decade, (interracial marriage) has become more accepted," says Jaslean J. La Taillade, an assistant professor of family science at the University of Maryland who studies interracial relationships.

Among the reasons cited by Zhenchao Qian, an Ohio State University sociologist:

More diverse colleges and workplaces. .

Income gaps among races have narrowed, and more minorities live in what once were white neighborhoods.

Also, older generations have given way to younger, more tolerant people.

They include Greg Lynch, a 32-year-old Norwood resident who grew up with diversity. He's white, and originally from New Jersey, where he attended grade school in a predominantly Hispanic area. A nearby town was heavily populated by Asians.

In August he married a Hispanic/Asian woman he met in college, Mareika Kobayashi, who is also 32. Her mother hails from the Dominican Republic and her late father was Japanese.

"I got the best of both worlds with one woman," Lynch says.

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