Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How Far Have Interracial Couples Come?

In 1954 in a small town in Western Pennsylvania, a young white man married a young black woman with whom he had two daughters. They were married for 22 years before she died of leukemia. To date, their union has produced three daughters, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. I am the granddaughter of those brave people. Although what my grandparents did in the racially segregated 1950s was illegal and may seem like a risky feat for the time, over four decades of racial healing later, we may not be much better off.

As recently as 1967, marrying a person of another race was illegal in at least 16 states. Thanks to The Loving Decision, a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which overturned the existing laws against interracial marriages, no one can send an interracially married couple to jail today. In the November 2000 elections, Alabama removed the last remaining traces of anti-miscegenation laws in their state when citizens voted to amend their 1901 Constitution to remove a useless anti-miscegenation law. (Section 102 of their constitution stated, "The legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro.") But a Supreme Court decision can't, in 2000 prevent the snide remarks and disapproving stares that interracial couples sometimes still encounter. While the numbers of interracial marriages increased over seven fold between 1960 and 1992 according to the U.S. Census and are continuing to rise, one still has to wonder just how far we have come.

While it is tempting to limit our view of interracial marriages to the union of a black person and a white person, it is important to recognize that across many other cultures and color lines, as well, ill feelings about interracial marriages run deep. "Traditionalists," those who are opposed to race mixing, exist in nearly every culture in this "melting pot" of America. Commentaries on the subject litter the web as quiet pleas for tolerance, often authored by a victim of intolerance. In an article for the Chinese Community Forum, Xiao Guang talks about the contempt of Chinese men for Chinese women who marry Caucasians. He explains that many Chinese men feel betrayed when Chinese women marry outside of their race, claiming that it "touches [their] deepest resentment." Ayellee Ecarma writes for Filipino Today about the role Filipino parents play in their daughters' love lives, with Filipino fathers often "interrogating" non-Filipino young men who come calling on their daughters. Meanwhile, on the black/white front, there is an undeniable feeling of competition with white women among black women for available black men. And many white women are still looked down upon by white men when they chose to marry a black man. It would seem that rather than healing the wounds that divide us, unspoken feelings are festering and more and more individuals are coming to quietly or not-so-quietly resent the presence of race mixing marriages.

Difficult as it may be to face an ugly truth that haunts us even as we approach a new millennium, addressing the strongly held feelings of many more individuals than we might like to admit is a first step to healing the rift. Education and communication are our best tools for improving what some believe to be a growing problem. Steve Sailor's frank article on the patterns and resentments of interracial marriages for the National Review Online is a good place to start.

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