Interracial Relations: Marriages The United States has witnessed a considerable amount of social and cultural desegregation between African-Americans and Caucasians. However, despite years of desegregation, social and cultural differences still exist. One of these differences that still exists is in the institution of marriage. Americans have been and are continually moving slowly away from segregation. In the past forty years, a multitude of changes have transformed schools, jobs, voting booths, neighborhoods, hotels, restaurants and even the wedding altar, facilitating tolerance for racial diversity (Norman 108).
In the 1960's, when housing discrimination was outlawed, many African-Americans moved into mainly Caucasian neighborhoods. The steadily growing areas in the west and southwest are least segregated, because these areas never had the entrenched African-American and Caucasian sections of town (Up For Separatist 30). Even more visible signs of desegregation can be seen in the areas of education. A study done by the University of Michigan shows that integration on campuses occurs on a regular basis. The racial lines are crossed routinely; about 50% of African-Americans and 15% of Caucasians reportedly study together. Eating patterns also share the same similarities. At a social level, there has been a steady convergence of opinion on a variety of racial issues.
Since 1972, surveys have asked whether the respondent would favor a law making inter-racial marriages illegal. In 1980, the results showed that 30.1% of Caucasians and 18.3% of African-Americans favor such a law. By 1994, the collected data showed 14.7% and 3.2% respectively. Similar trends have also been observed in busing and even integrated social clubs. (Up For Separatist 30) A simple analysis shows that on the surface desegregation is moving in the right direction.
Notwithstanding these examples of desegregation, a deeper analysis shows that there are still signs of racial discriminations, most apparently seen in the institution of marriage between African-Americans and Caucasians. The United States bureau of the Census reported that in 1987 over 827,000 interracial married couples existed in America, of which fewer than 200,000 of them were between African-Americans and Caucasians (Herring 29). These numbers (census) do not reflect the spread of desegregation very well. If there is such a large spread of desegregation between African-Americans and Caucasians from the past to the present, then the numbers should reflect a much larger count of interracial marriages between these races. This however, is untrue; therefore, there are less apparent barriers African-American and Caucasian couples' face.
One of the major barriers that face these couples does not come from themselves but rather from family disapproval. Lois, a Caucasian woman, and her husband Chuck Bronz, an African-American man, were married in 1960. They have no prejudice about each other and they share the comfortable rhythm of any long married couple. They had no problems with friends because they had a good mix of them from different races, friends who looked at the person not the color. However, they had problems with other people, namely Lois' mother. Her mother had sat her down and asked her why she could not marry her own kind. Lois, of course, stood firm and married Chuck, which unfortunately resulted in the ties between her mother and herself breaking (Kantrowitz 40). Ruben, an African-American Jewish man, married Mary, a Caucasian Lutheran woman. None of Mary's relatives attended the wedding, except for her mother. Mary's father was outraged that he was expected to accept an African-American, and a Jew, into the family (Aunapu 65).
It is not the disfavor of strangers that hurts these couples the most, but rather the disfavor of family. Territa, an African-American woman, had broken up with Todd, her Caucasian husband, several times before getting married because of the initial reaction of Todd's family (Randolph 154). These people nevertheless survived their family disapproval. Fred and Anita Prinzing, both Caucasians, know the troubles of interracial marriage. Both their son and daughter married African-Americans. Fred and Anita responded that they thought that they were not prejudiced, and were proud of it; but when it came to their children, they could not explain their prejudice towards their children marrying African-Americans. The best explanation they could give is that their prejudice is the left over residue of their parents (Gilbereath 32).
Another major barrier that African-American and Caucasian couples encounter comes from an unlikely source, religion. In Earnest Porterfield's classic survey of interracial marriages, one fact stands out. The majority of couples actively involved in Christian churches before marriage discontinue church membership and attendance after marriage. A growing number of couples in America are crossing racial and cultural lines to marry. Every couple has their own crisis but, for some, church officials who are against divorce will turn around and recommend a separation simply because the couple are African-American and Caucasian. In several books of the Old Testament, intermarriage is strongly opposed by God and his prophets. Ezra and Nehemiah, two of Israel's God-ordained leaders, challenged the people to repent over intermarriage and encouraged divorce en masse. They describe intermarriage with those who do not revere God as one of Israel's most offensive crimes. A closer look at the Old Testament, however, reveals misinterpretation. Opposition to intermarriage arises when people of God marry those who worship a God other than Him.
These couples are searching for churches that feel like home. If national trends are any indication, the American churches need to be prepared to face a growing phenomenon. Until that happens, interracial married couples will meet with resistance from religious people who have been reported as saying that if their own children married African-Americans, they would kill them (Perkins 30). The church must repent not only for bad theology but also for failing to protest racist laws in the past (Myra 18).
The law is equally to blame for causing unnecessary tension. A study of thirty nine "middle class African-American--Caucasian" couples in New York found that most of these couples had experienced being pulled over by police who suspected either the African-American women to be a prostitute or the African-American man to be a rapist (Perldns 30). Edger, a Caucasian Jewish man, and Jean, an African-American Baptist women, on more than one occasion have been stopped and arrested by police because they were walking arm in arm (Aunapu 65).
Races have mixed dating back to the Colonial days. Over time, other races have blended with Caucasians without question. African-American mixing, however, has been accountable for the "one drop" theory, which has defined a way to permanently separate African-Americans. The "one drop" theory was reinforced in the landmark Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling in 1896. The Plaintiff, Homer Plessy, argued that segregation was wrong and he should not be discriminated against because, after all, he was only one-eighth African-American. The justices, however, ruled that he must ride in the "separate but equal" coaches reserved for "colored people." Almost a hundred years later, in 1986, the Supreme Court, upheld a decision forcing a Louisiana woman who was only one-thirty second African-American, to be legally declared as African-American (Norinen 108).
Troubles do not stop here for interracial married couples. The problems that are faced by interracial parents are mirrored in their children. On one occasion, the Bronz family had sent their daughter, Shelly, who looks Caucasian, to a pajama party. Mr. and Mrs. Bronz had never met the family, who are African-American, that put up the pajama party and decided that one of them should go to say hello. Chuck, Shelly's dad, knocked on the door and was met with disbelief. The family was surprised that Shelly's father was an African-American (Kantrowitz 40).
Older children of interracial marriage parents also face problems. They have to make a choice as to which parent's culture to adopt. Halle Berry stated that it is important that multicultural individuals make a choice about race early in the life because even if they identify themselves as interracial they will still be discriminated against as a person of color in this country (Norman 108).
Knowing all these barriers and problems, what brings African-American and Caucasian people together? According to a study done by Matthijis Kalniijin, a factor that is consistently associated with intermarriage is social class or status. African-American outmarriage becomes gradually more common when moving up the occupational scale and more common among higher educated African-Americans.
Among Caucasians, the pattern is reversed. It is believed that Caucasians are more likely to marry an African-American spouse when it allows them to marry a partner of high socioeconomic prestige (Kalniijin 119). The appreciation of a partner's beauty and the common, the ability to communicate, and the main reason for marriage, love is what bring them together (Randolph 154).
It can be seen conclusively, that parents, religion and the attitudes of people, in general, are the main causes to the friction in interracial relationships and marriages. It is difficult, if not impossible, to change the attitude of parents, the older generation, to influence the churches to accepting the patterns of new thought and identity. The older generation will not change because their ideas and thoughts have been ingrained in them. The current generation, who are also guilty of causing friction, and the next generation must be educated to understand and accept these patterns of new thought on interracial marriages.
Until these attitudes, that support segregation, are suppressed, and eventually changed, the only way to make changes involving segregation is through education and tolerance. Children of interracial married couples learn tolerance within the family, which allows these children to add their experiences to others, in one way or another.
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