Rise in Interracial Marriage Reflects More Tolerant Society


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Interracial marriage is becoming more accepted in the United States. In the 1950s, it was a curiosity when celebrity couples got together. For example, Sammy Davis Jr. and actress Kim Novak hid their relationship, afraid of public backlash and the impact it would have on their careers. . When it became public, it was, treated as a scandal.Both parties were pressured to end their relationship, which they did.

Today, roughly 15% of all new marriages in the United States were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another; more than double the share in 1980 (6.7%), according to a report from the PEW Research Center, “The Rise of Intermarriage.”

The study also says Americans have a more positive view of the change. Eighty-eight percent of Americans think intermarriage is either a good thing for society or has no impact. Only 11 percent say it has a negative impact.

The report says, couples formed between an Asian husband and a white wife topped the median earning list among all newlyweds in 2008-2010 ($71,800). ”During this period, white male newlyweds who married Asian, Hispanic or black spouses had higher combined earnings than did white male newlyweds who married a white spouse. As for white female newlyweds, those who married a Hispanic or black husband had somewhat lower combined earnings than those who “married in,” while those who married an Asian husband had significantly higher combined earnings.”

The report also says, “Intermarriage in the United States tilts west. About one-in-five (22%) of all newlyweds in Western states married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010, compared with 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest.”

More than one-third of Americans (35%) say that a member of their immediate family or a close relative is currently married to someone of a different race. Also, nearly two-thirds of Americans (63%) say it “would be fine” with them if a member of their own family were to marry someone outside their own racial or ethnic group. In 1986, the public was divided about this. Nearly three-in-ten Americans (28%) said people of different races marrying each other was not acceptable for anyone, and an additional 37% said this may be acceptable for others, but not for themselves. Only one-third of the public (33%) viewed intermarriage as acceptable for everyone.

Read the entire study, "The Rise of Intermarriage: Rates, Characteristics Vary by Race and Gender."

Interracial marriage has been legal in all U.S. since the 1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates.  But for many decades it was illegal in many states.

U.S. President Barack Obama is the son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father.

Iman and David BowieHistorically, "race mixing" between black and white people was taboo in the United States. So-called anti-miscegenation laws, barring blacks and whites from marrying or having sex, were established in colonial America as early as 1691. The 1691 Virginia law was amended in 1705 to remove Indian-white from the prohibition. Thomas Jefferson's policy proposal for dealing with Native Americans was "to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” He regretted in 1813 that white-Indian war had prevented this: “They would have mixed their blood with ours, and been amalgamated and identified with us within no distant period of time.”

In many U.S. states interracial marriage was already illegal when the term miscegenation was invented in 1863. The first laws banning interracial marriage were introduced in the late 17th century in the slave-holding colonies of Virginia (1691) and Maryland (1692). Later these laws also spread to colonies and states where slavery did not exist.

The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized.

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, also known as Hays Code explicitly stated that the depiction of "miscegenation... is forbidden."  One important strategy intended to discourage the marriage of white Americans and Americans of partly African descent was the promulgation of the one-drop theory, which held that any person with any known African ancestry, however remote, must be regarded as "black." This definition of blackness was encoded in the anti-miscegenation laws of various U.S. states, such as Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving became the historically most prominent interracial couple in the US through their legal struggle against this act.

Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower. Census data showed 117,000 black wife-white husband couples in 2006.

Tiger Woods refers to his ethnic make-up as "Cablinasian" (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian) to describe the racial mixture he inherited from his African-American father and Thai mother.

Authors Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn authors of the new book Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed, encourage dating outside of your ethnic group so you have more options for relationships.

They told the ”August Chronicle” recently that 42 percent of black women will never marry. Seventy percent of black women are single. They say, “Color only goes skin deep. Character is as deep as the soul.”

Read "Five Unexpected Contributors to the Rise of Interracial Marriage" by Christelyn D. Karazin at Goodreads.com.


Visit your local library for these resources:

Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving
Phyl Newbeck, (2004).
The legal challenge mounted by Richard and Mildred Loving, convicted in the 1950s of violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage, led to the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that antimiscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Newbeck, an attorney, examines this landmark case in the context of laws banning interracial marriage before and after Loving. But the most compelling part of this legal history is the personal recollections of a member of the Loving family, who had previously maintained public silence on the issue.  —Excerpt of review by Vernon Ford first published September 15, 2004 (Booklist).

Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption
Randall Kennedy, (2003).
A Harvard law professor and the author of, most recently, Nigger, Kennedy offers a brilliant analysis of one the most controversial areas of American race relations--interracial sex. Kennedy weaves together history, law, literature, politics, and social policy in a searing examination of how blacks and whites have intermixed since Africans were brought to the U.S. as slaves. Beginning with the rape and sexual exploitation of black women by white men, Kennedy examines the underlying myths and stereotypes that have shaped social policy on marriage, identity, and adoption and given rise to the convoluted legal and social structure meant to maintain the racial hierarchy. —Excerpt of review by Vanessa Bush first published January 1, 2003 (Booklist).

Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance
Rachel F. Moran, (2001).
Several million Americans checked more than one race when they completed the 2000 census. University of California at Berkley law professor Moran examines the history of U.S. regulation of cross-racial romance, considering the impact of that regulation on the autonomy of individuals and families as well as on racial identity and equality.  Moran--the daughter of an Irish father and Mexican mother--is attuned to the nuances of race in this polyglot nation, and supplies thoughtful analysis of these nuances. —Excerpt of review by Mary Carroll  first published May 15, 2001 (Booklist).



Robert De Niro and Grace Hightower at the Vanity Fair party for the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. April 17, 2012
by David Shankbone.

Iman and David Bowie at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Moon. April 2009.
by David Shankbone.

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