Interracial romance has been a point of contention in America since the first English settlers established colonies in the 17th century.The reason interracial marriage was banned in 1664 was over questions of whether the offspring of a black slave and a white person would be considered a free person or property.Soon after Maryland passed its anti-miscegenation law, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina passed their own laws.In 1691 Virginia outlawed interracial couples and labeled their children as “that abominable mixture and spurious issue.”After the 13th Amendment to the U.S. constitution abolished slavery, many southern states instituted what were known as the “Black Codes.” In addition to stripping freed slaves of most of their newly-acquired rights, these codes continued the prohibition of marriage between blacks and whites.This was based on the commonly held notion that Africans, and Native Americans as well, were inferior races and interbreeding would pollute the white gene pool.When Congress tried to overrride the “Black Codes” by issuing a series of laws from 1866 to 1875, the U.S. Supreme Court declared most of the legislation void and upheld the southern states’ right to outlaw interracial marriage.
Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman, went to Washington, D.C., which did not forbid interracial marriage, to get married. When they returned to their Virginia home, they were arrested and convicted of violating Virginia’s antimiscegenation statute. Under Virginia’s law, the 1-5 year prison sentence for marrying across racial lines applied even if the couple was married in a state that allowed interracial marriage. The Lovings were sentenced to one year in prison.For 9 years after their arrest they waged a legal battle through the courts, and in 1967 the Supreme Court reversed the Lovings’ convictions. “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State,” wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren in Loving v. Virginia. The Supreme Court decision effectively invalidated all existing antimiscegenation legislation.
Many social scientists credit both immigration and racial integration, which have both increased the amount of contact that young adults have with people of different racial backgrounds, with the growing prevalence of interracial dating and marriage.Also, as a result of being raised during the Civil Rights era and the 1960’s, many of today’s parents have a much more liberal attitude toward interracial dating.However, although the Census Bureau statistics indicate a rapidly growing acceptance of couples who date across racial boundaries, there are a considerable number of people who do not accept interracial romance as a legitimate choice.
African Americans who oppose interracial dating contend that those who date or marry outside of their race are betraying their families and abandoning their cultural heritage. Many believe interracial marriage erodes the solidarity of the African American community.Author Lawrence Otis Graham feels that “interracial marriage undermines [African Americans’] ability to introduce our children to black role models who accept their racial identity with pride.” Graham also fears that biracial children will turn their backs on their black heritage when they discover that it is easier to live as a white person.Conservative whites oppose interracial marriage for a different reason. The rise in interracial births, combined with increased immigration, will make white people a minority by the middle of the twenty-first century. Some feel that this “browning” of America will lead to the eventual eradication of European-American culture.Syndicated columnist H. Millard believes that “we are seeing the death of the American and his replacement with a non-European type who now has enough mass in our society to pervert European-American ways.: Millard also contends that if the current trend in interracial relationships and births continues, the white race will eventually become extinct. According to Millard, “white people…are going to have to struggle mightily to survive the Neo-Melting Pot and avoid being part of the one-size-fits-all human model. Call it what it is: Genocide and extinction of the white genotype.”
The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss theorized that human civilization is based on kinship via the “exchange of women” between family groups, a theory supported by studies of the Westermarck effect, which biologically precludes children brought up together from being sexually attracted to one another. Therefore, early groups would either trade for or capture women from outside groups, both in order to keep the gene pool from becoming inbred, and because outside women were more sexually attractive to the inside-group males.
In the 19th century, colonial activity was at its height. Young middle class men of that time couldn’t get married to respectable girls until they’d made their fortunes, and the way to make their fortunes was to go off to whatever colonies their country had. While staying in the colonies, they’d meet native women who were very different from the white women back home. Both because these men found the native women mysterious and provocative because of their difference, and because the men had the power and could, sexual relationships, sometimes consensual, sometimes not, were initiated.The more we move away from our racist past, there is a desire to be more than just a superficial tourist or a white sahib. When we encounter a different culture that we find appealing, we often find ourselves wanting to belong. There are two ways through a woman to belong to a culture: your mom belongs to the culture and gives birth to you so that you also belong, or you can have a lover in the culture, and in so doing, take some of the identity of your lover upon yourself in order to belong.There are certain cultural or racial groups that seem to be the “fantasy woman” or “fantasy man” for members of other groups. Think of the alluring Asian woman; the Latin lover; the mysterious and spiritual Native American lover of either sex; the hot African American lover; the passionate Italian; the romantic Frenchman or woman.Who are some pop stars—singers, models, actors…who might be fetishized because they’re culturally different and therefore exotic, have an air of mystery or seem so very sexy? Notice that sexiness somehow always plays into this desirable Other.
In wars, soldiers who are being trained are taught to call the enemy by negative, insulting names like “gook” or “raghead”. This is done to objectify them, so that they are not seen as individual people with families and real lives, but as empty symbols of the bad guys.During the era of colonial occupation of countries by imperial countries such as England, France, the Netherlands, or the U.S., the occupiers saw the natives of the country they were occupying as less than themselves. Visualize the British in India, for example. They were waited on and served by Indian people, and they weren’t necessarily unkind to them, but they didn’t respect them as equals. They had negative names for them that had to do with their dark skin or their cultural practices. It was felt the Indian people weren’t as smart as their British occupiers, and that it was normal for the British occupiers to live a lifestyle to suit themselves, no matter how it impinged on the native people of the country they were occupying. The natives were seen as less civilized, and if the British way of living in their country was displeasing to the natives, too bad. Now take this analogy and crank it up a few notches to understand the occupation of certain African countries and the country that became the United States. The occupiers didn’t just condescend to the natives; they killed them. It was the intent of the occupiers to exterminate the indigenous peoples of these countries because they were seen as pests in the way of progress, not as fully human beings.This last sense of the Other might be taken as a positive sense, that is, the lure of “jungle fever” or “tepee fever” or whatever other joke we might make about attraction to someone different from us, but the fact is, this kind of “othering” is not positive either. There is still the factor of objectification involved in this sense of Other. Are we attracted to someone because of their humanity? Granted, attraction between people often starts with the physical, and everyone gets attracted to hot guys or girls. But are they hot because they have beautiful eyes, great hair, a lovely face….or are we attracted because the other person is “white”….”black”….”Asian”…..that is what is meant by this kind othering….being attracted to someone as a representative of a large class of people. Are they mysterious to us because there is so much to learn about this one, fascinating person, or are they mysterious because they belong to a mysterious, unknown group?
What does this mean in terms of how their relationship will function? Think of all these factors:How are decisions made between them?How are their communication styles different? Does one want to discuss and analyze everything? Does one just want to be quiet and think their way through it? (Does this sound like a typical relationship anyway?)How are their values different?What is the role of the family to each of them? How much interference or independence from family does each of them expect?If they are living together, how does their cultural background impact the chores they do around the house? What about gender roles?If they face problems as a couple, to whom do they turn for help? Family? Or a professional couples counselor?If they have children, will parenting tasks be shared, or done mostly by the mother? How much input will the in-laws have? What conflicting beliefs about education might they have? How will children be disciplined, and who will discipline them?
Be thinking of all the couples you know; couples in your parents’ generation and in yours. Make some notes and do some thinking for your small-group discussions next time.
L 5 Cross Cultural And Interracial Relationships
Cross-Cultural, Interracial and
• First recorded ban of interracial marriage in
1664 in Maryland.
• Even after slavery was abolished in 1865, anti-
miscegenation* laws continued.
*miscegenation (MIS si ge NA shun) –
interbreeding of mixed racial or ethnic stock
Loving v. Virginia
• The case of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter,
1958…this is just 50 years ago!
Increased Prevalence of Interracial
• Mixed-race marriages rose from 300,000 in
1970 to 1.2 million in 1990.
• Between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of
African-American/White marriages tripled.
• 65 percent of Japanese-Americans marry
outside their race.
• 75% of Native Americans marry someone of a
different ethnic background.
• At least 57% of American teenagers have
dated someone outside their race.
• An additional 30% have said they would
consider dating someone outside their race if
the opportunity arose.
Who Opposes Interracial Dating and
• Some African Americans
• Conservative Whites
Support for Interracial Dating
• Proponents of interracial relationships, from all
races, contend that interracial romance is a step
toward eliminating racial hatred.
• Proponents also assert that color should not
matter when it comes to love.
• Martin Luther King: People should be judged, not
by the color of their skin, but by the content of
The Creation of “the Erotic Other”
1. The legacy of colonialism
2. The desire to really belong to a group
3. Socially-constructed desirability – fetishizing
Who is “The Other?”
1. A faceless enemy, or
2. Someone (or an entire people) who is not
seen as a person in the same way we see
3. Someone different from us (and therefore
• Dating, “living together,” or marriage between
people from different religious faiths.
• This may be “no problem” for many people,
but for some it is a BIG issue.
Relationship where the partners come from
cultures with significantly different styles; i.e.,
• High context/low context
Are Relationships so Easily
• Of course not!
A relationship may be both interracial, cross-
cultural, and interfaith, or any combination