There is a refrain from an old love song, which goes: “Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage….” What the song doesn’t say is, “That depends….” Neither love nor marriage necessarily goes together if the two people come from a different race or ethnic group.
While interracial marriages have increased since 1967 when a Supreme Court ruling overturned the right of states to enforce bans on interracial marriages, the vestiges of fear, ostracism, and a discrimination of a different kind from family, friends, and colleagues still reign larger than most of us might realize.
Findings from several recent opinion polls tell the story. One finding of the polls is consistent: The majority of Americans, about 63 percent, support interracial marriages. That number grows significantly, to over 84 percent, when you ask younger people, 29 and under.
But when you examine the data a little closer and get into the details, a totally different picture emerges. This week on NPR (National Public Radio), it was revealed that today, 7.5 percent of all marriages in America are interracial. But race, and maybe racism, still plays a poignant role.
For example, of the interracial marriages: only 0.3 percent of white men are married to Black women; and just 0.8 percent of white women are married to Black men. But contrast that with marriage among whites and other races or ethnic groups. For example: 2.1 percent or white men are married to Asian or Native American women; and 1.4 percent of white women are married to an Asian or Native American man.
While this may seem insignificant on the surface, a few conclusions are clear. There are more interracial marriages between Asian and whites, than Blacks and whites, even though there are millions of more marriages among Blacks than Asians.
Racial barriers remain a major factor among Blacks and whites when it comes to marriage, despite the fact that both groups support the idea. George Yancy, a sociologist at the University of North Texas, found in his research that only 6 in 10 Blacks compared to 8 in 10 Asians or Latinos are willing to date whites. Only 5 in 10 whites said they are willing to date Blacks, which is about the same as Blacks.
This sociologist, along with many of his colleagues, sees this as just one more hurdle to Blacks being able to successfully assimilate into American society compared to other races or ethnic groups — Asians, and Latinos for example. Harvard Sociologist, Orlando Patterson, notes that other minority groups gain great benefits through interracial marriage ranging from exchanging and sharing child-rearing, to educational and cultural traditions.
Perhaps the most disturbing conclusion drawn from the data is that race is still more important than religion, politics, and occupational status when it comes to marriage.
It seems that love does not conquer all…