Intercultural and Interracial Relations

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Interracial Marriages

Mar 1, 2001
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It will broaded your horizons.

Cons:People may reject you for it.

The Bottom Line: America is the land of opportunity, make the most of it.


A multicultural society supports the view that having many distinct cultures is desirable. Multiculturalism succeeds best in a society that has many different ethnic groups and a political system that promotes freedom of expression, awareness and understanding of cultural differences. Ethnic groups bring variety and richness to a society by introducing their own ideas and customs. Interracial marriages introduce such variety. In a perfect world, everyone should celebrate this. However, the world does not look at all marriages as love between two people without regard to their race. If we were truly color blind, we accept interracial marriages. In the beginning little social distinction was made in America on the base of race. However, as the racial justification for slavery developed, there began to creep into the mores a distinction between blacks and whites. One of its first manifestations was the passage of laws against intermarriage. When black servants were reduced to slavery, the colonial governing classes redoubled their efforts to stamp out racial mixing. Miscegenation in this era was not only a serious breach of Puritan morality, but also a serious threat to slavery and the stability of the servile labor force.
The earliest record available against the cohabitation of black-white servants was the case of Hugh Davis, a white servant in Virginia who was sentenced to a public beating on Sept. 17, 1630, before an assembly of blacks and others for defiling himself with a Negro. It was required that he confesses as much the following Sabbath (Burger 10).
The first law to deter racial intermarriage was enacted in the early colonial period. The General Assembly of the Colony of Maryland in 1661 deplored the fact that there were many cases of intermarriage between white female servants and black slaves. It legislated that if any free born white woman intermarried with a black slave; she would have to serve her husband’s master as long as the slave lived (Burger 10-11).
In 1681, a new Maryland law decreed that any freeborn white woman who married a black slave with the permission of the slave’s master could retain her freedom. However, the master or mistress of the intermarried slave and the clergyman performing the ceremony were to be penalized by a fine. This law was an attempt to deter racial intermarriage by shifting the penalty to those allegedly responsible for the action of slaves (Burger 11).
Some other colonies also legislated against black-white marriages. North Carolina in 1715 set up a heavy fine and a period of servitude for any white woman who married a Negro. It also provided a 50-pound fine to the clergyman who officiated. Massachusetts in 1705, and Pennsylvania in 1725 also passed similar legislation (Burger 11).
In the legislatures if several of the states which had no prohibitive laws to prevent black-white marriages, bills to prevent such, were introduced several times in states such as WI, MASS, CONN, WA, KS, MN, IA, IL, MI, OH, PA, NY. Congress also considered bills to prevent this in D.C. The states which had laws against black white marriages followed a similar pattern, mostly southern and western states, while northern ones had no laws. After the U.S. became a nation, eventually 33 states prohibited one or more forms of interracial marriage (Burger 13).
After the adoption of the 14th amendment to the constitution, July 28, 1868, the question immediately arose whether or not state laws prohibiting intermarriage denied colored people the equality guaranteed to them by the amendment. Most cases were decided in State courts and the laws were upheld (Burger 13).

In 1883, the United States Supreme Court upheld a state statute upholding a larger penalty for adultery or fornication when committed by members of different races (Pace vs. Alabama). A similar Florida statute was overturned in 1962, but even as late as 1964 (just 35 years ago folks), 19 states still had these laws existing (with Indiana and Wyoming being the two non-Southern states with laws against miscegenation) (David 1).

A few years earlier, in 1958, Richard Loving, a white bricklayer, married a black woman named Mildred Jeter. As interracial marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia, they got married in Washington D.C. They then lived together in Caroline County, Virginia. Soon after their returning to Virginia, the sheriff came to their home, and they were arrested, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages; a law that dates from the adoption of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, passed during the period of extreme nativism which followed the end of the World War One. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge, and were sentenced to a year in jail. However, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the state of Virginia and not return together for 25 years (David 2).

Forced to move, they returned to Washington D.C. They appealed to then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy to help them from their misery. He pointed them towards the American Civil Liberties Union, where two lawyers took their case (David 2).

On November 6, 1963, they filed a motion in the Virginia state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the ground that the statutes which they had violated held to violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1948, the Supreme Court of California ruled precisely what the Lovings were seeking. But that was California, not Virginia. The motion not having been decided by October 28, 1964, the Lovings filed to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia, where it was denied three months later. They appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals who upheld the law in March of 1966 (David 2-3).

In June of 1967 (still fighting this during the "Summer of Love"!), the case was brought before the United States Supreme Court. “In two previous cases (1954 and 1956) the Court passed on cases dealing with interracial marriage opposed by state laws. This time, the Court acted. The Court decided (with the opinion from Chief Justice Warren) that under our Constitution, the individuals right to marry cannot be infringed upon by the state. The 16 states which still had antimiscegenation laws on their books were forced to erase them” (David 3).

“Interracial marriage did indeed take place before Loving (in 1960 there were 149,000 interracial couples, including 51,000 black/white couples), but since then the numbers have dramatically increased. In the last 30 years, interracial marriages have increased over 400 percent (over 500% for black/white couples)” (David 4).

So far only state laws have been mentioned, but some people follow the law of the bible or their god. In the church, most churches tend to be accepting of any type of marriage, except homosexual marriages, and tend to welcome people in interracial marriages with open arms. From a Christian standpoint there are absolutely no grounds in either the Old Testament or the New Testament to prohibit interracial marriages. Even though there were state laws that did prohibit interracial marriages, the bible did not (James 28).

The final law against interracial marriages was removed on November 7, 2000. Voters in Alabama erased from that state's Constitution a provision dating from 1901 that declared, "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." This declaration represented in one part a desire by white supremacists to express as fully as possible their intention to expunge the racially egalitarian symbols, hopes and reforms of Reconstruction. Although Alabama had never enacted a law expressly authorizing interracial marriage, in 1872 the state's Supreme Court did invalidate the law that prohibited such unions. But it promptly reversed itself in 1877 when white supremacists regained power. The Alabama Constitution's disapproval of interracial marriage, however, had still deeper roots. It stemmed from the presumption that white men had the authority to dictate whom, in racial terms, a person could and could not marry. It was also rooted in the belief that certain segments of the population were simply too degraded to be eligible as partners in marriage with whites. At one point or another, forty states prohibited marriage across racial lines. In all of them blacks were -stigmatized as matrimonial untouchables. In several, "Mongolians" (people of Japanese or Chinese ancestry), "Malays" (Filipinos) and Native Americans were also placed beyond the pale of acceptability (Kennedy 8).

As early as 1970 Alabama was already heading towards abolishing their anti-interracial marriage laws. In 1970, for example, a judge near Fort McClellan, Alabama, denied on racial grounds a marriage license to a white soldier and his black fiancé. This prompted a lawsuit initiated by the US Justice Department that led to the invalidation of Alabama's statute prohibiting interracial marriage. Yet the Alabama constitutional provision prohibiting the enactment of any law expressly authorizing black-white interracial marriage remained intact until the recent referendum (Kennedy 10).

“That an expression of official opposition to interracial marriage remained a part of the Alabama Constitution for so long reflects the fear and loathing of black-white intimacy that remains a potent force in American culture. Sobering, too, was the closeness of the vote; 40 percent of the Alabama electorate voted against removing the obnoxious prohibition. Still, given the rootedness of segregation at the marriage altar, the ultimate outcome of the referendum should be applauded” (Kennedy 10-11).

So far we have seen the law against interracial marriages, but why do interracial marriages take place. For any two racial groups, interracial marriage depends on their opportunities for social contacts. These opportunities, however, are constrained by the
relative size of each group. African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans are far less numerous than whites, and therefore have fewer opportunities to meet one another. Most interracial marriages, therefore, involve whites, who constitute the majority of the population. These opportunities may also differ by region because of the differences in racial compositions in each region.

According to the 1990 census, racial minorities account for about one-third of the population in the West, one quarter in the South, one-fifth in the Northeast, and a little over one-tenth in the Midwest. Therefore, whites should have the greatest opportunities for interracial marriage in the West but the fewest opportunities in the Midwest. Racial minorities, on the other hand, should have greater opportunities for interracial marriage if their share in the region is small. This is because they have fewer opportunities for a comparable spouse within their own racial group as compared to their counterparts living in a region where they have a larger share, and also
because racial minorities living in a region where they have a small share are more likely to be assimilated than those living in a region where they have a larger share (Qian 581-582).

Social contacts among racial groups may also depend on spatial assimilation
for racial minorities. Hispanics and Asian Americans are more likely than African Americans to live in predominantly white neighborhoods. Members of racial minorities with greater educational attainment are likely to be more successful at merging into the socioeconomic mainstream. They also are more likely to meet people of different racial groups on college campuses and in the work place. In contrast, minority members with low educational attainment tend to live in racially segregated neighborhoods and to work in racially segregated job markets. Consequently, members of racial minorities with higher educational attainment are more likely to intermarry than those with less education (Qian 583).

Educational attainment differs for the three racial minorities. According to the 1990 census, Asian Americans are about two-thirds more likely to have completed college than whites, who in turn are twice as likely to have done so as African Americans and more than twice as likely as Hispanics. These racial difference in educational attainment-an indication of inequality of socioeconomic status among racial groups-reflect the degree of "secondary structural assimilation.” Therefore, the more equal in the distribution of educational attainment between whites and one racial minority, the higher the level of interracial marriage. As a result of racial differences in educational composition, the level of interracial marriage with whites may be the highest for Asian Americans, lower for African Americans, and even lower for Hispanics (Qian 583-584).

Another aspect of assimilation is acculturation. Foreign-born minorities are less likely than their native-born counterparts to be acculturated in the main society. People born in foreign countries tend to live in communities with residents from the same country of origin. As a result, they are not familiar with the culture of the host country, nor fluent in English; therefore they are more likely to be isolated from the mainstream society. In addition, they often are less educated, and more likely to face prejudice and discrimination. Consequently, foreign-born minorities are less likely than their native-born counterparts to be assimilated into the dominant culture and less likely to inter-marry. The more recent the immigrants, the less likely that they will intermarry. As a result of the 1965 amendments to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the number of immigrants from Asia and Latin America has increased dramatically. This may slow down the rate of interracial marriage with whites for Hispanics and Asians (Qian 585).

Qian proposed an exchange theory explaining sex differences in interracial marriage. Given that most marriages between whites and African Americans involve African American males and white females, Qian postulated that the African American male who intermarries exchanges his higher achieved socioeconomic position for the white female's higher ascribed racial status position. Although Qian's theory pertains only to marriages between whites and African Americans, his argument about racial differences in status implies that interracial marriage should occur more often between men with higher socioeconomic status from a "lower'-status racial group and women with lower socioeconomic status from a "higher" status racial group. This suggests that African American, Hispanic, and Asian American husbands are likely to be better educated than white spouses. A recent study on interracial marriage between whites and African Americans supports the findings that in the 1970s and early 1980s white women tended to marry African American men who are more highly educated than themselves (Qian 585-586).

It is not surprising that white women marry African American men with higher
levels of education because white women have traditionally married white men who were better educated than themselves. Educational assortative mating among whites in the past five decades, however, has been changing toward greater homogamy. Mate selection, for white inmarriage, has placed more emphasis on mutual economic potential than it used to. If this applies to interracial marriage, two possible patterns could occur. One is that interracially married couples should be as educationally homogamous as intramarried whites if race becomes less important. The other is that whites, regardless of their sex, tend to marry better educated minorities in exchange for their racial status (Qian 586).

Together, the theories stated above provide reasons for the differences in interracial marriage by race, educational attainment, nativity and immigration status, and region of residence.

These days there is such a focus on skin color that it is hard to be in an interracial relationship. However even so, interracial relationships are becoming more and more common. The only sure fire way to kill the stereotypes is for more race mixing to occur. When everyone is everything there is no way to single someone out because of his or her color. While this scenario is ideal, we are a long way away from having that occur. It took us 4 million or so odd years to finally get to a point where races can mix, it’s only occurred really for about 350 years. However being the melting pot that America is, America is in great shape for something like this to occur. With a nation that is arguably the most color conscious country on the planet, this will be hard to achieve, but all the tools are in place to make this country the Interracial States of America.



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