African Americans and whites in the United States have witnessed a large amount of social and cultural desegregation of. Through years of desegregation, however, social and cultural differences still exist. They exist in the institution of marriage. Americans have been and are continually moving slowly away from segregation. “In the past forty years, laws have transformed schools, jobs, voting booths, neighborhoods, hotels, restaurants and even the wedding altar” (Ties that Bind). Since the 1960’s, when housing discrimination was outlawed, many African Americans moved into predominately white neighborhoods. The steadily growing areas in the west and southwest are least segregated, because these areas never had the “entrenched African American and white sections of town” (Afgen).
There are other signs that are visibly seen in the areas of education. A study, done by the University of Michigan, shows that integration on campuses occur on a regular basis. The racial lines are crossed routinely; about 50% of African Americans and 15% of whites reportedly study together and a percentage close to that also eat together. Socially, there has been a steady focus 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. “Since 1901, there has been a ban on these interracial marriages in Alabama” (Afgen). In 1980 the results showed that 30% of whites and 18.3% of African Americans favor such a law. By 1994, data showed 14.7% and 3.2% respectively. Similar trends have also been observed in busing and even integrated social clubs (Ties that Bind). A simple analysis shows that complete desegregation is moving in the right direction.
Regardless of these examples of desegregation, a deeper look shows that there are still signs of racial discriminations, mostly seen in the institution of marriage between African Americans and whites. “By 1996, there were more than 340,000 marriages between blacks and whites, according to the census updates, of which fewer than 1 in 3 interracial marriages were between African Americans and whites in the 1960″ (Ties that Bind). These numbers do not reflect the spread of desegregation very well. If there is such a large spread of desegregation between African Americans and whites from the past to the present, then the numbers should reflect a much larger count of interracial marriages between these races. This is, however, untrue. There are less such barriers African American and white couple’s face today.
One of the major barriers that face these couples does not come from themselves but rather from family disapproval. Ruth, an African American woman, and her husband Steve, a white man, were married in 1982. They have no prejudice toward each other and they share the equal love of any other married couple. Problems did not arise from friends because they shared friendship with people from different races along with those who looked at the person, not the color. However, they had problems with other people, such as Steve’s mother. His mother had sat him down and asked him why he could not marry his own kind. Steve, of course, stood firm and married Ruth, which unfortunately resulted in the ties between his mother and himself breaking away. Robert, an African American man, married Michelle, a White Lutheran woman. Not one of Michelle’s relatives attended the wedding, except for her mother. Her father was furious that he was expected to accept an African American into the family. “It is not the disfavor of strangers that hurts these couples the most, but rather the disfavor of family”(Newsline). “Territa, a African American women, had broken up with Todd, her White husband, several times before getting married because of the initial reaction of Todd’s family “(Newsline). Nevertheless, they did not let their family’s disapproval stop them from continuing on what they had.
In another occurrence, Fred and Anita Prinzing, both white, were aware that interracial marriage brought problems. Both their son and daughter married African Americans. Fred and Anita believed that they were not prejudiced, but as far as their children were concerned, they couldn’t justify the prejudice they felt for their children marrying African Americans. The only way they believed that they could have been persuaded from prejudice was the fact that they had been exposed to it growing up around their parents (Newsline).
Religion is another major barrier that African American and white couples encounter. In A survey done by Earnest Porterfield on interracial marriages shows this point. “The majority of couples actively involved in Christian churches before marriage, discontinue church membership and attendance after marriage” (yahwehshalom). An increasing number of couples in America are crossing this racial and cultural “ditch”. He later states that “A close look at the Old Testament reveals misinterpretation. Opposition to intermarriage arises when people of God many those who worship a God other than Yahweh. 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.”Myra adds ” the church must repent not only for bad theology but also for failing to protest racist laws in the past “(yahwehshalom).
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 Bronzes had sent their daughter, Shelly, who’s physical features resemble an African American, to a party. The Bronzes had never met the family, who are African American, that put up the party and decided that one of them should go to say hello. Chuck, Shelly’s father, knocked on the door and was met with disbelief. The family was surprised that Shelly’s father was a African American (Newsline). Older children of interracial marriage parents also face problems. They have to make a choice as to which parent’s culture to adopt. Halle Beny 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 (Ties that bind). Knowing all these barriers and problems, what brings African American and white people together?
A study of thirty nine “middle class African American and white 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” (Ties that Bind). Edger, a white Jewish man, and Jean, a African American Baptist women, on more than one occasion have been stopped and arrested by police because they were walking arm in arm (Newsline). Races have mixed, going back to the early days. Over time, other races have blended with whites 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 1986. 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 “coloreds.” Almost I 00 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. (Halloway).
According to a study done, one consistent sign associated with intermarriage is social class and/or status. “One reason that black women marry white men is to increase their station in life” (Staples). African American out-marriage becomes gradually more common when moving up the occupational scale and more common among higher educated African Americans. Among whites the pattern is reversed. It is believed that whites are more likely to marry a African American spouse when it allows them to marry a partner of high socio-economic prestige (Timeline). The appreciation of a partner is the beauty and the common ability to communicate. The main reason for marriage and love is what brings them together (Times that Bind).
It is often said that religion, family and the attitudes of other people, generally are the main causes to the problems we see in interracial relationships as well as marriages. It is said to be difficult, if not impossible, to change parents’ attitudes along with the attitudes of the earlier generations, to influence society into accepting the patterns of the new generations identity’s. The older generation will never change. They have believed this to be true since the day they were taught it. This present generation, who’s guilt comes from causing friction, proves the next generation must be open-minded to accept and understand future patterns of new marriages. While these attitudes of prejudices in peoples minds are suppressed and, hopefully soon done away with, the only way to make changes involving opinions on segregation is to teach and reinforce it in our children.
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Newsline. “Interracial Marriage”. America Online. Internet. 28 September, 1999.
Sistahspace. “Interracial Ties That Bind”. America Online. Internet. 28 September,
Staples, Robert. Interracial Relationships: A Convergence of Desire and Opportunity. p 133.
Websters New World Dictionary. Pretence Hall: 1994.
Yahweshalom. “The Prohibition against mixing the races”. America Online. Internet. 28