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Interracial couples, marriages, and relationships are more common today than ever before in the United States. Marriages between people of different races reached a record high of 8.4 percent in 2010, according to the New York Times. Despite the rising rate of interracial marriage, mixed-race couples not only continue to face scrutiny and disapproval but sweeping generalizations from outsiders.
Individuals in interracial relationships often are accused of entering such unions for less than honorable reasons. This review of the myths that shroud interracial couples indicate that romance across the color line remains a source of stigma.
Interracial Means Black And White
Arguably the biggest myth about interracial couples is that such pairings always involve a white person and a person of color. Interracial couples consisting of two people who belong to racial minority groups are largely overlooked in the mainstream culture. This is likely because discussions of race in general still are based on a black-white paradigm.
Nonetheless, interracial couples of color have been the inspiration for films such as “Mississippi Masala,” in which Denzel Washington plays a character who falls in love with a South Asian woman. Moreover, the comedy “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” paired the Korean-American protagonist up with a Latina love interest.
Of course, a number of such couples exist in real life as well. Famous examples of interracial couples of color include musician Carlos Santana and his wife, Cindy Blackman, an African American; and Wesley Snipes and his wife, Nakyung Park, a Korean American.
As the United States grows more diverse, interracial couples of color will only grow more common. Accordingly, discussion of interracial relationships should include pairings of Asian Americans and African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Arab Americans, and so forth.
People in Interracial Relationships Never Date Their Own Race
Strangers often assume that people in interracial relationships have long dated exclusively outside of their race. It's undeniable that some people display strong preferences for a particular race. Indian-American actress Mindy Kaling, for example, essentially told Us Magazine that she favors white men.
“I embarrassingly love blond men - hot pinups like Chris Evans and Chris Pine,” she said. “I feel like people expect me to have an edgy choice, like Justin Theroux, and I'm just like, 'Nope! I want Captain America!'”
In addition, Kaling has been called out for casting solely white men as her love interests on her show “The Mindy Project.”
Unlike Mindy Kaling, however, many people in interracial relationships don't have a type. They have dated both intra-racially and interracially and just happened to end up with partners who don't share their ethnic background. They don't have a pattern of choosing solely white mates or solely Asian mates or Hispanic ones. Singer Rihanna, journalist Lisa Ling and actor Eddie Murphy are all examples of people who've dated both within and outside of their racial group.
If you don't know the dating history of a person in an interracial relationship, don't assume that they have no interest in dating members of their own race. Unless you're interested in dating the person in question, however, ask yourself why you care whom this person dates.
If the person has bought into the idea that some racial groups are more desirable than others and date such people because they consider them to be “catches” or “trophies,” there's little you can do to change their mindset anyway. They'll likely excuse their dating patterns as being simple “preferences” rather than examine how our racially stratified society has influenced them to find some racial groups more appealing than others.
Minorities in Interracial Romances Hate Themselves
People of color who date interracially are often accused of suffering from self-hatred. While some minorities date whites in particular for social status, many minorities who date across the color line are proud of their heritage.
They're not dating interracially to dilute their bloodlines. They simply felt a spark with someone who doesn't share their racial background. This doesn't mean that they don't identify with their minority group and are ashamed to be part of that group.
A number of African Americans who married interracially have fiercely fought for civil rights and the uplift of their racial group, including the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and actor-singer Harry Belafonte.
Whites in Interracial Marriages Are Rebelling
While minorities in interracial relationships are often accused of hating themselves, whites in such relationships are often accused of rebelling. They didn't marry interracially because they truly loved their spouse, outsiders say, but because they wanted to get back at their parents.
Are there white people who bring home a person of another race because they know it will drive their parents crazy? Probably. But it's unlikely that these people would have a sustained relationship with someone of a different race just to spite their parents, let alone marry interracially to do so.
Minorities in Interracial Relationships Date Down
It's a common belief that people of color in interracial relationships, especially with whites, date down rather than up. In other words, their partners aren't particularly attractive, moneyed or educated. They are not dating “catches.”
The rationale here is that whites enjoy so much privilege in society that minorities who pursue romances with them aren't exactly picky. Any white person will do. This, of course, is a sweeping generalization. Unless the only criterion a person has in a mate is that she be white, it's doubtful that this generalization applies.
Rosie Cuison Villazor, a law professor and editor of "Loving v. Virginia in a Post-Racial World," has found that the income of interracial couples tends to vary by the racial makeup of the couple.
“Forty-two percent of white men/Asian women married couples both went to college, compared with 20 percent of white/Hispanic married couples and 17 percent of white/black married couples,” she found. “A look at earnings also reveals racial and gender differences: the median combined income of white/Asian couples is $70,952, compared with $53,187 for white/black married couples.”
The fact that black-white couples earn less than white-Asian couples reflects the fact that blacks generally earn less than whites in the United States, while Asians tend to earn as much or more money than whites. Given this and the fact people of all races are more likely to romance those who share their economic and education background, it's inaccurate to suggest that minorities in interracial relationships marry or date down.
Maillard, Kevin Noble. "Loving vs. Virginia in a Post-Racial World." Rose Cuison Villazor (Editor), Cambridge University Press, May 16, 2012.
Villazor, Rose Cuison. "Marrying Across Racial Lines, but Still Seeing Lines." The New York Times, November 17, 2014.