Interracial Marriage

 

Interracial marriages have a hard go at it.  They suffer not only from the prejudice of others, but also from inherent problems of differences between their respective cultures which combine with those already present in a marriage.  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.

Here is a bit of a piece I read off the Internet that gives some background on this problem.

"If we were truly color blind, we accept interracial marriages.  Nearly 500 years after America was discovered "Americans" are still preoccupied with race.  Today, America is still billed internationally as one of the best multicultural societies in the world.  Nevertheless, most Americans would disagree.

With so many marriages happening in the United States, it is hard to believe that as recently as 1966, 17 states actually had laws against interracial marriage.  And all of the states regulated marriage between whites and other races.  The Supreme Court overturned every states antimiscegenation laws (laws against marriage between different races) in 1967 (Myra 18).  In the legal case of Loving vs. State of Virginia, a white man and black woman won the right to return home after having fled their state to avoid a year's jail sentence for getting married (Myra 18).  "But as late as the seventies at least twelve states still had laws forbidding marriage between whites and other races" (Perkins 30).  Why have such laws?  A person should not have to worry about a law when marrying the person they love.  If the United States is really a melting pot, then citizens should not have to worry about falling in love and having laws that could separate them.

Noting that the idea of race itself is now under attack by scientists who are attempting to decide a definition for what constitutes a different race is important.  What they use now as a definition simply refers to the observable differences such as skin color, hair texture, and the shape of one's eyes or nose (Morganthau 63).

Considering all the biological differences within the human species these are at best superficial, and they cannot come up with any significant set of differences that distinguish one racial group from another.  Why do interracial couples still have trouble being accepted simply as two humans that love each other?

Both racial and cultural differences put pressure on the relationship.  With two different cultures, a family has to recognize such differences in order to understand each other.  Some couples embrace interracial love for rebellious, escapist, or other negative reasons (Mira 19).  Parents want their children to be happy, but in a racist society, they know what happens to black-white couples and their children.

Americans do not accept the children in society because people do not know how to treat them.  Unless interracial families live in cosmopolitan cities where interracial marriages are becoming more common, they face challenges monoracial couples don't experience.  "They need to use more energy and imagination to balance and celebrate two cultures.  They must be strong enough to endure the stares, tough enough to keep working at their cultural differences and confident enough to raise confident children" (Perkins 33).

In raising such children, the parents need to realize the child needs to embrace both cultures and teach him or her who they are.  Most Americans would like to consider themselves as modem idealists who are not prejudiced.  Americans do not mind the idea of interracial marriage but when children are involved the issue changes.

People would like to place these children in one class such as black or white.  We do not understand the way being multiracial accepts these children in our society.  We think of the children as not knowing who they are or where they belong.  Americans feel that they have to place the child in one race or the other no matter how the children see themselves.

With this persistent thinking the country will perceive this child as black.  With this specific label, the child grows up learning from others that he is black and experiences that life.  The child needs to grow up in an environment where he or she can experience life through both parents.  Lisa Jones dedicates her writing to exploring the African- American culture.

Here, she said, she feels comfortable and historically grounded.  She has found family there, whereas no white people have embraced her with their culture.  "I choose this class because if I call myself interracial I would need my "white" mother s presence to validate my half-whiteness" (Jones 80).  Lisa Jones grew up not learning about both cultures so she has lived her life as black and not white.  It is also important to note that not all blacks embrace interracial marriages themselves.

Black parents object as much to mixed marriages as do whites.  They feel that the person entering such a relationship is trying to deny his heritage and that they will lose their culture and identity.  They see it as assimilation into the melting pot.  African Americans also resist it because of the shortage of marriageable black men (Myra 19).

Black women feet betrayed or deserted when a black man marries a white woman.  Black activists feel mixed marriages weaken the African-American solidarity.  Yet, interracial marriage is increasingly common.  According to a recent Time Magazine poll, 72 percent of those polled know married couples of different races.  In our own neighborhoods we see even more black-white couples.  In America today, there are 242,000 black-white couples; almost four times as many as in 1970 (Interracial Baby Boom 54).  Such marriages are now common enough to cause the Census Bureau to consider adding the category "mixed" to its racial classification to describe the children of interracial marriages.  The Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget are receiving pressure from multiracial individuals and their parents to reexamine the 18-year-old method of classifying people.

The Census Bureau will not decide until 1997 and then the change would take affect in the 2000 census.  Only four states require a "multiracial" category on their school form (Norment 108).  It is still primarily a black-white issue.  Half the female Asian immigrants are married interracially, but many don't consider that an interracial marriage.  Black-white marriages receive the most negative reaction because of the 40-year history of hostility and tension. 

In a recent poll in The Futurist the number of mixed-race married couples increased from 3 1 0,000 to 994,000.  One researcher explained that this trend is happening with all racial and ethnic groups but each individual pattern is different.  With the upward trend of more mixed births, this could show a sign that the social meaning of mixed births is undergoing change in the United States (Up to Separatism 30).  

A multicultural society shows how much diversity is in America.  People from all over the world have immigrated to this country.  With so many cultures present today, everyone needs to be excited that others are sharing their way of life with us.  As the children of today grow up they have to have an open mind about the people around them and what they can learn from them.  

With the increase of interracial marriages maybe they will become more accepted and not looked at as something that is not right".   

Before my wife and I were married in Korea in 1983 we attended a pre-marriage seminar.  We were told at that time that more than ninety percent of Korean-American marriages end up in divorce before the first five years is over.  Not exactly encouraging information for a new couple. 

But we have made it and so can you.  All it takes is learning how to communicate and understand the differences between the two of you.  This is beyond the differences inherent of male and female, but is also cultural as well.

For instance you might find in the beginning of the relationship that everything is new and fresh.  But as time goes on you begin to notice differences in the way you both look at things.  Men and women are different for sure, but add cultural differences and there are even more magnified problems than those in non-interracial marriages.

Cultural Differences

When you have two people from two different countries, or from two different races, you have vast amounts of difference from many different angles.  First, there are established differences because of the different ways that people are brought up.  For instance in my own marriage there is a marked difference between the way I was brought up here in the U.S. and the way my wife was brought up in Korea --the difference between eastern thought and customs and those of the West are huge.

For instance there is a difference in the way women in the east view the marriage relationship and specifically the role of the husband and the wife, and how a marriage is viewed in western thought.  How this difference affects a marriage is determined by the expectations each partner takes into the marriage.  If for instance the woman is from a country where women were traditionally housewives, with no aspirations of a career of their own, when they marry a man from the west they may immediately run into a problem.  While the landscape is changing, much of the older world is still involved in playing specific roles.  That is, the role of the man and the role of the woman - as in husband and wife.  In the west, while still extent to this day, these roles have for the most part disappeared.

That is because many men in the west while having an expectation or at least a desire that their wives will be home to take care of the roost, many more would like their wife to work to supplement the family income.

So in asking their eastern mate to work they might find a conflict.  It is not that she is lazy; it is just that it goes against all she was taught or expected of her marriage.  Later as she learns the ways of the west this may change and if possible goes into her own career.

Racial Differences

More closer to home there are racial differences that are not specific with marriage relationships.  They are the differences that occur across the board regardless of relationship, which happen because of prejudice and ignorance.  Prejudice which has existed since the beginning of time along with it's twin sister ignorance.

Take these common cultural differences combined with a marriage relationship with its own kind of problems and there are all the ingredients necessary for conflict.  Each person in an interracial relationship has taken a chance.  They have entered into a relationship that might not be acceptable by the prejudices of their own family or friends.  For myself bringing my new Korean wife home in 1983 met with a lot of indifference from my family while other accepted her into the fold.

I wish now that I would have known then what I know now, and then I wouldn't have made so many mistakes. There were a lot of things that l took for granted then. Like she would adjust to the American way of life with ease. I was wrong.  While she adapted to many things rather easily, there were other things that she had great difficulty with.  Because I lacked the knowledge on how to help her in those areas there was a great amount of friction.

For instance, in Korea families are close knit even long after the person leaves the house to start their own life.  Yet in America, depending of course on that family's cultural background, the nurturing stops sometime after puberty.  The theme of the times and the environment is individuality.  There is a separation of family unity at this point where a person begins to gain more individuality.  In fact individuality is the theme of our western culture.  It's in all the media -magazines, songs, movies and TV.  While in older cultures individuality is frowned upon and in some cases completely swallowed up in the mesh of the family unit.

This separation of affections affected my wife profoundly and for the most part negatively.

After a few years though she grew to understand it and accept it.  But it was a rough and really unnecessary road to travel.  I could have helped her through the transition if I would have known how 

Overcoming the Prejudice and the Problems

How do you overcome the problems if you are in an interracial marriage?  First by understanding that your situation isn't unique.  Your relationship is one of millions.  Therefore there is help and support.  You can find some of those supports here on Hubbynet

Some of the other things you can do are to find out as much as you can about your mates culture and background as you can.  It will help you to understand your mate's problems if you can determine the conflict between your culture and theirs.  The bookstore is loaded with cultural books that explain fully what the other culture is all about.

Be patient and teach your partner your customs and culture.  Not your prejudices and beliefs!  Donāt expect that just because they are in YOUR country they should adapt to your ways.  They probably will over time, but donāt apply the pressure. Let them grow on their own with your help and understanding.

 



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