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Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Look At Interracial Marriage In 2011


by Cyrus Webb

(seen here Herschel and Erin Dixon)

Anyone who has followed my work with Conversations knows that I don't see color. From the very beginning it has been important for me to offer a platform that is reflective of my own life and those in it. Because of this, I have welcomed everyone---regardless of their race,class and beliefs---to join us in discussions that I hope will get people to think and maybe even challenge themselves.

This year I read a book by author Skip Masters called HOW I BROKE MY ADDICTION TO WHITE WOMEN. It was a provocative title that discussed how as a black man his marriage to two white women failed but now in his third marriage to a woman of color he seems to have found real happiness. After interviewing the author and getting to know him a bit it became clear to me that he wasn't against interracial relationships now. It was just he had found through his experiences that they weren't for him.

This subject came up again for me in a startling way in April 2011. A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling of registered Republicans in my home state of Mississippi shared some disappointing news. When asked if they thought interracial marriage should be legal or illegal, 46% of those polled said it should be ILLEGAL while only 40% thought it should be legal.

I was disappointed not that they told the truth about the way they felt, but that in 2011 so many people still thought that we should be separated by race when it came to relationships. This led me to conduct a forum on Conversations LIVE about the topic. I invited Skip Masters to join us as well as relationship therapists Jessica Stebbins and Dr. Joyce Morley, author M. Beatryce Shaw (who writes children's book dealing with treating people different based on race and disabilities), our sports columnist Herschel Dixon (who is in an interracial marriage) and my brother Alvin Webb who dates women of all races. The conversation was lively and informative, and I felt like we presented some great positions about the complexities that still exist among interracial couples.

I also reached out to you, the readers and listeners of our radio show to get your perspective. The question: Does being against interracial marriage and relationships automatically make you racist? Had a great response to the question. Below are two of the answers I received:

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"I am a married white female in my thirties and have grown up in Washington and Oregon and settled here in Southern California. I was brought up to believe that everyone was created equal in God's eyes, by a mother who grew up with a racist father. My step Dad is a black man and although they have no children together because she remarried late in life, I don't see their relationship any different than I would if he were white.

"He and his children from a previous marriage are both half black/ half white. Growing up in Texas in the 60's and 70's he did struggle with his genealogy, but I feel that it was due to racial tensions in the US and in Texas at the time. His children, my step brother and sister whom I adore, seem to have had no issues with their identity growing up in Oregon in the 80's and 90's. If they grew up in an area of the US which harbored more resentment for their genealogy, parents, or skin color then I suspect it may have been a more difficult journey.

"Due to this I DO think that if you're against interracial marriage that it means you're racist, even if you may not want to admit it. We are all children of God. We are all human beings, so why would it matter to you who couples with who if you weren't judging one person or the other by the color of their skin?  I think that as Americans we forget just how diverse our genealogies are and I challenge many of these opponents to map their own genealogy and  see just what it turns up; they may be surprised.  Areas of the US where these anti-interracial marriage sentiments take place are what MAKES it hard for children of mixed race couples have a hard time coming to terms with their identity; and this goes for opponents of any color, not just white republicans from Mississippi. I believe if the racism wasn't present then it wouldn't matter in the slightest.

"I want to also add that God is love and if he puts you on a path where you truly find love with another human being that that is a gift from him; who can judge that as wrong??

"I hope that this discussion that you are having helps to open people's eyes to what's right in the eyes of God and the eyes of Man. We should focus on loving our neighbor and looking for our similarities that can bring us together as friends instead of looking for our differences that only serve to divide us."

Amber Pitts

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"I am a black woman who has been happily married to a wonderful white guy for almost 20 years.  I think the idea of someone being against our marriage and,as a result, being labled "a racist" is absurd.There are very strong feelings among all nationalities about someone venturing outside the "norm". 
 
"When I traveled in Europe, the French looked down their nose at the British, the Dutch looked down at the French and there was a strong sentiment that the nationalities shouldn't mix.  Why?  Because it was easy to focus on what made them different and then corrupt that into different equaling bad. 
 
"I really feel that most people want the control that familiarity brings and the idea of someone that they can identify with crossing over into intimacy with the unknown, stirs in them feelings of insecurity and they feel threatened by it.  You can't legislate that feeling away.
 
"I have three beautiful, well adjusted children and we live in a anglo-christian rural community, where other children of mixed race parentage are not treated well. I believe and have taught my children that no one can make you feel shame without your permission.  We simply don't grant people that permission, we give respect and get it. 
 
"If a person chooses not to venture into mixed race waters- that is their personal choice and it should remain that- their personal choice.  Just like some choose to dye their hair, work a certain job or read a certain book, the choice is theirs to make, and not mine (or anyone else's) to dictate.
 
"We have lived here almost 5 years now and one of my very best friends is a white lady in her late 60's who, until we met, never spoke to anyone black.  I was assigned as her bible study instructor and we have developed a friendship that feels more like family. She now feel that interracial marriage is ok but if you do marry you shouldn't have kids. 
 
"She fears that the kids will be treated badly in the "real world".  Guess what- it is her opinion and she has a right to it. She loves my children like they are her own flesh- and based on her life experiences, she has every right to feel the way she does.    
 
"One of the biggest follies we have in our culture is allowing those who are least qualified set the tone and give advice on subjects that do not concern them.  It would be far more meaningful if the poll were taken among those who choose to go outside their group to marry or of children of these relationships.  But to ask someone who did not marry inter-racially whether or not it should be legal is like asking a blind man if color television is a good idea. The only thing more foolish is to then give any inkling of legitimacy to their responses.
 
"In conclusion- no, they are not racist- (I know more blacks and Latinos that are against racial mixing than whites) just small minded and trying to keep control of a world that they are ill-prepared to embrace. But that does not mean that we disregard their feelings- we just don't allow it to dictate the laws of our nation or our personal choices."
 
Andrea R Frayser  
 
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A special thanks to those who joined our panel discussion on the issue, and especially to Skip Masters for having the courage to tackle the topic in print through his book. Thank you also to everyone who wrote in.
 
Do you have your own opinion on the topic that you would like to add to the conversation? Does being against Interracial Marriage mean you are racist? Are the children of interracial relationships automatically at a disadvantage in society? I want to hear from you! Feel free to post your comments on this article online. Email me at cawebb4@juno.com with your coments, name and where you are writing from. You may appear in Conversations Magazine either in print or online or both.  

1 comment:

  1. I would like to focus on the complications in 2011 of immigration. The issue in our open-minded family is not color but conflicting cultural expectations and the way they can destroy a marriage and hurt and confuse the children. There was a time when differences could be mediated by common goals and expectations set by the community the couple chose to join. However, the ability to personally have global communications is game-changer. One can immigrate without emigrating, and the amount of time the immigrant spouse spends with people back in her/his country of origin can affect his/her ability to adjust to new rules.

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