Interracial Dating: Yesterday, and Today

While interracial dating saw it’s lawful liberation in the late 60s, today, we still find resistance and hate for mixed race couples in American society. For example, the February 2010 cover of Essence magazine features Reggie Bush, the African American NFL player. The issue is entitled Black Men, Love & Relationships Issue. Many are questioning why editors chose to put Bush, who dates the obviously not black Kim Kardashian, on its Love & Relationships cover. Back in April, Go! Magazine, a publication included in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, released its edition with a black man kissing a white woman on the cover entitled, “The 7 Best Places to Smooch.” The magazine reportedly received an inordinate amount of negative comments, based on the concept of interracial couples being “immoral” and “unnatural.” These are two prime examples of how interracial dating still gets a bad rap, and although it has gained popularity since the 60s, it still isn’t an acceptable practice to some of all races.

In our not too distant past, American’s distaste for interracial couples permeated our society from many races. Interracial dating and marriage was fervently preached against in churches and was ruled illegal, with people going to jail because of being in a relationship with someone of another race. Recently, we’ve been made aware of the story of African-American boxer, Jack Johnson, who dated a white woman in 1913. Justice Department lawyers argued it was a "crime against nature" for him to have a sexual relationship with a white woman and he was convicted of breaking the Mann Act and served 10 months in prison. An all-white jury convicted Johnson in less than two hours. The Mann Act outlawed the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes. Jack Johnson is posthumously being considered for a pardon from President Obama, but it waits to be seen if this will happen.

Besides the Mann Act, other laws were in place through the centuries to discourage and prevent interracial dating and marriage. Miscegenation, so called since 1863, was a word given to the act of interracial couples to discredit the Abolitionists movement. Anti-miscegenation laws were state laws passed to prohibit interracial dating, marriage and sexual relations. Many laws can be traced back to the 17th century.

The alleged affair between one of our country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson and his black slave Sally Hemings, has been debated for years. The claim was set forth during Jefferson’s first term as president and has been a subject of historical interest for nearly two centuries. It is thought that Jefferson fathered several children with Hemings. Jefferson had a policy to never offer public responses to public attacks, so he never shed light on his supposed relationship with Hemings. Two of her children, Madison and Eston, claimed that Jefferson was their father and this belief has been passed down through generations. Though DNA tests have been conducted, there is no conclusive evidence of a sexual relationship between Jefferson and Hemings, so as has been in the past, the public is left to wonder.

In 1967, by Supreme Court decision, all state anti-miscegenation laws were deemed unconstitutional and interracial dating, marriage and sexual relations were for the first time in centuries fully legal. The present acceptance of interracial relationships is very clearly a regional one. The Columbia Business School supported a research study from 2005 to 2007 that showed regional differences in the U.S. perception of interracial relationships have continued. Daters of both sexes from the south were found to have much stronger same-race preferences than northerners did. The study also found that women of all races tended to have a preference for same-race marriage, where men’s preferences were not racially based.

Famous couples from many different races have found love in another race. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were an early interracial couple. Barack Obama is in an interracial marriage with Michelle Obama. Caucasian, Robert De Niro is married to Grace Hightower, an African American. Heidi Klum, who is a German Caucasian and British musician Seal, who is of Brazilian and Nigerian descent, have been married since 2005. Tiger Woods, who is half Thai and half African American, married the Swedish Caucasian Elin Nordegren. There are countless other examples of famous couples finding love within another race.

Starting with the 1967 release of the movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, featuring Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, as an interracial couple coming to announce their engagement to Houghton’s on screen white parents, film and television have openly accepted interracial couples. Some of the TV shows featuring interracial couples today include; Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, ER, Dirty Sexy Money, Bones, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, Lipstick Jungle, Ugly Betty, Cold Case, 90210, Heroes, House and Boston Legal. 

A Gallup poll in late 2007 found,… 77% of Americans say they approve of marriages between blacks and whites, while 17% say they disapprove. Public support for black-white marriages is now at the high end of the range of approval seen on this question since Gallup first asked it almost 50 years ago. The latest result essentially ties with the 76% approval rating found in 2004.”

According to the same Gallup poll, Americans aged 50 and older, including blacks, whites and Hispanics, are less likely to approve of interracial unions. So this is where trouble with the parents or grandparents might come in when introducing an interracial relationship to family members. Sometimes, families may reject, resist or not accept the partner based on race. Traditions and cultural differences can come into play when planning a wedding or for the future.

The most important thing for interracial couples facing opposition to remember is that this is your life and your happiness is the most important thing. If couples can overcome the barriers of race in their interracial relationship, these relationships can be very rewarding.

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