Interracial Marriage in the U.S.
Marriage is the social institution that gives formal and legal recognition to the personal, often romantic and sexual in nature, the relationship shared by two or more people. Historically and in some areas it specifically refers to the union between a man and a woman.
Interracial marriage refers to those marriages where the spouses belong to different races or racial ethnicities. In the United States of America, interracial marriage has not always been favoured, it was in the year 1967 that interracial marriage became legal on a nationwide scale. Yet for a long time and perhaps even now, such unions often face discrimination and stigmas for marrying outside their race.
This article covers the history of interracial marriage, stigmas faced by interracial couples and mixed-race children, the changing views towards such marriages as well as certain famous couples who have spoken about it.
- History of Inter-racial Marriage
- Before turning the law
- Loving V. Virginia Case
- Stigmas and opposition faced
- Famous Couples
- Acceptance of Inter-racial Marriages
History and overturning of Laws
Section 20-54 of the Virginia Code prohibited intermarriage between a white and coloured person, and Section 20-58 specified leaving the state to evade the law. If the couple should go out of state to get married with the intention of returning and residing in the state together as man and wife, they would be charged with a felony and punished accordingly.
In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court made a historic ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia. The case pronounced that the miscegenation laws, laws that sanctioned racism and racial segregation as they criminalised interracial sex and marriage, were unconstitutional in nature. Justice Earl Warren who presided over the case declared – “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
This change happened due to the case filed by Mildred and Richard Loving, a black-native American and white couple. In 1958, the pair got married in Washington D.C. in defiance of the law after finding out that Mildred was pregnant.
Loving v. Virginia Case
Mildred and Richard Loving were the two that challenged the laws and lead to the passing of the ruling that the laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional in June of 1967. The pair travelled to Washington D.C. in 1958 to get married in defiance of the law in their state of Virginia after finding out that Mildred was pregnant. On July 11th of the same year, the couple was arrested and thrown into jail for the crime of getting married. On finding them guilty of the offence, they were ordered to leave Virginia for 25 years. In 1963, to fight their case in court, they approached the American Civil Liberties Union which finally led to the historical ruling in 1967.
Children born from such unions face increased hardships starting right from childhood. Different or mixed physical features often lead to schoolyard bullying from fellow students who have internalised their parents’ outlook to even teachers who may subconsciously discriminate against them. The cuisine has been a common denominator for bullying or ostracization when other kids see the food in lunch boxes they would classify it as too different from what is predominantly seen as common and acceptable. Subtle alienation and discrimination begin in their younger years and their reality tends to differ from that of other kids. A way to overcome such things which inherently make lives for such children harder from a young age, open communication and education necessary. On a larger scale, interracial children and their parents face social stigmas and discrimination in every sphere, from white supremacist attitudes prevalent in politics to biased attitudes in education by teachers and the material taught in classrooms.
The children often struggle to understand their identity in terms of biracial and biculturalism. Often in society, this identity is decided by which facial and physical features they resemble the most; however each individual group’s peers may not feel like the children are White enough, Asian enough, American Indian enough, etc. – they get placed in a difficult situation of trying to find acceptance
Stigmas and opposition faced
When the law came to pass, it changed many things for everyone involved. That did not change the fact that interracial marriage remained to be socially unacceptable and actions of racial violence, lynching, social segregation etc. continued. There have been largely two views towards such marriages – egalitarian acceptance and non-acceptance conservative ideas. The first such opposition came primarily from white citizens who held a more powerful position in society and were against such ‘mixing’ as that would mean an increase in status for the black spouse and unsettle the hierarchy of the societal system.
Social conditions and views were still against interracial marriages, especially between black men and white women for fear of them being raped or sullied by the black men who were seen as crueller. However, extramarital interracial unions were definitely present, mostly between white males and black females. There presents the hypocrisy of people, for many black female slaves would either willingly or be forced to have sexual relations with their white owners or their relatives.
Historically, interracial marriage in the United States faced great public opposition and is often considered taboo, especially among white people. By 1986, interracial marriage received only about 33% approval by Americans in general. In contrast to this, in 2011, in general, a vast majority of Americans approved of interracial marriages which again was a bump up from the less than fifty per cent approval rate in 1991.
Often racist comments, views and reasons are thrown at people to dissuade them, especially when historically less privileged communities are involved. In the U.S. this translates to the fact that as a result of white supremacy being quite a common stance in history, questions of financial stability, discrimination and disadvantaged positions in all public spheres as well as inherent suspicion would be levelled at other parties.
Famous inter-racial Couples
Some famous inter-racial couples include Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, a singer and actress couple who have enjoyed success in their respective fields. Coming from an Indian background, Chopra’s wedding attracted much media attention and criticism from more conservative views. Many conservatives and mostly middle-aged Indians raised concerns about Chopra marrying someone from a different race, religion and younger than her. There were questions about whether it could be found acceptable for her to marry a white man and seen as going against cultural ideas and practices. Similarly, some Americans showed disdain towards the idea, with even articles being put out slamming the couple about their marriage.
Singer-model couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, who are black and half-Thai and half-White, have talked about race as a social construct rather than a biological one. They shared how it impacts their children and the idea of finding your own place between multiple racial identities as well as learning from other cultures.
Tennis star Serena Williams is married to a white husband, Alexis Ohanian about whom she has talked in interviews and how they navigate the racial divide, especially with instances of white privilege and how it affects both their private and professional lives.
A more complex situation emerged when the second prince of England, Prince Henry Charles Albert David, more commonly known as Harry, wished to marry Meghan Markle, an actress and U.N. Women’s Advocate for multiple issues. When their relationship was first confirmed, Markle dealt with waves of abuse from the media and the general public, questioning her capability based on her gender and race. Multiple journalists and news stations turned this into a sensationalist topic, primarily one where Markle was considered unfit for the British Prince. Siad prince wrote an official statement that condemned the treatment of the press stating that it was not a game but rather their lives.
Actors-write couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon made a movie, “The Big Sick”, about their romance that covered the topic of interracial relationships and received much feedback from netizens who watched and resonated with it.
Acceptance of inter-racial marriages
As globalisation and its effects increase, one must begin from the grassroots level to imbibe a more open and accepting mindset, where racial barriers do not come in between people. It is important for both the couple and the people around them to be willing and have a positive attitude about the relationship. Often it becomes imperative to have a stronger bond as they can presume to have to face some opposition or the other, if not from their families and close friends, then from the public. This means that such relationships that last are also stronger, they overcome language barriers and traditional and contrasting mentalities.
The perception of couples from different races or ethnicity in America has been greatly influenced by the differing views and generational divide of people, but largely there have been two kinds of responses – egalitarianism and cultural conservatism.
The former expresses acceptance towards the increasing phenomena of interracial marriage while the latter tends to treat it as a social taboo. Egalitarian views are primarily held by the younger generation but one cannot deny that the older generation influences these views. Geographically speaking on this, northern parts of the United States are more accepting and see more interracial marriages than the southern parts, where a more serious history of racial discrimination lies specifically for African-Americans.