interracial families

interracial families - 98 l Washington Blade one that says...

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Unformatted text preview: 98 l Washington Blade one that says that we are quite capable of redesigning society based on our own fashionable preferences." But less than a year ago, Van Loon says, he completed research comparing English and Dutch statistics on marriage and relationships that showed that the Netherlands "still scores better on marital fidelity and stable caring relationships but that we are busy copying the bad British family habits." Only two countries in Europe, the Netherlands and Belgium, have legalized gay marriage. The Netherlands legalized sameesex marriage in April 2001 and Belgium did so in January 2003, according to Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Ettelbrick said that because the changes in the Netherlands and Belgium law are relatively new, there is no scientific proof that gay marriage has contributed to high divorce rates or a lack of interest in marriage. M. V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Institute for Gay & Lesbian Strategic Studies, criticized the scholars' letter, saying it appears to have been written by ”legal scholars and philosophers, not demographers, sociologists, economists, or any other kind of social scientist who's made a systematic, credible study of these questions." Criticizing “marriage-lite" Other Scandinavian countries, according to Stanley Kurtz, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, have been weakening marriage because of the debate over whether or not to recognize sameesex unions But Scandinavia does not recognize gay marriage. It has a registered partnership for sameasex couples. Van Loon does think that the debate over gay marriage has contributed to devaluation of the marriage institution. ”Supporters of gay marriage often based their argument for legalization on the separation of marriage and the raising of children," Van Loon told the Reforma- torisch Dagblad newspaper. ”Those two things were supposed to be completely unconnected. It's difficult to imagine that an intensive media campaign based on the claim that marriage and parenthood are unrelated and that marriage isjust one among a number of morally equivalent cohabiting relationships did not have any serious social consequences." Van Mourik said that a ”national debate about the question of how we can re— store marriage to its original special, protected status" is imperative, adding that the Netherlands should have simply allowed gays to register as domestic partners instead of marrying. Some, like Ettelbrick, contend that these ”marriagealite" alternatives—open to heterosexual couples as wellimight be doing more to undermine traditional mar— riage than granting gay couples full marital rights. I Interracial Families in Dost—Civil Rights America Kerry Ann Pockquemore and Loren l—lenderson in the four decades since the US. Supreme Court declared laws prohibiting inter- racial marriage unconstitutional, the number of interracial families in America has rapidly increased But interracial families continue to face unique external pressures and internal relational dynamics due to the persistence of racism in America. While formal structural barriers have been reduced, interracial dating on campuses has increased, and attitudes toward acceptance of interracial mare riage have improved, interracial couplings continue to be the rare exception (and not the rule) when it comes to new marriages. This chapter explores why inter, racialfamilies continue to be so uncommon in the United States, and it describes the challenges interracialfamilies face in dealing with individual and institutional racism, responding to the disapproval offamilg members, and raising mixed-race children in what is still not a "color-blind" world. it une 12, 2007, marked the fortieth anniversary of the historic Supreme Court (Lt? decision (Loving v. Virginia) that struck down state laws prohibiting interra- cial marriage. Reporters celebrated the fourfold increase in interracial marriage rates since 1970 and the corresponding decline in opposition to interracial mar- riage in opinion polls. The concurrent rise of political superstar Barack Obama and a proliferation of multiracial celebrities, athletes, and writers have further focused national attention on interracial families and refrained their mixed—race offspring from “tragic mulattoes" to “Generation EA; Ethnically Ambiguous.” Indeed, the message repeatedly put forward in the media and in popular dis— course is that in post—Civil Rights America, love, marriage and child rearing are all color—blind. M Eiipl'zm 00iov«b\W\ \‘aleiiliim 99 100 I Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Loren Henderson Less well reported is that interracial marriages represent a tiny sliver ofall mar— riages in the United States. In 1970, less than I percent of marriages were inter- racial, and by 2005 that number increased to 7.5 percent ofal marriages. Stated differently, over 92 percent ofall marriages today are between eo‘ple of the same race. Interesting y, 0 he 15 percent of marriages tiat are interracia , marria es between blacks and whites remain the least likely combination. While it is true [hat more young peep :3 today are dating and iving with someone of a different race, those interracial relationships are far less likely than same—race relationships to lead to marriage.2 Many argue that race is declining in significance, but the fact that interracial marriages continue to hover in the single digits—and are least likely between blacks and whites~suggests that the color-blind rhetoric may be ahead of reality. IZElNlTthl'L/ofl kWh WV“ ml (“Hike/WV; The disconnection between Americans’ attitudes toward interracial marriage - and their behavior illustrates the awkward historical moment that we currently inhabit. On the one hand, in the four decades since the US. Supreme Court declared laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional, the number of interracial families in the United States has rapidly increased, interracial dating on college campuses has become more common, and attitudes toward interracial marriage have improved} On the other hand, interracial families continue to report unique external pressures due to the persistence of racism and negotia— tions over the classification of their mixed-race children. As a result, interracial couplings continue to be the rare exception (and certainly not the rule) when it comes to marriage in the United States. At a deeper level, the discrepancy between attitudes and behavior mirrors the changing nature ofrace relations in the United States. Several decades after the passage of Civil Rights legislation, structurally rooted racial inequalities con— tinue to persist in our social institutions, ranging from public schools, to health care, to the criminal justice system. YetI despite these racial inequalities, Ameri— cans inereasin'gly believe that race is declininc in si rnificance, and many have ado tor a "co tir-blind" ideology in Whic 1 racism and discrimination are viewed as relics of the past, ine ua iljes are un‘c erstooc to e c ass-based (as opposed to race-base , ant w iere institutions and in: ivicua s are assume to act 1n race— Iieutra ways. us sunu taneous renia o racia Inequalities an: wi 'espread desire to move I Beyond race" stand in stark contrast to the persistence of race as a determining factor in life chances, opportunities, and mate selection.4 In this chapter, we examine the disconnection between beliefs and behavior by exploring the distinctive challenges that interracial families face in a simulta- neously “color—blind" and racialized world. We focus specifically on interracial relationships between blacks and whites because they are the two groups that have the greatest social distance, their coupling carries the greatest social stigma, and the relative rarity of intermarriage between the two groups best illustrates W Interracial Families in post—Civil Rights America I 101 the influence that structural patterns hold over our seemingly individual decl— sions a Jout whom we rave sex wit 1, date, and mar e a so exp ore t 18 lenges-associated with raising mixed—race children andhow those‘c'hallenges have changed over time. Our central goal is to make v1s1ble the mv131ble rac1al structures to better understand why interracial families continue to be so uncom- mon in the United States in spite of the widespread perception that we live in a post-racial and “color—blind" society. THE HISTORY or BLACK/WHITE COUPLING Interracial relationships, marriages, and children are of great interest to family researchers because they exist outside the “normal" patterns of mate selectlon. In other words, when individuals date and marry across the color line, they are defying long—standing patterns of racial endogamy (i.e., marrying someone With- in your own racial group). The historical norm in Amen-can families has bee-11 to date, marry, and have children with someone of the same race. Its a result: when people partner c1‘oss~rac_ially, it not only seems "different or unusual, but depending on the time period, it may also have been unimaginable, illegal, nonconsensual, andlor'dangerous. Every historical moment has rts own speeific racial stratification system at work. That system not only outlines the rules of behavior between races, but it also shapes how we understand our own race, the relative position of racial groups, and our individual expectations about the race of our sexual, dating, and marital partners. . Throughout US. history. black sexuality and martial. e have been‘the subiect of lega , cu total, and o itic-a re 11 a 1011 )ecause of the Flawed beliefs that (l) blae people are fundamentally and biologically different from whitesI and that (2) blacks are intellectually, cultural] -', and ene-tically inferior to whites“. Dur— ing various Iistorica p'erio sI racial stratification systems (grounded in beliefs of white superiority) have supported elaborate mechanisms of separation and neces— sitated endogamy so that blacks and whites were not only expected, MW v——'—=i-‘ . . . . ‘ V V ‘.‘ ‘ . r , ‘ . . _ to create famllies wrthm their own racral gloups. Social norms and laws prohiblt ing interracial marriage eii'lerged to support racia stratification systems (such as s avery or segregation) so tiat interracia sex an marriage were mstitnl'ionally restricted through the legal system and individually regulated through interper— sonal violence, rape, and intimidation.7 WWIW‘O As a system of stratification, slavery relied upon ideas of racial difference and black inferiority to rationalize the domination and exploitation of Afrlcans 111 America. As slaves, blacks were considered subhuman property of their slave owners. In order to control slaves and maintain white supremacy, interracial coupling was strictly prohibited, and the one—drop rule was used to determine who was black. ‘ ‘ 4y . which sllcwvol White WWI” Wit Slums wlnt hcmvvtgylt" claim l/w‘cl 102 I Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Loren Henderson Miscegenation (or racial mixing) was strictly regulated so that “black blood" would not taint the purity of the white race. In spite of formal prohibitions against misccge- nation, however, black female slaves were regularly sexually assaulted and raped by white slave owners. Because of the one—drop rule and the slave system, their mixed- race children were considered black, became part of the slave population, and were counted as the property of their biological fathers. In contrast, white women were protected from the specter of black male sexuality because while a mixed—race child in the slave quarters may have been socially tolerated and considered a financial asset, a mixed—race child born to a white woman directly threatened the purity of the white race and the logic of the slave system. Because of this unequal sense of threat, the mere hint of sexual contact between black men and white women was punishable by public beating, castration, and/or death. After the Civil War, slavery was replaced by a new system of racial stratification: segregation. While the system changed, the core beliefs of racial difference and black inferiority stayed the same. Blacks were no longer slaves, but they were still believed to be biologically different from whites, and intellectually inferior to whites. Segregation required the formalization of antimisceger‘ration laws and explicit legal definitions of who belonged in the category “black.” In this historical context, the norm of racial endogamy, firmly rooted in the ideology of white supremacy, was a powerful mechanism shaping an individual’s mate selection options. Blacks and whites were legally and socially prohibited from cross—racial contact, and blacks were terrorized by widespread lynchings and brutal violence. Blacks and whites were "separate but equal” in law, and separate and grossly unequal in reality. Inter— racial marriages W'ere illegal, mixed-race children were considered black, and any form of cross-racial coupling was the ultimate cultural taboo. The Civil Rights Movement challenged the ideology of white supremacy, institutional inequalities, and individual racism. Activists and intellectuals forrght fiercely against the social system of segregation and the ideological belief in black inferiority that it rested upon. In the process, progressives denounced the institutional policies and procedures that inhibited black people’s mobility, and they sought to alter black individuals’ self—perceptions so that they would value blackness. In this historical period of social change, formal prohibitions against interracial marriage were targeted, and in 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that all state—level antimiscegenation laws were unconstitutional. But while legal and institutional victories had been won, interracial marriages remained rare in the landscape of American families.” CVIIWWI (a, ' When we consider the link between racial stratificati n systems, racial ideol— ogy, and the history of interracial sex and marriage between blacks and whites, we can better understand the stigma attached to interracial marriage and how that stigma is connected to a fundamentally flawed set of beliefs about race (as Interracial Families in Post—Civil Rights America I 103 a biological category) and racial groups (as both different and unequal to ‘ople another). The ideas of racial difference and white silaennn * were hrstorrca y constructed by He dominant gmn‘p to support existmg racral .stratrficatron sys— tems an s rape w rat is confirm: a norma merrcan "1111 y 'y (etermrmng net wt (or not) int ivrrua 5 con mart cross—racra y. n ardltron, the elabo- rate ru as a rama categorization that were eslgnc to keep people apart, also mandated that mixed—race children were “black” (and black only) irrespective of their mixed ancestry and physical appearance. Because the one-drop rule and the norm of racial endogarny have been uniquely constructed and enforced for blacks and because the are inse ' arable from the history of slavery and segrega— tion the r a ow a Jarticularly clear illustration of the link between structure and ) a? mate selection. ThroughoutAmerican history, black scxua Ityar'r marriage have 4 been the subject of legal, cultural, and political control and regulation shaprng what we tv icallv consider an individual choice. While the Lovmg v. Virginia decision terminator Sta '(3 aws against interracial marriage, the norm of racral endogamy and lingering biological notions of r‘ace,.reslulted 'm a socrallandscape where blacks and whites were expected to marry wrthrn therr own racral groups. In post—Civil Rights America, the legal barriers agarnst rnterracral marriages no longer exist and attitudes toward interracial datrng andmarrrage have steam y improved in opinion polls. Given the widespread contention that Americans are ”color—blind” and that racism is a relic of the past, we would expect that rnterracral couples would face few interpersonal or institutional obstacles. But researcherst have repeatedly documented the myriad ways that rnterracral couples faceco‘ver discrimination and overt racism from family members, frrends, and strangers rn public places. Additionally, interracial families contrnrre to face subtle. rnstrtu— tional and structural forces that marginalize their existence and drmrnrsh ther; quality oflife. Below we explain the common external pressures that rnterracra families face, describe the coping strategies used in the context of such mirr- riages, explore how such couples raise their mixed-race children, and eonsrc erf what the totality of their lived experiences tell us about the changing nature 0 race relations in the United States. EXTERNAL PRESSUREs: BORDER PATROLLING IN BLACK AND WHITE While attitudes toward interracial relationships in national opinion surveys contrn- ue to trend in the positive direction of acceptance (for both blacks and whites), the story is a bit more complicated on the ground. Soerologrst Errea Chrlds fount tirat blacks and whites tend to lean in opposite directions rn terms of drffcrentratrng 104 I Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Loren Henderson their general attitudes about interracial relationships from their assessment of specific family members who are interracially married.m Blacks tend to disapprove of interracial relationships generally, but they are tolerant and make exceptions for their family and friends. By contrast, whites tend to express approval of inter— racial relationships generally, but they disapprove of those relationships for their immediate family or friends. Heather Dalmage argues that the discrepancy between the attitudes of blacks and whites lies in differential conceptions of same-race relationships. For blacks, marrying within one’s racial group is perceived as strengthening the black family and supporting unification in a group strugglingfor survival and liberation. By con— trast, whites tend to support same-race relationships, but they do so unrefiectively.” These differential views of race and marriage affect how individuals interpret and construct the consequences of interracial coupling. Irrespective of race, class, or gender, those within interracial relationships find themselves regularly faced with insulting questions and forced to legitimize their relationships as loving and con- sensual iii ways that mono—racial couples never consider. These daily experiences, and the harsh realities that interracial couples face, create unique stressors that put additional strains on such relationships and may explain the higher divorce rate among interracial marriages and may also contribute to the decision of many inter- racial couples to cohabitate instead of marry.lZ Both black and white partners in interracial relationships commonly report experiencing a particular form ofracial hostility that Heather Dalmage describes as border Eatmttiiig.” Dalrnage details various behaviors and attitudes expressed by W'iite family members, friends, peers, and strangers that communicate a con— sistent and clear message: same—race dating and marriage are “normal" and inter- racial coupling is ”different" and “problematic." When individuals date or marry cross-racially, previously unarticulated boundaries between blacks and whites break out into the open, shifting the way that they are perceived by others, chang— ing their relationships with friends and family, and making them the targets of hostility by strangers. Border patrolling occurs for both black and white partners, although the way it manifests is differentiated by race and gender. White women who marry black men describe being verbally harassed, socially ostracized, and/or excommunicated from family and friendship networks. As a result, some feel they have been re—categorized as inherently “flawed” or “pol— luted" by other whites, and they descr...
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