When two people fall in love, neither differences in race nor religion can prevent them from tying the knot. Mixed couples become almost blind to their polar lifestyles and backgrounds after forming a serious relationship. Unfortunately, these dissimilarities which begin to become insignificant to the couple are glaring to their families and society. The couple is frequently reminded that they are two separate people from different cultures that should not belong together. Though mixed couples are often scrutinized and put under great pressure from their families and society, the trend of intermarriage will continue to grow and have a very positive affect on the families formed.
For the most part, parents of mixed couples do not accept inter-racial and inter-religious relationships, or are at least hesitant about the idea at first. When Yolanda E.S. Miller, an Asian woman, introduced her Caucasian boyfriend Jim to her family, she said, “He [her father] shook Jim’s hand and grunted while looking away when they were introduced. At dinner, he ignored Jim completely, speaking only in Chinese to my aunt (who, incidentally, was surprised to discover he could even speak Chinese)” (Miller 80). Miller’s father blatantly did not approve of his daughter dating a white male. The fact was that her father most likely had a fear of whites from the racism he experienced as a young Chinese man growing up in America. He was afraid that his daughter would experience the same racism and discrimination he had gone through, and thus did not want his daughter to have relations with a Caucasian. His behavior is understandable considering his past encounters with whites, and this is one of the reasons parents are apprehensive about intermarriage.
Another illustration of when parents are opposed to intermarriage occurred when an Arab man and a Jewish woman announced their relationship to their parents. When Ella, an Israeli Jew, introduced her Palestinian Arab boyfriend, Jamil, to her family, he remarked that “If I had walked in with a bomb in my hand, their reaction couldn’t have been worse” (Chen 34). Israelis and Palestinians are supposed to be fierce enemies, so the fact that their daughter was dating an enemy is the reason for the disappointment and outrage in her family. When society is against an individual, their family is supposed to be there to support them, but in this case the weight of society’s beliefs outweigh their family’s desire to stand behind them. Without their parents support, a marriage between Jim and Ella will be very difficult.
Kyle Spencer also reports about parental disapproval of mixed couples. He says, “That’s a lesson Karen Kildare, a black university recruiting director in Lincoln, Nebraska, learned firsthand when she brought home her college boyfriend, a white guy from an Iowa fanning family. ‘My dad said he was worried I’d become the family’s servant,’ she says. ‘He had this ridiculous mental picture of his baby girl out working in a field for a bunch of white folks’” (132). Again, similarly to the Asian-Caucasian couple, their father showed disapproval of their relationship based on past experience or teachings. People can be quick to judge, and mixed couples often do not gain support right away, if they ever do gain support from their friends and family. While families are usually somewhat against intermarriage, society is what puts the most pressure on mixed couples.
Society is what plants the idea of disapproval of inter-relations to parents when they are growing up. George Yancey, PhD, a black sociology professor at the University of North Texas says, “…the notion [of white supremacy] stayed with us after the [Civil] war, when it was used to legitimize segregation, discriminatory separate-but-equal laws, and legal bans of mixed-race marriages” (Spencer 133). It is understandable to see why a black parent would be uneasy about their daughter dating a white male when they grew up in an era where they were put down by white people. It will take time before hard times are forgotten and mixed couples can gain immediate support from their families.
Besides society influencing parents of mixed couples in the past, society continues to directly put pressure on mixed couples. “When…Taye Diggs and…Idina Menzel received death threats last year that mentioned their biracial marriage, it served as an unpleasant reminder that mixed-race couples are still confronted by prejudice – sometimes in aggressive forms” (Spencer 132). Not all couples receive pressure this extreme from society, but any pressure put on an intermarriage couple could be damaging to a relationship. The couple may not constantly deal with adversity, but they deal with it enough to make it a factor in their relationship.
Inter-religious relationships can be even harder to maintain because of pressure from society. When a Sunni Muslim and a Shiite Muslim married, “Terrorists, most likely from Al Qaeda, destroyed the Shiites’ Askariya Mosque in Samarra, and Shia militants responded by attacking dozens of Sunni mosques, including two in the local neighborhood of Adhamiya” (Dehghanpisheh, Nordland, and Hastings 24). The hatred between the two different religions is intense, which makes it extremely difficult for the couple to live even remotely comfortably. When facing such intense opposition of their marriage from society, what is the couple to do?
While there are many adverse factors towards intermarriage, there are many facts and figures pointing towards an increasing acceptance of mixed couples. Jim Lobe says, “The number of interracial marriages in the United States increased more than tenfold between 1970 and 2000, according to a new report which concludes that U.S. attitudes towards interracial dating and marriage have undergone a ‘sea change’ over the past generation” (32). This shows that the perception of intermarriage is taking a more positive spin in the publics view and that there are advantages to intermarriage. Why else would it be increasing?
With racism and discrimination down, people feel less threatened and are able to explore relationships which may not have been possible in the past. The relationships formed are very close, as the couple must be devoted to deal with any pressure they receive from their family or society. As a result of committed parents, their children are raised in a very close family. The family sticks together and there is a true sense of belonging for the children. The children will have a rich cultural background, which will give them difference experiences growing up. It is good for them to become acquainted with different cultures and gain understanding and tolerance of different people at a young age. Rhonda Ploubis, a wife in an intermarriage, says of her son: “I’m so proud that he will have a background that I didn’t. To have that rich history is wonderful. I don’t, and I sort of regret it” (Glaser 34). Also as a result of intermarriage, the children may grow up learning two languages. This is a bonus that could help them communicate with more people and potentially open up opportunities for them in the future.
With positive and negative effects of intermarriage, a mixed couple must be ready to deal with and prevent bad experiences to get the most of out their marriage. Arthur Blecher says intermarriage parents need to: “Have a clear plan for how you’ll identify or label your child, decide the identity of the household, which may be different from the identity of the child, make all decisions about the child’s identity as a parenting team, and to acknowledge your feelings and discuss them with your partner” (Glaser 34). It is necessary to decide beforehand on how to raise the child in order to reduce and confusion the child may experience about their identity growing up. They need to grow up with a solid foundation of who they are. The parents need to work together and be open in order for the marriage to work. Without communication, arguments could occur if one parent were to make a decision on their own regarding the children or if one parent becomes apprehensive to how their children are being raised. It is necessary to iron out any possible details about the family structure. As long as intermarriage families take these steps, they can be very close positive and productive families. Dealing with discrimination can be difficult, but as long as the parents are close and dedicated, the family they raise will be rewarding in the end.
Chen, Joanna. “‘We’ve Shot Ourselves in the Heart.’.” Newsweek (Atlantic Edition) 136.19 (2000): 34. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.
Dehghanpisheh, Back, Nordland, Rod, and Michael Hasting. “Love in a Time of Madness.” Newsweek (Atlantic Edition) 147.11 (2006): 24-26. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.
Glaser, Gabrielle. “MIXED Blessings.” Baby Talk 63.10 (1998): 34. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.
Lobe, Jim. “Interracial marriages on the increase.” New York Amsterdam News 96.30 (2005): 32-32. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.
Miller, Yolanda E.S. “Surviving Racial Storms.” Marriage Partnership 18.1 (2001): 80. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.
Spencer, Kyle. “What’s Interracial Dating Like Today?.” Cosmopolitan 239.1 (2005): 132-135. MasterFILE Premier. 15 November 2006. http://search.ebscohost.com.