Interracial Romance in the Fight for Racial Justice
Interracial marriage has been legal throughout the United States since June 12, 1967 when the United States Supreme Court made its landmark ruling in the well documented case of Loving v. Virginia. A rural working-class couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, with the help of attorneys with American Civil Liberties Union petitioned the land's highest court arguing that the criminalization of interracial marriage was unconstitutional. It must be noted that millions of loving couples today are afforded the right to marry someone of another race because of the steadfast loyalty of Richard Loving towards his African American wife Mildred, and because of the two Jewish Caucasian attorneys, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, who fought on the Lovings' behalf to legalize interracial marriage. In other words, hard battles for equality and civil rights cannot be won by a minority population without the alliance of those in power (namely, the majority).
Although interracial marriage became legal throughout the United States in 1967, mixed-race couplings, particularly between Black Americans and Caucasian Americans remained socially and societally marginalized in both action and opinion for decades thereafter. In the 1950s only 5% of the American population was in support of interracial marriage and 3% of marriages in the United States were interracial according to the Pew Research Center. Fast forward to the first decade of the 21st century, and that approval rating jumped to 80%. By 2017, according to the same research, 17% of Americans identified as being in interracial relationships, which does not count non-married domestic partnerships and dating relationships. Anecdotally, according to the trends, in 2020 we are looking at more than 1 million interracial relationships and marriages in the United States.
According to the dating website, InterracialDatingCentral.com, the site's membership has grown by 300% since their original launch into the online dating landscape back in 2004, demonstrating a sharp rise in interest and pursuance over a sixteen-year period. The dating site also reports a Facebook community that has grown to 1.8 million followers and close to 40% daily engagement on their posts. Many of their community's Facebook posts consist of interracial couples and families sharing their successful love stories with the Facebook.com/InterracialDatingCentral community.
As interracial couplings comprised of Caucasian and Black Americans and their children continue to grow exponentially across the U.S., we are presented with a unique moment in history and an opportunity for more people outside of the black community to have skin in the game, so to speak. In other words, there are more non-black Americans vested in the rights, safety and financial opportunities of Black Americans because a considerable percentage are dating and married to Black Americans, have mixed-race children or a good friend or family member who is black. An article on MedicalExpress.com shares a University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) study that finds, "The more time we spend with people from another nationality the more empathy we have for them." We can assume that the same findings would apply to racial differences.
In the 2012 bestselling book, The Tanning of America: How Hip Hop Created a Culture That Re-Wrote The Rules of the New Economy, author Steve Stoute studies how our economy shifted to accommodate what Stoute describes as a new generation of consumers who are all the same mental complexion, with an entire generation leaning in to the influences of hip hop and urban culture.
Interestingly, Black men are more likely to intermarry than black women, creating a societal dynamic where non-black women in these interracial relationships and marriages share a vested interest in the fight for equal treatment by police, equal treatment economically and politically for black Americans. As these women have children, their emotional investment in black American rights and safety continues to grow as does that of their extended family.
It has been said that for a minority group to win the rights they deserve other groups of people must be in the fight with them. Women did not win the right to vote without the support of a vested population of men. The LGBTQ+ community did not win the right to marry without the support of vested heterosexual Americans. Black Americans will not win the fight for equal access to financial capital, additional educational and job opportunities, and safety under the law without the continued vested interest of non-black Americans. The explosive growth of interracial couplings, marriages, and families over the last 20 years has resulted in a default mechanism of non-black support for these human rights issues.
A 2017 New York Times article, titled, "The Role of Men and New York State in Women's Suffrage" cites that it was after the mother of Harry T. Burn, a 23-year-old Tennessee legislator, persuaded him to cast the deciding vote for suffrage, that the 19th amendment was passed allowing women the right to vote in 1917. The article goes on to state, "By 1916, even President Woodrow Wilson had been persuaded by his daughters to support suffrage. 'A cause which could enlist the enthusiastic, devoted, idealistic support of such ladies must be wholesome,' he said."
In the fight for gay marriage rights, another Pew Research Center compilation of surveyed information from 2013 states, "The rise in support for same-sex marriage over the past decade is among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this time period. A new national survey finds that much of the shift is attributable to the arrival of a large cohort of young adults – the Millennial generation – who are far more open to gay rights than previous generations." The Pew article illustrates a graph showing 70% of Millennials supported gay marriage leading up to its legalization in On June 26, 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges."
In much the same way, Black Americans with white partners are likely influencing a wave of familiarity, empathy, compassion and decisive action on the part of many white Americans who were, in previous generations, not against the fight for racial justice, but perhaps, more apathetic towards fight, prior to more non-black Americans living with and loving their black partner and their partner's family and parenting black and mixed-race children.