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Study: decline in cross-cultural and interracial marriages

Here’s interesting information based on the 2000 census and research by Zhenchao Qian of Ohio State University and Daniel Lichter or Cornell University. The idea that inter-marriage is cyclical and generational hadn’t occurred to me, but it makes sense. (USA Today):

The USA’s growing diversity is cooling the melting pot in at least one way: marriage across racial and ethnic lines…The sheer number of immigrants who arrived last decade has made it more likely for them to marry among themselves, according to findings published this month in American Sociological Review.

…In contrast with the decline in intermarriages among whites and Asians and Hispanics, the rate of marriages between blacks and whites rose significantly from 1990 to 2000, although it continues to lag far behind those of other minorities.

The arrival of more than 11 million immigrants in the 1990s created a larger marriage pool for Hispanics and Asians, including those born here. Immigrants who were younger than 20 when they arrived and U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians – mostly the less educated – were more likely to marry among themselves in 2000 than in 1990.

…If history repeats itself, the children of immigrants will be better educated, earn more and live and work in more diverse areas than their parents. That could lead to more marriages outside their groups, Qian says.

This reminds me of an earlier post on dating outside one’s race in the gay community. A snippet:

The perspective on how people articulate a preference is quite telling about racist thinking. For instance, one gay individual wrote [on a gay message board]:

I personally am not racist but I don’t date black people. Nothing against black people, I’m just not attracted to them. The same reason I don’t date woman. I’m not attracted to them.

The person tosses up the caveat that they aren’t racist because they “have black friends.” Given the range of what “black” looks like, how can this person make a blanket statement about all black people when it comes to dating? Is it a matter of perceived physical features (many blacks who can pass for some other ethnicity), a perceived cultural difference (“all blacks are poor or into thug culture”), etc. There’s not a whole lot of self-examination going on in the statement.

There’s an earnest list on About.com by Kathy Belge, How To Fight Racism in the LGBT Community, that provides concrete ways to address issues personally and publicly to deal with it. I find the list helpful in some ways:

Don’t Assume. Do you assume that Blacks or Latinas are more homophobic than White people? That all black lesbians like Hip-Hop or that Asians are good at math. Stereotypes hurt everyone. Examine what your prejudices are.

Some of the more ambitious suggestions there are beyond the comfort level of many people with busy lives, such as “Join or start an organization dealing with racism or human rights,” or “Plan a multi-cultural LGBT film festival, concert or community dialogue.”

Those are admirable efforts, but there are things people can do on a much smaller scale that are meaningful. More after the jump.In the Tips section:

  1. Keep an open mind. You might learn something.
  2. Everyone is different. What I say here may not apply to every situation.
  3. Know that racism is part of our culture. Don’t be ashamed if you mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn.

Number 3 is the biggest hurdle when discussing and addressing race, and I’ve said that many times before on this blog. It’s a result of people feeling insecure about having open conversations, asking what might be “stupid” questions, and worrying about whether a defensive reaction will occur.

Generally speaking, we can’t get very far if people cannot even admit that racism is still part of our culture, and that one can be racist without putting a hood on and burning a cross. Look at Michael Richards. One of the striking things about his unhinged apology on Letterman was that he felt compelled to say he wasn’t racist.

“I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this,” Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself.

This after saying this:

“Shut up! Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f—— fork up your a–…Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger!”

Those comments obviously indicate that Richards either must have been possessed by a racist demon or he was just “playing one” onstage that night, right?

The real problem is that Richards was more concerned about being labeled racist because contemporary society has deemed that label the sign of a fringe element, a social pariah.

Had he been more self-reflective he might have something more sane, such as “I realize that I am a product of a culture steeped in a toxic history regarding race, and my outburst — and the response to it — is a teachable moment. It’s important to think about how we feel about race and how our internal views about race play out in our daily lives. I intend to do so, because there was no excuse for what I said on stage.”

Instead, his advisers felt it was necessary for him to ring up Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (surely these guys must represent all black people — argh, this is so tired) to beg for mercy. That isn’t productive.

***

One suggestion that I’d add to the About.com list of remedies and ways to combat racism is a difficult one for many people, and one I believe is the most effective way to bridge the gap — get to know, as a close friend — someone of a different race or culture. Not a work colleague or a neighbor you share casual conversations with, but to push past your comfort zone — make friends you can be close enough to that you can ask and be asked those direct questions about race in an environment of trust.

The laws may have deemed segregation illegal, but in many ways the social self-segregation continues because few are confident enough to challenge human nature and step outside of their comfort zones. In this respect, the same can be said about dealing with homophobia — one on one exposure at a personal level to “difference” allows open and productive conversations that educate.

The big difference with dealing with homophobia, of course, is the fact the laws have not caught up to deem institutionalized anti-gay discrimination unacceptable at a federal level. In this case, the law is often fragmented along red state/blue state lines, and the cultural comfort gap in discussing homophobia can be wide. Gays living in progressive metropolitan areas often forget that their brothers and sisters in flyover country aren’t always able to live their lives without fear of being persecuted or fired for being gay, let alone being the target of homophobic attacks and social ostracism. Out gays and allies who are willing to educate themselves on equality issues are sorely needed in areas where conversations and building of bridges need to take place.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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