While Interracial Marriages Continue to Rise in the Country, Have Americans Really Gone Colorblind?
By Johnette Reed
Toy trucks and teddy bears seem to be the place settings on the Madden family’s dining room table.
“Get your toys down J.J., we need to eat dinner,” Erica Madden says.
On the surface Erica and her husband Jason sound like any other young couple trying to find the perfect work-life balance It’s Tuesday evening and they are busily trying to conduct family dinner and ready two toddlers for bedtime.
But the differences between these two parents could not be more obvious. Erica is the organizer of the household, making sure that everyone and everything is in its place. Jason is the fun-loving father who loves to horseplay just as much as his toddler son.
Aside from their distinct personalities, Erica and Jason differ in more obvious ways.
Erica is African-American and Jason is Caucasian. Although they are from two different races, Erica and Jason say it’s the furthest thing from their minds.
“Our families don’t see color — they don’t see black, white or anything like that. They just see me for who I am. They just see me as a person,” Jason says.
These two have looked beyond the racial differences between them – and there is proof that the country is doing the same.
A report released by the Pew Research Center in 2012 shows that the number of interracial marriages in America has increased. The report highlighted that as of 2010 at least 1 in 12 marriages in the U.S. were interracial. This is a significant increase compared to 3.2 percent that were accounted for in 1980.
The Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws, which ban interracial unions, to be unconstitutional in 1967, but southern states like Alabamakept state-level laws against such marriages in effect until 2000.
The landmark case that challenged those states came in 1967 when Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple in Virgina, were sentenced to prison for marrying each other. In Loving v Va., the Supreme Court invalidated such laws nationwide. But it didn’t end all discrimination.
“Unlike the Maddens, Husain, who is of Pakistani decent, experienced similar concerns from his parents who struggled to accept his interracial relationship.
My parents, being immigrants to this country, had no problem with other races in any way, but wanted me to marry a Pakistani girl. They wanted to preserve their culture and language. So my mom was adamant about me marrying a Pakistani girl, but eventually she came around after accepting the fact that the U.S. culture is far more mixed than Pakistan,” said Waris Husain, a D.C.-based writer and lawyer.
But the negative origins of interracial relationships still create some stigma around interracial unions today, he said.
According to Dr. Pamela Brewer, who specializes in therapy for interracial families, said
“While we see many more interracial couples and families today and there is less of a tendency to stare, there is still intra-racial concern about interracial couples.”
“Interracial unions are more common. Cross-cultural unions are more common as well. And as the world becomes more diverse in its mixtures, and more complex with respect to its experiences… the need for open, pointed, compassionate, curious conversations becomes more critical,” Brewer said.
Sarah and David Jolly, a white man and a African-American woman, have been married for 11 years.
Sarah says that she and her husband do not focus on race and they are teaching their three children to accept people for who they are. She says living in New Jersey, as opposed to the deep South, she feels people are more accepting of her and her family.
“I’ve never had to go through what people went through in the 60s, 70s or even the 80s. So I’ve never had anyone say anything in my face or treat me strange because my husband and I are different. When I’m describing my husband I don’t even say his color, I just say him over there the tall, skinny guy,” said Jolly.
Jolly points out that people should see others for who they are and focus on the characteristics that make that person great.
“People shouldn’t look at the color. Sometimes David and me just sit around and laugh and have the best times. If that person treats you good, they love you and respect you, then that’s what matters,” Jolly said.
My hope is that debunking some of the negative perceptions will shed a better light on interracial relationships. While Jason and Erica Madden did not want to be pictured in the story they did speak to me via telephone and provided much needed insight to the story.