Increasingly, more Americans think interracial marriage not just acceptable, but socially 'good'
A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that the majority of Americans support interracial marriage and about 45 percent think that it's socially good when interracial marriage happens — a startling turn around in the 45 years since the Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriage.
In 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in their own home, in the middle of the night, for the crime of miscegenation.
When the Supreme Court declared miscegenation laws illegal in 1967, 16 states still had them on the books. At one point, 42 states banned interracial marriage. But 45 years later, a new poll released this week by the Pew Research Center just how far we’ve come. About 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 crossed racial or ethnic lines, double the rate from 1980.
And a great majority of Americans say they would readily accept an interracial marriage in their family.
Renee Romano, a professor of history at Oberlin College and author of a book about interracial marriage, said regulating and preventing interracial marriage was a central part of American culture from the dawn of the nation through, in many places, the 1960s.
"You could be arrested if your performed an interracial marriage in some places," Romano said.
In 1958, when the Lovings were arrested, interracial marriage was still illegal in 21 states, Romano said.
"It was not at all unusual. They were forced to leave. They were banished from the South. At the time, when the judge ruled they could either go to prison or they could leave the South for 25 years. They could leave Virginia, leave their families behind. (The judge) said God created the races as separate beings and it is not his law for them to mix."
To the Lovings, their marriage was no big deal, Romano said. They'd grown up together. But to the state, this was a threat to keeping whites on top, Romano said.
Interracial couples often met in schools or at work, Romano said. Basically any place where they could meet as social equals.
"Being able to meet and date like any other couple might was really vital. And for much of American history that's been very hard," Romano said.
The Pew study shows that a lot of those views have changed in great ways. But Romano said there's still tension, particularly among African-American women who are angry at African-American men who date outside their race.
The number of African-American men who marry outside of their race is sharply higher than the number of African-American women who do.
"Some of the anger that the movie (Jungle Fever) tapped into has abated somewhat. But some of those issues are still around, even though there's much winder acceptance of interracial relationship," Romano said.
But even if that's the case, the research found that beyond being acceptable to most, a growing number of Americans actually think it's a good thing that marriage across racial lines is actually a benefit to society.
"About 45 percent of Americans think it's actually a positive good when people marry across race lines. They think that's a good thing," Romano said. "That is just incredibly different."
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