One of the things I’ve learned from my relationship with my African-American boyfriend is that there are people who:
- are truly accepting of others’ choices
- think it’s wrong, or
- aren’t openly against it but say hurtful things as jokes. (Unfortunately that is what bothers me the most and it happens almost every day.)
According to a recent Gallup poll of 1,319 adults in the U.S. found that approval for interracial marriage has reached a high point, with 86% saying it had no issue with it. That’s great and all, but what about the 14% who disapprove? Did they get stuck in the fifties? Their behavior could range from quietly disapproving to outright rude and oppressive. But if 86% of the population approves of my relationship, then I guess I should be jumping for joy.
Like I said, the most upsetting kind of comments are the ones that friends slip in during conversations. A co-worker I’d just met once told me I must have “jungle fever” once he found out who I was dating. Some people seem to think something like, “Well, you guys are great, but sometimes it just isn’t right, or doesn’t work.” And of course, everyone knows, “Once you go black, you don’t go back.”
For a Latina already dealing with underhanded racial and sexist comments, dating a black man apparently invites more of the same. But in a survey I have to wonder how many of these jokers would have been placed in that 14%.
The idea of a person’s worth is at stake in every relationship, whether it be by the couple’s parents, grandparents, coworkers or strangers. And interracial relationships are the most highly visible and easily judged. A friend of mine is a Japanese-American whose white grandfather was not initially happy with his son’s marriage to his Japanese wife. But he came to love this woman and the family they created. Otherwise, his judgment is not withheld. Apparently at one point in her childhood, this grandfather saw a white woman and a black man and yelled that it just wasn’t right.
The experience left my friend wondering at her grandfather’s hypocrisy.
If there is a silver lining about the poll, it is that when the question was first asked by Gallup in 1958, only 4% of those asked approved of interracial relationships. This is due in large part to the fact that the laws against interracial marriage and cohabitation weren’t deemed unconstitutional until 1967, almost a decade later.
I would think that the disapproving people in the fifties have either changed their minds in the past 50 years or died out along with the old laws and beliefs before the Civil Rights Movement. Progress has been made in many cases of oppression, but sadly this changes depending on who the oppressor is looking at.
[Photo By Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com]