Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Interracial Relationships

Specifically: Heterosexual, white/black.

More specifically: In the United States.

Now, we all know that until fairly recently, interracial relationships were not only frowned up, but illegal in terms of marriage. Society progresses, though, and as time has passed, only the most stringent racists still see a white woman and a black man, and think nasty epithets.

For the most part, people see it, and don't care. Or, rather, they don't see it. With it no longer being a big deal, their gaze lingers no longer than it would on any other couple. It has ceased to be something people are concerned with.

Now, before launching into the rest of this, a bit of backstory is required, I think. I live in the south. I was not born here, nor was I raised here. As such, I tend to look on behaviour in the south as something of a curiosity. I observe, but can't really identify, as I wasn't raised by people who held the same views as those here.

I first noticed what I am about to speak on about a decade ago. I was one-half of a black female/white male couple. It wasn't the only time it had occurred. Now, to me, this was something I'd never really thought about. When I met the first girl, we dated because we shared interests, we were similar enough to provoke various interpersonal chemistries, and other various items.

The color of her skin never really entered into my mind, except on the odd occasion of noticing our hands, if we were holding hands at the time.

Another time, I was fixed up, and it happened to be a black woman. Blind date. Did I ask in advance if she was black? No. Again, never occurred to me as a question that need be asked.

Now, backstory aside, we move on. When you see a black male and white female, it pretty much goes under your radar. Now, when you see a black female and white male, do you notice? Does it call attention to itself in your mind, simply by existing?

Not that I'm saying that you have a problem with it. Far from it. Simply that you're noticing something because you never see it.

While I see plenty of black men with white women (when I bother to specifically seek to notice), I can count on one hand the amount of times in the last decade that I've seen a black woman and a white man.

I don't generally notice people throwing dirty looks, or muttering under their breath at black men and white women.

I was shot a variety of foul looks, and had people bold enough to directly accost me with verbal attacks.

This is where I started to think about these things. Why is one acceptable to general society, but not the other? What's so different and wrong with it, that it requires specific attention paid?

I'd like to think maybe it's only the backwards throwbacks in the south that think this way, but look at the nation as a whole.

Tiger Woods has a white wife. Does anyone care? No. Can you name a black female celebrity with a white husband? I don't honestly think I can.

I'm sure you can easily name a movie or television program that has a black male character in a relationship with a white female.

Can you do the same for the inverse? Admittedly, I almost never watch television, so the only example I have is Boy Meets World, wherein the main character's friend had a girlfriend that was black.

The statistics back me up on this, as well. In terms of marriage between whites and blacks, it is 2.65 times more likely for it to be a black male, and white female. 73% of all black/white marriages are black male, white female.

For instance, in 2006:

White Wife Black Wife
White Husband 50,224,000 117,000
Black Husband 286,000 3,965,000

6.6% of married black men, and 2.8% of married black women, have a white spouse.

Or, in a different way of putting it: About 7% of marriages of black males are to a white woman. About two tenths of a single percent of marriages of white males are to a black woman.

Now, we come to my questions. (It's funny, I ask this, as if my blog actually has readers. Here's hoping.)

Can you report similar where you live? Is one common, and accepted, the other rare, and looked down upon?

Why do you think this is? Is it out of sexism? Racism? Both? Neither?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and why it may be.

I'd enjoy a bit of discourse as to the various reasons people think this is. I have my own ideas/theories on it, but I'll refrain from putting them in the main post, as I do not wish to skew the things people may say.


Anonymous said...

It's true, black female and white male couples are rare.
I don't think it pertains to one reason or another (i.e. racism vs. sexism vs. social structure vs. classism etc.), but rather, an amalgamation of all those things. People seem to have this misconception that issues can be boiled down to a single element of -ism, but I believe that that's untrue. Society, as a whole, is a systemic process; so it's impossible to separate all these things.

With that said, I can only make the guess as to why you face discrimination for being in an interracial relationship: that it is due to the history of the south. Because of slavery, a black female/white male union may be deemed as something of a possessive relationship; in other words, the black woman is being taken advantage of. I'm not in any way suggesting that you are, mind you. Just that that is what I think is suggested in a lot of people's minds. Even if they don't directly think that, it might be difficult to get the historical implication out of their minds.

But then again, I've never been in the south, so I could just be talking out of my ass.

As far as my current residence, though, such coupling is not looked down on. I live in an interesting bubble called the Bay (a.k.a. San Francisco Bay Area). People don't really seem to mind, and I've noticed a few that seemed mostly undisturbed by public presence. In fact, one of my friends (white male) was in a committed long-term relationship with an acquaintance of mine (black female).

On a tangent, I think the rarest coupling I've seen so far has been black female/Asian male. I've seen only one in my entire life.

Oh, and just for interesting reference:

David Bowie's wife is Somali-American.

As for a TV series, Firefly, which was cut very prematurely due to Fox's complete idiocy, had a black female/white male couple.
(It's also a really good show in general.)

Octavia Butler's most famous novel, Kindred, features a black female/white male couple.

Black Thirteen said...

First, thanks for the comment. It's nice to know someone read it, and thought about it.

What I meant by the particular -ism, is perhaps, which has the strongest influence.

What I see, (here, at least) is an interesting combination of racism and sexism.

Basically, women are the "lost cause" of the equation, and therefore, that's why they don't mind them. Then, it's a "men should know better, they're smarter than that" sort of thing. Then, to round it out, a lot of black women here seem to believe that even if they really like a white male, that it would be wrong, or would disappoint their parents if they dated him.

Though, as far as what I faced, you don't need to speak in present tense. It was a fair amount of time ago. It was just the catalyst that really got me thinking about it.

I think, though, you're right, that statistically, black female/asian male is the rarest interracial coupling.

I did not know that about David Bowie, actually.

phd in yogurtry said...

Here are a few:

Robert Deniro & Grace Hightower

David Frost and Diane Carroll

David Bowie and Iman (super model)

William Cohen, Clinton's Secretary of Defense, is married to Janet Langhart

Its interesting hearing your personal perspective. I would have thought black men coupled with white women would bring more derision, especially in the south. But as you say, its more commonplace.

Black Thirteen said...

The only one of those I knew about, was William Cohen and Janet Langhart.

Oh? Why would you have thought that would bring more derision?

It's always interesting to me to hear people's points of view on this.