Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interracial Marriages

Over the last week or so, I've been researching a topic that might tick some people off (if they're ticked off, oh well). I've been looking for data on interracial marriages in North America, the Caribbean and Europe.

Last week, someone decided to question and criticize why I had married someone who was not from the Caribbean and someone who was not black. That prompted me to start looking for some solid facts about interracial marriage in the United States. From there, I decided to compare it with data from Canada, Europe and the Caribbean.

So here's what I found. In much of the United States, interracial marriages were illegal until 1967. Yes, you read that correctly. Until June 1967, it was illegal in many states to marry someone of a different race. I'm not going to go into the whole Supreme Court case but I think it's shocking that had I lived only fifty years ago, I would have been unable to marry Mr Caramel. Since then, there has been a steady increase of interracial marriages. According to the US Census data, interracial marriages accounted for 8.4 % of all marriages in 2010 and 15.1% of the new marriages that year. Statistically, Caucasians were the least likely to marry someone of another race (9.4% of white people married someone from another race). Asians were the most likely to marry someone else (27.7%). There are wonderfully enthusiastic articles that are cheery about the fact that the approval rates for interracial marriages are at an all time high. Apparently, 87% of Americans approve of interracial marriages and 60% would approve of it if someone in their own family married someone from another race.

Now isn't that just lovely? According to a 2015 estimate, the United States has a population of just over 320 million people. So, by my calculations, there are over 4 million people who do not approve of interracial marriage under any circumstance and 128 million people who would not be happy if their family member married someone of a different race. Isn't that cheery? Shouldn't we be happy with these statistics? While I was doing research for this post, I came across so many different websites that spewed ignorance and hate and purported that interracial marriage went against the Bible (it doesn't!), that it was unnatural (errr.... what?) or that it was 'racial genocide' (I don't even have words). Let's look at some more recent specific examples. In 2010 (just 5 years ago), a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. And in 2011, a Baptist Church in Kentucky voted to bar mixed-race couples from joining the church.

Needless to say, that I was quite shocked by these findings. I decided to widen my search and see what the situation is like in other countries. In Canada, 92% of people approve of interracial marriages. In France, 11.8% of all marriages are interracial (3.4% higher than the U.S.). In Northern Europe (Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland), interracial marriages account for 11% - 25% of all marriages.

But it was when I turned to the statistics from England and the Caribbean that a light bulb really went on. In England, there were never any laws against interracial marriages and records of such marriages predate the 17th century. To me, the stunning and inspiring fact was that England does not even look at race or ethnicity when examining data for marriages. The same holds true in St Vincent, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, these countries examine the ethnic makeup of their populations but they don't consider it an important variable in marriage data.

To me, therein lies the problem. Why should it even matter what are the races of persons getting married? Do we measure their heights? Their weights? Their favorite colors? Or how about what kinds of cars they drive? No. That's absurd you might say. Why? Because those things have no bearing whatsoever on the marriage. So why does race? Because for way too many people, the differences in skin color are so important that we have to question and record it.

So let's get back to Mr Caramel and I. We're different. He likes the color red. He's 5' 8". He likes to play computer games. He's happier with an Excel spreadsheet than with a pot or pan. My favorite color is pink. I'm vertically challenged. I like reading historical fiction. And I like to dance and sing badly while I bake. Oh yeah, his complexion is more like vanilla ice-cream and he's Southern American while I more resemble chocolate and I'm from the Caribbean. But we love God and each other and that's more important than any of our differences.

Maybe one day, race would be so trivial that people would wonder why it even mattered. Maybe one day, future generations would wonder why we were so petty and shallow as to care what race someone mattered. Maybe that's overly optimistic. But 50 or 60 years ago it was overly optimistic to think that persons of different races could even hope to get married. And to the narrow-minded person who scornfully asked why I would marry a white American, I say that it's so simple. Because I fell in love with his heart, not his skin.

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