“Tara scoffs at prevalent laws in South Carolina before the 1970s, prohibiting interracial marriages. Life is so absurd. If she’d been born in Charleston, the probable outcome would have been imprisonment or worst for her parents. The thought infuriates her; the ignorance makes her boiling mad, but she appreciates what her parents endured to make their lives possible.”
Tara McPherson, a character in my novel, By Chance, mimics my sentiments toward interracial marriage. The Integrity Act of 1924, created to preserve racial integrity, criminalized a white person’s marriage to anyone with “no trace of blood other than Caucasian,” known as the “one-drop rule.” It took a long, arduous battle of Mildred and Richard Loving, married July 11, 1958, and arrested five weeks later, to have this act overturned. Despite the law, the Loving’s married and were forced to uproot their lives to escape persecution, a heartbreaking strife that lasted nine years. On June 12, 1967, the Loving’s won their case when the Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the state of Virginia. Subsequently, other states with similar laws followed suit.
We’ve come far since the Loving versus Virginia case when racism was overt and more hostile. Regardless, today we still grapple with racial discrimination that’s evolved into a more subtle form than past generations. But oddly, a paradox has evolved as racial attitudes improve with persistent racial inequities. With ever-increasing technology and social media, racism has become more transparent, a silent bigotry open for world viewing. The recent backlash against Cheerio’s commercial portraying a biracial family, sitting around a table enjoying breakfast with their beautiful biracial child, shows how divided we are as a nation on this topic. Cheerio’s effort to demonstrate America’s cultural diversity is commendable. However, the racist response on YouTube and Facebook, to say the least, was shocking. Besieged with Nazis and racial genocide remarks, YouTube had to shut down the comment section.
Contrarily, Cheerio supporters expressed their gratitude for the company’s decision to feature a biracial family. Camille Gibson, President of Cheerios marketing, explained, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families, and we celebrate them all.” On the Today show, Star Jones stated, “I’m not surprised at the reaction to Cheerio’s commercial because social media is kind of the new Ku Klux Klan white hood. It allows you to be anonymous, and to say the kinds of things that you would never say to a person to their face.” She believes this discrimination “is generational and won’t be an issue in years to come.” But are millennial’s views toward racism any different than their parents? Will racism dwindle with each new generation?
Numerous studies have shown younger generations are more tolerant of interracial marriages. Pew Research found the percentage of people opposed to marrying another race declined twenty one percent from 2000, to current day (from thirty one to ten percent). Also, opposition to marrying a black person fell from “sixty three percent to fourteen percent last year.” However, actions speak louder than words. Pew Research uncovered bias in people’s approval of interracial couples. Although they voiced approval, blacks and whites are still the least likely to marry interracially, while Hispanics (twenty seven percent) and Asians (twenty nine percent) have the highest rate of intermarriage in the United States. Other findings show interracial marriages are more predominant in metropolitan cities rather than rural areas which Pew explained as a lack of diversity in rural America and fewer opportunities for people to meet different races.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Will Martin Luther King’s iconic speech ever come to fruition? Although it appears racism declines with each generation, it’s too complicated of an issue to disappear completely. Many believed Obama’s administration would improve race relations, but his tenure pulled deep-seated racism from hiding to the forefront. And with Trump’s presidency, racial strife has worsened. A society free of racism is hard to imagine. Perhaps soon our children will judge a person by their worth not their color, and accept interracial marriage for its truth—a physical and spiritual union between two people that doesn’t discriminate by color.
CTM interviewed the award winning author Ben Burgess, the author of the novel Black and White. This novel touches on issues surrounding interracial couples. Meet the author and read his interview here.
Goyette, Brandon (2013). Cheerios Commercial Featuring Mixed Race Family Gets Racist Backlash. Retrieved from(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/cheerios-commercial-racist-backlash_n_3363507.html
Santhanam, Laura (2015). Here’s Why It’s So Hard To Figure Out How Millennials Feel About Racism. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/data-reveal-complex-millennial-attitudes-race/
Stump, Scott (2 013).Cheerios Ad With Mixed-Race Family Draws Racist Responses. Retrieved fromhttps://www.today.com/news/cheerios-ad-mixed-race-family-draws-racist-responses-6C10169988
Williams, Vanessa and Clement, Scott (2017). Why Support For Interracial Marriage Is Much More Common Than Interracial Marriage Itself. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/05/25/why-support-of-interracial-marriage-is-much-more-common-than-interracial-marriage-itself/?utm_term=.d7c5802f07de