The Rise of Interracial Marriage

Adele Booysen / Flickr

The changing attitude surrounding interracial marriages, which now make up 7.4 percent of all American marriages, was the subject of a recent NPR  piece that aired on All Things Considered.

According to recent data, the least common pairing is between black women and white men, followed by white women and black men. The most likely interracial marriage is between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, followed by those between white men and Asian American women. So what does that tell us about race in America? From NPR:

“It reflects the status hierarchy,” says Roderick J. Harrison, a demographer at Howard University. “If you’re trying to marry up, clearly whites are it. If you’re trying to avoid marrying down, it would still look like blacks might be the least preferred.”

But even though a relatively small percentage of all American marriages are interracial, attitudes have changed much more rapidly in recent years. In 1987, 48 percent of Americans felt it was okay for whites and blacks to date. By 2009, it jumped to 80 percent. And in 2008, almost 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial, a record number according to the Pew Center.

D.C. is a diverse, vibrant city, and the number of multiracial people living here has increased by about 2 percent over the past decade. By 2010, about 17,316 D.C. residents were multiracial, about 7,000 of whom reported to be black and some other race.

What do you think: do attitudes in D.C. reflect the national increase in interracial marriages? Is it more accepted in D.C. than in other places or is there still a taboo? What have been your experiences with interracial dating and marriage?

  • Frenchie

    All you have to do to answer this question is watch the way people react to a black-white couple holding hands down the street. As a matter of fact, you should actually run an experiment and have a couple walk around Columbia Heights, Dupont, U St, and Chinatown and you’d get more information on race in DC than any NPR article

  • riotsnotdiets

    I’m a white woman dating a black man in DC, and I was completely shocked when we started dating at how many stares, glares, shaking heads, and sometimes even comments we get when we’re walking together in DC.  Now, I certainly haven’t done any scientific study or compared reactions in different neighborhoods, and one couple is a very small sample size, but I have to say that when we visit New York it’s a totally different vibe.  

  • Jayce

    My wife and I still get stared at today, after 12 years of marriage.  But consider the hypocrisy around prejudices that of certain racial combinations. I am white and my wife is Chinese, therefore we experience stares and sometimes some mild comments. Now if I were black or Indian, there would be a much, much stronger reaction.  Since I am white, many consider me progressive, but if I were black, I’m not progressive, but am likely taking advantage of my Chinese wife somehow! 

    We just moved back to Toronto, where mixed marriages are very common. Our children’s names are not “weird”. We feel at home here. 

  • Frenchie

    I agree with you. There is a different vibe in other cities. I’m black and my bf is white and there is sometimes an obvious tension/negative reaction from other people in DC that we don’t experience in cities/ ‘hoods that are more integrated

  • ChellG

    In Australia 96% of the white population support multiracial schools according to a survey. However, when a school is more than 40% Asians, white people start fleeing. White flight from Asians is a big isssue in Australia. In the USA 84% of the white population is fine with interracial dating and marriages according to Gallup, but most, particularly the white women, wont engage in it. Gallup is just wasting their money. They should bluntly ask people whether they can ever love or marry a person of another race. The answer I am sure will be radically different. In DC, I think most people of the younger generation dont care except for one category of young people….white women and white teen girls.  Most white females the DC area, as in most other parts of the country will never date or marry someone from another race or for that matter even sit next to a non-white person in public transport. This is true of both liberal and conservative white women.  In Hawaii it is different. For some reason I see a lot of white women dating outside their race, and that is a cultural shock when you move from DC, US South or any other part of the mainland to Hawaii!

  • NotSquare

    I live in DC but I am not from DC. I am a white woman and my BF is Black and so was my ex-husband. I find black people to be more accommodating and less judgmental than white people of my relationship. I don’t notice stares etc in the street as I learned to tune that out years a go, but I find anywhere I go people, even people close to me make the ‘color’ jokes in regards to my relationship.

  • novamom

    We live in NoVa, but are in DC a lot (our son goes to a school in DC).  I am white, my husband is black.  We have been married for 13 years and have 2 kids and I have never noticed stares or glares at us in DC.

  • Luis

    When I mentioned this article to my wife, she asked if I was going to comment on it. “Wait, we’re interracial, right?” she had to double-check. We often forget. When it comes to our relationship I don’t really see race. We haven’t been in DC that long, but most places we’ve been, we are pretty comfortable in public, except when we see a traditional Indian family walk by. My wife is ethnically Indian, from Mauritius. We can feel the looks of disapproval from the older ladies. But we find it more humorous than hurtful. It’s a new world we live in, and it’s up to them to get used to it. I think the more interracial couples feel comfortable out in the world, the better chances we have of building a world defined by our common humanity rather than our race.

  • Kalle

    The marriage of a white man/black woman may be the least common pairing even now, but it occurred in my family more than 25 years ago.   My cousin (a white guy and a pre-med student at the U. of Illinois) started to date a fellow student from the Caribbean whose parents lived in the Chicago area.  My cousin come from a relatively conservative Republican background and neither he nor his girlfriend was looking to make any kind of political statement — they simply fell in love.  Both they and their parents were acutely aware of the possible problems of interracial marriage and the couple dated a long time before finally marrying.   After he finished med school, they moved out to Colorado and have been there ever since, raising their two kids together.   There’s no statistical revelation here — just an unusual love story.  But obstacles can be and were overcome . . . even back in the 1980′s.

  • Author James W. Lewis

    No matter if we like it or not, we’re all mingling in ways never seen in years past (work, socially, etc). Each generation thinks less of racism as the last. There’s a big chance your five-year-old child will grow up to date outsitde the race, and think nothing of it.

  • Bella Freeman

    Correction: The least common pair is between black women and Asian men.

  • WN

    2% in 10 years? haha.
    whites are almost extinct in DC so i think it’s not representative by any means, lol.

    keep dreaming, white people know better.

  • Vonnie

    I live in South Florida and recently moved to a small town in FL  4 years ago.  The majority is white, I would say about 60%.  I have never, literally seen, so many interracial couples (*married and dating). I notice particularly that black men are with white women, which is typical, but I’ve never seen it in such high numbers in one area.  I account this to the fact that I’ve never lived in a predominantly white town.   It was so noticeable to me that while out during the day, I try to find black men with black women and it’s very scarce, especially between the age groups of 17-40. As a black woman 30 years old, it’s like a social slap in the face to see this.  The fact that these men are with their white wives or girlfriends, taking care of their children.  I’ve never seen so many black men with their children and the mother before in my life.  I’m not racist, but the odds of finding a black husband here isn’t impossible, but they are against me.  Seems like the trend is to marry ”up”.  I want to move for this very reason.

  • Svngary

    You have to understand black history to interpret those stares. I have given a few myself.  It’s not easy being black, not a black man or woman. In the 21st centruy, black men can finally be loved like a white man and feel some accomplishment because of it. Like driving a mercedes or earning a PHD.  You probably think this doesn’t apply to you and your relationship, but it does. Black women remind black men of their pain of the past and how the world see’s them (their social status).  White women don’t carry the baggage that black women do (the fatherlessness, the burden,being single). So, they are raised differently and are more light hearted, free-spirited.  Black women and men  are raised to be strong and “do what you gotta do”. Sometimes black men wanna escape that and the white woman provides, status and almost a kind of sympathetic love because they have not experienced the black experience and express love from an outside point of view.