In my previous post, I discussed how white supremacists viewed interracial relationships. Now I’m going to tackle a rather tough subject matter of how some black Americans, some of whom consider themselves politically liberal, share in some of the same ideology. Contrary to popular belief, there is no unanimous support of interracial marriage among black Americans. There never has been for at least the past few decades now. However, it appears, according to studies, to have taken an especially steep dip in support starting in the early 1990s.
Sleeping With “The Enemy”
It is important to distinguish liberal black nationalists from their old-guard counterparts such as the white supremacists. While traditional groups (KKK, Neo-Nazi etc.) decry intermarriage on the grounds that it contaminates the white gene pool, liberal black nationalists base their disapproval on the purported psychological damage to the individuals involved and the threat to the black communities’ unity. Few black progressive critics of interracial marriage advocate outlawing the practice or ostracizing or using violence against the couples and families. Finally, unlike white racists, most liberal black nationalists criticize but do not entirely oppose interracial unions. Whereas liberal criticism of intermarriage will probably not affect people’s legal freedom to engage in mixed-race relations, it may discourage them from entering into such unions or from having biracial children.
A key tenet of black nationalism is the belief that relations between whites and non-whites are inherently problematic on account of the two groups’ unequal social positions. According to this philosophy, a relationship between a white and a person of African descent can never be made on a truly equal footing because whites generally possess more power in Western society. As well, such a relationship might be negatively affected by the fact that the White partner may, even unconsciously, hold racist attitudes and that he or she can never empathize with the discrimination his or her significant other faces. These tenets have been expressed with regard to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
The idea that white-black relationships are problematic because of the two partners’ unequal social positions raises a number of questions. While in our society Whites on average possess more social, economic, and political power than blacks, this may not be the case for every couple. In a relationship between a White high school dropout working as a health care aide and a Black physician, it would be difficult to conclude that the former has more power simply because he or she is white. This idea may not hold true even at the group level.
Black critics of mixed-race marriage have developed a psychological profile of individuals involved in interracial relationships. A common view of minorities who enter into such unions is that they are uncomfortable with their heritage and seek to escape or deny it by marrying or dating a white. Also known as the self-hatred paradigm. In choosing a partner of European descent, heterosexual black men are furthermore said to be going after an ideal of White beauty.
Interracially married black women on the other hand are believed to seek White men not necessarily for their looks but their social status, or wanting to “marry up”.
Whites who intermarry are typically not seen in a good light either, though they figure less as victims than as victimizers in the black nationalist paradigm. At best, they are portrayed as well-meaning people who marry interracially out of the naive belief that by doing so they are striking a blow against racism. However, their motives are at times said to be more sinister. A sometimes-expressed view is that whites look for black partners in order to fulfill sexual fantasies. At worst, whites in interracial relationships are deliberately seeking a minority partner in order to dominate or even abuse him or her in a racist way.
To a lesser extent, even the depiction of black men involved with White women as men seeking an ideal of White beauty recalls the traditional stereotype of the male “Other” – a position held at various times by Black, Filipino, and even Jewish men – who threatens the sexual purity of White (or White Christian) women.
Yet another accusation is often made of Black men who date or marry white women women, allegedly for the latter’s “submissiveness”. These unflattering portraits in some ways echo those of old-style anti-integrationists as well as those of popular culture.
Many of these stereotypes do not correspond with reality. Hence these stereotypes are not only unflattering but often untrue or unconfirmable.
What About The Children?
Liberal black nationalists, like their white conservative counterparts, often promote the belief that mixed-race children are prone to confusion and psychological disturbance because they are “caught between two worlds yet part of neither”. While liberal black nationalists might appear to be very avant-garde in their social views, their statements on the effects of “race mixing” on children are frequently very much in tune with those of old-style opponents of intermarriage.
Studies comparing biracial individuals with their monoracial peers have generally found that the two groups are equally well adjusted, and most of the remainder have actually discovered better psychological health on the part of the former group. It is unlikely, though, that liberal black nationalists will look at this research and “see the light”, as most people are loath to acknowledge studies that contradict their personal beliefs. As well, the idea – no matter how scientifically dubious – that the offspring of interracial relationships are disadvantaged provides a powerful argument against such unions, so those opposed to interracial marriage have a reason not to discard it.
Pathologizing such unions does not seem to be the right path. Some interracial alliances can be very successful, even if race will always be an issue, while others may fail, whether because of obstacles related to ethnicity or other factors. Perhaps the best approach is to view interracial marriage as neither a solution to racial strife nor a death knell for the black community, but as a type of relationship that may pose special challenges and may or may not work for different individuals.