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Guess who’s coming to dinner now?: perspectives on interracial relationships Johl, Valgeet 1994

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GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER NOW?PERSPECTIVES ON INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPSbyVALGEET JOHLB.A., The University of British Columbia, 1990A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Anthropology and SociologyWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAAPRIL 1994© Valgeet JohI, 1994In presenting this thesisin partial fulfilmentof the requirementsfor an advanceddegree at the Universityof British Columbia,I agree that theLibrary shall make itfreely available forreference and study.I further agree thatpermission for extensivecopying of this thesisfor scholarly purposesmay be grantedby the head ofmydepartment or byhis or her representatives.It is understoodthat copying orpublication of thisthesis for financial gainshall not be allowedwithout my writtenpermission.(Signature)____________________Department of.‘OC4pLQ&(The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDateDE-6 (2/88)ABSTRACTEthnomethodological studies have analyzed everyday activities with an intent to make thoseactivities “visibly-rational-and-reportable-for-all-practical-purposes” (Garfinkel:1 967).In that tradition, the current study offers an analysis of a seemingly unconventional pattern inmate selection that is based upon data collected through participant observation of, andunstructured interviews with interracial couples. The research suggests that greaterfrequencyof contact between individuals of different racial backgrounds is likely to generatelargernumbers of interracial relationships. This is in large part due to thefact that under suchcircumstances individuals become more aware of their similarities, and less consciousof thedifferences between them. The findings also suggest that the variables of age, geographiclocationof the couple, the relative socio-economic status of the couple and their family and friends,aswell as the degree to which the individuals and their families have assimilatedto Westerntraditions affect not only the success or failure of interracial relationships,but also the natureof the reactions that their relationship is likely to elicit. In the processof presenting andilluminating the findings the study incorporates discussion on the topics of mate selectionoptions, actual choices, the couples’ interactions interpersonally, as well aswith family,friends and the larger community, and portraits of interracialcouples in various forms ofmedia. In addition, a series of appendices are provided,listing specific media portraits of thesecouples, existing support groups serving this community, and an accountof the researcher’spersonal relationship to the field.IIITABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractiiTable of Contentsi i iAcknowledgementsivIntroduction1Chapter One Data15Chapter Two TheCouple: Meeting and Mating23Chapter Three Family andFriends: Attitudes40Chapter Four SocialInteraction: Public Attitudes57Chapter Five Public Portraitsof Private Lives74Chapter Six Concluding Remarks1 00Bibliography109Appendix 1 Personal Backgroundand Confessional Tale 113Appendix 2 Support Groupsfor Interracial Couples1 24Appendix 3 Films, TelevisionShows and Books portraying1 30Interracial CouplesivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThe inspiration for this project came from the multitude of interracial couples I haveencountered through the various stages of my life. Of those people are some with whom Imaintain an ongoing relationship, while others remain nameless faces buried in the recesses ofmy memory. Regardless of the space they currently occupy in my life, I owe them all a debt ofthanks for it is clear that in different ways they have all had an impact on this work.As the completion of this project drew nearer, I anticipated the tremendous sigh of reliefthat I would breathe when the job was finally done. There have been many times when I felt asthough my thoughts would never materialize into a final product. But somehow the task has beencompleted. As with most things in life, I certainly could not have arrived at this point withoutthe support and encouragement of some special people who are probably as relieved, if not moreso than I, that my thesis is actually finished.First, I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge Dr. Tissa Fernando’s role in the entireprocess. After a protracted absence from university life, I found my way back to U.B.C. and intoone of Dr. Fernando’s classes. A discussion with him led to the decision to pursue GraduateStudies in Sociology and once I revealed my intentions, Dr. Fernando offered unwavering supportand faith for which I am incredibly grateful. If I had not accepted his counsel, I may well still befloundering, trying to find my niche.I also owe thanks to the couples who participated in interviews for this study. Many of themwill recognize themselves and their stories, although I have done my best to protect theirprivacy and identity by using pseudonyms. It goes without saying that their stories are thisproject.The guidance and support offered by my advisor, Dr. Kenneth Stoddart, has provedinvaluable. His own work serves as a standard against which I only hope my own will somedaymeasure up. For now, that work has been an example of the type of sociology that I remain mostinterested in pursuing, and I thank him for his comments, creativity and input, and for keepingqualitative sociology alive at U.B.C.I would also like to thank Dr. David Schweitzer for being a member of my committee. Moreimportantly, he is someone who, through my graduate coursework, has encouraged me tochallenge myself, and I believe drawn out the best of my sociological abilities.Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for living with me during the entireprocess. The greatest thanks are owed to my mother, Amar Kaur, without whom none of thiswould have been possible.1INTRODUCTIONAs Mildred and Richard Loving lay peacefully in their bed in Central Point,Virginia earlyone morning in July of 1 958, they found their sleep unexpectedlyinterrupted. Three policeofficers stormed into their home, and under the penetrating glare of a flashlightdemanded thatMr. Loving explain “What was he doing in bed with this lady?” Though Mr. Lovingpointed to amarriage certificate which they had acquired in the District of Columbia andsubsequently hungon their bedroom wall, the couple was arrested and held in the Bowling Greencounty jail. Mr.Loving was white and Mrs. Loving black, and the difference in their skin colorrendered theirmarriage illegal in the state of Virginia where anti-miscegenation laws were recognizedandenforced.Eventually the couple appeared in court before Judge Leon M. Bazile who sentenced both manand wife to a year in prison after finding them guilty of the charge of unlawfulcohabitation. Heclaimed, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red and placed them onseparate continents and but for the interference with this arrangement there would be no causefor such marriages” (Margolick, 6/1 2/9 2: B20). Judge Bazile offered to waive the prisonsentence if Mr. and Mrs. Loving conceded to leave Virginia for the next 25 years.Initially, the couple sought refuge in the place where they had been married but after a fewunhappy years of living in Washington, D.C. they returned to Virginia to challenge theconstitutionality of the 1924 law that made their marriage illegitimate. Their case wasultimately decided in the United States Supreme Court and a ruling was made in the Lovings’favor. As a result the law in Virginia, along with those in 1 5 other states, which prohibitedmarriages between individuals of different races was repealed.June 1 2, 1 992 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the legality of the Lovings’marriage. During those years the incidence of interracial marriage has steadily increased.A21 992 New York Times estimate placed the number of interracial couples in the United States atone million, and the U.S. Census Bureau report indicates an increase in black and whitemarriages from 1970 figures of 65,000 to the current 218,000 which means that four out ofevery thousand marriages in the U. S. involve a black and white partner. (Kroll, 6/10/91:44). Additionally, an August 1993 newsletter published by Multi-Racial Americans ofSouthern California indicates that there are currently sixty support groups in theU.S. andCanada catering specifically to interracial couples and their problems (See Appendix2 forlisting).While laws have been changed in response to social pressure and couples have apparentlyshown a greater willingness to legalize their relationships with individuals of other races, it isless certain that attitudes, tolerance and acceptance of these unions have kept pace with otherchanges. For instance, in 1983 a former black director of the National Urban League was shotbecause of, and while in the company of, a white female (Hernton, 1 988:xi). In 1989 a youngblack teen, Yusuf Hawkins, whose story subsequently inspired Spike Lee’s film on interraciallove - ‘Jungle Fever’, was brutally beaten to death by a group of whites in Brooklyn’sBensonhurst for allegedly having a white girlfriend (Kroll, 6/10/91:45). John DeSantis,in aneffort to unravel the truth about the murder in Bensonhurst, writes:There are still conflicting stories about why thirty to forty youngmen gathered in a Bensonhurst schoolyard on the night of August 23, 1989.But there can be little doubt that the act which led to the murder of aninnocent and unassuming black teenager, the firing of four shots from a.32 caliber revolver, was motivated by the race of the victim (1991 :ix).and then goes on to reveal that:Based on initial accounts from Gina Feliciano, her mother, and otherwitnesses, police investigators believed that they were dealing with ajealous lover, Keith Mondello, who was angry because his girlfriendGina Feliciano was seeing a black man, who may or may not have beenthe homicide victim (Ibid. :82).3These incidents, unlike most, creeped into news headlines. Calvin Hernton suggeststhat “theabusive insults and violent acts committed against interracial couples in ourdaily lives areseldom brought to public attention. One learns of such happeningsby word of mouth, fromfriends and acquaintances or by chance, from being on the scene when they areperpetrated”(1988:xi). In an attempt to substantiate his claim, Hernton recounts threetales involvinginterracial couples and some level of harrassment, and goes on to state that “repulsive feelingsand acts of violence against interracial couples in public are not “isolated incidents. Suchfeelings and acts of hatred stem from a larger cancer in our lives. The cancer of which I speak isracism” (1 988:xii).In a 1 992 book entitled “Crossings: A White Man’s Journey into Black America”, WaltHarrington discovered the veracity of Hernton’s claims. During interviews he conducted withpeople throughout the United States on issues of race and racism, he found out that manyaccounts of racism, or intolerance, live only in the experiences of the victim. In recounting aninterview done with a biracial teen in Pulaski, Tennessee, Harrington writes:“You’re the color of my son,” I tell Laronda. “You’re obviously a mixed-race girl.”“My mother was white,” she says confidently.“Well,” I say “what’s life like for young blacks in Pulaski?”“Ain’t nothing changed,” says Ms. Cheatham, sounding alot like Mr. Brown.She hesitates. “It’s gotten a little better.”“Do the younger people get along?” I ask the girls. Ms. Cheatham didn’traise any shy offspring, and they all talk at once. I can’t keep track of who’ssaying what so I give up and listen.“If I walked around downtown with a white guy, everybody in Pulaski wouldknow, like I committed a crime. Most people figure blacks should date blacksand whites should date whites.”I ask “Is dating common between blacks and whites?”“No, but a lot keep it a secret.”I ask, “Is race always in the air?”“Mostly.”“How?”“Nigger’, for one thing.”“You still hear that?”“Oh, Yeah!”4“That word is everywhere.”“What are you doin’ with that nigger?”“Nigger!”“Look at that nigger!”“Me and you walkin’ down the street: ‘Whatis that white man doin’ withthat nigger?’ You hear it. They sayit loud!”I ask “Only if you’re with a whiteman?”“No, sometimes just walkin’ down the street.”“We have seen people ridin’down the road sayin’ ‘Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!’“I was goin’ into my apartment oneday and this girl opened her door andsaid, ‘Nigger!’ and closed it.”It is the link to which Hernton refers,and Harrington alludesto that I am interested inpursuing within the contextof this study. In particular, I seekto address issues concerning thestress, adjustments and attitudes relatedto interracial marriages, inthe North Americancontext. (It bears noting thatchoices to enter into, and reactionstoward, interracialrelationships may vary dependingupon the geographic location in whichthe actors and reactorsreside. As a result, thisstudy is concerned exclusively withthe context of relationships withinNorth America.) More specifically,the concerns can be articulatedas: Do interracial couplesface a unique setof obstacles in their daily lives as a consequenceof the potential socialdisapproval that their union elicits,and the conceivable cultural differencesthat exist betweenthem? For instance, are they subjectedto verbal or violent abuse as a result oftheir differentracial backgrounds and does this manifestitself in conflict within the marriage,and between thepartners? Is the type of stressthey encounter uniquelythe result of their interracial couplingor is it conceivable that other atypicalcouplings, such as inter-generationalcouples, would besubjected to the same reactions?What adjustment problems, otherthan those typicallyanticipated in marriages do participantsin interracial marriages experience?Typicaladjustment problems mightbe characterized as realizing the honeymoonis over and making thetransition from dating someone toliving with them, coping with raisinga family, and financialor occupational pressures. Atypical adjustmentson the other hand might include, for instance,sacrifice of familial and social capitalthat may have been available to themif they had opted for5a more conventional choice of mate, or ostracism by family and friends for violating normativemate selection standards. If the couple has confronted these types of situations,whatrepercussions have they suffered as a result? Finally, aside frominterpersonal experience,what sorts of attitudes do interracial couples encounter given theirvisibly different racialbackgrounds?From a theoretical standpoint, studies done in the area of mate selectionand race relationshave been key in informing the approaches taken within those studies pertainingspecifically tointerracial marriage.From the field of race relations, what is most relevantis that the term race has undergonetransformation in both its meaning and useage. Bantonhas suggested that “the changes in the waythe word race has been used reflect changes in the popularunderstanding of the causes ofphysical and cultural differences.” (In Cashmore, 1 988:235).While this may be true, what isof equal importance is that a continued challengequestioning the legitimacy of a system whichclassifies human beings according to phenotypical distinctionshas been mounted, and hencethose markers which have typically been used for ‘race’have been unveiled as social constructsthat have a broad range of consequences. Although systemsof classifying individuals according torace is in many respects inherently unnatural, the unnaturaldivisions, which in everydayuseage are referred to as races or ethnic groups, have retainedtheir currency into the present.The diminution of the concept’s usefulness that mighthave been expected in the face of increasedtheoretical and scientific knowledge, which clearlyundermines its validity, has notmaterialized. Instead, as Kay Anderson indicates, the conceptof race has retained its usefulnessin a variety of social and political milieus. Anderson makes thisclaim patently clear in writing:.the concept of race, though for many decades being seenas problematicby population geneticists, continues to be used and propounded bymanylay people, policy makers, and journalists as a conceptwith scientificvalue. Belief in the natural existence of race is something theyshare withnineteenth-century British, American and western Europeanbiologists6who assumed the world’s races were for all intents and purposes immutableand that each had unique biological and cultural characteristics. Such biologistsnever fully agreed on the criteria for classifying the world’s populationsinto races or on the number of races that existed. It was clearfrom their hopelessly large number of typologies that featuressuch as skin colour, facial angle, cranial shape, and hair texturedid not co-vary in any systematic or consistent way. But such naggingproblems did not prompt them to question the assumptions behindtheir classification systems, so powerful was their will to establishnaturally occurring regularities behind human variation. (1991:10-11).The relevance of Anderson’s insights are that they reveal what lies at the heart of what can beidentified as racism. The most obvious fact that emerges from theconcept of race as shedescribes it is that there continues to be a drive toward distinguishing populations from oneanother according to their physical traits. While it may seem rather innocuous on the surface toengage in the process, it is commonly understood and acceptedthat the purpose behindattempting to identify or creating distinctions that result in racial categories do not cease withmere classification. The classifications themselves become important in a variety of contexts,and most important to this discussion is that those categories enable individuals andgroups tomake distinctions between themselves and those who are unlike themselves, develop common-sense knowledge about what qualifies as membership withina racial group, and subsequentlymake judgements on the basis of that knowledge.Studies emerging out of the field of marriage and the familyfocus on patterns of mateselection and attempt to account for the low incidence of interracial marriage. The research,forinstance has examined patterns of mate selection by accounting for therange of systems, fromarranged marriages to “free choice” based on romantic love, then evaluated the degreeof socialcontrol that the respective systems exert upon prospective choices that individualsmake withreference to mates, with an eye to explaining the patterns thatare identifiable within thosesystems. There is general concurrence that endogamy or homogamy remains the normfor mostindividuals (Ramu, 1 992). Endogamy very simply refers to a processof marrying within one’s7own group, and the characteristics which define ‘group’ could rangefrom or include: race,religion, age, ethnic origin, social, occupational and/oreducational status and residentialpropinquity. Homogamy similarly refers to the tendency of choosing an individuallike oneself(along social, psychological and demographic lines) or the theory thatlike attracts like(Kephart and Jedlicka, 1991). Though there has been evidence to suggestthat interracialmarriages, particularly within the United States, and to a lesser extent within Canada(Ward,1 990), have been occurring in varying degrees throughout the 1 900’s (Heer, 1968;Monahan,1973; 1976; 1977) there is a general consensus that the relative rates ofinterracialmarriage to overall marriage rates remains relatively low, which in turn suggests that thereisa low proclivity among marriageable individuals to cross racial lines whenselecting a mate(Kephart and Jedlicka, 1 991).One factor which has been used to explain the salience of race in limiting one’s prospectivemarriage pool is the link between race and socio-economic status. Race, as a sociallyconstructed category, has been highly instrumental in determining one’s socio-economic status,because the range of educational and occupational opportunities that may or may not beavailableare directly contingent upon one’s racial background (Miles, 1 989; Rex and Mason, 1986; andRinger and Lawless, 1 989) and this has affected the tendencies of individuals to marry acrossracial lines. The contention according to homogamy is that individuals will seek out those whoare similar according to social, occupational or educational levels, and race creates significantdiscrepancies between the races along these lines, and therefore inhibits marriage between theraces (Ramu, 1992).In a 1 968 study examining patterns of intermarriage across racial lines, specificallybetween whites and blacks in the Unites States, David Heer used a theory of homogamy toaccountfor the relatively low instances of interracial marriage. His proposition was that differences in8racial background would reduce the likelihood and occurrence of marriage between the races,and he suggests that the tendency to prefer racial homogamy is largely the result of social andpolitical control that has been exerted over marriages. He contends that the United States’history of segregation which has been both legally entrenched as well as self-imposed, has notonly created rare or infrequent opportunities for individuals of different racial stock tosocialize, but also to mate. His conclusion is that this emphasis on race is simply another meansto reinforce social inequality based on race, since there is social unacceptability attached tomarrying outside of one’s group.In a 1 973 study which examined patterns of marriage across racial lines in Indiana, ThomasMonahan indicates that:the question of amalgamation of the races, within or without the law,was openly debated in the 1 800’s. Some of the anti-slavery groupssupported the idea of freedom to intermarry; others opposed it. Theargument of the anti-slavery group was that miscegenation wasoccurring outside of the law because of slavery, with white menexploiting the Negro women, and hence the abolition of slaverywould stop such interbreeding. There was, they commonly asserted,little desire on the part of members of either race to intermarry(1973: 632).The supposition that there was little desire to marry outside of one’s race was apparently illfounded. Heer’s study reveals that in the State of New York intermarriage rates in the 1920’swere higher than those occurring in Michigan and California in the 1 960’s. He further statesthat the 1 960 rate of intermarriage in Hawaii was higher than any previously recorded data inthe United States, however figures compiled for Boston during the years between 1900 and1 904 come closest to those in Hawaii. He notes that “for Boston during this period theproportion of Negro grooms marrying white brides was 1 3.7 per cent as compared with 14.7per cent in Hawaii in 1960...” (1968: 432).What is significant with respect to Heer’s data is that Boston was an area in which anti-9slavery sympathies were high (1 968) and tolerance of theblack presence and correlatively,interracial marriages was greater than it was in a number ofother regions. In the case ofHawaii, no particular racial group was the most dominant amongits population given themultiplicity of its ethnic groups, nor were its marriage laws restricted by statutesregardinganti-miscegenation (Kitano, Yeung, Chai and Hatanaka, 1984). Until 1967,16 statesmaintained laws prohibiting interracial marriage on their books, at whichtime they wereforced to repeal them given the landmark Loving versus Virginiadecision.By relying on statistics that have been published by particular states, andon data availablethrough early marriage records, Thomas Monahan has attempted to compile data throughaseries of studies (1973; 1 976; 1977) to indicate the pervasiveness of interracialmarriagesin different regions throughout the United States, the personal and social profilesof thoseengaging in interracial marriages, and the changes in the nature and extent of interracialmarriage that have occurred over time.With respect to the last variable Monahan’s research indicates that repeal of anti-miscegenation laws did have a noticeable, albeit relatively small, impact on the extent ofinterracial marriage. His data reveals that there has been a steady increase in the numberofmarriages occurring across racial lines, most significantly in the East South Central and SouthAtlantic regions of the United States. The highest proportion of interracial marriages werecontinually occurring in Northern and Pacific States. The implications of Monahan’s research issiginificant in that it demonstrates that removal of the legal restrictions throughout the UnitedStates allowed individuals, at the very least, the legal opportunity to exercise greaterfreedomin mate selection, and this manifested itself in recorded data on interracial marriageswithin theSouthern states where opposition was strongest to intermarriage. When thelegal system wasforced to acknowledge the inherent racism entrenched in its laws, italso had to confront the10social implications those laws had on race relations.What is also of note through Monahan’sstudies is that as a result of strikinganti-miscegenation laws from the books, combinedwith the impact of the burgeoning civil rightsmovement in the 1 960’s, racial identifiers were removed frommarriage records within anumber of states, which made the process of recording the level ofinterracial marriage actuallyoccurring exceedingly difficult. For instance, Colorado removedthis data in 1 959, Californiaand New Jersey in 1961, New York in 1965, Michigan in 1966,Maryland in 1970,Massachusetts in 1 971, and the District of Columbia in 1 975.A 1 990 study published by Tucker and Mitchell-Kernan also suggests thataccuracy ofinterracial marriage rates is difficult to generate given the inaccuraciesin record keeping andthe elimination of racial identifiers on marriage applications. Recent studies have dependedupondata available through census reports (Tucker and Mitchell-Kernan, 1 990) or byexaminingmarriage records and determining the racial composition of the marriage partners on thebasisof surnames (Kitano, Yeung, Chai and Hatanaka, 1984). These methods howeverpresentdifficulties since individuals may choose not to racially identify themselves in censusreports,and there is a degree of error involved in the latter procedure. What is importanthowever, isthat the refusal that some demonstrate in identifying their racial background incensus reportscan be linked to the status of race relations within the country.It has been asserted through both journalistic and academic reports on interracial marriagethat merely lifting the legal prohibition against interracial marriage does not necessarilyeliminate the social taboo that is associated with such unions. Hernton, in his studyof “Sex andRacism in America” has suggested that while more than a quarter of a century has passedsincethe statutes were overturned, “the unwritten taboo (“You aren’t supposed to do it!”)againstracial “intermingling” has not changed one iota” (1988: xi). A 1973 study by Kikimuraand11Kitano also concedes that there is an overwhelming preference toward endogamy and that thishas been “...couched sometimes in mild terms such as “like should marry like” and oftenstronger terms such as “don’t mix oil and water” ...“ (1973: 67), which has reinforced thesocial taboo against race mixing. Additionally, one finds through a series of stories on racism,prejudice and/or interracial marriage (Ebony 9/91; Randolph 3/89; Munroe 9/92, Kroll6/91) the view reported in a March 1992 article appearing in the Vancouver Sun. MarleneHabib noted that on-going research on attitudes toward interracial marriage being conducted byTom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reveals thatattitudes have not changed dramatically since the 1960’s. In fact Smith’s 1 991 study indicatedthat one in five Americans (out of the 1 500 sampled) believed that interracial marriage shouldbe illegal whereas a 1 972 survey asking the same question yielded two believers out of everyfive. The implications of Smith’s work is that individuals’ and society’s attitudes have in factchanged to a very insignificant degree, even though their willingness to express theiroppositions may have become less blatant.Recent studies on the resurgence of radical racism within Canada seem to contradict thenotion that people are reluctant to express their disapproval of interracial marriage. StanleyBarrett’s 1 989 report along with that of Julian Sher’s (1 983) on the Right Wing and Ku KluxKlan in Canada clearly indicate that Canadians are demonstrating an increased tendency toexpress antipathy toward race mixing. Their work also suggests that the increased hostility ofmembers within these groups toward interracial marriage can be linked to higher immigrationrates and the implied threat to racial homogeneity that those figures represent.It should be noted that with the exception of a 1991 study done by Madeline Richard on“Ethnic Groups and Marital Choices”, little has been done in Canada on the subject of interracialmarriage. Richard’s research is in fact the first detailed study analyzing marriage across ethnic12and religious, though not racial, lines. Within texts dealing with thesubjects of marriage andthe family, cursory notes that rely on American data areincluded to reinforce the theory ofendogamy (Ramu, 1992; Kephart and Jedlicka, 1991).The dearth of relevant Canadian studies is conceivablyunderstood as a result of two factors.First, Canada did not ever impose the legal restrictions of the kind that wereerased fromAmerican lawbooks in 1967, and second, as Habib (1992) reveals, pollingfirms such as Gallupand Decima Research have not tracked Canadian attitudes toward interracial marriagein Canadaas they have in the United States, and Statistics Canada does not carry figures which documentthe instances of interracial marriage in the country. The first factor is significant becausetherepeal of anti-miscegenation laws triggered renewed interest in the United States in tracking,explaining and understanding interracial marriage in the academic arena. Researchers wereinterested in determining if significant changes would occur as a result of legal changes. Canadacannot refer to a parallel turning point in its history which may have reduced the interest indoing historical comparative analysis on the subject. With respect to the second factor, one canonly speculate that rates of intermarriage were so significantly low that they did not merittracking, and that Canada’s historical tendency toward preserving ethnic homogeneity (Ward,1 990) limited the necessity of gauging attitudes toward intermarriage, as once again it wasoccurring on a nominal scale. It would seem, based upon recent trends in racism andimmigration that there is just cause to re-evaluate the necessity of determining Canadian’sattitudes on these issues.Accounts such as those appearing in the Vancouver Sun, and a 1 992 article by Kate Fillion inChatelaine magazine reinforce this perception. Habib reported that the greater influx ofimmigrants from different racial backgrounds has resulted in a greater propensity to marryacross racial lines within Canada, and that the visible differences between couples has forced13them to confront the prejudices that many individuals maintain toward these unions.The current study attempts to pull together the various threads referred to, by linking upthe theoretical elements with interviews and media representations of the interracial marriagephenomenon with personal observations about the subject. This will be done with an eye togenerating a clearer understanding of what affects the tendency to become involved ininterracial marriage and how the public responds to these unions. Due to the unavailability ofcomprehensive data regarding interracial marriage rates, and the apparent neglect insystematically tracking attitudes about intermarriage within Canada, the study cannot attemptto be representative in any significant respect of the status of interracial marriage within theUnited States or Canada. However, the descriptive and theoretical approach can certainlycontribute to our current understanding of the topic by providing detailed accounts of whatcouples deal with in the contemporary era.Towards these ends, the study is organized as follows. In the subsequent chapter, an outline ofthe techniques used to compile and analyse data for the study are presented. Within thisdiscussion, the efforts to overcome the constraints presented by existing research, as well asmethods used to interpret the available data will be identified. Chapter Two focuses on the waysin which couples met, how they felt upon meeting and the reasons why they remain together. InChapter Three, the discussion incorporates the attitudes and reactions that couples met up withwhen they revealed the interracial aspect of their involvement to family and friends, whileChapter Four examines experiences of interracial couples in the public sphere. The specificintent of this aspect of the discussion is to determine whether the “common-sense”characterizations offered by family and friends to account for their reactions also explains howstrangers respond to the presence of an interracial couple. In the fifth chapter, the analysis isextended to media portraits of interracial couples. A comparison of two films focussing on14interracial love, namely, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and ‘Jungle Fever’, is presented alongwith briefer analyses of portraits of interracial couples and attitudes toward them, ontelevision and in novels. Following Chapter Six, in which a brief conclusion is provided, are aseries of Appendices, the first of which is a “Confessional Tale”, followed by a list of supportgroups serving the interests of interracial couples, and the final one listing media sourcescontaining depictions of interracial relationships.15CHAPTER 1 - DATAAt the outset of this undertaking, it wasunderstood that there were several obstaclesto beovercome. The most obvious perhaps, asindicated in the preceding chapter, is that previousresearch was scant. The vast majority ofstudies done in the field dated back to the late 1960’sand early 70’s when changes in American laws propelled aninterest to study the subject withinthe U.S. However, with changes in Censusdata and the difficulties those changes createdintracking marriage rates across racial lines, interest inthe subject waned. Canadian interest inthe subject has been restricted to an examination ofethnic groups and marital choices(Richards, 1 991), and brief comments about marginal rates ofinterracial marriage withintexts on mate selection. Recent trends in research conductedin the U.S. reflect an interest inexamining rates of interracial marriage and the social attitudestoward them.The current study, by relying predominantly on human accounts ofthe lived experiences ofthose involved in interracial relationships, attempts tobroaden our understanding of whyindividuals from different and frequently antagonistic worlds defy what are oftenportrayed asformidable cultural prejudices and taboos to unite their livesin friendship and marriage(Mathabane and Mathabane, 1992: xi). Additionally, it intends to deepen thescope and insightthat we have of interracial marriage by linking the personal interviewswith contemporarytheories on mate selection and the Sociology of Knowledge. Given the motivationbehind thisstudy, and the constraints as outlined above, in terms of tracing both experiencesof interracialcouples and explanations for the increase in marriage rates betweenindividuals of differentraces, it was apparent that available research onthe subject had to supplemented by otherforms of data.Jarmila Horna states thatsome norms or rules governing who can marry whom or who has thefinal decision-making power in choosing a mate are cultural universals.16Likewise, the criteria of desireability and eligibility in any marriagemarket or system, as well as the rules which circumscribe the fieldof eligible mates in terms of preferences and prohibitions are found inevery society. (1992: 181)Within the context of this study, particularly given the multiplicity of ethnic and racial groupscomprising North America’s populace and the varying degreesof assimilation evidenced amongstthem, a detailed review of theories of mate selection was consideredcrucial. Withoutunderstanding the criteria that figure prominently, from a normative standpoint, in selecting amate, there is difficulty not only in understanding why individualsopt to cross racial lines inchoosing a mate, but as importantly, why particular attitudes about interracial marriage aremaintained. For instance, if the prevailing theories are based on homogamy and freechoice basedon love, one might potentially explain an interracial union by underscoringthe love between thecouple. At the same time, the salience of race in differentiating one personfrom another inWestern society could potentially account for the disapproval that might bevoiced againstintermarriage. Given the latter possibility, another angle on the process ofmate selection canbe accessed by determining the reasons why some individuals choose to rejecta prospectivemate, or elect to terminate a relationship with a person froma different racial background.Given these barriers to understanding, the next step following a detailedreview of existingresearch on the subject of interracial relationships entailed a comprehensiveoverview oftheories on mate selection.The third step in the process was to develop an understanding of how individualsmake senseof theoretical concepts in their daily lives, and how in particular, theorytranslates into action.This conceptual link was developed by turning to work done in the sociologyof knowledge.Berger and Luckmann note that• . every institution has a body of transmitted recipe knowledge, that is,knowledge that supplies the institutionally appropriate rules of conduct.Such knowledge constitutes the motivating dynamics of institutionalizedconduct. It defines the institutionalized areas of conduct and designates all17situations falling within them. It defines and constructs the roles to beplayed in the context of the institutions in question. ipso facto, it controlsand predicts all such conduct. Since this knowledge is socially objectivatedas knowledge, that is, a body of generally valid truths about reality, anyradical deviance from the institutional order appears as a departure fromreality. Such deviance may be designated as moral depravity, mental disease,or just plain ignorance. ..This is the knowledge that is learned in the courseof socialization and that mediates the internalization within individualconsciousness of the objectivated structures of the social world (1966:83).The force of observations emerging from the sociology of knowledge on the present study are twofold. First, they not only bridge the chasm between theory and personal practice, but second,they potentially explain the basis of social interaction. Through an understanding of how andwhy individuals think, act and react as they do, the foundation of “common-sense” beliefs andtheir pervasiveness becomes clearer. As a result, a review of workin this area was undertaken,with an eye to isolating how our language and socialization influences us, ourchoices and ourperceptions of the world around us.Based upon the preceding literature review, the most practical method ofexpressing beliefswith respect to mate selection seemed to be to present them as propositions.Garfinkel (1967)has referred to this process as “anthropological paraphrasing” which essentiallyis theproduction of a list of properties relating to a particular subject basedon members beliefs, and“these properties are to be read with the invariable prefix,“From the standpoint of an adultmember of our society...” (1 967: 1 22). These “common sense characterizations”of what isimportant in mate selection, how it is to be done, and what one’s perceptionsof interracialmarriage are, especially when analyzed against the theories on mateselection wereinstrumental in assessing if the theories adequately explain the ways inwhich we practically goabout choosing a mate. This method, as a result, was incorporated into theanalysis of socialreactions to interracial couples.The next step involved interviewing interracial couples. The interviewswere structuredwith an end to eliciting information about their personal (one to one), familial(extended kin18group), and social (general public) experiences during the course of their association. Inparticular, information regarding reactions to their marriage, reasons for choosing to solidifytheir committment through marriage, obstacles, adjustments and pressures that they haveendured was sought. A series of general questions were incorporated to generate profiles of theindividuals within the couple in an attempt to determine if homogamy, with the exception of thevariable of race, maintains with respect to mate selection between these persons.Within mateselection theory, similarity on the following characteristics is taken tobe indicative of a degreeof homogamy: age, religion, residential propinquity, educational status, occupational status,andsocial class prior to marriage. A total of 1 5 couples, participated in approximately hour longtaped interviews, (with follow-ups for clarification where necessary).With respect to acquiring participants, the snowball sampling technique was utilized. Since Iam acquainted with a number of couples who are interracially married, and “.. . snowballsampling depends on the sampled cases being knowledgeable of other relevant cases, [and]thetechnique is especially useful for sampling subcultures where the members routinelyinterractwith one another.” (Monette, Sullivan, and DeJong, 1986: 1 29) it proved to be the mostefficient and reliable means of securing prospective participants.Initial interviews were conducted with couples with whom I have a personal association. Allinterviews were conducted in the couple’s residence. It bears noting thatmost couples shared aresidence even in those cases where they had not gone through the legal process of marriage.The decision to hold interviews in the couple’s home was two-fold. First, I believed thatrapport would be established more easily if we spoke in an environment in whichthe pair wasalready comfortable. Second, potentially, I had the ability to glean cues from the couple’senvironment that might otherwise be unavailable to me. Information regarding interpersonalcouple dynamics, such as how they responded to one another on the homefront, or in instances19where children from a previous relationship lived with the couple, how the non-biologicalparent interacted with the children, was accessible under these circumstances.During the interview process, the first thing done was to reiterate information that I hadgiven them over the phone when arranging the interview, namely, my personal background, thenature of my interest, the purposes for which the information they shared would be used and toassure them confidentiality. In every instance, I walked into the interviews armed with a seriesof questions that focused on the issues that had been identified as central to the study. I did not,however, feel a strong desire or need to rigidly adhere to the sequence or wording of thequestions. Instead, I hoped that the couple would feel sufficiently comfortable in recountingexperiences, and that the questions would be answered as a natural result of the exchange. Evenin those instances where one or both members of the couple seemed reluctant in the beginning,it was not long before both individuals began to speak very openly about personal issues, andleading the interview on their own.On several occasions, even when I had not been acquainted with the couple prior to theinterview, the couples expressed great satisfaction in having engaged in the interview, statingthat it was personally enlightening in that it made them more aware of things between them towhich they had otherwise been oblivious. Additionally, some of the same couples expressed adesire to meet again under social circumstances because they enjoyed themselves so much, andwere interested to know if other people went through what they did. As a result of theseencounters, I felt sufficiently assured that I had successfully developed rapport with myinformants.Before concluding the interviews and thanking the couple for their participation, I askedthem if they knew of any other people who might be willing to participate in the process. Whilea few stated that they could not think of anyone off-hand, most were willing, not only to provide20me with names and numbers of prospective candidates,but also offered to preface my callwithone of their own. In the final result, most interviewscame through the process of referral.Based on my personal contacts alone, it waspossible to identify 1 5 couples toparticipate inthe study. However, in the interests of maintainingobjectivity, as few of the couples withwhomI have associations as possible were solicitedfor structured interviews. I wanted tolimit thetendency to use personal information I had about couplesto draw out reactions and answers thatI was interested in hearing, and more concerned inallowing the couples to tell their “stories”their own way. By meeting with people that Iknew virtually nothing about, I was in a betterposition to maintain that objective stance. Further, theinformation I acquired throughinterviews with couples I had not previously met,could be supplemented by participantobservation that was based on my personal relationships withinterracial couples. There wasvirtually no difficulty in securing the sample however. In fact, basedupon referrals, I did noteven come close to exhausting my sources.When I left the interview, I immediately returnedhome, played back the tape, and began toisolate themes or recurrent experiences revealed by different couples.I kept notes, whichultimately simplified the transcription of the interviews.Without exception, the most consistent revelation offered by interracial couples inretellingtheir tales of meeting and mating was that they had little choice but tostay together - becausethey fell in love. As a researcher, however, the plausibility of love beingthe sole basis for theformation and maintenance of relationships, was somewhat problematicgiven the very real andconveivable possibility that individuals were remembering their pastnot necessarily as itoccurred, but in a way that made sense to them in the present. Bergerand Luckmann note:in toto there must be particular reinterpretations ofpast events andwith past significance... What is necessary, then, is aradical reinterpretation of the meaning of these past events or persons in one’sbiography. Since it is relatively easier to invent things thatnever happened21than to forget those that actually did, the individual may fabricate and insertevents wherever they are needed to harmonize the remembered with thereinterpreted past. Since it is the new reality rather than the old thatnow appears dominatingly plausible to him, he may be perfectly ‘sincere’in such a procedure - subjectively, he is not telling lies about the past butbringing it in line with the truth that, necessarily, embraces both thepresent and the past... Persons, too, particularly significant others, arereinterpreted in this fashion (1966: 180).In light of this difficulty, and given that the concept of love raised as many questions as itanswered, some means of making sense of the couple’s account was necessary. This wasaccomplished first off by accepting that as a researcher, while I had a responsibility torecognize this obstacle, I was not there to challenge the truth of what informants claimed to betheir feelings, but to accurately report their stories as they were told to me. The second factorwhich endowed the concept of love with some practical substance, came by way of theories oflove. Borrowing on research done by Hochschild (1983; 1979; 1 975), Albas and Albas contendthatIt is not merely a matter of personal whim that we label feelingsof physical arousal as love. On the contrary, love labels are structuredby the micro context within which they occur as well as the largersocial and cultural worlds. Every society has a general set of “feelingrules” and more specific “love rules” which define an acceptable“field of eligibles”. In Western culture the “field of eligibles” consistsof partners who are similar in age... Love must also be managed; that is,would be lovers must engage in “feeling work” to bring their emotionsin line with “feeling rules”. ..Consistent with the feeling work hypothesis,females focused on what work they might do to make their feelingsconsistent with cultural dictates. For example, one respondent notes:“If a boy had all the qualities I desired, and I was not in love with him -well, I think I could talk myself into falling in love (1992: 1 31-1 32).Whether it is a notion of love in the classic sense of Eros, which is a form of ‘love at firstsight’, or a derivative form of love, such as Pragma, which is defined as “love with a shoppinglist, [in that] the person is very much aware of his or her market value and searches forsomeone who is compatible and a “good deal” (Albas and Albas; 1 992: 1 32) that is a moreaccurate account of what transpired between the couple, what is clear is that efforts to22reinterpret the past may be a result of “feeling work” that is going onbetween the two, and thatthis is what got labelled as “love” in the process of relaying their storiesto me.Finally, from conception of the research topic through the final stagesof writing, effortswere continually made to isolate and examine portraits of interracial couples inmagazines,newspapers, in books (fiction and non-fiction), in film, as well as on television. As a data base,they were treated as supplemental sources. In certain instances, theseaccounts, depending upontheir context have found themselves interspersed throughout variouschapters, but for the mostpart they have been treated separately in the penultimate chapter of this thesis work.23CHAPTER 2 - THE COUPLE: MEETING ANDMATING. OR WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DOWITH IT?From the minute he walked inthe door we have been inseparable. Itwas like meeting another part of myself.It was strange, it really was.Within this chapter, accounts of how certaininterracial couples met, and subsequentlydecided to enter into a relationship are presented.These accounts are treated as “knowledge”,acquired through experience and whose presentationrelies upon the participants’ recollectionsof the circumstances that led to their meeting andmating. While some attempts are made toanalyze the conditions of the processof meeting and mating within the context of mate selectiontheories, what follows is by and largea description of an aspect of the couples’histories. Hence,no substantive attempts to assessthe validity or accuracy of these accounts vis-a-vismoreconventional patterns of mate selectionare made. In the tradition of Stoddart (1974),theparticipants’ “corpus of knowledge is notregarded as correct or incorrect, completeorincomplete” (p. 1 80), but instead is offered primarilyas personal knowledge “subscribed toand endorsed as factual” (Ibid.) by the partiesin question in their attempts to relay an aspectoftheir life as a couple.GETTING TOGETHERCarolyn met Mac after he walked through a door.Ten years after their initial meeting, theyremain happily married. End of story?Hardly. From a sociological standpoint, itcannotaccurately be characterized as a beginning.Lorne Tepperman and Angela Djao(1990) have suggested that “[pleople’s livesareintertwined with and limited by ... social structure.Our life choices are shaped and limitedbythe choices and actions of peoplearound us...” (vii).The implication of Tepperman and Djao’s insight onthe meeting of Mac and Carolyn thateventually led to their being Mr. and Mrs. McDonaldis first, that the social structure, even24prior to their having met, in some respect, waslimiting and enabling; and second, the meetingand the events which ensued fromit were shaped and limited by the choices and actions ofthepeople around Carolyn and Mac at that pointin their lives. That is, society, in either loosely orstrictly regulated form has establishedpatterns which govern and guide the process of mateselection (Ramu: 1 992). Carolynand Mac as members of society would have unwittingly takenthis criteria into that first meeting and ultimately,used that same criteria in determining oneanother’s suitability as marital partners.This knowledge pre-existed their meeting, though themeeting was not dependent uponit. The meeting itself was the result of certain conditions beingsatisfied, and those conditions were met inpart because of the choices and actions of people otherthan Mac and Carolyn themselves.It has been implied that people in the throesof trying to meet, or already having metsomeone, often fail to acknowledge thatmeeting and marriage is a kind of selectionprocess(Tepperman and Djao: 1990). “This selection process is patterned by theemphasis that asociety places on individual freedom,romantic love, maintenance of kinshipand or groupidentity among other considerations”(Ramu, 1992:165). The differences in emphasis thatisplaced upon these factors generates strictor loosely regulated control over the partner choicesthat individuals make. Regardless of thedegree of control that exists however,two basicguidelines which define the prospectivefield of eligibles from which mates canbe selected areobserved, namely, endogamy and exogamy.According to Norman Goodman (1993)exogamy signifies the group of peoplewith whomindividuals are prohibited from establishingsexual and marital relations. Generallyspeaking,exogamy is translated into anincest taboo in most societies, and it is tacitly understoodthatsexual relations between members of thesame family will incite social disapprobation atthevery minimum. Endogamy, on the otherhand, specifies that group from which an individualis25encouraged to select a partner. While it is conceivable that endogamycould denote all those whodo not comprise membership in one’s own family,the term has a narrower field of applicationindicating particular social preferences. Ramu (1 992) states that“[t]he term endogamy refersto conformity to the rule that a personmarry someone with similar salient socialcharacteristics which depending on specific situations, mightinclude race, religion, ethnicity,and social class” (166).In addition to the more general rules of endogamy and exogamy, homogamyand heterogamyhave bearing on the mate selection process.Essentially, these terms refer more specifically topersonal attributes. Homogamous mates are thosewho have similar levels of education andintelligence, are relatively the same ageand share common interests, ideals and values(Goodman, 1 993). “The term heterogamy refers to marriageoutside one’s racial, ethnic, orreligious group” (Ramu, 1 992:167), and is in some instances referred to as the theory ofcomplementary needs (Horna, 1992).In other words, a relationship that might becharacterized as heterogamous may well beunderstood as a union of two people whosepersonalities complement one another in thatwhat one individual lacks in personalityattributes, the other brings into the relationship.Thus far, in a very general sense, an attempthas been made to outline how social structurecould have shaped or limited Carolyn and Mac’s union.In order to understand more specificallyif and how their pairing was affected, we need to go backand learn more about the particulars oftheir situation.Carolyn and Mac met for the first time when they wereboth 39 years old, and it was not at afamily reunion. On sight, Carolyn and Maccould be fairly certain that if they were related, thatit was very distantly. - Hence, they observed the ruleof exogamy.Carolyn worked as a ward clerk at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, wasin the process of26acquiring a college degree when she met Mac, and was raised a Christian. Mac, like Carolyn, hada Christian upbringing, held a college degree and worked as a financial analyst. - Hence,endogamy exerted very loose control of the mate selection process between Mac and Carolyn.They were unrelated, of the same social class and shared religious backgrounds.BUT - Carolyn is Black and Mac is White - and in that regard they defied the endogamous raceconsideration.Interracial coupling is often cited as an example of an heterogamous relationship (Goodman,1 993; Ramu, 1992), however, Carolyn’s and Mac’s experiences and backgrounds, excepting thefactor of race, suggest that they are homogamous.At the time of their meeting, as noted, both Carolyn and Mac were 39 years old. Each of themhad been through a marriage which resulted in divorce. Both bore the responsibilities of singleparenting with Carolyn raising four children to Mac’s two. They were both living in the city ofBaltimore, and as has been established, had attained comparable educational and socio-economicstatus. In the course of being interviewed, Carolyn revealed, “it was amazing how much we hadin common: music, food, games, and we both loved the outdoors.”The particular factors which led to Carolyn and Mac selecting each other as mates hint at thedegree of social and personal emphasis that is placed in this instance on factors such as freedomof choice, romantic love or maintenance of kinship ties among others. Before this issue isexamined to any greater extent however, it is worth exploring the second implication ofTepperman and Djao’s observation on Mac and Carolyn’s case.From Tepperman and Djao’s perspective, individual choices are shaped and limited by theactions and choices of the people around the individuals. Carolyn and Mac met at the weddingreception of a mutual friend. In its very simplest sense, the friend’s acts of getting married,having a reception and inviting them both to the reception were instrumental to their meeting.27But as is the case with most things in life, meeting was far more complex, and dependent upon aseries of actions, some of which neither Carolyn nor Mac were responsible for initiating.Carolyn informed meWhat’s so incredible is that the wedding reception that we were at,I’d known the woman for 10 years, she’d known Mac for 10 years,as a matter of fact, they dated. She’d never told me about him. Shealways talked about the other men in her life, but not once did shemention him. I had come downstairs and he came through the frontdoor, and I looked at him and I said Now I wonder who he is ... Hewas talking to this other woman, who was a guest, in the kitchenand he walked her to the door when she had to leave. On his way backhe took my hand and we started dancing, and I’m looking at one of theother bridesmaids and I’m pointing to her to cut in. I didn’t knowthis man. I didn’t know his name ...So finally we were introduced.Carolyn’s rendition of an event that had taken place nearly ten years earlier is a prettystraightforward account of the facts that took place before they met, butmore importantly, itprovides cues to the actions of others that shaped their lives.The woman whose reception they both attended, as stated, was a person theyhad both knownfor ten years, and yet this friend (whom l”II refer to as Rolanda) had nevermade mention of onefriend to the other. More importantly, Mac was a man that Rolanda once dated.This a vital factorin this particular equation, because it is conceivable that Rolanda and Mac couldhave terminatedtheir friendship when they ceased dating, in which case, he wouldnot have been at the reception,and there would not have been a ‘Carolyn and Mac’ that met that night. But Rolandaand Mac hadremained friends, and close enough that Mac was invited to, and attended Rolanda’sreception.Rolanda also opted, consciously or sub-consciously, to keep Carolyn and Macapart until theevening of her reception. (Carolyn, in retrospect, was surprised byRolanda’s failure tomention Mac at any time prior to their meeting, particularly given the fact that they were socompatible.) But let’s assume that Rolanda had told Carolyn about Mac while she was dating him,and made Carolyn privy to the details of her relationship with Mac, up to and including the28decision to remain friends. Would this not have changed Carolyn’s perceptionof Mac and thepossibilities that they could entertain where the other was concerned?It amounts tospeculation, but it is entirely conceivable that the outcome could have beenvery different. Thefact is that by the time Carolyn and Mac did meet, Rolandawas marrying someone else,effectively taking herself out of the dating/mating pool. With Rolanda happily married tosomeone else, Carolyn and Mac were free to explore the fullextent of their relationship andfeelings for each other, without the risk of alienating Rolanda.The possibility that Rolanda stillhad deeper feelings for Mac or vice versa did not complicate the picturebetween Mac andCarolyn by the time that they met, as it may have hadRolanda still been single. So much forRolanda’s part in getting Mac and Carolyn together.We have also learned that Mac took Carolyn out to the dance floor once anotherfemale guestleft the reception. Had she chosen to stay, would that have altered what transpiredor would ithave merely postponed what in fact ensued? Finally,what would have happened if thebridesmaid, that Carolyn had been motioning to, hadresponded to the cue to cut in? WouldCarolyn and Mac have left the party without being introduced,or again, would anotheropportunity that led to their talking, and leaving together, have arisen later inthe evening?These hypothetical questions will remain just that, since there is no definitivemethod togauge what might have been. The bottom line is not so muchhow events might have changed hadpeople acted differently, but that what happened is theresult of individuals acting the way thatthey did. Carolyn’s and Mac’s choices and actions were clearly interdependentupon those of thepeople surrounding them. Getting together was as muchthe result of their own decisions at thatmoment in time, as it was of decisions made by them andothers, before and up to then.While the initial act of getting together was a culmination of forces beyondthe expresscontrol of Carolyn and Mac, choosing to explore the possibilitiesof a relationship was clearly29another matter. I asked Carolyn and Mac to tell me what happened once they met, and how theygot to be a couple. In an effort to respond, they went back to the night of the reception.Carolyn: So finally we we’re introduced, and he said “How about dinnerat the Golden Arches?” This is how naive I am - I didn’t know that hemeant McDonald’s.Mac: I was joking.Carolyn: I thought it was a fancy restaurant or something like that, andhe said “Saturday?”, so I said “fine”. Now the next day, I was taking her[Rolanda’s] place on her unit while she was on her honeymoon. So anyway,I’m sitting there and the phone rings and he [Mac] said “Uh, listen uh, Ican’t wait until Saturday, what time do you get off?” I said “3:30”. Hesaid “I’ll be there”, and I couldn’t remember if I could recognize his car ornot.Mac: What it was is that all of us white folks look alike.Carolyn: It was remarkable how we hit it off.. .We started seeing each other,moved in together almost immediately - about two months after we met -and we got married December 18, 1 987.Throughout the course of our conversations, both Carolyn and Mac indicated that they wereoverwhelmed by how much they had in common. In fact they were so astounded, that theywondered between themselves if Rolanda, knowing how compatiblethey would be, hadn’tpurposely avoided introducing them. They had common interests, experiences, and aspirations,and they enjoyed doing the same things with their time - together.They spent their eveningsplaying chess with one another, eating dinners that Mac had prepared forCarolyn, talking witheach other, spending time with their children or with friends, dancing, dining or anynumber ofother things that qualified as going out. Carolyn found Mac” spoiling her rotten”, and Macfoundin Carolyn, a woman “more intelligent, caring, beautiful, and special thanany other” he’d metin his life.STAYING TOGETHERBy the time they decided to get married, Carolyn and Mac had been living together for three30years. Carolyn and her youngest son Chris, moved into Mac’s home, where he lived with hisyoungest son Scott. Carolyn claimed that she was very happy with the way things were, andgetting married was never really an issue with her, or with Mac. But the fact remained thatthey did get married. When asked why, they commentedCarolyn: Four months after we met I got very ill.Mac: Carolyn has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), andduring the first two years together we almost lost her five times. She’dend up in intensive care for two weeks, and doctors didn’t expect her topull out of it. When she’d gone into remission, the doctors told me thatthe climate in Baltimore wasn’t helping her condition, so we came outhere [Las Vegas] to check things out.Carolyn: Mac was taking excellent care of me.Mac: Before we came out here, I asked her to marry me. I thought it wasimportant because she was sick and we’d be coming alone. I guess the securitywas an issue.Carolyn: I thought he was joking. I said “Why would you want to marry me?Look at me. I’m not even healthy.” And then he said “Are you going to marryme or not?”, and that’s when I knew he meant it. He told a lot of his friends,“I’ve gone through alot of women before I found her and I don’t intend to lether go”. We loved each other and we decided to go ahead with it.Ah! That magic word - Love.Given the nature of North American society, chances were better than not that love wouldcreep into the scenario at some point. Ramu, (1992) in following William Goode’s (1959) lead,states thatin Western societies, love is actually encouraged and is a commonlyexpected element in mate choice. In these societies, the cultural imperativeis that one is free to fall in love with a person of his/her choice, and it is awidely held belief that it is “. ..mildly shameful to marry without being inlove with one’s spouse.” (167)Albas and Albas (1992) contend that no existing definition is entirely satisfactory in itscapacity to explain the symbolic construction of love. As a result, they rely on the definitionwhich enjoys the greatest currency, and is provided by Goode. According to Albas and Albas,31“Goode (1959:49) defines love as a strong emotional attachment, a cathexis,betweenadolescents or adults of opposite sexes, with at least the components of sex desireandtenderness.” (1992:125) Within their discussion of love and marriage, Albas and Albas alsopoint out that Goode’s primary definition is expanded upon by Rubin (1 973) who proposes thatlove can be distinguished from its companion concept -liking-by three of its characteristics,namely, attachment, caring and intimacy. In delineating the features of these characteristicsthey stateAttachment has a strong sexual component, and it consists of a strongdesire to be in the presence of the other person. It corresponds “to whatthe Greeks called Eros” (Rubin, 1973:213). Caring is really the otherside of attachment. In caring, the emphasis is not so much in meetingone’s own personal needs for closeness, sexual union, and so on, as itis on giving to the other person. “Love as giving corresponds to what theGreeks called Agape. ..and is emphasized in the New Testament, epitomizedby St. John’s declaration ‘God is love” (Rubin, 1973:213). Intimacy isderived from the combination of attachment (need-fulfillment) andcaring and is essentially ‘a relation of rapport and self-disclosure. Whileattachment and caring are individual characteristics, intimacy isthe bondbetween the couple. It is interactional and transcends them (1992:131).The history and current status of Mac and Carolyn’s relationshipreveals that at itsfoundation are the features which are used to define theconcept of love. Carolyn currentlyingests thirty-two different prescription medicines per day,and is pretty much confined to herbed. It is rare that she leaves her room, let alone the house. She is limitedin her capacity toentertain visitors in her home, often finding herself exhausted after an hourof her company’sarrival. In the years since she and Mac have been married,her physical appearance has changeddramatically. Early photographs of Carolyn are difficult tolink with the woman laying in bedbearing the same name, unless one is told that they are oneand the same person. Mac’s bed isabout eighteen inches away from Carolyn’s, and when he is at home,he generally occupies thesame physical space as her. As she sits in bed drawing, writing poetry, crocheting,or pursuingany one of a number of hobbies, he is in his recliner reading, watchingtelevision, doing32paperwork or simply keeping her company. They eat their meals in theirroom, and Mac oftencomes home for lunch. Though Carolyn feels that she is far from thewoman he married, Macseems as much in love as a man might be. He statedIn ten years, Carolyn and I have lived a lifetime together. Because of hersickness we’ve been through as much emotionally and mentally as somecouples do in forty or fifty years... It’s pulled us closer together becauseof the extra stress and strain. It’s different when you lose someone in acar accident, there’s the shock because it’s so quick, but on the otherhand, in two to four weeks, you start to mend, and you move on, but it’snot like this.. .When you are dealing with a sick loved one on adrawn outaffair, especially when you know what the result is going to be, anditsjust a question of when it creates lots of stress. ..You watch someonechange physically and lose control over things that they could do easily.But Carolyn is very special, and I know that I’ll never meet anyone elselike her in my life. I know I’m going to lose her andI don’t know when andI’ll hold on to the time I have with her.Carolyn’s declarations of love toward Mac are not only filled with gratitudefor his patiencein dealing with her condition, but indicative of the bond and rapport that they haveforged sincethey got together. Her physical dependence on Mac is overwhelmedby the emotional connectionshe has developed with this man over the last ten years.She commentedI’m fine as long as he’s here. If he’s near, I can sense it, and if he goes onone of his trips, he can sense if I’m in trouble. He’ll call andask “Are youokay?”, and I’ll say “Well, I’ve had a little crisis but I’m alrightnow”.He’ll say, “I thought so”, and he can almost tell you exactly at whattimeI have had an attack. That’s how close we are. We can’t even lieto eachother. He sees through my little attempts at lyingas though he’s readingit on a piece of paper. And the same thing with him. It’s wierd.Through Carolyn and Mac’s case it is not only clear that “. . .to the degree thatunmarriedpeople of the opposite sex are free to interact with eachother, love is a potential outcome”(Albas and Albas, 1 992:1 34), but that freedom to interact across racial linescan also result inthe same.MORE OF THE SAME - OTHER INTERRACIAL COUPLESRamu (1992) suggests that “...the process of selection is not as randomas it appears,33because the “universe” from which the partners are drawn is generallylimited with respect tosmall clusters of people in school, work, or neighborhood”(167). Citing William Goode(1982), he goes on to note thatSince the marriageable population in the United States (and increasinglyas well in other countries) is gradually segregated into pools of eligibleswith similar social class backgrounds, even a free dating pattern withsome encouragement to fall in love does not threaten the stratificationsystem. That is, people fall in love with the “right” kind of people (167).If by “right”, Goode intends to include the stipulation of race, then there is room to mount achallenge to his claim. While the numbers do not indicate that interracialmarriages arethreatening to exceed the number of same race marriages, their numbers are clearly ontherise. “Various forces, including individualism, secularism,and geographic mobility, havecontributed to the tendency among some individualsto marry outside the group” (Ramu,1992:1 67). While Carolyn and Mac’s case may be extraordinaryin its details, little is uniquewith respect to its overall dynamics. Without exception,as will soon become evident, thecouples interviewed during the course of this study cited love asthe primary, solidifying factorin the continuation of their relationship.Undoubtedly, changes in the social structure whichhave resulted in increased interaction between individualsof different races has enabled thesecouples to discover their love, and it is love, not necessarilybetween the “right kind” of people,but instead, between the “right people”.For some of the couples, the mutual sense that they hadfound the “right person” was arelatively rapid discovery, while for others, it was afeeling that evolved over time.Rick, who is Black, and Layla, who is East Indian, meta little over two and a half years ago ata popular nightspot in Seattle. Layla, who is from Vancouver,decided on a whim to accompanysome friends on a trip they had planned to Seattle for theweekend. Rick, on the other hand, wasin the city on business and was spending the weekend with friends beforehe left to go back home.34It so happened that they both found themselves at a bar that neither hadever been to before butwould always remember as the place where they met.During the course of the evening when they first met, Rick and Layla danced, talkedoverdrinks, and introduced their respective friends to oneanother. Before the night was through,Layla and Rick exchanged telephone numbers, alongwith some bits of their individual histories,and contemplated the possibility of staying in touch. Rick’s friend’s birthdaywas coming up thefollowing month and there was a big celebrationplanned that Rick had decided to attend. Heinvited Layla to come down for the weekend, and she left that eveningtelling him that she wouldthink about it. Though she led Rick to believe that she would givesome serious thought to hisrequest, Layla admitted that at the time, she figuredit would all be forgotten within a week. ShesaidIt was a fun night. He and I talked, and we told each otherabout ourselvesand I realized by the time that we both left the place withour friends andwent our separate ways, that we’d spent mostof the evening together. Hisfriends came looking for him when they got ready to leave,and I actuallywent next door to the place where my friends had goneto. It was a nice timeand all, but I’ve been through enough experiences of havingmet someoneunder similar circumstances to have learned that you haveto take everythingpeople say with a grain of salt. Quite honestly, with himand I being fromdifferent cities, I didn’t really expect to hear from him again,much lesssee him. Boy, was I wrong!Rick promised that he would call her the followingMonday, and Layla found herself shockedwhen he followed through. That call led to a seriesof others, during which plans evolved to meetagain while Rick was in town for his friend’s birthday.In describing how they felt coming into theirnext meeting, both revealed a sense ofreluctance and nervousness.Rick: I asked myself repeatedly what I was doing. I didn’tseriously considergoing back to Seattle until I met Layla, and even when wediscussed thepossibility of getting together, I wasn’t really sure untilI actually boughtthe plane ticket, and made the other arrangements for theweekend.35Layla: I was feeling really ambivalent. I had a picture that wehad takentogether the night that we met, but I didn’t even feellike I’d recognizehim when I saw him again. He’d offered to fly me down to Seattle,but Italked my sister and cousin into driving me down.I guess they weresupposed to be my buffer. He seemed really nice on thephone, and I felt likeI knew him because we had talked for hours,but seeing him again - thatwas a different story. I think he must have feltit too because those firstmoments when we saw each other again werereally tentative. That prettymuch disappeared as soon as we started talking though.For Layla and Rick, it took less than the weekend togetherto confirm that there wassomething special about their relationship.As Rick put itBy the end of the weekend, I knew I was done.I fell in love, and I told her thatthere were a couple of women I’d been dating casuallyback home, but that assoon as I got back, I’d have a couple of bombs to drop.I told her that I wantedan exclusive relationship and that I didn’t want to shareher.Layla, for her part, indicates that she got alot morethan she bargained for.I figured that it might be a fun weekend, and that’s aboutit. I was reallylooking at it as a diversion and little else.I didn’t anticipate that I wouldbe back in Vancouver thinkingof virtually nothing other than when Iwould see him again. He just had so many of the qualitiesthat I reallydesired in a man, and he seemed to genuinelyenjoy himself, just as muchas I did. What’s more is that we discoveredso many similarities betweenus, in terms of our personalities, families, upbringing,and what wewanted out of life that it felt uncanny.We talked more than I can everremember talking to anyone, and it just seemed like thingscame pouringout once we started. I found it really hardto say goodbye when he leftVancouver to go back to Seattle, and tried desperately todeny that I feltstrongly about him.They both admit that it is difficult to sustain a relationshipwith 1 500 miles between them, butthey manage to spend what amounts tohalf their time together by scheduling frequent andlengthy visits with one another. They cope with theperiods of separation by calling on thetelephone, immersing themselves in other aspectsof their lives such as work, friends orfamily, and by reminding themselves thatin one another, not only have they found love, butalove that is worth working for.Keith and Gina’s (Keith is Black, while Gina is White)path to experiencing their interraciallove was far more circuitous than the one that Rickand Layla travelled. As Keith put it36We’re back together now after a long change and a long haul of differentlittle problems here and there. But now its even. Now I love her just asmuch as she loves me.From Keith and Gina’s perspective, love came easy for Gina, but was something she had tostruggle to get Keith to acknowledge. When their paths first crossed, Keith was playing in a bandat the hotel where Gina worked. One night, Gina saw Keith standing in the hotel talking withsomeone, and figuring that he was an entertainer because of the way he was dressed, she asked afemale co-worker to try and find him. The woman tracked Keith down, and let him know thatthere was someone who was interested in meeting him. As an entertainer, Keith finds himselfapproached frequently, so while he conceded to meeting Gina, he indicated that he initiallytreated the situation as one in which there was a woman who was just interested in meeting amusician, and not necessarily as something personal. But then he met her, and he said that “Iwas stunned”.Being overwhelmed by Gina’s appearance was, it seems, the least of Keith’s problemshowever. When they initially met, Keith was involved with another woman who was the motherof his two children, and while Keith socialized with female patrons in the course of his work, hemade it a practice not to extend himself beyond the bounds of friendship. He commentedIt was hard because I had these feelings for Gina and I didn’t really wantto reveal them because I was still living with my ex - Maureen, and shewas someone I loved. But you know we were having problems, it was abig fight that was turning into a war, and I had this inside of me.As a result of the circumstances, Gina and Keith started off as friends. They apparently just‘hung out’ together, and Keith found Gina just being there and being someone he could talk to.Eventually, the stresses at home “got way out of hand” for Keith, and got to the point where hegrabbed all of his things and moved out to avoid greater confrontation.When he left, Gina offered him a place to stay, and as a consequence, they became moreinvolved in one another’s lives. Gina spent alot of time at Keith’s rehearsals, or watching him37play when she wasn’t at work herself. Shealso began to develop connections with his friends andco-workers, and began to feel freer to express how shefelt about Keith.Keith, in the meantime, was feeling pressure to become more involvedand did not feel asthough he could reciprocate Gina’s feelingsto the same extent that she desired, particularlygiven the recency of his break-up withMaureen. In a response to the pressure, he moved out ofGina’s place. He revealedWe ended up splitting up for a little time because I stillnever had thatchance to break-out and have my time and really get to healmyself frommy past relationship. I was in that for aboutnine and a half years. Thething about it is that after being with someone for so manyyears theystart telling you “I never liked this, or I never liked that,and this is whywe’re splitting up”. You find that you needto start thinking about thesethings. But being with Gina, I never had a chance to think about thesethings, so I told her I needed some time, but she just crowdedmy space.So I had to get out, and I got me an apartment.While they were separated, two things happened. Keithstarted dating other women, and Ginadiscovered that she was pregnant. Since Keith alreadyhad children, and had no desire to bepushed into another committment, he wasnot thrilled with the news that he was an expectantfather. This period marked the first stagein their relationship where they began to arguebitterly with one another. At this point they felt likesworn enemies, but underneath all of thetension, they still sensed that there were positivefeelings, feelings of love, for one another.The love enabled Gina and Keith to work throughall of their difficulties. When the babyfinally arrived, Keith started picking the babyup every night after work to look after himwhile Gina was at work. Gina and Keith found themselvesspending more time talking with oneanother, often while waiting for the babysitterto arrive with the baby so that Keith could takehim home. They began to discuss their feelings forone another, and Gina told KeithI’ve always loved you and I know that you have always lovedme. Youjust won’t admit it.Keith acknowledged38Gina’s love and dedication was stronger than anything I’ve ever seenin my life. But I was still unsure for other reasons, so it kept me fromgetting closer.By the time that Keith and Gina reached the point where they were mutually willing andable tocommit to their relationship, two and half years had passed since they firstmet. Keith had alsolived with someone else for a short period of time, hoping to convincehimself and Gina that itwas over, and partly as a reaction to Gina’s continued attempts to extract a committmentfromhim. The turning point for Keith and Gina came when Ginatold him why she loved him. It’sunderstood best in their own words.Keith: Up until we got involved, Gina has always tried to protect herheart and not really tell a guy how she feels. Now most of her girlfriendswould know, and they’d come up to me and say “that girl really loves you,that girl really loves you”, but no one could really explain it to me in theway that she could. And one night I was sitting and she was kneeling on thefloor, and she finally told me the reason why she loved me.Keith to Gina: And baby, if you could say it again, I’d love you twiceas hard.Gina: I would never repeat that.Keith: Well, she has this, she kind of reads these...Gina: I read these romance novels, and it’s like he stepped out ofa romancenovel you know. He’s macho, but sensitive, and you never really see himmake mistakes, he’s just very you know [long pause] perfect.Keith: When she actually explained this to me, my heart just kindafell outof its pocket...l used to refuse to tell her that I loved her, andI’d say you’re justmy pal, or we’re just friends...There’s things that I wouldn’t have done inthepast that I do now and it’s because I love her, and I’m willingto do everythingon this earth to keep this woman happy, and then some.Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Gina and Keith will be marriedwithin the year, as amatter of fact, the day that we sat together to discuss their relationship,they had chosen andpaid for an engagement ring.The important, but as yet unreferenced, issue is that none of the individuals involved wouldattempt to suggest that they are not aware of their racial differences. Many of the couples39claimed that race has never clouded their judgementsabout people, or their decisions to becomeinvolved with them. Further, they wouldcontend that if it were an issue at the outset, thattheirlove has empowered them to overlookthis difference and the potential problems that itcancreate. Unfortunately, for many,their families’ love was not strong enough to disregardthisdifference. ft is toward relations withfamilies, and the reactions and problems that interracialcouples have encountered with them, that the discussionnow turns.40CHAPTER 3 - INTERRACIAL COUPLESAND THEiR FAMILIESEDITOR:I am a 1 5 year old White girl and I am currently dating a Blackguy. People outside of ourselves have made what would otherwisebe a wonderful time in my life a living hell.My mother, who claims she’s not prejudice [sic], feels Blacksand Whites should not “mix”. In the beginning of our relationshipshe constantly referred to my boyfriend as a “nigger”and me a“nigger-lover”. She has also suggested thatI am too pretty to bewith a Black man. She has even threatened to press chargesagainstmy boyfriend who is 1 8 years old and send meto a foster home. Iended up in counseling.I will be 1 6 years old soon and feel I am old enough to make myown decision. I love my boyfriend very much and wouldn’t dreamof giving him up even if it meant losing my family.My family shouldlove me for who I am and not who I date.- CHERYL WACHTLINCOLN PARK, NEW JERSEYBELIEFS ABOUT INTERRACIAL RELATIONSHIPSAND THEIR CONSEQUENCESCheryl Wacht’s letter, which appeared in the September/October1 993 issue of ‘lnterrace’magazine, is a vivid description of the reactions and consequencesendured by many of thoseinvolved in interracial relationships.Running through Cheryl’s letter is an undercurrent of anxietythat suggests that she wasunprepared for the negative reactions shehas incurred since she broached the subject of herboyfriend’s race with her mother. Though it is unclearwhether Cheryl expected her mother tooffer reassurance that race was an unimportant issue,or if she thought her mother wouldwelcome her boyfriend with open arms, what is certainis that she did not expect to become theobject of racist slurs or be subjected to threats.In the final analysis, Cheryl emerges as adiscouraged young woman who, even after undergoing counseling,questions the quality of loveher family feels toward her and is totally willing to sever contactwith her family in order tomaintain her relationship with her boyfriend.41In rather stark contrast to Cheryl’s apparent shock and dismay overher mother’s reaction toher interracial relationship, others seem fairlycapable of predicting how their parents mightreact under similar circumstances. In an introductory sociologycourse being taught atuniversity, a professor put the following questionto his students: “What legal action could youperform that would cause your parents to rejectyou?” Included among the written responseswere a number that indicated that amarriage between themselves and a member of a particularracial or religious group would elicit rejectionfrom their parents. Specifically, some studentsindicated that “marrying an Afro-American” wouldgenerate the given response, while otherswrote that “marrying a Caucasian”, and another groupthat “marrying a Muslim” would resultin the same.Embedded within Cheryl’s letter and the responses profferedby the students are additionalcues regarding mate selection processes. In the previouschapter, consideration was given to thetheory of endogamy, with an emphasison homogamy, and it was suggested that patterns ofmateselection would vary depending upon the degreeof emphasis that a society placed on factors suchas individual freedom, romantic love,or maintenance of kinship and/or group identityamongother factors (Ramu, 1 992). North American societyplaces a premium upon individualfreedom and romantic love (Goodman, 1993; Ramu,1992; Kephart and Jedlicka, 1991), butnot to the extent that conformity to some rules isvirtually unobserved. Certainly “. . .romanticlove, numerous personal considerationssuch as companionship, communication, sexualadjustment, common values, andaspirations determine the choice of one’smate” (Ramu,1992:167), butin most cases, individuals are not awareof the constraints thatinfluence their choice... .Although mate selection in NorthAmerica is formally free, it is affectedby impersonal forces,and this is evident from the general tendency towardendogamy(Ramu, 1992:168).42Included amongst these impersonal forces are parental expectations and involvement.Ramunotes that.although the general perception is that North Americans freelychoose their own marriage partners, in reality such a freedom isrestricted, because there is an indirect sorting of individualsaccording to their social class, race, ethnicity, religion, residenceand other such attributes. There are.. .ways in which free choice ismoderated.. .an individual is socialized into a family culture thatinfluences preferences for the kind of person who is likely to beviewed as a desireable and compatible mate (1992:173).The strength and impact of socialization into the familyculture is fairly obvious in the casesof the students in the sociology class. Regardless of whethertheir parents expectations andreactions will deter them from making a choice contrary to their parents’wishes, they remainclear about what the consequences would be if they opted to mate with certain typesof people.Ramu’s observation alludes to potential sources of conflict between parents andtheirchildren in the process of mate selection. In the context ofthis discussion, the key point ofconsideration is that of race.Based on a variety of accounts, which include those ofinformants, journalists andacademicians, the evidence suggests that discussionsof racial differences revolve around theconsequences that might ensue as a result of race mixing.Parents, in dealing with children whoare contemplating or engaged in interracial relationships demonstratea tendency to rationalizetheir objections in terms of obstacles, difficulties or problems thattheir children will have toovercome if the relationship is consummated in marriage. By couchingtheir objections in theseterms, parents attempt to avoid being personally labelledas racist in their beliefs, andeffectively appear as though they have their children’sbest interests at heart.Before demonstrating the nature of the exchanges thattypically occur between parents andtheir children, and discussing the mechanisms children use to copewith parental oppositionpredicated on racial differences, it is worthwhile to consider various anthropological43paraphrasings of beliefs about interracial relationships and their conceivable ramifications.(i) From the point of view of a competent member of our society, marriage (or acommittedrelationship) should involve partners of the same racial or ethnic background.This is avariation on the “blacks and whites should not mix” theme expressed by Cheryl’smother. It is abelief echoed both in discussions between parents and their children, and in the form of advicethat is intended to dissuade individuals from pursuing their relationshipfurther. It is alsoreiterated in informants’ accounts of the objections they anticipated and encountered inraisingthe subject of their interracial relationships with family and friends, as one of Terkel’sinterviewees indicates: “It was painful for me when I was told marrying a white woman wasabetrayal of the race, that it was a sign of disrespect for the black woman” (1992: 324).(ii) From the point of view of a competent member of our society, interracial couplesexperience adjustment problems that intraracial couples avoid. This belief isexpressed invarious forms, encompassing a broad range of situations. At the root of these beliefs is theperception that the couple will have trouble fitting into one another’s families, and the largercommunity. It is asserted that these experiences will create tension within the marriagebecause the couple is expected among other things, to have difficulty finding/keeping jobs,finding a suitable place to live, or making friends. A variation of this theme is reflected in thecomment made to Terkel by a black woman named Anita Hill in which she stated: “I don’t thinkthe average black female wants to be married to a white man. You have to deal with yourparents, with your siblings, with your peers, with your job. It’s really no big deal until yourealize how the total world is viewing you” (Ibid.,: 50).(iii) From the point of view of a competent member of our society, interracial marriages aremore likely to result in divorce than marriages between people of the same ethnic or racialbackground. These assessments are presented as matters of fact as opposed to personal belief.44Expressions of this view permit parents to separate themselves from the sensitive aspects ofthe race issue, by suggesting that divorce is an inevitable outcome of interracial marriage, andadditionally serves as a means to convince their children that the conflict is a result of concernabout their welfare, and ultimately that parents know best. A minister, counselling a black manthat he believed was interracially involved articulated this viewpoint in his comment: “I had agood friend once, a black man like yourself... He wanted to marry a white woman. Oh, I assureyou I warned him against it. But no, he wouldn’t listen to me. He went ahead and married her.And you know what happened? They’re divorced now. I knew it would happen all along”(Mathabane, 1 992:46).(iv) From the point of view of a competent member of our society, if an interracial couplechooses to get married, then they ought to avoid having children. Informants’ accounts revealthat parents’ beliefs about the suffering that interracial couples are likely to endure, becomeeven more pronounced in the instances of their unborn grandchildren. This argument is oftenrendered as a last ditch effort to talk their children out of making ‘a big mistake’. In discussingthe kind of problems that mixed children can expect to face, parents often speak as though theyhave intimate knowledge and experience of the ordeal. Moreover, responsibility for theprospective treatment is placed upon society and other people, rather than themselves. Thepersistence of this belief is revealed in an opinion voiced by one of Terkel’s informants whostates: “With interracial marriage, it’s the practical problem. The kids are really behind theeight-ball as they’re growing up. The adults I’m not so concerned about. When I see aninterracial couple, I wonder how the kids are doing. It’s society in general that bothers me on it”(Terkel, 1 992:1 23).FAMILY REACTIONS AND COPING MECHANISMSThe preceding anthropological paraphrasing of beliefs contain what parents generally regard45as good reasons for denying their consent to interracial relationships. While some informantsrevealed that they encountered no significant objections from their parents, others suggestedthat opposition ranged from disapproval, to denial of consent or refusalto associate with thecouple, to ostracism.In some instances, the risk of familial/parental censure is so great, that interracial couplesavoid the consequence by keeping their relationship a secret from their families.In a 1 993article for ‘Interrace’ magazine, Raymond Normandeau compiled “. ..thepersonal experiences ofa variety of interracial couples and how interactions with their friends,parents, etc. wereaffected” (9/10/93:21). Included amongst the revelations wasthe following:I’VE BEEN DATING AN ASIAN INDIAN (SIKH) GIRL FOR OVER 5 YEARS.This year we have plans on getting married since I will be done withmy education. The only people who know about us, on her side of thefamily, is her sister and a cousin in California. Telling a Sikh girl’sparents that the person she’s going to marry is an American is adeath wish, for all involved. I’m not sure her parents are all understanding, for if they were we would have told them by now. Whatbothers me most is that her parents have decided to come to Americaover 1 5 years ago and though they do not hold strongly to theirreligious beliefs, they have very strong feelings on who theirdaughter will marry... (lbid.,:23).For couples like the one portrayed here, concealing their relationship orthe identity of theirpartner offers the path of least resistance. This account suggests that the couplefully expectedthe female member’s family to vehemently object to the relationship, and as a result,they optedto carry on their relationship in the absence of parental scrutiny and condemnation.In so doing,not only were they able to decide if they were compatibleand if they wanted to pursue theirrelationship, free from pressure, but in some sense, they prolonged the inevitable.Given thatthe couple has decided to legitimate their relationship, they will confront the“death wish” theyhave avoided for the past five years.The reaction that this couple anticipated from the woman’s family is not atypical,though46informants’ experiences suggest that their methodof coping is not the norm. Consider thefollowing:Rick and I have been involved with one anotherfor about two and ahalf years. Because of the distance separating us, and the frequencyof our visits, concealing the relationship or hisidentity from myfamily has really been out of the question.Regardless of this issue,I don’t think I would have chosen to keep our relationship a secret,particularly when I think about how I feel abouthim and the factthat he’s someone I’m proud of...For a lot of different reasons it’s worked out that I’ve gone to see himinstead of him coming to see me, so my mom has never met him.Mysisters, some cousins and my nephew havemet him and they all likehim alot, but even if given the chance, I know my mom doesn’t lookforward to the prospect. It’s like she’ll haveto admit that there is ablack man on earth who is worthy of her daughter.Periodically, she and I get into arguments about my relationship,where she implores me to reconsider the viabilityof being with Rick.Invariably her objective is to get me to say “Okay! You’re right, I’llbreak it off.” But I take a defensive posture,justifying Rick’s presencein my life and my feelings for him, insisting that she would like him ifshe gave him a chance, and trying to get her to see that it’s unreasonablefor her to judge a person purely on the basis of race, especially whenshe’s never met him. She always ends the conversation withthe samekind of thing, saying something like “I’m not saying he’s a badperson,but don’t my feelings matter to you - what will people think, I didn’traise you to give you up to the black man.”Practically speaking, Layla feels that she could not hideher relationship with Rick, even thoughshe knew that it would be a continuing source of conflictbetween her and her mother. Ratherthan avoid the conflict, Layla has elected to deal with it, and inso doing she meets the challengeof overcoming objections based on the beliefs that marriageshould take place between same racepartners, and that interracial couples - and by association,their families - face adjustmentsthat same race couples do not. Layla’s mother is as concernedabout what other people/societywill think of her, as well as her daughter, because of Layla’s association witha black man.Layla admits that contending with her mother’s reactions is often emotionally exhausting,andthat it is difficult to maintain her position while she’s “drowningin a pool of tears”. Thoughthere have been extended periods of time that she and her mother have gonewithout speaking to47each other, Layla has not considered terminating her relationship with Rick, or for thatmatterwith her mother, because of it.Layla is fortunate. Although her mother has immense difficulty acknowledgingand acceptingher daughter’s interracial relationship, she does maintaina relationship with her. Othercouples have experienced complete rejection, and in those cases whereparents do come around,it is a crisis or the birth of a grandchild that produces the change.In their book, ‘Love in Black and White’, Mark and Gail Mathabanerecount the experiences ofseveral interracial couples including their own. Aboutone such couple, they write:When our friends Madelyn and Richard Ashley decidedto marry,Madelyn had to sacrifice her good relationship with her father.For years after the wedding, Madelyn’s father refused to meetRichard.. .Though they [Madelyn’s parents] raised Madelyn tobelieve in racial equality, they oppose interracial marriage...Richard was forbidden to set foot in his father-in-law’s home.It was not until Madelyn’s mother had a heart attack that herparents had a change of heart (1992:236).Connie and James, another interracial couple, shared thefollowing with the Mathabanes:It took nine years for Connie...to win back the affectionof herfather after she started dating James...”My parents hatedme whenthey found out”, Connie said. “Daddy used to say he was goingto shoothim. He said ‘I’ll shoot the nigger’. I just sat there and gaped...AfterDylan was born my relationship with my father startedto improve,”Connie said. “I mean, you can’t refuse a child, not a baby,mixed or notmixed” (lbid.,:237-241)Finally, the Mathabanes relate the story of one couplewho has never been able to salvage therelationship that ‘Sarah’ once had with her family.They write:Sarah.. .was disowned by her parents when, at age seventeen,she fellin love with Amil, a nineteen-year old black studentat WesleyanUniversity who had grown up in the South. Twenty-twoyears andthree children later, she and her parents are still estranged(lbid.,:241).Sarah’s description of the exchanges between herself and herparents that led her to leave theirhome and sever all future contact with them reveal bitterness and despair.She told Gail and48Mark:[My] parents told [me], “You’ll end up in the gutter. You’ll be on welfare.You’ll have lots of children. No one will accept your children. All blacksare in the gutter. Are you going to pull this whole family down in thegutter with you, after we’ve worked so hard?”... “I wanted to stick withCatholicism, but it became impossible,”.. .“Priests who counseled meafter I moved out always said the same thing: Honor thy mother andfather” (Ibid.,:243).The noticeable feature about these three accounts is that in one form or another, a variationof one or more of the anthropological paraphrases can be uncovered. In the case of Richard andMadelyn, Madelyn’s father maintained a steadfast conviction, as did Connie’s, that individuals ofdifferent races should not marry. Sarah’s parents, in addition to holding the belief thatinterracial marriage is inherently wrong, contend that interracial couples and their familiessuffer from problems that are not commonly associated with same race couples. In eachinstance, the couples coped with family reaction in the same way, which was to nurture theirlove relationship at the expense or loss of that with their family.Parents are not alone in drawing on these beliefs in order to justify terminating theirrelationships with their children. It appears that children are as capable of rationalizing theirbehaviour or reactions to their parents by drawing on the same views. This is especially true inthe case of Pat and Kelly Conner.Pat, who is a fifty-one-year old white male, met his current wife Kelly, a thirty-three-year old black woman, at work. Within a year of meeting, they decided to get married. Each ofthem had children from previous relationships. Kelly’s son lives with Pat and Kelly, but Pat hasbeen estranged from his daughters, aged thirty and ten, for the past two years. In speaking withPat and Kelly about familial reactions to their decision to marry they revealed the following:Pat: Neither of [my daughters] are too thrilled about the situation. Ithink that my oldest has had an influence over the younger one in thatrespect. But I explained to them going in what the situation was andthere was no reason for them to feel any animosity, anger or whatever49because the only difference between [Kelly] and anybody else they knowmight be the color of her skin, and that’s not a reason to automaticallypreclude somebody from your life.Kelly: They still don’t like it. They cut off all ties to him.[To Pat]: Tell the truth.They don’t talk to him, and they don’t want to talk to him and that’s theway it seems. And sometimes I hurt for him ‘cause you know [long pause]those are his daughters...Pat: The oldest one I really haven’t spoken to in two years I guess. Andthe youngest one is the old saw of, she doesn’t think that’s it’s right fora white person and a black person to live together. Now that’s not the,in my mind and this is really going back to when she’s eight years old,not the type of thing an eight year old determines on their own. That’soutside influence, that’s an older influence. Her [maternal] grandfatheris very racial in his thought.. .and you know it’s, I don’t know whospecifically to lay the blame on and it’s just as well. But between himand my oldest daughter, if not directly, indirectly influence is put toher.The bitter irony of the situation, from Pat’s perspective, is that the girls are themselves aproduct of an inter-ethnic union with their mother being Mexican and their father English. Inretrospect, Kelly and Pat were least prepared to deal with antipathy from their children. Infact, until Pat’s youngest daughter’s hostility became manifest through her refusal to see herfather, or even talk to him on the phone, there was no indication of any resentment. During thefirst year of their relationship, she often spent time with Pat and Kelly and Kelly’s children. Allconcerned felt that there weren’t any significant adjustment problems being experienced. As forPat’s oldest daughter, little more than a second thought was given to how she might feel, givenher age and independence, and that she had never taken the time out to meet Kelly.If anything, Kelly and Pat thought that the biggest hurdle they would have to overcomebesides convincing Kelly herself that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with their relationship, was toget Kelly’s family to accept Pat. Prior to meeting her husband, Kelly had never been involvedwith a man who wasn’t black. For Kelly, the decision to date and involve herself exclusively withblack men had been a conscious one. She was raised to believe that white men might be50“interested in getting a piece of black ass”, but that they’d never be inclined to marry a blackwoman. Consequently, she was reluctant to date Pat, let alone take him seriously.Kelly freely admits that her attitudes were influenced by her family and society, rather thanbeing borne of first-hand experiences. When Kelly dealt with, and overcame her ownambivalence, she began to consider how her parents would respond to the news. In addition to Patbeing white, he is almost twenty years older than Kelly, and Kelly thought that the combinationmight be more than her parents could accept. Kelly’s parents pleasantly surprised her. She said:When I told my father he accepted it and he cautioned me. He said “Doyou know what society is gonna be like, and do you know what you’regonna have to go through?’ He gave me, you know, the little lecture,but in the end, he told me “whatever makes you happy baby.”My mom accepted him and never said anything negative about him,nothing. A couple of months later when I told her ‘Mom, Pat askedmeto marry him’, she said “Hurry up before he changes his mind.”In Pat and Kelly’s experience, it was the children that they already had that created problemsfor them in their relationship. For many, as a contributor to Normandeau’sfeature in‘Interrace’ reveals, it is not the children they have, but those that they mayhave, that becomethe focus of concern and conflict. He writes:One thing does bother me, however. I’ve heard the following severaltimes (on several TV talk shows on the topic of interracial relationships):“I don’t have a problem with people dating, having sex, marryingifthey are of different races, but I don’t think they should have children.”• . .1 (we) just don’t buy the argument that it is unfair to the child, forreasons such as:- the child will be teased at school because of it...- the child will not have an understanding of his roots...- the child will not know what he is... (9/10/93:25)Vera and Leo King, a couple interviewed by Studs Terkel for his book ‘Race:How Black andWhites Think and Feel About The American Obsession’, confronted thisobjection from Vera’swhite mother when they decided to get married back in 1952. Vera indicated:My mother and some dear friends were afraid this might harm my career.[Vera is a medical doctor]. They were particularly afraid that if we had51children, it would be hard on them. Thatwas a common attitude amongmany liberal people at the time (1992:394).This attitude is expressed incontemporary contexts as straightforwardly as itwas with Veraand Leo, and in other instances, individualshave to piece together the concerns thatparents haveabout their grandchildren.For Dave and Deborah, an East Indian-Chinesecouple, the impending birth of achildprompted Dave’s mother to speculate extensivelyabout what her grandchild wouldlook like.Dave said that it finally got to the point that he wasso offended by his mother’s remarksthat hischild would look like a ‘Chink” or be born with‘slant-eyes’ that he told his mother that if shecontinued making racist comments, he would not permither to see the child.In Monica and Rajan Patel’s experience, Monicagradually detected her mother’sreservations. For the longest time, Monica never suspected thather Italian mother had anyproblems with her East Indian husband. It wasn’t until Rajan toldMonica’s mother that he hadbeen born in Africa, and Monica’s mother started thinking that he had‘negro’ blood in him, thatRajan’s dark complexion started to bother Monica’s mom.Monica informed me:You could see the change. All of a sudden she was worried abouthimbeing from Africa.The deeper anxiety about her husband’s complexionand race surfaced when Monica told hermother that she was pregnant. In relating how she broke the news toher mother, and describingher mother’s reaction, she offered the following:I said ‘Mom, guess what, we’re going to have a baby’, andshe said “Oh,how nice”, and it was like, I could tell, -‘Is this baby going to comeoutblack?’...and in the recovery room, Rajan said “Look mom, come and seeMonica”, and my mother came in and I knew she wasexcited, but it waslike, you know, ‘what color is it going to be.’Monica’s mother’s concern paled in comparison to that of Rajan’sparents. Not only didRajan’s parents harbor a hope that their son andhis white wife would never have children, theyalso looked forward to the day when their son’s marriage would end indivorce.52When Rajan left Monica behind in England while he went back to Africa to tell his parentsthat he was getting married, he expected to encounter resistance from his mother. As a result,he was not surprised when his mother feigned a heart attack when he told her about Monica, norwas he shocked to hear her say that she would kill herself if he married her. He did not expecthis father to echo his mother’s opposition, and to couple them with threats. At one point Rajan’sfather, upon learning that Monica was considering a trip to Africa, let it be known that he wouldpersonally ensure that she found it impossible to secure accomodations in the city where theylived, and further stated that he would prohibit Rajan from returning to England. Rajan’s fatherrevealed that he was prepared to take his son’s passport and ticket and hide them, so that hewould be unable to leave Africa. After a series of protracted arguments with his parents, Rajanbecame convinced by his mother’s belief that a marriage between an Indian and non-Indian wasdestined for divorce, and he called Monica, while he was still in Africa, toterminate theirrelationship.Once Rajan returned to England however, he resumed the relationship with Monica, only tofind his mother’s family bombarding him with the same type of comments his mother had made.Monica stated:Of course as all of this is going on with us getting engaged, Rajan’s aunt[his mother’s sister] said “You’ll never be happy with this girl, listento your mother. I know she’s probably no good, I don’t care what you say -it will never last.” She just went on and on, and kept rubbing it in andmaking life more miserable.The physical distance between Rajan and his parents enabled him to overlook theirobjections, but from time to time it seemed as though Rajan was about to cave in and give up onthe relationship. The turning point came when Monica, faced with the pending expiration of hervisa, told Rajan that she would have to return to America for a brief period in order to have herstatus reinstated. Rajan believed that if she left, it would put a definite end to their relationship.53With Monica out of the picture even for a short while, Rajan did not believe that he would havethe strength to stand up to his family, so Rajan and Monica went to a local registry and gotmarried.For four years, Rajan’s family, including his brother who lived in England, refused toassociate with Monica and Rajan. His side of the family, they learned, first gave the marriagetwo years before it ended in divorce. After two years went by, they gave them five years. Whenthey made it through five years of marriage, they claimed divorce was inevitable after sevenyears. Sixteen years have passed since they married, and while his parents have reestablished arelationship with the couple since the birth of their grandchildren, Monica indicates that hermother-in-law has a tendency to make her feel like an outsider. She said:She’s civil and all, but it’s like she takes a knife and puts it in your backand turns it every chance she gets.From Monica’s point of view, her mother-in-law will never think that she’s good enough forRajan, and will always resent Monica believing that she is the reason why Rajan renegged on hisagreement to an arranged marriage with an Indian girl.Like many others in their situation, Monica and Rajan have learned to live with the antipathythat their family feels toward them. They are able to cope with the situation by remindingthemselves that they love each other and are happy in their marriage. Not unlike other couples,they see the hostility and frustration they have encountered as ‘someone else’s problem’ nottheir own, that is, if Rajan’s parents have a problem with Monica and Rajan’s interracialmarriage, then Rajan’s parents have the responsibility to resolve that problem, not Monica andRaja n.It seems for the most part, that conflict with family is managed in one of two ways: 1/. eitherthe couple has to dissociate themselves from the family, and hence avoid the conflict, or 2/. theycan attempt to engage in dialogue with an end to settling the conflict. While it is conceivable that54over time the friction would diminish, it is just as probable that couples run the risk ofdestroying their relationship by subjecting themselves to the external pressures andtensionsthat result from the latter option.In reviewing various accounts of the success and failure of interracial relationships,including the perceptions of informants, it becomes increasingly clear that individuals who areolder, have more experience in life and intimate relationships, and are financially, as well asemotionally independent of their parents, are in a better position to withstand and overcomeparental opposition.Cheryl Wacht’s letter, which opened this chapter, highlights the different problems faced byyounger and older people. At fifteen, Cheryl’s experience in life, let alone love, is very limited.There is little doubt that Cheryl is dependent on her family for her daily needs, just as it isdoubtful that Cheryl has the resources to manage on her own if forced to do so. While Cherylindicates that she is willing to forsake her family, and by extension their financial and moralsupport, because she loves a boy they cannot accept, reality may force Cheryl to reevaluate herdecision.Bonnie Fuller, who is editor-in-chief of ‘YM’ magazine, responded to a letter from anotherfifteen year old who voiced concerns that are remarkably similar to those expressed by Cheryl.After conferring with Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist, Fuller offered the following advice:...while your mother may seem like a racist, she could be acting this waybecause she’s worried about your well-being. The fact that she isn’tallowing you to see your boyfriend doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you; shemay just be trying to protect you from the problems - others’ unkindnessand even hatred - that being in an interracial relationship often brings...The pressure can be enormous...Of course, while changing your mother’s mind set is worth a try, prepareyourself: She may not budge, in which case.. .the best thing to do is complywith her wishes and break off the relationship. I’m not defending herposition, but unfortunately, while you’re living in your mother’s house,you have to play by her rules....If you feel like this guy really is the love of your life, stay friends55and keep in touch with him, and when the two of you are older and on yourown, you can get back together - whether or not your mother approves(10/93:37).Bonnie Fuller’s counsel underscores the limitations that younger individuals face insurmounting the opposition to interracial relationships. She does not suggest that the fifteenyear old consider sacrificing her familial resources and the social capital that accompanies it,in order to deal with her mother. Leaving home is not offered as a practical solution, simplybecause at fifteen it is not. Instead, Fuller suggests that it may be an option for the teen in thefuture, conceivably when she is capable of asserting and establishing her independence.Tyler, a black man in his mid-twenties, who is currently involved with Stacy, a whitewoman, stated that he is better equipped to deal with other people’s intolerance of his choicesnow that he has completed college and matured emotionally, than he was during his teens. After aseries of unsuccessful interracial liasons during his teen-age years, he felt disillusioned anddecided against dating non-black women. Of his early experiences, he said:[Lori’s] father was like a modern day Klansman. If it was Thursdayher dad would be like ‘Oh, did the niggers come and pick up the trashtoday?’, talking about garbage and garbage-men...l’ve had a couple ofrelationships where I’ve had to deal with racism and sometimes theparents would say they didn’t mind us being friends, but they didn’twant us going out...After a while, I just got fed up and figured I wasn’tgonna mess with any more white girls, and I’d just stick to my own kindfor a while.Tyler revealed that he had different kinds of problems in his relationships with blackwomen, and he eventually got to the point where he was secure enough in his own identity andhis expectations of a relationship, that color was no longer an issue. He said:I hear what other people have to say, and I understand it. But I don’t livemy life according to them or for them, I make up my own mind.For the majority of couples, particularly those interviewed for this study, Tyler’s words are anaccurate reflection of their sentiments. Most individuals involved in the interracialrelationships in question, were in their late twenties to early forties when they elected to56become interracially involved. Many had gone through a failedmarriage or committedrelationship, and several had children from previousrelationships. While all of theseindividuals remain someone’s children, they have beenparents and self sufficient adults whohave had considerable experience makingtheir own decisions and living with the repercussionsof those decisions. As a result, while most choose to share the identityof their partners withtheir families, they do not allow their families’ disapproval,where they encounter it, todissuade them from acting on their ownvolition.Though there is a tendency toward hyperbole, as the anthropologicalparaphrases and theexchanges provided herein indicate, the harsh realityfor some interracial couples is that thereis some semblance of truth to the beliefs expressed bytheir parents. The issue of race andracism is often invoked to undermine the legitimacyof parental reactions to interracialrelationships, but they are predicated upona variety of factors which might range from apreference for one’s own kind, to concern thattheir children be fully aware of the hurdles theywill face as a result of their choices. The factis that some couples, in subtle or blatant forms,have experienced precisely the kindsof problems of which their parents forewarned them.Thechildren of interracial couples can become the objectsof racial taunting, employment situationscan be made more uncomfortable fora racially mixed couple, and everyday life, beit enjoying ameal in a restaurant, grocery shopping, or beingout in any public venue together, can be mademore difficult as a result of others’ intolerance.Public reactions of these kind, particularlythose elicited from strangers or acquaintances, arealmost exclusively manifestations of racism.The following chapter will examine in greater depth thenature of these exchanges and thesources from which they spring.57CHAPTER 4 - PUBLICREACTIONS TO PRIVATELIVESEDITOR:My boyfriend is Black. I am White...Both my boyfriend andI livein Philadelphia (he isfrom Williamsport, Iam from Harrisburg)and we both went to collegein Pittsburgh. Neither of us have everreceived any negative attentionbecause of our relationshipwhileliving and dating in Philadelphia.Virginia, however, isa different story.I had thought Virginia would belike Pennsylvania but better.Many cities and suburbs in Pennsylvaniaare segregated but inVirginia Blacks and Whitesare neighbors so for my collegeinternship I decided to work and relocateto Williamsburg. My boyfriendcame with me and fromday one we lived the worst nightmareof ourlives.People (especially Blacks) wereso hateful towards us. We werescreamed at, staredat, and followed. People would literallystop intheir tracks at the sight ofus, put their hands on their hipsand stareat us as we walked down the street.We have never been treated likethis - EVER! This hatredwas apparently not only in Williamsburgbut Richmond, Virginia Beach,Norfolk and Newport News(Va.) Wespent many a night crying, fighting,and deciding whether to break-upor not. Up until this time allwe used to talk about was gettingmarried.We decided not to go out unless someoneelse was with us, thatway itwouldn’t be so obviousthat we were a couple. We eventuallystop [sic]going out period! We wereafraid for our lives. Luckily, weonly signeda six month’s lease on our apartment.We sprinted back to Philadelphia!!!It’s so good to be home, backin PA. where no one stares or commentsonus.KAKHarrisburg, Pennsylvania-Interrace Magazine9-10/93; p.9COMMON-SENSE KNOWLEDGE:WHAT IT IS AND WHEREIT COMES FROMThe focus in the precedingchapter was on the reactionsthat friends and familyhad towardinterracial couples. It was suggestedthat many of the attitudes that familymembers held, whichsubsequently manifested themselvesin actions and reactions, emergedfrom anthropologicalparaphrases of what theyconsidered to be justifiable beliefsabout appropriate and58inappropriate choices in the context of intimaterelationships.Within this chapter the focus shifts marginally and is extendedto cover the reactions thatcouples have dealt with in public spheres, while cominginto contact with acquaintances andcomplete strangers.Before examining specific circumstances or experiences thatcouples report having incurredduring the course of their relationships, it is worth outlining howand why members of societynot only think and respond in the ways theydo, but also the basis upon which they tacitly justifytheir thoughts and actions. It bears noting thatthe justification must be tacit and somehow deep-rooted, because the situations to which theyare reacting are often momentary or short-livedand do not beg a profound, but rather spontaneousreaction - one which seems natural andnormal under the circumstances.With respect to understanding this process, that is what peopleknow in society and how theycome to know it, and how that socialknowledge informs behaviour and interactionwithinsociety, Berger and Luckmann suggest that.theoretical formulations of reality, whether theybe scientific orphilosophical or even mythological, donot exhaust what is ‘real’for members of a society. Since this is so,the sociology of knowledgemust first of all concern itself with what people‘know’ as ‘reality’in their everyday, or non-or pre-theoretical lives.In other words,common-sense ‘knowledge’ rather than‘ideas’ must be the centralfocus for the sociology of knowledge. It is precisely this‘knowledge’that constitutes the fabric of meanings without whichno societycould exist (1966:27).In the context of this discussion, Berger and Luckmann’sobservations imply that individualmembers of society can and do assimilate theoriesor knowledge about marriage and mateselection which were discussed in chapterthree, as part of their common-sense knowledge,andaccept many of those tenets as ‘real’ forces,which should and do motivate them to act and makethe choices they do. This assertion is made reasonableby virtue of the fact that most individuals59conform to the principles ofhomogamy and endogamy, notonly in their personal processesofmate selection, but alsoin evaluating the choices that thosearound them make.What is equally important,is not so much how individuals arepersonally motivated to actinthe face of their common-senseknowledge, but how those individualsfeel justified to respond tosituations in which the knowledgethat has been transmittedto and assimilated by them has beenignored by other members ofsociety.Berger and Luckmann contendthat language is key in constructingboth symbols and signswhich subsequently designateactions. The signs and symbols,which are at the root of common-sense knowledge reinforce one’ssense of what is ‘real’ and hencelegitimate behaviour. Theywrite:Language builds up semanticfields or zones of meaningthat are linguisticallycircumscribed. Vocabulary, grammarand syntax are gearedto the organizationof these semantic fields. Thuslanguage builds up classificationschemes todifferentiate objects by ‘gender’... or by number; forms to make statementsof action as against statementsof being; modes of indicating degreesof socialintimacy, and so on... Withinsemantic fields thusbuilt up it is possible forboth biographical and historical experienceto be objectified, retained andaccumulated. The accumulation,of course is selective, within semanticfields determining what will beretained and what ‘forgotten’of the totalexperience of both the individualand the society. By virtueof this accumulationa social stock of knowledge isconstituted, which is transmittedfrom generationto generation and which is availableto the individual in everydaylife. I livein the common-sense worldof everyday life equipped withspecific bodiesof knowledge. What is more,I know that others share at leastpart of thisknowledge, and theyknow that I know this. My interactionwith others ineveryday life is, therefore, constantlyaffected by our common participationin the available stock of knowledge.The social stock of knowledge includesknowledge of my situation anditslimits. For instance, I know thatI am poor and that, therefore,I cannotexpect to live in a fashionablesuburb. This knowledge is, ofcourse, sharedby both those who are poor themselvesand those who are in a more privelegedsituation. Participation in thesocial stock of knowledge thuspermits the‘location’ of individuals in societyand the ‘handling’ of themin the appropriatemanner (Ibid.:55-56).Berger and Luckmann’s observationsvis-a-vis the instrumentalityof language in constructingcommon-sense knowledge,and more critically a social stockof knowledge, illuminate the60analysis of public reactions to interracial relationships in two key ways.First, by suggesting that participation in the social stock of knowledge enables individuals tolocate one another in society and thereby handle one another in the appropriatemanner, Bergerand Luckmann provide tangible cues to why actors are inclined to actas they do. Experience,historical and biographical, some of which is passed down from generationto generation, andthat which is accumulated in the course of everyday life, equips individualswith the capacity torespond in ways that others would regard as appropriate tothe circumstances. Their example ofthe poor person who is aware that his poverty limitshis ability to reside in a fashionablesuburb can be modified to explain how and why individualsreact as they do to interracialrelationships. For instance, if I am a member of a communityor society in which racialhomogamy is both the general preference and rule, that awarenessmay not only incline me andothers to observe the rule, but also to react negatively to thosewho violate the rule. Part of myawareness includes understanding that personal violationof that rule is likely to elicit socialdisapprobation.This brings us to the second aspect in which Berger and Luckmann’s commentsare useful inthe analysis. They provide potential explanations of the responsesthat audiences may have toanother actor’s action. Berger and Luckmann suggestthat, in the process of handling anindividual in the appropriate manner, an individual behaves ina certain way, and that thebehaviour (which may or may not be accompanied by a verbalexpression of language) containssigns. Those signs can be interpreted by other individuals whoalso participate in the socialstock of knowledge for their appropriateness orinappropriateness. It is conceivable that anindividual interpreting the sign may regard the behaviouras unacceptable, and yet appropriate,given their understanding of what the social stock of knowledgeis. That is, they may be fullycapable of understanding why the person reacted as they did underthe circumstances, realize61that most others might beinclined to react in preciselythe same ways, simply because thesocial stock of knowledge prepares oneto react in this predictable way. In thisrespect, one’sknowledge can prepare one to anticipate certaintypes of reactions to specific circumstances.Onebecomes prepared as a result of one’s understandingor awareness of what is generally regardedas acceptable or unacceptablewithin society. Further, one canbe especially prepared toanticipate, and attempt to overcome the reactionsif they somehow violate the standardsof whatis expected and considered appropriatefor them in their own situation.The thrust of the latter point is made more explicitby returning to the experiences that KAK(whom I’ll refer to as Karin, for the sake of clarity)recorded in the letter which opened thischapter.Karin reveals that both she andher boyfriend grew up in Pennsylvania, a state inwhichneighborhoods continue to be segregated alongracial lines. While living in Pennsylvania, therelationship she shared with her boyfriend did notgarner her and/or her mate any negativeattention. When it came time to decide where sheshould complete her college internship, shechose to do it in Virginia. Karin’s situation is: that she is a collegegraduate, who is expected toengage in an internship, and she is involved inan interracial relationship. Karin might feelpersonally limited in pursuing an internship ina community where her interracialrelationship would elicit negative reaction fromother members of society. Karin’s lettersuggests that this factor was weighed in her decisionto make the move to Virginia, particularlyin the comment that she thought “Virginia wouldbe like Pennsylvania but better.” Herexperience and her accumulated social stockof knowledge inclined her to believe thatsegregation of neighborhoods along racial lines potentially indicateda lower level of tolerancefor race mixing. On the basis of that assumption, coupledwith the fact that she did not encounternegative reactions in a racially segregated community,and that Blacks and Whites live side by62side in Virginia, she and herboyfriend relocated to Virginia, fullyanticipating that Virginianswould be as, if not more acceptingof her relationship than Pennsylvanians were.Clearly, shetook racial integration ofneighborhoods to be a sign of racialtolerance. Presumably, Karinmight have been better prepared forthe hostility that her relationshipevoked among Virginiansif, either residential racialintegration were not so commonplace,or if she and her boyfriendhad actually been to Virginia,moved within the community and observedthe reactions to themprior to their move. It also seems safe tosuggest that Karin would have been lesssurprised byintolerance in Pennsylvania, since thesigns there outwardly suggestedto her that intoleranceexisted. Karin’s accumulated social stockof knowledge, acquired in Pennsylvania,wasinstrumental in enabling her both torecognize and interpret the signs thatrevealed thehostility and antipathy that herrelationship engendered amongst Virginians.Karin was able tosee that screams, stares and beingfollowed reflected an inability on some individuals’parts toaccept the relationship, and more significantly,that it was an expression of hatred. Herabilityto do so is suggestive of another elementthat is a part of her social stock of knowledge,whichvery simply is an awareness that manyindividuals within society maintain negativeattitudestoward interracial relationships, bolsteringthem with a steadfast conviction thatmarriage orcommittment should occur between individualsof the same race.Karin’s knowledge, which might broadly bedefined as an understanding about the existenceand perpetuation of racist or ethnocentricbeliefs, has been transmitted from generation togeneration, and modified as a result of her experiences.Karin’s understanding was acquiredthrough participation in the social stock ofknowledge, and that understanding is shared byothers who also participate in the same social stockof knowledge. As a result of this accumulatedcommon-sense knowledge, most, including thosewho are personally involved in interracialrelationships, are prepared to concedethat, while the social barriers to engagingin and63maintaining an interracial relationship are slowlycrumbling, negative attitudes persist.THE SAME OLD SONG, WITH A DIFFERENT BEATVarious actions can and have been taken to be signs that there remain memberswithinsociety who are unwilling or unable to accept interracialrelationships. A June 1 990 article byRenee Turner in Ebony magazine makes this patently clear. It reveals thatintolerance persists. Some blacks and whites report that they have beenmysteriously fired after employers discovered their marital status. Andan interracial couple, according to the Center for Democratic Renewal,need only go two miles outside Atlanta to be the victim of attack. ElmoSeay and his white wife, Susan, for example fled from a suburbanAtlanta subdivision after their home was vandalized and firebombed.Another interracial couple, Susan Hill, 29, and her black husband, John,36, got so frustrated with the ostracismand rejection by friends, family,landlords and employers that they left Bolivar, Tenn., temporarily andsettled in Jackson, Tenn., until the commotion died down. (41-2).Both the article in Ebony and Karin’s letter point to one of the most difficult decisionsthatinterracial couples face, namely, deciding where to live. For somecouples, a change ingeography can mean the difference between being stared at perpetually or living in the absenceof such behaviour, or eliminating the discomfort that they experience whilein the presence ofthose who are clearly incapable of accepting their relationship, versus being targetsof publicderision. In other cases it may translate into a freedom from being harrassed byintolerantoutsiders. Sylvester Munroe, in a feature written for Elle magazine in April of 1992,underscored the pervasiveness of this problem among interracial couples. He indicates thatRegardless of their status, for many interracial couples choosing whereto live may be the most important decision they can make. Most chooseintegrated neighborhoods where, presumably, educated liberal neighborswill be more accepting. College and university towns are popular. Butsome cities known for their live-and-let-live attitudes are especiallyattractive to interracial couples. A 1 989 UCLA study of marital attitudesamong Southern Californians... found that in cities with high rates ofinterracial marriages such as San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolisand Los Angeles, most interracial couples are from somewhereelse. (4/92:100).64It doesn’t necessarily take an incident of the samegravity that Elmo Seay and his wife Susanendured, or having to cope with dead rodents and feces being left onthe doorstep as one couple inValdosta, Georgia did (lnterrace, 9/10/93:8), to trigger aninterracial couple’s considerationof available geographic locations. The knowledge thattheir choices render them potentialvictims of hostility or harrassment, or knowing that theprospect for violence or hatred isgreater in one locale than in another, is reason enough toweigh the options. Brenda Marshall,who is herself involved in an interracial relationship, revealedto Munroe the impact that one’ssocial stock of knowledge can have on assessing thepotential personal ramifications of beinginterracially involved. She remarked “[t]here are places we won’tconsider moving, and that’sjust one of the compromises that you make. Intolerant people are everywhere,and if you canlive in a place that accepts and loves you, then why go and look for a place that won’t?”(Munroe,4/92:100).Accounts provided by informants for this study, along with those provided injournalisticreports on interracial couples tend to support the view that interracial couples, knowing first,that they are involved in relationships which are not totally sanctioned socially, and second,thatthey will inevitably be forced to contend with greater social pressures than samerace couplesdo, attempt to avoid potential conflict by taking a somewhat defensive posture and modifyingtheir own behaviour to circumvent the anticipated result.Tyler, one of the informants interviewed for this study, openly revealed that there arecertain places that he really enjoys going, to which he simply will not consider taking his whitegirlfriend Stacy. He stated that the combination of comments that he has heard over the yearsregarding his decision to date white women from both friends and acquaintances,coupled withhis personal perception of how other patrons in the establishmentsin question would treatStacy, have resulted in his decision. When asked how his girlfriend feels about it, he stated:65She’s not happy about it, and there’s been times where she’s accused me ofnot taking her out with me because I’m ashamed of her. But it’s not aboutthat. I just know what we’ll have to deal with. Instead of feeling like I’mgonna have to get in someone’s face because they say something to mywoman, it’s just easier for me to go to these places with a bunch of mybuddies and just hang out.Keith and Gina have pretty much arrived at the same conclusion that Tyler came to, althoughin their case experience played a direct role in the decision. There was a time early on in theirrelationship when Gina and Keith didn’t think about Gina’s presence at the spot where Keith wasperforming. Since they were both working in the same hotel, Gina would often stop by and hearone set before going home. On these occasions, Gina’s behaviour rarely caused a problem forKeith or Gina, because most observers were oblivious to the relationship between the two. Whentheir relationship became more serious, and Keith joined a group performing at an upper-scalevenue, Gina’s planned outings to see Keith perform became a source of conflict - for the couplepersonally, and for Keith professionally.Up until recently, Gina never thought about how other people might react to her relationshipwith Keith, largely because she had never been exposed to the open hostility that someindividuals have expressed as of late. The hostility, according to Keith and Gina, comesprimarily from two sources: white men and black women. As Keith put itWhite guys kind of look at me thinking, he’s got one of our women, you knowthat kind of vibe. Sometimes the white guys do not realize that she is Mexican,they can’t tell that, they can just tell by the color of her complexion that she’sa white woman and I’m with her....When I’m on the stage and she’s off thestage we can have eye contact, but there’s another thing when I come and sitdown beside her, you can feel the tension in the room. Especially some of theyoung black ladies that would come in. They mostly like A.J. or whatever, andthe only reason why they have a liking for me is that at one point in time Imust have sang Happy Birthday to them..and they might expect me to comeover and say Hi, which sometimes I do...they still don’t like the idea that I’dgo and sit with this lady and when it comes time to leave, I wouldn’t leavewith anyone but her.Some women have been so abrasive toward Gina, asking her when she’s going to leave the venue,66and implying that she isn’t welcome around them. Initially, she attempted to ignore it, then shefelt hurt because of the frequency with which it occurred, and finally, she decided that it wouldbe easier not to intrude on Keith’s workplace.This final decision, by the couple’s own account, came after some heated arguments and soulsearching between the two. When Keith made the choice to join the group he currently performswith, his career got the boost he’d long been hoping for. In fact, he has been approached byagents and management groups who are interested in both the group, and in Keith’s solo career.He has been informed by some of the prospective representatives that his personal relationshipcould be perceived as a career liability. Keith believes that the fact that Gina is not black, inpart explains this perception, but he also believes that any relationship might be construed as asetback, since his managers are interested in creating an image of him that builds on his singlestatus. As a result, Gina has curtailed her visits to Keith’s performances, and they have alsodelayed plans to get married for at least a year.The open abuse experienced by Gina has been echoed in other couple’s accounts of everydayexperiences. Rick and Layla recall coming out of movie theaters to hear teen-agers yelling“Oooh!, he’s got jungle fever!”. In another instance, they were walking into a nightclubpatronized by a predominantly black clientele, and a black woman screamed, “What are youdoing walking in here with a white woman?” at Rick. Layla can also recall several differentoccasions, where black women, after seeing who she walked in with, had physically threatenedher if she didn’t break up with her boyfriend. Of one such instance, she saidI was in the bathroom of this club, and apparently the group of women whowere already in there, knew that Rick was my boyfriend. They told me inno uncertain terms, that if I knew what was good for me, not only would Ileave the bathroom immediately, but that I’d stay away from Rick, and anyof their other men in the future. Needless to say, I felt pretty frightenedconfronting a group of five or six angry black women, and got out of therefast.67For Rick’s part, he has had Iranian men who have mistaken Layla for being Persian ask himwhat he was doing with one of their women, and he has stared down East Indian men who wereobviously disturbed by the couple’s unity. Rick indicated that in a lot of situations people don’topenly say anything, but that you sense them looking, and then feel that their gaze is becomingmore penetrating, and then notice that it starts to contain a threatening quality. At that point youbecome aware of their disapproval. He also stated that sometimes “you ignore it, because youfigure it might be an idle curiosity about something different, but there are other instances inwhich you know that with one wrong move, there might be a blow-up.”In John and Ann’s case, the taunts hurled at them by a group of white men in a parking lot diderupt into physical violence. John in recalling the incident, and his feelings at the time, stated:Here we were minding our own business, going to a place we often go to,to have a drink and listen to some jazz. We’re walking through the parkinglot, and there’s this group of guys standing near a car, laughing and whisperingto each other. We pretty much ignored them until they kept calling me a‘nigger-lover’. I started out cussing at them, thinking that might shut themup. But then one of them came up behind me and grabbed my collar, yelling“Prove how much of a nigger-lover you are white boy!” The next thing Iknew, I let go of Ann’s hand and threw a right that hit him in the stomach...If the doormen didn’t know me and Ann, and hadn’t overheard the wholething, it could have got a lot more brutal.At that time, John felt ‘fed up’ with what he saw as other people’s ignorance. He acknowledgedthat a lot of the frustration and anger that he’d kept pent up from previous interactions withpeople who would stare at them, or make snide comments when they’d go out with theirdaughter, was packed into that punch. John explained that in most situations you really don’thave an opportunity to react to other people’s behaviour. Reiterating the observation made byRick, he claimed that the intolerance was expressed, largely in subtle ways:It’s a look or an action, you can feel the tension, and know they’re tryingto make you uncomfortable, but you can’t really say or do anything,because, technically, they haven’t said or done anything to you.John and Rick’s perceptions of how public disapproval is expressed toward an interracial68couple was shared by Toronto writer Wodek Szemberg and his black wife, Leila Heath, who is abroadcast reporter and producer. On the basis of an interview they gave to Kate Fillion ofChatelaine magazine, Fillion revealed:After moving in together in 1 988, there were several incidents of“momentary awkwardness” shopping in a predominantly black areaof Toronto. When the two visited a black nightclub in Montreal, Wodekwas aware of her discomfort. “Nobody said ‘Whitey, go home!’ but shehas a sense that there are certain places that blacks perceive as theirs,”he says. “They won’t throw whites out but they don’t encourage themto come either.” (5/92:54).The discomfort interracial couples often feel as a result of these exchanges comes not onlyfrom the sense that outsiders disapprove of their relationship, but also that “...people often seethem as something other than people who love each other” (Munroe, 4/92:102). Nancy Brown,co-founder and President of Multi-Racial Americans of Southern California (M.A.S.C., one ofapproximately sixty support groups for interracial couples in the United States) characterizedthe situation as follows:Most of the problems tend to come from outside [the relationships].Other people’s perceptions are that these types of relationships arenegative and cannot succeed. Black people see them as a betrayal ofone’s people - if a person of color is dating or marrying someone whois Caucasian, they’re doing it to raise their status. For whites, thestereotype is that ‘she or he wasn’t good enough for anyone in his orher race’ (Ibid.,: 102).What also becomes clear through reports of experiences that interracial couples have had inpublic mileus, is that the frustration and anger over the level of intolerance is exacerbatedwhen the couple have children, and are accompanied by them.Puzzlement is perhaps the most apt characterization of the reactions that outsiders have tobiracial children. As John described itSometimes they’re like human windshield wipers, going back and forthbetween you and the kid. You know that they’re confused.He went on to say69I’ve had people come up to me when I’ve been out alone with [my daughter]Michelle, and tell me how beautiful she is and say something like “Herparents must be gorgeous”. When I let them know that I’m her father, it’slike the cat got their tongue, they don’t say anything and have a confusedlook on their face, or they start stuttering - making no sense whatsoever.Raymond Archer, a participant in a round-table discussion about the film ‘Jungle Fever’,which culminated in a Newsweek article, offered the following comments about stranger’sreactions to the children that he and his white wife, Jennifer, have had during their seventeen-year marriage.Both of our daughters look Caucasian. If I’m with them and one of them says“Dad”, people drop bags, and they bump into things - no, really, it’s true.(Kroll, 6/10/91:49).Fred Goldberg, another contributor to the discussion noted that:You’re stared at. People look at you and then at the kids and then look at youand try to figure out how all this happened. (Ibid.,:48).On the surface, most reactions that biracial children elicit when they are in the company oftheir parents, particularly when with the parent that they least resemble, seem fairlyinnocuous. For the most part, people respond as they do when they see an interracial couple -they stare, they fidget, but most move on without making offensive comments, and yet couplesreport that they feel most offended by the glares they endure when they are with their kids.Munroe, in documenting the attitudes of parents on the issue of biracial children, noted:Kids, in fact, are a major concern in interracial marriages. KarenAlexander [a black woman married to a white man] says “I want [mydaughter] Ella to be really aware that black isn’t negative and whiteisn’t either. But how she turns out is our job. I’m not going to putthat on society.”For Bill Sims, who has two children from a previous relationship,the situation has become even more critical now that his eldest daughterwith Wilson [his white wife] has reached the dating age. “It’s a toughsituation they are in,” Sims says. “They come from two differentcultures and the world sees them as black Dating gets awkward becausethey don’t see themselves as black or white.”(4/92:101-102).What Sim’s and Alexander’s comments do not openly convey, but allude to is their70understanding of, and participation in the social stock of knowledge. The differencein the degreeof frustration or anxiety that being with their children,versus being alone with their mateprovokes, is better explained not by the qualitativedifference in outsider’s reactions, but thedeeper concerns based on the social stock of knowledge that those staresengender. Parents ofbiracial children are keenly aware that their children mayconfront pressures that otherchildren avoid, as Sim’s and Alexander’s comments reveal. They are not oblivious tothe racismthat their children might become targets of, and the potentialidentity problems that theirchildren might suffer from. What’s more, is that reactions elicitedfrom family, friends andstrangers not only serve as reminders of these beliefs, but also as areinforcement of them,which no doubt heightens their concerns.COPING MECHANISMSIt bears noting that there are surprising numbers of couples who claim thattheirexperiences are no different than those of same race couples. Approximately 25% oftheparticipants in this study expressed difficulty in pinpointing negative reactions that weretriggered exclusively by the interracial aspect of their involvement. Fillion, in the course ofconducting her research, revealedMore than half of the 38 couples contacted for this article declined tobe interviewed, with comments ranging from “No one has ever madeus feel the slightest bit uncomfortable” to “I’m offended by the request -we’re not different from any other couple.”(5/92:54).Not surprisingly, for couples such as those described, there is nothing to cope with, at leastnothing that is out of the ordinary, which of course means that they go through their existencewithout feeling as though they have any extraordinary obstacles to overcome.There is another group among interracial couples which acknowledge that there areindividuals within society who disapprove of their choices, but that the disapproval has nosignificant impact upon them and their lives. Fillion noted71One white woman engaged to a black man blithely assured me, “Raceisn’t an issue at all. Sure some people call me a ‘nigger-lover’, butwho cares?” (Ibid.)For this woman, and others like her, social disapprobation or racist invectives are not worthyof emotional responses. Basically, the orientation among this group is that, there is a problemwith racism and/or prejudice, but it’s not their problem. They see it as the problem of thoseharboring those presentiments. Fundamentally, they believe that nothing they could say or dowould change how others perceived the world, or felt about people that are different fromthemselves, so they can’t be bothered to think about or react to people suffering from thoseproblems. As Mac McDonald put itSure there are people who are racist, but I don’t associate with them.If I find out someone’s racist, I won’t have anything to do with them.Their intolerance is because of their ignorance and lack of educationand we’re fortunate not to be around those people. But that ignoranceisn’t my problem, it’s theirs. I don’t have to overcome it, they do.Pat Conner shared Mac’s orientation to the so-called problem that outsider’s attitudes createfor interracial couples. Not only does he regard negative or racist beliefs as someone else’sproblem, but he has to some extent trained himself to be oblivious to its existence andexpression. His wife Kelly saidWe get into arguments. I see something and I get angry or hurt because ofthe way people are looking at us. But he doesn’t see it.. .when he got firedfrom his job after we got married, I was convinced it was because hemarried me, and that I was black. He refused to think about it, but beforeI brought it up, the thought never crossed his mind.Whereas Mac and Pat represent individuals who choose to ignore sources of conflict, Kelly’stendency is to acknowledge the narrow-mindedness of others, and at times attribute allproblems to this factor. In some cases acknowledging means confronting the behaviour byreacting, in others, it means recognizing that a reaction might make matters worse, and walkingaway. In either case, the admission induces an emotional reaction. Layla, whose attitude is much72the same as Kelly’s, revealedSometimes I get so mad and frustrated that I have to control my desireto vent those feeling physically, but then there are other times that Ifeel really helpless, knowing that I can’t expect to solve all the problemseverywhere by having a great comeback. And then again, there are timesthat the comeback is so satisfying because you know that you might havegotten in as cheap a shot as they did.For couples, or individuals described thus far, coping with social pressure has been anexpression not only of how they see the problem, that is as their own or someone else’s, but alsotied into the emotional investment they are willing to attach to other people’s reactions to theirlives. Essentially, these individuals are able to respond in these ways because the kinds ofreactions they encounter are, for the most part, non-threatening.These experiences obscure the more dramatic and very real ones reported by someinterracial couples. For example, Kelly Stupple, whose boyfriend Michael Cooper is white,explainedMy situation has been that the black community reaction was very violent,sometimes throwing stuff at us, trying to beat him up, that kind of thing.In New York, in Detroit, whatever. One time we were in the subway inNew York and one guy came down and he stared at him, called him whiteboy, kicked him in the chest. (Kroll, 6/10/91:48).Then again, there is the experience of Yusef Hawkins “...a young Black man who was fatallybeaten in Brooklyn’s Benshonhurst area by a group of Whites who thought he was dating a Whitewoman in the neighborhood.” (Ebony, 9/91:78).Yusef, unfortunately, lacks a choice about how to deal with social pressure. Kelly andMichael, undoubtedly, will carefully weigh where they will live, giving serious consideration toareas that have a history of higher tolerance. They may opt to seek out, as many other couplesdo, not merely a city where the percentage of interracial couples is high, but one in which thereis a formal network established to offer support to interracial couples.Support groups, as their numbers suggest, function as a viable mechanism for coping with73social pressures associated with interracial coupling. The commonfoundation and experiencesoften diminish the frustration and helplessness that couples often feel in isolation.Finally, there are individuals who are willing and able to cut themselves off from a betterpart of the social pressure that their situation might educe. Couples who are capable oftakingadvantage of this particular option are generally among those enjoying a higher socio-economicstatus. Celebrity interracial couples are able to use their wealth and status to ward off theconflict that others are likely to endure. As Munroe notesIn interracial relationships money pays for the option to relocate andto choose the most comfortable neighborhood to live in. And it helpscouples shield themselves from the resentment and hostility of thedisapproving. “We lead a very sheltered life,” Adam Kidron [a televisionproducer] says of his marriage to Karen Alexander [a model]. “Wherewe live in Los Angeles is very sheltered, and we don’t take publictransportation. We don’t really interact with the world. There’s a pointat which you can escape a lot of racism, and privilege helps. It doesn’tmake the world a better place, but it helps.”(4/92:96).74CHAPTER 5 - LARGER THAN LIFE: PUBLIC PORTRAITS OF INTERRACIAL COUPLESWe live in a society dominated by visual images (Berger, 1985; Goffman,1979; Kuhn, 1 985; Postman, 1987). From an early age, we are bombardedwith magazines, newspapers, posters, electronic images, and advertisingphotography. These photographic images tell stories, much as writtennarratives do, and thus may be read just as written texts are. Photographsare so much a part of our daily lives that we rarely think about how theyinfluence us and what that influence is. Yet photographs, like other massmedia images, are politically motivated. Photography is a signifyingsystem that works to legitimate interests of hegemonic groups. While thosewho produce photography (i.e.; photographers, photo editors) are oftenunaware of the ideological significations of photographs, photos nonethelessserve to shape consensus, that is, consent to existing social arrangements.Consensus is not static and monolithic, however, but something that must becontinually achieved, something that changes and transforms itself as itincorporates new ideas and opinions (Emmison, 1986; Gramsci, 1971;Hall, 1982, 1985).-(Duncan, 1990: 22-23)MEDIA AND SOCIAL SYSTEMSIn recent years, there has been a proportionately greater number of portraits of interracialcouples that have emerged on film, television and in novels. While it is beyond the scope of thisstudy to systematically track all existing portraits within these media, efforts to identifyspecific sources - excluding talk shows which have frequently featured interracial couples astheir daily topic of discussion - reveals upwards of thirty-five specific sources (see Appendix3) in which portrayals of interracial couples are contained. While this number may on thesurface seem small, it bears noting that in certain cases, the films in question fared very wellat the box-office (eg. Jungle Fever, Bodyguard, The Crying Game), indicating that largenumbers of people saw the film, the novels are or were bestsellers (eg. Waiting to Exhale,Mama), again indicating large readership, and in the case of television, the programs in someinstances feature interracial couples on an ongoing basis (eg. All My Children, General Hospital,A Different World), and in one particular instance, the show (Fox’s True Colors) revolvedaround the interracial couple and its family. As a result, the viewership or readership is vastly75greater than these numbers might otherwise indicate.In preceding chapters the focus has been upon couples’ interaction with oneanother, theirperceptions about their life and love, and the experiences theyhave encountered as a result oftheir choices. Further, there have been attempts to identify, not only familial reactionsto theirchoice of partners, but also attitudes that friends and strangers have had to them.In revealingthe predominant or prevailing attitudes that were encountered,anthropological paraphrases orcommon-sense beliefs were offered as a way of explaining how and why people reactedas theydid to an interracial couple.This particular chapter moves one step further, toward an analysis of interracialcouples inthe diffused media of television, film and literature, on the premise that media issignificantnot only in its ability to shape, but also reinforce dominant attitudes and perceptions ofspecificsocial circumstances.In his work on the reproduction of racism in the Press, van Dijk (1 991) makes theoreticalobservations that can be extrapolated and applied within this context. He offers two criticaldefinitions which outline and underscore the power of media in controlling social practices,patterns and relationships, namely of reproduction and social cognition.In defining reproduction, van Dijk asserts.we mean the dialectical interaction of general principles and actual practicesthat underly the historical continuity of a social system. Reproduction may beanalysed at the societal macro-level, at the micro-level and along the macro-micro dimension. At the macro-level, a system is historically reproduced whenits general principles (processes, rules, laws, structures) remain more orless the same over time, as is the case for such different systems as theEnglish language, racism, or the Press, despite possible changes or variationsin the actual historical or contextual manifestations or realizations of thesystem.Continuity and change of social systems, however, depend on the relationsbetween principles at the macro-level and practices at the micro-level(Knorr-Cetina and Cicourel, 1981; Alexander, Giesen, Munch and Smelser,1 987). Trivially, the English language continues to exist as long as there arelanguage users who speak or read it...76The same is true for the reproduction of the societal system of racism, thecontinued existence of which also depends on repetitive practices of discrimination in everyday life (Essed, 1991). Under the influence of particular social,political or historical context factors the practices of these systems may vary,and if such variation becomes systematic, the system may also change. However,as long as the same basic principles are not changed, the overall system remainsthe same (1991:33-34).Van Dijk goes on to state that members of society, by sharing sets of beliefs and knowledge,establish ‘cultural and cognitive systems’ and that the media’s capacity for reproduction islargely ineffective in isolation of these cognitions. Essentially, without beliefs and common-sense knowledge, the bridge between the social system and the individuals comprisingsociety, isnon-existent. With a view to critically link cognitions to the reproduction of social systems,van Dijk contends thatIn traditional sociological terminology, cognitions were usually referred towith the term ‘consciousness’, a notion which is vague and therefore theoretically not very useful. Thus we distinguish between personal knowledgeand beliefs about unique situations, events, and experiences, representedas so-called ‘models’ in episodic memory, on the one hand, and systems ofgroup knowledge, attitudes, norms and ideologies represented in ‘semantic’or rather ‘social’ memory on the other hand (van Dijk, 1 987a). Thesedifferent cognitive systems have different representations, that is specificcontents and structures, and also different cognitive and social uses or functions,requiring the application of different cognitive strategies.From a societal point of view, general group knowledge, attitudes or ideologiesmay be characterized at the macro-level. In the same way as social processesat the macro-level may be reproduced by practices at the micro-level, thesemacro-level beliefs of a group may be confirmed or changed at the micro-levelof individual beliefs, which in turn control personal practices and socialinteraction (Ibid.: 35).Within the context of the discussion of interracial dating or marriage, van Dijk’sobservations are relevant at the two primary levels he identifies. At the macro-level, what is atstake are theories and ideologies of marriage. At the micro-level rest both personal practices ofmate selection and the interactions between interracial couples and other members of society.Insofar as media has the capacity to represent, and thereby reproduce the social systems andpractices of marriage, and similarly, prevailing beliefs and attitudes toward instances which77threaten or challenge the perpetuation of the systems, it also has the capacity to influence, if notmodify, individuals’ orientations to, and perceptions of the cases which stand as exceptions tothe norm.Van Dijk also indicates that the practices of social systems vary according to historicalcontext, and further implies that reproductions of the systems within media reflect thosechanges. With reference to the current analysis, this raises a potentially interesting facet ofmedia portraits of interracial couples. It has been noted that a little more than twenty-fiveyears ago, almost one-third of the states in the United States treated interracial marriages asillegal. Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision few, if any, interracial relationships of anintimate nature were depicted in film.In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to repeal anti-miscegenation laws, StanleyKramer produced and released ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’, a film whose plot centers aroundinterracial love. The movie opens with an interracial couple’s efforts to break the news of theirlove, and desire to get married, to the white woman’s family. As the film progresses, Kramertreats the audience to reactions and attitudes that family and friends, and ultimately outsiders,have toward a racially mixed couple united in marriage.Almost twenty-five years later, while some were preparing to acknowledge the silveranniversary of the landmark Loving vs. Virginia decision which enabled interracial couples thefreedom to be married throughout the United States, blacks and whites alike were outraged at themurder of Yusuf Hawkins, in New York’s Bensonhurst area. Blacks alleged that Yusuf became avictim of murder because a group of white teen-agers disapproved of a relationship that he hadestablished with a white girl. In the aftermath of the Hawkins’ affair, another, morecontemporary portrait of interracial love found its way to the big screen - this time underSpike Lee’s directorship, and under the title ‘Jungle Fever’.78The historical contexts surrounding the production and release of the respective films, asoutlined above, are dramatically different. In some instances, public reactions to the presenceofinterracial couples has tempered over time. In light of van Dijk’s comment, an analysisofdialogue and content of these films will be engaged in, with a particular eye toward determiningif social differences that have occurred through history are reflected in the portraits. For thesepurposes, ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ and ‘Jungle Fever’ form a unique combinationforanalysis.Aside from the more detailed examination of the themes or attitudes reflected in these twofilms, other depictions of interracial couples from television and novels will be examined. Itshould be noted that the primary purpose in engaging in the analysis is that it potentiallyenhances our insight into reactions regarding interracial marriage. However, this analysis doesnot presume to be based on any systematic approach, for instance semiotics, but instead willrely upon isolating instances where the “common-sense characterizations” or anthropologicalparaphrases are represented, instances where stereotypes are the basis of the portrait, or whatthe general themes or reactions to the interracial associations within the context of thepresentation are.GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER OR JUNGLE FEVER?Both ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ and ‘Jungle Fever’ open with songs, songs which set thetone for the unfolding of the respective films’ plot and action. The lyrics of Kramer’s film, set toa soft-flowing melody go as follows:You’ve got to laugh a little,Cry a little, and let the clouds roll by a little.That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.As long as there’s the two of usWe’ve got the whole world and its charms,and when the world is through with usWe’ve got each other’s arms.You’ve got to win a little,79lose a little, and always have the blues a littleThat’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.Stevie Wonder’s funky, upbeat keyboards supply the backdrop to the following lyrics he sings asthe opening credits roll for ‘Jungle Fever’.Chorus:I’ve got jungle fever,She’s got jungle fever,We’ve got jungle feverWe’re in love.She’s gone black boy crazy,I’ve gone white girl hazy,Ain’t no thinkin’ maybeWe’re in love.She’s got jungle fever,I’ve got jungle fever,We’ve got jungle feverWe’re in love.I’ve gone white girl crazy,She’s gone black boy hazy,We’re each other’s maybeWe’re in love.She can’t love me,I can’t love her,‘Cause they say we’re the wrong color.Staring, gloating, laughing, looking,Like we’ve done something wrongBecause we show love strong.And you’ll come onCalling things too bad to mention,But we pay them no attention,For color blind in our feelingsIf we feel happiness,And know our love’s the bestForget their mess.Repeat chorus.‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ is presented as a story of love, a love which is problematicgiven that the man involved in the couple is black and the woman is white. The audience learnsvery quickly that John Prentice and Joey Drayton met only ten days earlier in Hawaii, fell headover heels in love and now want to spend the rest of their lives together. Before they are to get80married however, they feel a responsibility to break thenews to Joey’s parents, Matt andChristina Drayton. Joey is convinced throughout the film thatinforming her parents amounts tolittle more than a mere formality. She believes that herparents will be thrilled by the fact thatshe has met someone as wonderful as John, and like herself, disregard the factthat John isblack. John, on the other hand, perhaps as a result of the fact that heis nearly fifteen yearsolder than Joey, or for reasons that are never revealed tothe audience, is far more ambivalentthan his prospective wife. Although he concedes to meeting Joey’sparents, and being with herwhile she appraises the Drayton’s of her wishes, he not only intendsto tell his parents of hismarriage over the phone and inform them that his bride is whiteby letter, but also,unbeknownst to Joey, is unwilling to proceed with the marriage unlessboth of her parentsapprove wholeheartedly of the decision. While Joey tells her mother:Joey: He thinks the fact that he’s a negro and I’m not, creates a seriousproblem. I’ve told him 97 times it makes no difference.John later expresses the following to the Draytons in Joey’s absence:John: Unless you two approve, and without any reservations, there won’tbe any marriage..It’s not just that she thinks our color difference doesn’tmatter, she doesn’t think there is any difference.Unlike Joey, John is aware of the “problem” facing an interracial couplein love. However,his knowledge does not overwhelm him to thepoint of dissuading him from pursuing therelationship, or confronting the potential problems.Hence, he finds himself in San Francisco,in the Drayton’s home, ready to meet his prospective in-laws.The characterization of the difficulty that an interracial couple facesas a “problem” isKramer’s choice. Throughout the film, any discussion about blackand white is referencedsimply as that, a problem. While facial reactions convey shock,and vocal intonation isperiodically indicative of anger, the dialogue of the film suggeststhat all concerned have aproblem on their hands which must be addressed. Consider the followingdialogue which occurs81between John Prentice and Matt Drayton:John: We have this problem. I fell in lovewith your daughter. Asincredible as it may seem, she fell in lovewith me...Matt: The doctor says you have a problem.You certainly do.The actual consequences of marriage are merely alludedto through cursory comments such asthe one made by John’s father about anychildren they might have, and those madeby John whichreveals that parental rejection is an obstaclethey must contend with. It is not until the finalscenes of the film, particularlyin the final speech delivered bySpencer Tracy, as MattDrayton, where he summarizesthe day’s events and his feelings about the situationthat anyclear mention is made about the hostilitiesthat John and Joey’s union is likely toelicit. HestatesMatt: I have a few things to say, and youmight just think they’re important.This has been a very strange day, I don’tthink that’s putting it too strongly,I might even say it’s been an extraordinaryday. I’ve been out there thinkingabout the day and the way it hasgone, and it seems to me, that now I need tomake a few personal statements, for a varietyof reasons.The day began for me when I walked intothis house and Tulle said to me.. .theminute I walked into this house thisafternoon, Miss Binks said to me uh, “Wellall hell done broke loose now”. I askedher, naturally enough to what shereferred and she said, “You’ll see”, andI did!Then after some preliminary guessing gamesat which I was never very good,it was explained to me by my daughter, thatshe intended to get married, andthat her intended was a young man whomI had never met, who happened to bea negro. Well, I think it’s fair to say that I respondedto this news in the samemanner that any normal father would respondto it, unless of course, hisdaughter happened to be a negrotoo. In a word, I was flabbergasted, and whileI was still being flabbergasted, I was informedby my daughter - a verydetermined young woman, much like hermother - that the marriage was on,no matter what her mother and I might feelabout it. Then the next ratherstartling development occurred when you[John] walked in and said thatunless we, her mother and I, approved ofthe marriage, there would be nomarriage...Now, it became clear that we had one singleday in which to make up our mindsas to how we felt about this situation. So whathappened?My wife, typically enough, decided to simply ignore everypractical aspect ofthe situation and was carried away in somekind of romantic haze which madeher, in my view, totally inaccessible in theway of reason.Now, I have not as yet referred to his Reverence, whobegan by forcing his way82into the situation, andthen insulting my intelligenceby mouthing threehundred platitudes, andending just ahalf hour ago by coming tomy room andchallenging me toa wrestling match.Now, Mr. Prentice[Sr.], clearly a mostreasonable man sayshe has no wishto offend me, butwants to know if I’m somekind of a nut, and Mrs.Prenticesays, that likeher husband, I’m a burnt-out,old shell of a manwho cannoteven remember whatit’s like to lovea woman the way herson loves mydaughter.And strange as itseems, that’s the firststatement made to meall day withwhich I am preparedto take issue, ‘causeI think you’re wrong.You’re aswrong as you canbe. I admit that I hadn’tconsidered it, hadn’teven thoughtabout it, but Iknow exactly how he feelsabout her and thereis nothing,absolutely nothing,that your son feels formy daughter, thatI didn’t feel forChristina. Old? Yes. Burnt-out?Certainly. But I can tellyou the memories arestill there - clear,intact, indestructible,and they’ll be thereif I live to be a110.Where John madehis mistake I think, was attachingso much importancetowhat her mother andI might think. Becausein the final analysis,it doesn’tmatter a damn whatwe think. The only thingthat matters is what theyfeel,and how much they feelfor each other - andif it’s half of what we felt-that’s everything.As for you two and the problemsyou’re going to have, theyseem almost unimaginable,but you’ll have no problemwith me. And I thinkthat when Christina andI and your mother have sometime to work on him,you’ll have no problemwith your father John. Butyou do know, I’m sureyou know, what you’reup against. There will bea hundred million peopleright here in this countrywho will be shocked,offended and appalledat thetwo of you. And thetwo of you will justhave to ride that out,maybe everydayfor the rest of yourlives. You can try to ignorethose people or youcan feelsorry for them andfor their prejudices andtheir bigotry and theirblindhatred and stupid fears- but where necessary,you’ll just have tocling tightto each other and say“Screw all those people”.Anybody could makea case, anda helluva good case, against yourgetting married. Thearguments are so obviousthat nobody has to makethem. But you’re twowonderful people, who happenedto fall in love,and happen to havea pigmentation problem. AndI think now, nomatter what kind ofa case some bastard couldmake against your gettingmarried,there would only be one thingworse, and that wouldbe knowing whatyou twoare, knowing what youtwo have, and knowingwhat you two feel, youdidn’t getmarried.Spike Lee’s ‘Jungle Fever’in contrast to Kramer’sfilm, presentsan interracial affair as lustmotivated by curiosityof other races. FromWonder’s song lyrics,to Flipper Purify’srevelation to his friendCyrus that he has cheatedon his wife with a white woman,to the finalscenes between Angelaand Flipper, Flipper isportrayed as a happily marriedblack man whohas always been, ashe puts it to Cyrus, “curiousabout Caucasian women.”83At the time of Flipper and Angela’s meeting,he is married to Drew, with whom hehas a child,and Angela is involved in a relationshipwith fellow Italian named Paulie, whom shehas beendating since high school. Angela comesto work as a temp secretary at the architecturalfirmwhere Flipper is employed, and aftera series of nights working late, Flipper hoistsAngela uponto a drafting table, succumbingto his lust for her. After their romantic interlude, AngelaandFlipper are never seen againin a work environment. Instead they are seen in socialsituations,for instance walking through a fairground.It is here that Angela asks himfor the first timewhat they are doing, a questionto which she never receivesa direct answer:Flipper: I honestly don’t know.Angela: I guess I don’t expect youto leave her.Flipper: Well, I’m not.Angela: So then what are we doin’, causeI don’t think we’re just foolin’around. (The subject, at this juncture,conveniently turns towardadiscussion of racial sterotypesconcerning sex, and the questiondoesnot get answered).By this point, both Angela and Flipperhave told their friends about oneanother, and the fact thatthey have become sexually involvedwith someone who is not of theirown race. Lee’spresentation of their respectiverevelations occurs almost simultaneously.He introduces ascene between Flipper andCyrus, and then cuts away to a scene wherealmost the sameconversation is taking place between Angelaand her friends, and then cuts back tothe actionbetween Flipper and Cyrus,at which time they conclude their conversationabout Flipper’sinfidelity. During the conversation betweenCyrus and Flipper, the following dialogueensues:Cyrus: Why are we out here tonightFlipper?Flipper: Alright. You gotta promiseme that you’re not gonna tell anybody.Cyrus: Who am I gonna tell, I don’t say nothin’to nobody, nobody.Flipper: I, I, I, nothin’. You gotta promiseme. I know you Cyrus.84Cyrus: My lips are sealed. Come on what happened?Flipper: I [long pause] I cheated on Drewfor the first time.Cyrus: You did that? When did this happen?Flipper: The other day.Cyrus: Yeah? I thought you were gonna dropa bomb.Flipper: Huh! Well, uh, she’s white.Cyrus: White!?! Man are you a crack or something?You’re crazy!Flipper: She’s Italian.Cyrus: H-Bomb.Flipper: From Bensonhurst.Cyrus: Nuclear megaton bomb. [Very long pause].Cyrus: I know you didn’t bone her.Flipper: Nah, nah, nah, nah. No, uh, uh.Cyrus: I know you got better judgement than that.Flipper: Right, I hear you, that’s right, my man.Cyrus: Good.Flipper: That’s right, nope, nope, nope.Cyrus: You could have, but you didn’t.Flipper: No.Cyrus: She put it in your face, but you refused.Flipper: Cause you’re strong.Cyrus: A strong black man.Flipper: Strong black man, who, I threw her on the table.Cyrus: No you didn’t. You boned her!85Flipper: Yeah. You promised. You promised.Cyrus: Nuclear holocaust.Flipper: Hey man, it just happened. I meanjust...Cyrus: I got a bad feeling about this one, abad feeling...While Cyrus is expressing his disbelief about thefact that Flipper has decided to cheat with awhite woman, Angela and her friends, Denise andLouise, are carrying on the followingconversation:Denise: So what’s so important? I’m supposedto go out with Vinny tonight.What you got us standing here forhuh?Louise: What’s going on G? You finally gonnahave a wedding or what?Angela: No, me and Paulie, I don’t know.Denise: You’re still wearin’ that ring,now come on what?Angela: This isn’t about Paulie.Denise: You’re glowing.Angela: No, I’m not glowing.Denise: So what is this? What’s going on?Angela: Alright. But you gotta swear,and this is like swearin’ on a stack ofbibles, and swear on like a zillion rosarybeads.Denise: I swear on my great grandmother.Louise: Okay already, we swear, we swear.Angela: I’m seem’ somebody.Denise: Yeah? You two-timer, whoyou seem’?Angela: Somebody from work.Denise: That new job, that was quick.Angela: Very fancy place.86Louise: So what’s he look like? Who isthis guy?Denise: What’s his name?Angela: It’s a wierd name.Denise: Try me.Angela: Flipper.Louise: Flipper?Denise: Flipper?!? What the tuck kindaname is Flipper?Angela: I know, I told you, it’s awierd name. Don’t laugh.Denise: What is he, like blond, blue-eyed,surfer type?Angela: He’s black What the matter, somethin’wrong with your face?Denise: You did it with a blackman?Angela: Yeah.Denise: If your father ever found out. I don’t know.Angela: Yeah, but he ain’t gonna.Denise: No, of course not.Louise: No, not from us he won’t. No.Denise: I’m just sayin’ keep it quiet you know.I mean look at Gina.Angela: Gina who?Denise: She brought that guy into the neighborhood,that black guy. Look whatthey did to him.Louise: What the fuck are you talkin’ about thatPuerto Rican crackhead for?•Denise: Whatever. She brought him into theneighborhood, and they killed theguy. You got to be careful.Louise: I don’t think she’s stupid enough tobring him into the neighborhoodDenise.Denise: Whatever, I’m just saying.87Louise: Personally, I think it’s pretty disgusting.Denise: Really?Louise: Yeah, I think it’s gross. Me, myself,I mean I could never...Denise: Yeah, but you’re not sleepin with this guy, so whatdo you care?Louise: I just think she’s a beautiful girl. Shecan have any guy she wantswhy does she have to go with a Moolie, I meanJesus Christ, I mean...Denise: Hey, look this is the 90’s. there’s nothin’wrong with it you know.You havin’ a good time?At this point, the scene shifts backto Cyrus and Flipper, who are continuing their earlierconversation about Flipper’s infidelity:Flipper: I have to admit, I’ve always beencurious about Caucasian women.And it doesn’t mean that white is right andthat sisters aren’t beautiful.Sisters are beautiful too. But hey, I wascurious so... I jumped on it.Cyrus: Literally.Flipper: Yes, indeedy. Heh, heh, heh. Thatdoesn’t mean because a brother iswith a white girl, that he’s less down. I mean that’sprogressive. I’m stillvery pro-black. Yes, well my shit is correct. Very correct.Cyrus: You got a big problem. Both you andher. Both youse got the fever.Flipper: The what?Cyrus: The fever. Both of you got jungle fever. Bothof youse.In either case, neither Flipper’s nor Angela’s friendsare able to keep a secret, and as aresult, Flipper returns home after beingat the fairground to find his wife throwinghispersonal belongings into the street, whilecursing Flipper for going off with a white bitch.Angela returns home one evening to haveher father brutally attack her, physically andverbally.After these developments the “outcasts”,as Flipper labels themselves, begin to share anapartment. After a disastrous dinner withFlipper’s parents, being harrassed by policemen aftera playfight in the street, and Flipper reducing theirliaison to curiosity, Angela and Flipper88split up, and the cI osing scenes suggest thatflipper and Drew are attempting to salvage theirmarriage.As might already be clear, Kramer’s and Lee’s reproductionof interracial love emerge andevolve around vividly different perspectives aboutthe nature and origins of interracial love.Kramer’s depiction of the shock and moral discomfortthat the presence of an interracial couplepotentially evokes is lost in his sugar-coateddialogue, which skirts around the issuesconfronting an interracial couple. Lee’s film, in contrast,meets the issues head-on, often veryblatantly, by having the charactersin his film discuss them in their neighborhood dialect.Where Kramer’s film operates on the notion that thelove between his ‘Guess Who’s Coming toDinner’ couple is really no different froma same race couple, and thereby presenting theinterracial aspect of the couple as incidental,Lee’s viewpoint feeds off Hernton’s (1965) theorythat there has been a sexualization of the race problem,and that interracial love is a reflectionof that sexualization. Of his film,Lee states:This film is about two people who are attracted to each other becauseofsexual mythology. She’s attracted to him because she’sbeen told thatblack men know how to f-k. He’s attracted toher because all his life he’sbeen bombarded with images of white womenbeing the epitome of beautyand the standard that everything else must be measured against(Kroll,6/10/91: 45).Finally, where Kramer’s film begins and ends on notesof tolerance and optimism, suggestingthat love between two people, regardless of their racialor cultural differences, conquers all,Lee constantly challenges the fairy-tale happy endingby invoking undercurrents of racism andstereotypes into his portrait, suggesting that thesocial barriers to interracial love are, if notinsurmountable, at least enormous. Thesedivergent perspectives are perpetually reinforcedwithin their films.One of John and Joey’s few forays into the publicrealm occurs during the opening scenes ofthe film. The couple has just landed in San Francisco, and aretaking a cab ride to Joey’s89mother’s art gallery. Typical of a young couple, newly in love, they seize their few semi-private moments together to kiss in the back seat of the cab. The audience witnesses the kissingfrom the cab-driver’s perspective through the rear-view mirror. While “That’s the Glory ofLove” echoes in the background, viewers see a white cab-driver smiling at the sight of thelovers he is transporting. At no time does the cab-driver’s reaction betray a sense of uneasinesswith what he sees.The cab-driver’s acceptance is echoed in another public situation that John and Joey findthemselves in when they go to a bar to meet two of Joey’s friends. The white couple with whomthey share drinks do not seem to be surprised to discover that Joey’s fiance is black,but ratherseem delighted by the news that Joey is getting married. The only senseof shock that Joey’sfriends seem to experience is when they learn that Joey intends to follow John to Geneva,but aweek after his departure. Joey’s girlfriend suggests that Joeyought to change her plans andleave with John that evening, after all, as she puts it, “If you’re going tobe together, whywait?”.The intolerance, disbelief and disgust expressed by Flipper and Angela’s friends is replacedby quiet approval in John and Joey’s case, in the public and private realms.Joey’s friendsencourage John and Joey in their decision whereas Flipper and Angela’s friends hear,but do notnecessarily accept the unsettling revelations made to them. For Flipperand Angela, theresentment and antipathy they suffer at the hands of their friends, is exacerbatedin the publicsphere. They are not treated like any other normal couple would be whenthey go out to eat at ablack restaurant in Harlem. Instead, the waitress ignores themfor the first half hour after theyhave been seated. Frustrated by the waitress’ treatment, Flipper finallyconfronts her:Flipper: Excuse me Miss. Miss? May we order please?Waitress: Yes. May I take your order.90Flipper: Is this your station?Waitress: Yes, this is my station.Flipper: Look you can take my order. As a matter of fact you could havetaken my order thirty minutes ago when I sat my black ass down.Waitress: [to Angela] Can I take your order?Flipper: Excuse me, but do you have a problem?Waitress: Yes, I do have a problem to be honest with you. Fake, tired brotherslike you comin’ in here. That’s so typical. I can’t even believe you brought herstringy ass hair up here to eat.Flipper: Oh, let me tell you somethin’. First of all Miss Al Sharpton...Waitress: Why don’t you go and parade your white womenaround somewhereelse?Flipper: It’s not your business who I bring in here. It’s not your business.Your job is to wait.Waitress: [to Angela] Today’s specials are Maryland Crabcakes,Creole Shrimp,and Blackened Catfish. I suggest you havethe Blackened Catfish.Flipper: Well, I suggest you find the manager.Waitress: Oh? You want my manager?Flipper: I want your manager!Waitress: Oh, it’s like that, right?Flipper: That’s right.Waitress: Fine, fine. I’ll get my manager.Flipper: You’re firedWaitress: You’re tired!Two black female patrons: She’s white!The obvious hostility the waitress feels and expressesover seeing a black man with a whitewoman manifests itself in the initial refusal to renderthem service. Her attempts to ignore91them signified both a lack of desire to acknowledge themand a belief that Flipper has somehowbecome less black because he chooses to be with a white woman.This is a reaction that Flipper,as his conversation with Cyrus revealed, in some respects has anticipated,though he isreluctant to fully accept it. Flipper wantsto believe that being with a white woman in no waycompromises his blackness, and that’s why he says that“being with a white woman doesn’t meanyou’re less down”, and that he is still “very pro-black”.The women in ‘Jungle Fever’, while accepting that the black men are responsiblefor theirown actions, in many ways hold white womenmore responsible for the fact that their black menare slipping away into the arms of white women.Jack Kroll notes the ambivalence in assigningguilt in a Newsweek article. About a pivotal scene in which Drewdraws consolation and supportfrom her friends over her husband’s infidelity, he writes:“It’s a committment” McKee’s character declares in “JungleFever”.“My man has gone, he’s f-king some White bitch and I still believethere’s good Black men out there”, she proclaimsin a scene that’s amasterpeice of hilarious anger and profane candor.Drew’s womenfriends have gathered in a “war council” to support her.A kaleidoscope of every hue in the black spectrum, they letloose on race andsex: “White bitches” who throw themselves at blackmen, workingclass black men who are snubbed by black women, self-hatingblackmen who can’t deal with black women - every permutationof colorand caste is ridiculed in a cross-fire of dialogue (6/10/91:46-47).The underlying racist attitudes in scenes like that in the restaurantand in Drew’s livingroom are not restricted to the females in the film. It’s not merely thatwomen are incensed thattheir black men are finding comfort in white women’s arms,but white men who cannot fathom,and are disgusted by the prospect of the same thing.Paulie’s regular patrons at his soda shop,partially to taunt him, but more for the purposeof expressing outrage at the fact that one oftheir neighborhood women has gone off with a black man, hurl racistcomments and ask Paulie ifhe’s “gonna give Angie a beating”.As the audience already knows, and Paulie reveals to his customers, Angie hasalready92incurred that fate.Her father, in learningof her affair, beatsAngie during a flurryof racistdialogue. Whilepunching, kicking, hittingand throwing Angie around,he yells:A nigger, a nigger, whatthe hell are you doin’with a nigger? You’dfuck a black nigger.I didn’t raise you to be withno nigger. I’d ratheryou be a mass murder,or a child molester...goin’ and fuckin’ a blacknigger.You’re a disgrace, you’rea disgrace. I raised youto be a good Catholic girl.You’re a disgrace, you’rea disgrace.. .1 couldsee maybe a Jew or an Irishmanbut to pick a fuckin’nigger. . . I’d rather stabmy heart with a knife than bethe father ofa nigger lover.In Kramer’s film, thereare only indirect references,as cited earlier, to theracism thatgreets an interracialcouple. Matt Draytonrefers to it in his lastspeech, and a littleearlierduring an exchangewith Monseigneur Ryan:Matt: They wouldn’thave a dog’s chance.Not in this country, notin thiswhole stinking world.Ryan: They are thisworld - they can changeit.Matt: Fifty years, maybea hundred years. But notin your lifetime, andmaybe not in mine.The other referenceis made by John’s father,but again, his wordsdo not reflect personalantipathy so muchas a concern about otherpeople’s sentimentsand attitudes. He says:Prentice: You’ve never madea mistake like this before...have you thoughtabout what people wouldsay.. .in 1 5 or 16 statesyou’d be breaking thelaw,you’d be criminals.. .andeven if they change thelaw, it don’t change howpeople feel.It is perhaps this comment,more than any othermade in ‘Guess Who’sComing to Dinner’ whichforeshadows the maintenanceand expression of thekind of attitudes reproducedin ‘JungleFever’. The laws havechanged, but in manyrespects people’s feelingshave not.Like Louise, there continueto be people, as thereal-life scenarios indicate,who believe thata girl is too beautiful togo off with someonenot of her own race,or like Angela’s father,thatthey didn’t raise their daughtersto go off with a black man.There are women whofeel betrayed93when they see “their men” with women of another color (Paset and Taylor, 1 991), and men whofail to understand what “their women” see in a man from another race. And like Flipper, whorefuses to bring interracial children into the world because the world is already so crazy andmixed up without more interracial children, there are others who believe that the greatestharm comes to the children of an interracial couple (Motoyoshi, 1990).The promise, hope and misty-eyed dreams that repealing anti-miscegenation laws harkened,have vanished in the very real world where racism continues to be felt and acted upon. Whileindividuals might not be as prepared as the characters in Spike Lee’s film to comment, therenevertheless remain individuals who in private and public express the hostility reproduced inthe film. However, the freedom to pursue interracial relationships is no longer restricted bylaw or the fact that it is so extraordinarily exceptional. The fact that it has become morecommonplace is also reflected in ‘Jungle Fever’. Almost every major character in the filmhasan opinion on interracial love, in some cases good - such as Drew’s black friend who concedes todating any kind of man as long as he treats her good, in others bad - of which countless exampleshave already been provided, and others indifferent - such as Denise’s response“that this is the90’s, so what”, and Flipper’s brother Gator’s reaction that if he “were going to bewith a whitewoman, he’d at least pick one with long money”, but “that it’s cool with him”. These reactionscover the spectrum of common-sense beliefs that are maintained by those dealingwith thereality of interracial couples in their daily lives.In very different respects, each of the films reproduce accounts that reflectthe historicalcontext during which they emerged. Kramer’s film was a by-product of the optimism andpotential birth of a new era brought on by the Civil Rights movement in the United States, whileLee’s film reflects the influences of the resurgent racism that has plagued the United States inrecent years, and points to the frightening and potentially violent consequencesthat mixed race94couples are exposed to as a result of their choices. However,just as it is unlikely that manyparents during the late 60’s would have been as liberal and accepting as John and Joey’s parentwere of their children’s news, much less be prepared to come to terms with their ambivalencein a matter of hours, not everyone choosing to be interracially involved confronts the obstaclesthat challenged Flipper and Angela. Nor is every couple destined to cave in under the pressure ofhostility and resentment. To some extent, television, and print media have more realisticallyconveyed the broad spectrum of experiences that interracial couples have had.TELEVISION AND NOVELS: REFLECTIONS OF?As suggested earlier, television talk shows regularly depend on the subject on interracialrelationships for their daily fodder. In many respects, however,their presentation of theexperiences of individuals crossing the color line in their intimaterelationships is asensationalized, and one-sided account. As Munroe notes:On a recent episode of Geraido devoted to the topic of interracialrelationships, host Geraldo Rivera interviewed a mother and daughterwho had not seen each other in three years because the daughter hadbeen barred from her parents’ home. At one point during the interviewher stepfather, angered because the daughter had married a black man,was quoted by her mother as having said: “She should be grateful sheisn’t my real daughter because if she were, I would kill her!” (4/92:92).This type of exchange is rather typical of talk shows dealing with thetopic. Given themotivation of wanting to incite audience reaction and response, extreme accountsof hostility andviolence toward interracial couples is frequently depicted. All this is not tosuggest that theportraits are fabricated or erroneous, but rather that they ill reflect thevaried real-lifeexperiences of mixed race couples. Hence, while every conceivable host fromCNN’s ‘Sonya’ toCTV’s ‘Shirley’, and the myriad other hosts of national and local talk shows havebroached thesubject, they represent only half the story.Television shows which have been more responsible and accurate in the reproduction of the95broader range of interracial experiences are dramatic serials, both during the day and evening.Shows such as ‘All My Children’ and ‘Knot’s Landing’ have taken a fresh approach to presentingand dealing with an interracial relationship. While earlier vehicles, such as the ‘Jeffersons’used their in-house interracial couple as foils for George’s jokes, interracial couples in theseshows are not brought into the picture to elicit a few laughs or spark a bit of controversy, butincorporated into a cast of characters who experience the ups and downs of life.Tom and Livia, ‘All My Children’s’ resident interracial couple, have gone through the gamutof emotions. Livia felt ambivalent about getting inolved with someone who is white. Sheovercame those feelings when Tom assured her that he loved her - not in spite of or because ofher blackness -but because of the women she is. They had difficulty buying the home theywanted because of their interracial status, but their journalist friends went undercover andunveiled the racist sales tactics of the real estate agents, so they finally got their house. Neithertheir friends or family snubbed them because of their decision to become interracially involved,and rather than discouraging them from it, they were encouraged by most. The one individualwho seemed to be having difficulty with Livia’s decision was her son Terrence (from a previousrelationship with a black man), but even he seems to have come around. In recent episodes hehas himself been contemplating an interracial involvement.In ‘Knot’s Landing’, the interracial liaison occurred between a young black girl and a whiteboy who happened to be neighbors, attended the same high school, experienced some of the sameemotional conflicts and adjustments, and had fathers who had opened a law practice together. Inthis show, the anxiety that parents often feel about the issue was expressed by having the girl’sfather not only get angry at his daughter, but go over to his neighbor’s house and threaten theboy with physical harm if he ever came near his daughter again. The anger and frustrationeventually subsided when the boy’s guardian was able to convince his partner that they were two96innocent teen-agers who had done nothing wrong. Thefact was that they simply liked each other.Within these portraits is the underlying suggestionthat the more frequently individuals ofdifferent races come into contact withone another, on common grounds of work, schoolor insocial situations, and discover thatthey have mutual interests, shared experiencesorbackgrounds, there exists a very realpossibility that they may take the relationshipa stepbeyond what is socially authorized.The overt suggestions are that there are often problemsaccompanying the decision,but that these are problems that can be managedand resolved.Since television producers and writershave a luxury that makers of films lack, specifically,a forum in which to introduce a story-line and developit over time, they are in a uniqueposition to provide more detailedand realistic reproductions of the everydaylives of interracialcouples. They are capable of showing thesecouples at work, home, play, with their familiesandfriends, and going through periodic phasesof problems and enjoyment, in the morerealisticway that other characters in televisionare sometimes portrayed.What is more typical of a dramatic serialis often lost in a situation comedy however.Whilethere are comedies such as ‘A DifferentWorld’ or ‘True Colors’ which have placedaninterracial couple at front and center ofthe story-line on an on-going basis, othercomediessuch as ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ focuson the issue during one episode and providea “colesnotes” version of confronting and overcomingfamilial shock to news that a familymember hasbecome interracially involvedand is contemplating marriage. Althoughit may appear thatreproductions of this nature are incapableof doing any justice to the true natureof livedexperience, what must be concededis that they at least reproduce an aspect ofexperience that isfairly common among interracial couples,specifically, resistance and disbelief amongfamily tothe choice of a mate. As notedin previous chapters, while many couplesexperience initialresistance from family because theyhave chosen someone not of their own race,most families97eventually comes to terms with the choice. This too is often reflected within situation comedies.There may be some logic behind the reluctance to portray the experiences of interracialcouples in greater depth, and this again may be directly linked to public perceptions andattitudes regarding relationships of this kind. Munroe reveals:Early in the first season of True Colors, the producers received aletter interpreted by the FBI as a death threat against cast members,prompting the producers to place the set under guard. While therehave been no further threats, the negative mail has continued. “Westill get mail saying that it’s a disgusting thing to portray an interracial situation,” says Michael Weithorn, executive producer andcreator of the show. However, it’s not only outright racists who areuncomfortable with the concept of black and white intimacy ontelevision. “True Colors got on the air only because the Fox networkwas struggling to gain viewers and needed to be a bit experimental”says Weithorn (Ibid.).Where television seems to be on the brink of providing more realistic portraits ofinterracial couples, literature, with the exception of biographies (eg. A Marriage ofInconvenience, Queen and Queenie), has a tendency to incorporate either stereotypical imagesabout those who choose to become interracially involved, or reproduce an account whichborrows on history in some way.In ‘Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine’, Bebe Moore Campbell weaves a tale that is reminiscent ofEmmett Till’s death back in 1 955. Emmett was killed in Mississippi by two white men forwhistling at a white woman. The all-white jury acquitted the accused within an hour and a halfof beginning their deliberations (Terkel,1992). Till was fourteen at the time of his death.Armstrong Todd, the character from Campbell’s book is fifteen, and like Till was murdered inMississippi while on a visit from Chicago, in the 1950’s, for speaking to a white woman. Andlike Till’s murderers, Todd’s are also set free.Evidence of stereotypes, along with the basis of the vehement reactions that black womenoften have toward seeing black men with white women, are reproduced in Terry McMiIIan’s98‘Waiting to Exhale’. While the novel revolves aroundthe lives and friendship of four blackwomen, consider the following excerpt, in whichBernadine discovers that her black husbandintends to leave her for a white woman:Now she looked over at her husband, thinkingshe wanted to be rid ofhim, had been trying to conjure up the courage,the nerve, the guts,to tell “him” to leave, but she didn’t have that muchcourage yet. Allshe wanted to do was repossess her life. To feel that senseof reliefwhen the single most contributing factor to herinnermost miserywas gone. But he beat her to the punch. Not only was heleaving “her”.Not only was he leaving her for another woman. He wasleaving herfor a “white” woman. Bernadine hadn’t expected thiskind of betrayal,this kind of insult. John knew this would hurt me, shethought, as shetried to will the tears rolling down her cheeks toevaporate. And he’dchosen the safest route. A white woman was about the only onewho’dprobably tolerate his ass. Make him king. She’s probably flatteredto death that such a handsome, successful, black man would want totake care of her, make her not need anything except him. She’ll worshiphim, Bernadine thought, just like I did in the beginning, until the spellwore off. Hell, I was his white girl for eleven years(1992: 26).Reflected in McMillan’s writing is not only the view that emerged in Lee’sfilm that somehow aman is betraying himself and women of his race by engagingin an interracial liaison, but alsothe view subscribed to within theories of mate selection and early studies oninterracialmarriage, which have subsequently been inscribed into stereotypes,that successful minoritymen will marry outside of their race, often to elevate their socialstatus.Given the prevalence of interracial relationships amongcelebrities (O.J. and NicoleSimpson, Sidney Poitier and Joanna Shimkus, Clarence and Virginia Thomas, among others), itis commonly believed that financial success inevitably leads tomarriage cross over among nonwhite men. It is this common sense belief that accounts for Bernadine’s reaction toherhusband’s news, Drew’s and the waitress’ reactions to Flipper, and those that many women haveencountered in dating a man not of their own background.The other basis for negative reaction, particularly among blackwomen, comes from theprevailing notion that there is a man-shortage, which is evenmore dramatic within the black99community since black males experience the highest rates of incarcerationand homicide thanany other group of men in the United States. Given this fact, and that white men are oftencapable of providing a form of financial security that black mencannot, black women often seemmore tolerant of interracial relationships involving a black woman andwhite man, whichMcMilIan also reveals in ‘Mama’:Big Jim paid for Angel and Doll’s first trip back to Point Haven.They liked him now, and had had a sudden revelation. Justbecausehe was white didn’t mean he wasn’t human. He talked just likeanyother man. He acted like any other man. He even had a sense ofhumor and he had one thing that none of Mildred’s other men hadever had in the past: lots and lots of money. And he was generouswith it. Big Jim gave them each fifty dollars for spending money.“Shit, if she wants to go out with a white man, that’s her business,”Doll had said to Angel, as they were about to land in Detroit. “Who knows,we could end up with one ourselves. You never know” (1987: 192).McMiIIan’s work, like many other portraits of interracial couples within media, isreflective of prevailing attitudes within society. What is apparent, and hopefully moreso as aresult of this analysis, is that there is an on-going dialectic between social circumstances andmedia portraits of human affairs. On the one hand, media such as television, books, and filmsurvive and thrive by delivering audiences what they want to see and hear. In some instancesthis may mean that audiences are fed images that are like fantasies because they are so farremoved from their lived experiences. On the other hand, audiences are fed images that go to thevery heart of their emotions by mirroring real-life. In the former capacity, media influencesand shapes social perceptions of the world. In the latter, it is instrumental in reproducing theexisting social systems. In the case of interracial relationships it appears to be doing both.100CHAPTER 6 - CONCLUDING REMARKSTHE TERM “MISCEGENATION”The term “miscegenation” provdies a remarkable exhibit in the naturalhistory of nonsense. The term today is used in a pejorative sense asreferring to “race mixture”. The prefix “mis” (from the Latin miscere,“mix”) has probably contributed its share to the misunderstanding of thenature of “race” mixture. Words that begin with the prefix “mis” suggesta “mistake”, “misuse”, “mislead”, and similar erroneous ideas implyingwrong conduct.The word “miscegenation” was invented as a hoax, and published in ananonymous pamphlet at New York in 1864, with the title Miscegenation:The Theory of the Blending of the Races, Applied to the White Man andNegro. The pamphlet was almost certainly the joint product of twomembers of the New York World staff, David Goodman Croly, an editor,and George Wakeman, one of the reporters. The purpose of the authorswas to raise the “race” issue in an aggravated form in the 1 864 presidential campaign by attributing to the abolitionist Republicans and theRepublican party the views set forth in Miscegenation. The pamphlet wasintended to commit the Republican leaders to “the conclusions to whichthey are brought by their own principles”, without any hope of successbut in the expectation that their folly would be made all the more clearto them in granting the Negro the franchise. The brief introduction setsthe tone of the whole pamphlet.“The word is spoken at last. It is Miscegenation - the blending of thevarious races of men- the practical recognition of all the children ofthe common father. While the sublime inspirations of Christianityhave taught this doctrine, Christians so-called have ignored it in denyingsocial equality to the colored man; while democracy is founded upon theidea that all men are created equal, democrats have shrunk from the logicof their own creed, and refused to fraternize with the people of all nations,while science has demonstrated that the intermarriage of diverse racesis indispensable to a progressive humanity, its votaries, in this countryat least, have never had the courage to apply that rule to the relations ofthe white and colored races. But Christianity, democracy, and scienceare stronger than timidity, prejudice and pride of short-sighted men;and they teach that a people, to become great must become composite.This involves what is vulgarly known as amalgamation, and those whodread that name, and the thought and fact it implies, are warned againstreading these pages...”Thus the word “misegenation” was invented by satirists to replace thevulgar term “amalgamation”, as not being sufficiently elevated ordistinguished. Indeed, the word does carry with it a sort of authoritativeaura, implying, however, a certain lack of respectability, and evenresponsibility. The extent of the prejudice inherent in and engendered bythis word may be gathered from the fact that [Webster’s New InternationalDictionary] illustrates the use of the word by the example of “one who is101guilty of misegenation”.The word should be replaced byordinary English words such as“Intermixture”, “mixture”, “admixture”,and “intermarriage” (Montagu,1992: 600-601).WHERE ARE WE NOW?Montagu’s call was heeded. Though theterm miscegenation continues tobe listed in thedictionary, it is not the word typically used torefer to marriages between people ofdifferentraces. It would seem however, thateliminating the word from everyday vocabularyhas notremoved the vestiges of negativeimagery and perceptions generally associatedwith the conceptof intermarriage. The pejorative implicationsof the term miscegenationhave carried over intomore contemporary references to marriageor relationships between individuals ofdifferentraces. What this suggests, perhaps more thananything, is that the difference lies notin whatyou call it, but more in who isdoing the calling.In recent decades, both in Canadaand the United States there has been aresurgence of radicalracism (Sher, 1983, Barrett, 1987). In hisseminal work on this phenomenon, Barrettcontends:The more extreme members of the right wingwant nothing less than atotally white society. They contend thatblacks and whites can never livetogether in harmony, that interracial marriageis more dangerous tocivilization than the atomic bomb, and that a timewill come when theworld will erupt into a gigantic race warwhere one’s battledress willbe the colour of one’s skin (1987: viii).For someone like James Alexander Mcquirter,once grand Kleagle of Canada’s branch of the KuKlux Klan, and the thousands of other Canadians(Barrett, 1 987) subscribing to the a radicalright wing philosophy, the terminology used to describemarriage between whites and nonwhites is inconsequential, since it isthe act itself that they object to. For those espousingthesebeliefs, according to Barrett, expressions oftheir frustration with social and economicproblems are mainfested in racism.He states:The right wing, especially the far right,under the guise of both scientificand religious justification, and on thepremise that liberalism in the face102of human nature is unworkable,advocates that the worldbe rebuilt on thelines of natural law, whichmeans in part recognizingthe supposed animallike inferiority of non-whitepeoples (Ibid.: 355).For these people, non-whitesare a threat to theirsecurity, stability, and wayof life andultimately, thosewith whom they are cominginto competition withfor control over scarceeconomic resources. Thesebeliefs have permeated theirsocial interactions to the extentwherethey not only publiclydenounce interracial relationships,but indoctrinate their children frombirth, to fraternizeonly with whites, and to repudiateall other groups of people.What this means for thosechoosing to be interracially involvedis at the very least thattheybecome objects of publicridicule at the hands of membersof these groups, and targetsof thegroups themselves in publicforums. At worst, theybecome victims of violence thatis initiatedto counter-act this forcethat is more “dangerous than theatomic bomb”.Resurgent racism alonedoes not explain the sometimesvehement reactionsthat interracialrelationships elicit. Ethnocentricbeliefs, which mightbe construed as a formof racism, emergein connection with membersof a group favoring their own kind.Individuals expressing attitudesof shock or discomfortat discovering that someonethey know is interraciallyinvolved, do notnecessarily maintaina belief in the natural superiorityor inferiority of specificgroups(Reitz, 1 980). Instead they maybe reacting as they do simplybecause they expected theirchildren, family or friendsto select a mate from withintheir own group, and/orfeeling thatmarriages between individualsfrom the same cultural backgroundsare more successful.Someindividuals holding these beliefsundergo a period of adjustmentduring which they cometoterms with the surprisingrevelations, and finally acceptwhat they considerto be an atypicalchoice. There areyet others who believe that interracialrelationships are okay,as long as itdoesn’t involve someonethey are close to. These attitudesare made resonantly clearin aninterview Studs Terkel conductedwith Dennis Carney, a twenty-fiveyear old carpenter fromChicago, in which the followingwas stated:103If I see a black guy arm-in-arm with a white woman, it doesn’t bother me.I don’t know if I’d want my daughter comin’ home with one, if I hada daughter.But this woman has a right to do what she wants to do.I see a lot of blackwomen that are very nice-looking that I wouldn’t mindtaking out (1 992: 143).Other plausible explanations for the hostility that theserelationships evoke are potentiallytraced to marriage rates. A study by Yale sociologist,Neil Barrett, indicates that “one in fourblack women and nearly one in ten white women [inthe United States] now in their mid-to-latethirties will never marry” (Shook and Shook, 1 993: 11). Further,U.S. Census data reveal that“In 1986, the marriage rate for divorced women was 79.5 per 1,000versus 59.7 per 1,000for never-married women. The rate for divorced men was117.8 per 1,000 versus 49.1 per1,000 for never-married men” (Ibid.,: 22), and that there “are96 white males for every 100white females, but only 88 black males for every100 black females” (Ibid.,: 28). Theimplications of this data are manifold.Neil Barrett’s figures reflect one of two things, either that asmany as one in four blackwomen and one in ten white women are making consciouschoices not to marry, or that there thatmany women not marrying as a result of an inability tofind suitable mates. Additionally, giventhe male to female ratios within each group, thereare significantly fewer black men for blackwomen to begin with. If black men start datingand marrying non-black women, the ratio dropseven more. The off-shoot might be that black womenstart looking among non-black men for acompatible partner. That women wrestle with thisdilemma is evidenced in a conversationbetween Savannah and Robin, two of McMillan’s charactersin ‘Waiting to Exhale’:“This is a crap game we’re playing girl, only nobody wantsto roll thedice.”“A lot of times all I want is somebody to talk to, act silly andbullshitwith. Somebody I can trust. He doesn’t have to bea candidate for ahusband.”“I hear you.”104“I want to know what it is we can do to get themto understand that?”“Who you asking? All I can say is that black men can be onebigquestion mark,” Robin said. “One disappointment afteranother. Everynow and then I wonder if I should go on and dateme a white man”(1992: 199).Not only do Savannah and Robin indicatethat they are frustrated with the choices of men fromwithin their own group, but they alsoreveal that they have minimum requirements that theyexpect a man to satisfy. In a way they operate froma position of “Pragma” - love with ashopping list, and when they find someonewho satifies their basic criteria, they are likely tosettle for that person, particularly given the oddsof finding the ideal mate.Is this to suggest then that all those marrying or datinginterracially, have merely settledfor a person outside of their group becausethe field of eligibles within it was so narrow? To thecontrary. There are many, particularlythose involved in interracial relationships themselves,who would claim that it is precisely because theywere not willing to settle for the first semi-decent prospect that came along, that they openedup their options and considered prospects fromother groups. In having done so, theybelieved they were able to find someone they truly love.In the face of increased immigration rates toCanada in the last thirty years (Anderson,1991, Ward, 1 990), the complexion of theCanadian population has changed, which in turn hasimpacted upon the field of eligibles availableto people, and that they are willing to considerasmates. As a matter of natural course, through meetingpeople at school, work, or in socialmilieus, people are finding themselves attracted toand interested in someone, that underdifferent circumstances may have seemedan unlikely candidate for a mate, and with whom arelationship is likely to engender social disapprobation.Yet and still, they feel there is enoughreason to pursue the relationship.That reason, ultimately, may be found in Munroe’s commentaryregarding theserelationships:105Despite all the obstacles and outside pressures, according to MitchellKernan and Tucker’s UCLA study, interracial marriages, many ofwhichare second marriages, have a high success rate, perhaps as a reflectionof the thought and committment that went into making andmaintainingthem. “When people look at you in the street, I know they are thinking,‘What is it that’s making these two stay together?” says Barry Campbell.“The answer is the same as in any normal relationship. You have yourgooddays. You have your bad days, and you have to work out your problems.But in most interracial relationships, depending on yourenvironment andyour situation, everybody may be against you, so you have to havesomethingspecial to keep it together. You develop a bond that maybe different fromother couples because in a lot of situations all you have is each other”(4/92: 102).That bond, that something special, is perhaps best revealedby Campbell’s mate, Jennifer Fox,who states:“I didn’t find Barry Campbell because I wanted to be with a black man.People say you always see color, but when we are alone, I don’t say tomyself, “I am with a black man,” I say, “I am with the man I love”(Ibid.,).This bond was mainfest among those participating in this study, according to the informants ownaccounts. Regardless of the strength or intensity of their bond however,what was consistentlyevident in these cases with was that the choice to date or marry outside of one’s own ethnic orracial group elicited a reaction. The reactions ranged from mildly negative, borderingon intialshock, to extreme disgust which manifested in ostracism from family, friends and acommunity.Some of this can be linked to the fact that society has perceptions of aperson and his racialgroup, and according to these perceptions, society makes demands on the person’s behaviour,expecting and often mandating that person to behave and believe in prescribed ways. Theseprescriptions may correspond to a field of eligibles from which mates are to be chosen bymembers of a group and the consequences that will ensue if individuals opt to defy thoseprescriptions. Another aspect which potentially explains the reactions elicited by thesecouplings rests in the social perceptions of race and the behaviour these perceptions giverise to- namely: racism. There are myriad possibilities that potentially explain the reactions that106individuals have to unconventional couplings of this sort. Theimportant point is that theawareness of these diverse reactions and explanations propelled theinterest to examine thesesituations more closesly - not necessarily with an eye to providinga definitive explanation forthe basis of individual choices and the social reactions engenderedby those choices, but moresowith an intent to present a more detailed picture of the interracial experiencethat could only begleaned from the perspective of the couples themselves.The current research findings, in line with previous researchdone by Tucker and MitchellKernan, suggests that by and large individuals who entered into acommitted relationship withan individual from a race other than their own are typicallyolder and often in a secondmarriage. The ages of individuals ranged anywhere from late twenties to earlyfifties for thecouples in question, and approximately two-thirds had been divorced with childrenfrom a priorrelationship. Couples claimed that a previous marital failure madethem more keenly aware ofwhat they were or were not willing to accept in a future relationship, and that thisawarenessmade them in some respects more open to an interracial relationship, sincethey were morefocussed on personal rather than physical characteristics in a mate, and further,given theresult of their earlier efforts at mating, they were not as concerned with thereactions thattheir choices were likley to elicit. Their primary concerns were that they foundsomeone withwhom they were compatible and could build a life together, rather than worryingabout whattheir family and friends, or the larger society might feel about their choices.The impact ofindependence, and distance from family and correspondingly age, was evident in theaccountsrendered by participants. Some of the younger interviewees indicated that at earlystages intheir life, while they were dependent upon family and friends for emotionaland financialsupport, they were incapable of following through on some of the choices theymade in mateswho were considered socially unacceptable. Further, the datarevealed that a variety of factors107affected the nature of reactions they elicited. In particulargeography, the economic andeducational status of couples, the particular racial mix of couples,along with the degree towhich the individuals have assimilated to Western culture have varyingdegrees of effect on thesuccess or failure of interracial relationships. Somecities and regions evince greater toleranceof interracial couples. Economic and educational statusoften shields couples from the ignoranceand intolerance that is often blatantly expressed amongthose who are less fortunateeconomically or less educated, black-white mixes oftenevoke the strongest negative reactionsamong family, friends, and the community at large, and individualscoming from families inwhich there is strong adherence to custom or tradition have thegreatest difficulty inovercoming negative familial pressure.What is apparent from the stories of these couples and the depictionsof couples in othersources is that the more frequently individuals come intocontact with one another, on commongrounds of work, school or in social situations, anddiscover that they have mutual interests,shared experiences or backgrounds, there exists avery real possibility that they may enter intoa relationship that is not socially authorized. What is also apparentis that while fundamentalbeliefs about the nature of the relationships and the potentialsuccess of them may notdramatically change, superficial social attitudes may reflect higherlevels of tolerance andacceptance of the phenomena.While efforts have been made in the study to provide a humanisticinsight into the nature ofinterracial relationships and public perceptions of them,and link them up with more commonsense beliefs about race, racism, and mate selection,there is much on this topic that was beyondthe scope of this study. 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(1974). “Facts of Life About Dope” in Urban Lifeand Culture, vol.3 (2),pp.197-204.(1986). “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Some Textual Strategies forAdequate Ethnography” in Urban Life. vol. 15, pp. 103-121.(1990). “Writing Sociologically: A Note on Teaching the Construction of AQualitative Report”, in Teaching Sociologically.Tepperman, L. and A. Djao (1990). Choices and Chances:Sociology for Everyday Life. New York:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.Terkel, S. (1993) Race: How Black and Whites Think and Feel About the AmericanObsession.New York: The New Press.Tucker, B. and C. Mitchell-Kernan (1 990). “New Trends in Black American InterracialMarriage: The Social Structural Context” in Journal of Marriage and the Family,vol. 52p.209-218.Turner, R. “Interracial Couples in the South; Attitudes are Changing on Once Illegal Marriages ofBlacks to Whites”. Ebony, 6/90:pp.42-49.van Dijk, T. A. (1 991). Racism and the Press. New York: Routledge.van Maanen, J. (1 988). Tales of the Field. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Ward, W. P. (1990). White Canada Forever. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-QueensUniversityPress.Whyte, W. F. (1 943) Street Corner Society. Chicago: University of Chicago.113APPENDIX ONECONFESSIONAL TALEWhen I was 10 years old, three individuals from Hong Kong came to live with ourfamily.Pumi and Amrik were engaged to be married, having made what East Indians refer to as a lovematch, and they had Amrik’s niece Mindy in tow, all three prepared to enroll in schoolinVancouver.At the time that my parents had informed us that the three of them were to arrive, Inaturally assumed from their names, and other information about their families, that they wereall of Indian descent. It came as somewhat of a surprise to finally see Mindy’s face. Herfacialfeatures did not belie her Chinese ancestry, in fact they would not even hint at confirming anotion that Mindy was a mix of Chinese and East Indian, or any other combination of ethnicbackgrounds. This woman was Chinese and nothing else, if her face was to be used as the onlybarometer by which heritage could or should be gauged. As one moved from Mindy’s face to otheraspects of her personhood, her East Indianness became very difficult to dispute. She was clad intraditional Indian clothes, wore her hair the way most traditional Indians did, spoke Punjabifluently, believed in the Sikh religion and was very devoted to the faith, ate and cooked Indianfood, and exhibited all the behaviour that would make any set of Indian parents proud. Sure shespoke Chinese as well, and ate the food, but then Pumi and Amrik who were incontestably ofIndian descent demonstrated the same tendencies, and little else could be expected of someoneraised in Hong Kong. As the conflicting information was assimilated and processed, the initialshock subsided, and Mindy’s identity was never up for discussion --- at least not in ourhousehold.Two years after Mindy had arrived, it was somehow decided that she was ready for marriage.I’m still not certain if it was her parents, my parents, her Uncle, or Mindy herself, who decided114that the time was prime, but it was evident fromphone calls, the numbers of strange men whopassed through our house accompanied by apair of older people that were as quiet asthe singlemen were during their visit, and the numberof cups of tea that Mindy nervously poured, thatthe search for a husband was on. For those of uswho knew Mindy, we figured it wouldn’t takevery long before some intelligent and equally pleasant youngman would snatch her up. But thereare things about arranged marriages that seem to elude presumptuous1 2 year olds who figurethat they know all there is to know about life and other people’sattitudes. The possibility thatthese young men and their parents would declinethe offer of Mindy’s hand simply because shelooked slightly different from most of the women hehad been invited to look at had never crossedmy mind. Months lagged on and no prospective mate had materialized.I couldn’t fathom it - I hadseen less attractive, less intelligent, less pleasant and less kindwomen secure matches a lotquicker than Mindy was managing to do. I was confused by theunwillingness of men who wereclearly interested in finding a wife to accept Mindy as their mate. What I, andMindy for thatmatter was oblivious to was the only thing that seemed tobe of issue to the rest of the world.Though she clearly behaved and thought like an Indian, theycould not ignore that she lookedChinese.Disturbed by the revelation, I thought it appropriate to discussit with my mother. Theconversation amounted to nothing more than an exercise in futility. Mymother told me to forgetit. Mindy was not Chinese, she was Indian andeveryone knew it. Months later when Mindyprepared to walk down the aisle it was with an Indian, as she andall who knew her had expected.What I did not know then, but am aware of now, and haveconcluded must have been a decisivefactor in Raj’s decision to marry Mindy, was thathad he not married her he would have beenforced by immigration authorities to return to India... I guesshe settled for the lesser of twoevils.115Twenty years later, Raj and Mindy remain married with twodaughters and a son, all three ofwhich I gather through reports made by Pumi, aresomewhat confused about their identity. Itseems that the children are often taunted by other Indianstudents about their Chinese features,and by Chinese peers about looking Indian. Mindy handles herchildren’s queries in about thesame way my mother handled my question about Mindy’sidentity so many years earlier - shetells them to forget it and that they are Indian.Four years ago, my cousin Michael informed the family thathe was going to marry his thengirlfriend, Diane. On the surface, there was nothing atypical about hisannouncement. After all,he and Diane had been dating for about a year, he was 28years old and they were expecting theirfirst child. Both Diane and Michael had been born in Vancouver,attended schools in the sameneighborhoods, went to the same gym, and had some mutualinterests and friends. For Diane andMichael, as a result, the decision to marryseemed entirely natural and rather timely given theimpending birth of their first child. Most others, beyond Michael’ssiblings, seemed to bedealing with incredible amounts of discomfort because of the upcoming marriage- see, the factis that Diane is Chinese. Every time Michael was out of earshot,the talk rattled on withindividuals expressing disbelief that there was actually going to be awedding. Some wondered:How could Michael marry someone who was Chinese? He was so good looking,a nice boy from awealthy family, surely he could find a beautiful Indian girl. Others wondered:What about thechildren, how would they feel about being half Chinese and half Indian?How would Michael andDiane make it given their different backgrounds? And yet others, representingthe suspiciousof-Diane faction, found excuses for Michael’s supposed lapse in judgement byclaiming thatDiane had deliberately gotten pregnant because she knew that she couldn’t havegotten an EastIndian man under any other conditions. (Too bad Mindy hadn’tthought of the trick 20 yearsago!) But the common strain in all the unwarranted and unsolicitedcommentary was: How could116Michael disappoint his parents so much, it was bad enough thathis sisters had married Whitepeople, but Diane was Chinese. There’s no doubt that everyonewho met Mindy 20 years earlierwere plagued by some of the same issues. The irony is thatthose people who seemed beseiged bythem now had been totally ignorant of the concerns when the woman they weretrying to getmarried off looked Chinese to a prospective Indian groom.From my perspective, there wasn’t a substantive difference between these two marriagesother than the fact that one was arranged and the other was not. In many respects, this factorseems to distinguish the nature of marriages for me more than a host of otherpossibilities.Though I’ve always had a curiosity about marriages between people of seeminglydifferentnationalities, I’ve never been as consumed by thoughts about them as I was when Ibegan to hearthe discussions that took place in reference to Michael’s choices. I presume part of thereasonwhy it became more meaningful was that as I grew older, it was becoming clearer to methatthere was little likelihood of my marrying an Indian, and a strong chance that I would somedaybe the subject of similar talk. While so many people seemed obsessed with Diane’s Chineseness,I really could not see what warranted all of the negative talk. Dianeand Michael have as much incommon with each other as Raj and Mindy did, and though a pregnancy replaced the deportationfactor as a central issue in Diane’s and Michael’s decision, at least they knew that they werecompatible on a sexual level, among others. It was certainly true that most people would noticethat Michael was East Indian and that Diane was Chinese, that their children might be subject tosome cruel taunting because they were a mixture of East Indian and Chinese, and that there waslittle chance that the marriage ceremony would put an end to the derogatory comments beingmade. Instead, the circle of people engaging in such talk would inevitably grow to include fargreater numbers of people than the family and close friends it had been confined to thusfar. Mycontention was, however, that Diane’s and Michael’s marriage should have beenno more or less117acceptable than Raj and Mindy’s. Surely they would be subject to thesame problems, and withany luck, enjoy the same pleasures. The fact that they formed an inter-ethniccouple mightpresent some unique problems that others avoided by marrying mates of seemingly similarbackgrounds, but was this just cause to condemn the marriageto failure?At the time that I began to seriously consider examining interracial marriages andrelationships as a thesis topic, I had the pleasure of seeing theclassic “Guess Who’s Coming toDinner” for another time. Given my romantic inclinations, I was touchedby the film when Ioriginally saw it. The more recent viewing left with me with overwhelmingawe of the movie’stimelessness and insight. Those familiar with the film will recall thatSpencer Tracy andKatherine Hepburn’s onscreen daughter, Katherine Houghton, returnshome for a visit andannounces that she plans to get married. What might be causefor celebration under ordinarycircumstances quickly becomes complicated by the fact that Houghtonis White, and the man sheplans to marry, while being a doctor, happens to be Black (playedby Sidney Poitier). Thefilm’s plot focuses on the mixed emotions that the engaged couple’s parent’shave about theannouncement. Between the two sets of parents, andthe housekeeper, every logical andconceivable reason for not proceeding with the marriage is articulated. Havingbattled with allof the reasons why the two should change their minds, and what the prospectsfor the future holdshould they fail to change their minds, a confused Spencer Tracy before the film’send calls theentire cast of characters into his living room to offer his perspective onthe news that he hasheard. Tracy’s commentary begins by recounting the sequenceof events he has been embroiled inthroughout the day, and then he moves on in rather profounddetail to offer what he believes areall of the reasons that others might hold as valid for backingout of the marriage, and ends withwhat he believes is the strongest reason for going ahead with it - love.If in the tradition of current moviemaker’s, the director or producer of “GuessWho’s Coming118to Dinner” had elected to makea sequel, I might have fewer questions about the way life turnsout for couples who find themselves in situationsthat continue to be regarded as somewhatsocially unacceptable. Unfortunately, theydidn’t and my curiosity about the ways in which thepublic receives inter-ethnic marriages, and how couplesdeal with that reception rages on.One of the primary factors that many involvedin inter-ethnic relationships and those whoconfront them in social situations acknowledge, is thatthere remain vast numbers of people whoare appalled by the prospect and incidencesof inter-ethnic marriages. The notion of seeing aman and a woman of different ethnic backgroundstogether is an unpalatable consideration, andeven more physically threatening whenmanifest. Though attempts have been made to understandprecisely what it is about these unionsthat make it so difficult for people to accept, thepropensity tends toward explanations basedon speculations about stereotypes.Robin and John have often faced thesefacts within their 1 2 year marriage. Robin, who isalso my cousin, and in fact Michael’s sister, marriedJohn, a White man, after a year longromantic involvement. Their acquaintanceand friendship pre-dated any intimate relationshipby a number of years. By the time that Robin madethe decision to accept John’s proposal, shehad dealt with the difficulties inherentin her current situation since she had terminated afiveyear live-in relationship with another White malejust a year earlier. Her family, thoughunaccepting of Robin’s earlier relationship, was awarethat she and her love interest were cohabitating. In addition, her parents had been confrontedwith inter-ethnic relationships throughthe 1 2 year involvement that their older daughterhad experienced with a White male. They hadbeen forced to deal with a White man’s presence in theirhome, as well as with the fact that hewas the love interest of their daughter, when the man accompaniedtheir daughter to the familyhome. Though they tolerated the presence ofthe White boyfriend, they had not begun to acceptthe probability that their daughter might marry someoneof a different ethnic background than119her own in their heart of hearts. Even in the face of these facts, when Robin and John asked herparents to attend their wedding, they refused, and even went so far as to suggest that they wouldnot speak to her, essentially disowning her, should she choose to go through with the wedding.Twelve years have passed since Robin and John wed, and though the parents now communicatewith the couple, there are family members who remain non-plussed by the marriage. Recently,at a family gathering, one of Robin’s mother’s brothers approached John and asked him why hehad opted to marry Robin when he had so many White women to choose from. Robin’s uncleclearly intimated that he considered White women more attractive than East Indian women(perhaps if he thought he could get away with it - he would have chosen to marry a white womanas opposed to the East Indian who was chosen for him). In characteristic form, John ratherpointedly remarked - Did you ever consider the possibility that I love Robin?Perhaps John hit the nail on the head and realized what seems to elude so many people in ourworld. Love - hailed as a primary ingredient for success in marriage in the Western world, isso often disregarded as legitimately existing between men and women of different ethnicbackgrounds. It is as though all those people who are readily prepared to concede its existencebetween couples of the same ethnic background want to undermine or ignore its power in a unionbetween couples of mixed ethnicity. Perhaps it is because love is regarded as a naturalphenomenon, and so many continue to see a relationship between ethnically diverse individualsas unnatural.If this be true - what could be taken as the unnatural elements? This issue is best addressedby considering, first, what it is that seems natural about ethnically similar relations.Obviously people contend that there is an innate compatibility between individuals of the sameethnicity. There is a belief that from a cultural standpoint, having been raised in the sametradition, with the same religious philosophy and comparable values, that individuals are more120apt to interract more comfortably and favorably. Many also believe that this compatibilitytranscends the relationship between the pair and permeates the relationship that developsbetween the families of the wedded couple, and by extension to the society of which they are apart and that this is of immeasureable value. There is also a sense of comfort that manycontinueto experience when they see people together who resemble one another physically, that isreplaced by discomfort when there is a striking contrast in appearance of the pair.All of these issues confronted me, not only as a student considering this topic from anacademic perspective, but even more so, during the course of my adult life. Beyond the questionsthat I thought about as a result of others experiences, I began to have even more when the timecame for me to deal with my own choices. It dawned upon me as I began reflecting upon theexperiences of family members who had been interracially married that in the course of mylife, there have been upwards of 1 50 couples that I have personally met whose relationshipswere interracial. In meeting these individuals, I was privy to the types of things that they dealtwith that were purely a result of the fact that they had chosen to be with someone of a differentbackground. Because I increasingly found myself dating men who were not of my own ethnicbackground, I anticipated having to deal with the issues I had seen others confront, and realize inretrospect that the way in which I either dealt with or avoided the potential conflicts was shapedby my perceptions of others’ experiences.During my life I have had one serious involvement with a man of my own background, and itwas clear to me almost at the outset that it would never result in marriage. After thatexperience, with the exception of a handful of casual dates, I was never involved with anotherEast Indian man. Regardless of the intensity of the involvements that I had over the comingyears, excepting my most recent relationship, I always found it easier to keep my involvementsa secret from my parents and family members. Except for close friends and others I knew who121were interracially involved, most people I knew did not meet themen in my life. I expected therejection, hostility and at worst feared the ostracism that somany others had been subjected to.While I attempted to avoid these unpalatable consequences byconcealing my partner’sidentity from my family, I was incapable of minimizing negativereactions encountered inpublic. Over the last ten years I have had strangers swear atme in public because of my choices,been the target of racist invective, had my sanity questioned,exposed to looks that could kiil,and been made to feel like an outsider by ‘his’ family in many instances.When I eventually mustered the courage to inform my family about arelationship that I washaving with someone not of my own “race”, many of my expectations,particularly about mymother’s attitude materialized. Not only did she experience profounddifficulty in understandingmy choice, but made it patently clear that I had another choice to make:between her and myrelationship. Ultimately, my mother and I were embroiled in emotionally drainingargumentsover the issue, and that left me feeling as though she intended to makegood on the threat todisown me if I persisted in defying her wishes. Other family members’ reactionsranged fromtotal support to reluctant acceptance.The strange thing is that while I expected my family to be disappointed in my choice,I neverreally gave the possibility that ‘his’ family might not be thrilled withhis choice much of athought. Hence, I was surprised to discover that my partner’s family was activelytrying todissuade him from further involvement with me. In my mind, maybe becauseI had alwaysknown how the East Indian families reacted to this kind of news, and believed that thestrongadherence to tradition and custom accounted for their attitudes, I maintained a naivebelief thatpeople from other backgrounds were more liberal, tolerant or accepting of the unconventionalchoices that their children might make.As I became more open about discussing my relationships and experiences with friendsand122acquaintances, what registered with most people as I recounted tales from my past was shock ordisbelief. Many found it difficult to fathom that people behaved as I described, while othersthought either that I tended toward exaggeration in my accounts, or that they were fabricated byan over-active imagination.It was the inability of many, who themselves had never been in a position to know first handthat what I told them wasn’t that unusual that provided the final impetus to pursue the currentresearch. Not only would research on the subject of interracial marriages and relationshipsprovide the public with a glimpse into private lives, but would potentially reveal theunderlying sources of the various reactions that individuals have both to the relationshipsthemselves, as well as the reports of interracial couples experiences. With all this in mind, Iembarked on my research, bolstered by the belief that it was a topic that elicited at timestremendous interest, at others a raised eyebrow which I took as a reflection of at least curiosityabout the subject.I have been counselled at various times to work toward a quantitative analysis of incidencesof interracial marriages, and the attitudes toward them. I however felt discouraged bysuggestions that I pursue my research from that perspective. I became interested in sociologybecause I viewed it as a discipline in which the humanities are uniquely combined. In an effort tounderstand social behaviour and systems, sociology has not depended on placing the burden ofexplanation solely upon individuals as psychology does, nor does it rely exclusively on moretheoretical or speculative approaches that philosophy often engages in. Instead, it provides anopportunity to engage in both while allowing the process to be grounded in both the parts and thewhole, that is society itself, and the basis upon which society’s existence depends: the individualhuman beings.It was and remains my contention that in dealing with something as personal as marriage and123relationships, a humanistic perspective was the appropriate frameworkfor analysis. Not onlywould a qualitative analysis do more justice to those whosetime and experiences wereinstrumental to the research, but at thesame time adhere to the ethnographic tradition insociology.Like most, this project and ultimately this thesis have undergone a seriesof changes as itpassed through the stages of conception to fruition. Some of thosechanges were the result ofpractical limitations that were realized inthe course of engaging in the research process,others were a natural by-product of allowing the resultsto take their own shape rather thantrying to shape them into what I expected my researchto reveal, and finally others were borneout of the struggle to overcome obstaclesthat I incurred while trying to take my findings andexplain them in theoretical contexts that were sociologically sound.It is my sincere hope that Ihave not violated the spirit of the project or theprinciples of sociological inquiry, but moreimportantly, hope that my efforts have remained true to the objectiveof enhancing ourunderstanding of interracial relationships, from an interpersonaland social perspective.124APPENDIX TWOASSOCIATION OF MULTIETHNIC AMERICANSP.O. BOX 191726SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94110-1726(510) 523-AMEAPROJECT RACE1425 MARKET BOULEVARD, SUITE 1 320-E6ROSWELL, GA 30076(404) 640-7100INTERRACIAL FAMILY CIRCLEP.O. BOX 53290WASHINGTON, D.C. 20009(703) 719-9887BRANCH (BIRACIAL AND NATURAL CHILDRENP.O. BOX 50051LIGHTHOUSE POINT, FL. 33074(305) 781-6798TALLAHASSEE MULTIRACIAL CONNECTION2001 HOLMES STREETTALLAHASSEE, FL. 32310(904) 576-6374HARMONYC/O JANET S. LIFSHIN4317 WILLOW BROOK CIRCLEW. PALM BEACH, FL. 33417(407) 478-8380INTERRACIAL FAMILY ALLIANCEP.O. BOX 20290ATLANTA, GA 30325(404) 696-8113INTERRACIAL FAMILY ALLIANCEP.O. BOX 9117AUGUSTA, GA 30906(404) 793-8547BRICK BY BRICK MINISTRY1716 LIMESTONE STREETLEXINGTON, KY 40503INTERRACIAL MINISTRIES OF AMERICA1255805 AQUA COURTCHARLOTTE, NC 28215LIFEP.O. BOX 14123RALEIGH, NC 27620(919)839-1713THE RAINBOW GROUPATrN: SARAH HOYLE3049 EAST FIFTH AVENUEKNOXVILLE, TN(615) 524-1726INTERRACIAL FAMILY AND SOCIAL ALLIANCE OF DALLAS/FORT WORTHP.O. BOX 512COLLEYVILLE, TX 76034(214) 559-6929MIXERSP.O. BOX 36424DALLAS, TX 75235(214) 902-0060INTERRACIAL FAMILY ALLIANCEP.O. BOX 15428HOUSTON, TX 77222(713) 454-5018INTERRACIAL CONNECTIONP.O. BOX 77004NORFOLK, VA 23509(804) 622-9260MULTIRACIAL FAMILY GROUP NETWORK OF CULTURE SHARING INC.P.O. BOX 554 (NEWTON BRANCH)BOSTON, MA 02258(617) 332-6241STUDENTS OF MIXED HERITAGEC/C JONATHAN KELLEYSU 2303 WILLIAMS COLLEGEWILLIAMSTOWN, MA 01267(413) 597-6141GIFT OF LAKEWOOD NEW JERSEYP.O. BOX 811LAKEWOOD, NJ 08701(908) 364-8136126INTERRACIAL CLUB OF BUFFALOP.O. BOX 400 (AMHERST BRANCH)BUFFALO, NY 14226(716) 875-6958MULTIRACIAL AMERICANS OF NEW YORKC/O LYNN JORDANZECKENDORF TOWERS111 E. 14TH STREET, SUITE 219NEW YORK, NY 10003COUNCIL ON INTERRACIAL BOOKS FOR CHILDREN1841 BROADWAYNEW YORK, NY 10023(212) 757-5339RAINBOW CIRCLEBROADFIELD ASSOCIATESP.O. BOX 242CHESTER, PA 19016INTERRACIAL FAMILIES, INC.5450 FRIENDSHIP AVENUEPITTSBURGH, PA 15232(412) 362-0221SOME FAMILIES1798 UNIONVILLE-LENAPE ROADWEST CHESTER, PA 19382(215) 793-1533BIRACIAL FAMILY NETWORKP.O. BOX 489CHICAGO, IL 60653-489(312) 288-3644FAMILIES FOR INTERRACIAL AWARENESSNORTHERN CHICAGO AREALINDA THOMAS(708) 869-7117TAPESTRYC/O SHERRY BLASS40 FRANCIS AVENUECRYSTAL LAKE, IL 60014INTERRACIAL FAMILY NETWORKP.O. BOX 5380127EVANSTON, IL 60204-5830CHILD INTERNATIONAL4121 CRESTWOODNORTHBROOK, IL 60062ADOPTIVE PARENTS TOGETHERLINDA RUSSO427 N. WHEATON AVENUEWHEATON, IL 60187NORTH SHORE RACE UNITY TASK FORCE536 SHERIDAN ROADWILMETTE, IL 60091MULTIRACIAL GROUP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ANN ARBORKAREN DOWNING(313) 764-4479MULTIRACIAL FAMILY AND YOUTH NETWORKC/O JUANITA SUMMERSP.O. BOX 7521BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI 48302(313) 335-7629MID-MICHIGAN MULTIRACIAL NETWORKLANSING, MIHARRY MOOREHEAD(517) 374-2876SOCIETY FOR INTERRACIAL FAMILIESP.O. BOX 4942TROY, MI 48099(313) 643-6652BRIDGESC/O NICOLE BRADYMACALESTER COLLEGE1600 GRAND AVENUEST. PAUL, MN 55105(612) 699-1165INTERRACIAL FAMILY UNITY NETWORKDIANA PAGE1015 DULLE STREETJEFFERSON CITY, MO 65109-5276MULTIRACIAL FAMILY CIRCLE4801 MAIN128P.O. BOX 32414KANSAS CITY, MO 64111CLEVELAND AREA INTERRACIAL FAMILI ESC/O MICHAEL AND JOYLYN SHWEGLARP.O. BOX 19258CLEVELAND, OH 44119(216) 481-8244MULTIRACIAL FAMILIES OF CENTRAL OHIOC/O ANGELA McDONALD2777 CASTLEWOOD ROADCOLUMBUS, OH 43209(614) 231-2871SWIRLS MINISTRYBOB AND GERRY SCHNEIDER132 E. SOUTH STREETFOSTORIA, OH 44830INTERRAICAL FAMILY ASSOCIATIONC/O MELISSA BURNSP.O. BOX 34323PARMA, OH 44134(216) 348-3500RAINBOW FAMILIES OF TOLEDONANCY SHANKS(419) 693-9259CINCINNATI MULTICULTURAL ALLIANCEP.O. BOX 17163ST. BERNARD, OH 45217(513) 791-6023INTERRACIAL FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORK2120 FORDEM AVENUEMADISON, WI 53715(608) 256-0398MULTIRACIAL ALLIANCE OF WISCONSINP.O. BOX 9122MADISON, WI 53715(608) 256-0398A PLACE FOR US(11 LOCATIONS NATIONWIDE)P.O. BOX 357GARDENA, CA 90248-7857129(213) 779-1717MULTIRACIAL AMERICANS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA12228 VENICE BOULEVARD #452LOS ANGELES, CA 90066(310) 836-1535NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE UNITY OF MIXED-RACE PEOPLEP.O. BOX 4075ORANGE, CA 92668IMAGEP.O. BOX 4432SAN DIEGO, CA 92164(619) 527-2850INTERRACIAL INTERCULTURAL PRIDE INC.P.O. BOX 191752SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94119-1752(415) 399-9111FORT COLLINS COMMUNIQUEP.O. BOX 478FORT COLLINS, CO 80522HONOR OUR NEW ETHNIC YOUTH454 WILLAMETTE AVENUE #213EUGENE, OR 97401(503) 342-3908INTERRACIAL FAMILY NETWORKP.O. BOX 12505PORTLAND, OR 97212INTERRACIAL NETWORKP.O. BOX 344AUBURN, WA 98071-0344(206) 329-5242NEW BRUNSWICK MULATTO GROUP, INCP.O. BOX 4353DIEPPE, N.B. E1A 6E9INTERRACIAL COUPLES, SINGLES AND FAMILIES UNITE4406 N. 54TH STREETFORT SMITH, AR 72904130APPENDIX THREEFILMS:JUNGLE FEVER WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPMISSISSIPI MASALA: EAST INDIAN FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPTHE CRYING GAME: BLACK TRANSVESTITE! WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPGUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNEI? WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPLOVE FIELD: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPMISTRESS: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPMADE IN AMERICA: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPHEAT AND DUST: WHITE FEMALE/EAST INDIAN MALE RELATIONSHIPTHE WORLD OF SUSIE WONG: ASIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPA PATCH OF BLUE: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPWHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP HISPANIC FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPBODYGUARE BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPOTHELLO: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPTHE KING AND fr WHITE FEMALE/ASIAN MALE RELATIONSHIPAMERICAN FLYERS: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPTELEVISION SHOWS:A DIFFERENT WORLr1 BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPALL MY CHILDREN: BLACK FEMALE! WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP, WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALERELATIONSHIP, ASIAN FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPGENERATIONS: WHITE FEMALE! BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPONE LIFE TO LIVE: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP, WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALERELATIONSHIPAS THE WORLD TURNS: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP131THE JEFFERSONS: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPKNOTS LANDING: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPFRESH PRINCE OF BEL-All? BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPNIGHT COURT: ASIAN FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPL.A. LAW. WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPSTREET LEGAL: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPSTAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE: ASIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPSHALOM, SAALAM: EAST INDIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPQUEEW BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPGENERAL HOSPITAL: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIPA FIGHT FOR JENNY: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIPBOOKS:JASMINE: EAST INDIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)FIRST WIVES CLUB WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)QUEENIE: EAST INDIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP (NON-FICTION)YOUR BLUES AIN’T LIKE MINE: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALERELATIONSHIP (FICTION)INVISIBLE MAN: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)SULA: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)WAITING TO EXHALE: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)MAMA: BLACK FEMALE/WHITE MALE RELATIONSHIP (FICTION)A MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE: WHITE FEMALE/BLACK MALE RELATIONSHIP(NON-FICTION)DAYS AND NIGHTS IN CALCU7TA: EAST INDIAN FEMALE/WHITE MALERELATIONSHIP (NONFICTION)


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Boardman 2 0
Guangzhou 2 0
Vilvoorde 1 0
Chennai 1 0

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