Couples and Marriages of a Different Race

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Couples and Marriages of a Different Race

Brian Andrew Wong

Marshall University

Author Note

This paper was an assignment in Deviance and Social Control (SOC 311) taught by Frederick Roth, Ph.D., due Monday, December 10, 2012.

Marriages with spouses of a different race are increasing (Jayson, 2012; Jordan, 2012). While friendships with people of different races are commonly accepted, the issue of friends, race, and relationships to people of a different race remain complicated (Childs, 2005, p. 59). Although such marriages are no longer prohibited by law, there still remains some social disapproval. Why are some people disapproving while others are approving of such relationships? Does childhood exposure to individuals of different races play a part? Does the degree to which race is a factor matter? Do people who associate themselves with racially diverse or accepting people face less disapproval?

I decided to explore these questions from research and interviewing friends who either are or were romantically involved with someone of another race. As a native of Washington, District of Columbia and having been adopted at the age of six months by parents of different races, I have grown up around so much diversity where people of different races are well-integrated on many levels; friendships and marriages with people of different races are quite common. Upon coming to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, I experienced some culture shock; a part of the culture shock I experienced was the lack of cultural and racial diversity in the area, especially within the student body. Most of the students on campus who are culturally/racially diverse are students who are studying abroad from different countries.

I am going to touch on history very briefly. I believe when it comes to matters of advancing social acceptance based off some sort of identity, such as race, bringing up history and the inequalities only hinders advances towards equality. Focusing on the mistakes – rather than the goals for the future – has a tendency to revert society and people to previous attitudes and behaviors and instills a victim mentality. My focus is more on the current attitudes of such marriages.

It is important to look at the legal history that made marriages to someone of a different race legally acceptable. Richard Loving married Mildred Jeter in Washington, District of Columbia in June 1958. They returned to their home in Virginia. Later that year in October, the couple was indicted by the Circuit Court of Caroline County for violating Virginia Code section 258 ban on marriage to someone of another race. In 1963, the Lovings filed a motion to vacate their sentence, that the anti-miscegenation law violated the Equal Protection and Due Processes Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. This motion to vacate was denied by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in January 1965. Soon, the Lovings appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court and the convictions were reversed. Chief Justice Warren in delivering the opinion wrote:

"The Fourteenth Amendment requires the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted to invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State" (Loving v. Virginia, 1967).

Marriages with spouses of a different race are likely to be at the receiving end of discriminatory behavior. Couples who are of a different race are also likely to lose social support from among their family and peers. Given the history of slavery in America, African American/White marriages receive social stigma (Leslie & Letiecq, 2004) (but should no longer be a reason why this stigma continues) and such social stigma is linked to the rarity of these marriages (Dunleavy, 2004)....
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