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Interracial Dating: The Implications of Race for Initiating a Romantic Relationship Tina M. Harris
Department of Speech Communication University of Georgia Athens, Georgia, USA

Pamela J. Kalb eisch
Department of Communication and Mass Media University of Wyoming Laramie, Wyoming, USA Currently, limited research exists that explores the socially taboo topic of interracial dating between African Americans and European Americans. Historically, African Americans and European Americans have had a highly destructive relationship of enslavement and oppression, which has resulted in a history of mistrust, according to P. H. Collins (African American Feminist Thought : Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, New York,Routledge, 1990). As a result, this relationship symbolizes the institutionalized oppression embedded in race relations despite the very intimate nature of this romantic relationship. Using the centrality of race within the context of romantic relationships, this study was designed to determine how race in uences the communicative process. Q-sort methodology was used, which required participants to determine what waiting, hinting, direct, and third-party intervention strategies they would use to initiate a date in both same-race and interracial contexts. Findings reveal that when comparing verbal strategies across both contexts and open-ended responses to likelihood or reality of dating interracially, participants were resistant to the idea of dating a person from another race. External factors such as family and society were cited as primary deterrents to involvement in an interracial romantic relationship. In general, participants in this study used more social distancing strategies for initiating interracial dating relationships than same-race dating relationships. KEYWO RDS interracial, romance, dating, race, date initiation, strategies, relationships, Q-sort methodology, interracial dating. Address correspondence to Tina M. Harris, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Speech Communication, University of Georgia, 128 Terrell Hall, Athens, GA 30602, USA. E-mail: tmharris@arches.uga.edu. Copies of the Q-sort Items, Z Scores for Same-Race and Interracial Date Initiation, Same-Race and Interracial Q Sort Types and Strategies are available from this author. T he Howard J ournal of Communications, 11 :49–64, 2000 Copyright Ó 2000 Taylor & Francis 1064-6175 /00 $12.00 1 .00

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esearch indicates that attitudes toward interracial romantic relationships are complex ; however, minimal attention has been given to motivating factors for involvement in such relationships. Public opinion polls ( Romano & Trescott, 1992) and self-reports ( Murstein, Merigihi, & Malloy, 1989) indicate that external pressures are ever present, and, consequently, relational partners are expected to dissolve these relationships for a myriad of ‘‘reasons.’’ Currently, two theories exist that articulate why most individuals might become involved in an interracial romantic relationship. Kouri and Lasswell ( 1993) used the structural theory and the racial motivation theory to better understand these motivations. The structural theory posits that demographics ( i.e., socioeconomic status, education, occupation, residence) and mutual attraction contribute to the initiation, development, and maintenance of an interracial marriage. Conversely, the racial motivation theory hypothesizes that interracial marriages occur because of racial diÚ erence, whereby at least one partner nds the racially diÚ erent other more appealing because of her or his race. In their in-depth interviews with interracial couples ( African Americans and European Americans) , Kouri and Lasswell ( 1993) found that 44 of the 46 interviewees were attracted to their partners due to similar values and interests, or overall compatibility ( structural theory) . Seven African Americans ( 1 female and 6 males) and 9 European...
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