January 21, 2009

Black-White Interracial Relationships

author_janis By Janis Prince Inniss

One of the many reasons that I love staying in hotels is that I get to watch cable TV. And although I have had cable for about a year—as a side-attraction to the best telephone deal we could find--I only have the 5,000 or so basic channels. So on my recent hotel stay, I was rather excited to have access to HBO. I salivated when I saw an advertisement for comedian Chris Rock's "Kill the Messenger" special on that channel. And this treat was the impetus for getting back to the hotel by 9:30 one evening. One joke has stayed with me since then. Without giving it away, Rock tries to answer the following question: Why are more black men romantically paired with white women than black women are with white men?

It was not until the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia , that interracial marriages became legal in the U.S. There are many aspects of this clip_image002case that are striking, but in the context of this post, it is remarkable that this landmark case was of a black woman and white man. This combination of race and gender is noteworthy because, although interracial marriages are relatively rare overall, those of black women to white men are rarer still. (The most recent census data put these unions at about 7% of all U.S. marriages. Although this is a marked increase from 40 years ago, it is still a very low percentage.)

In the last 27 years, despite enormous social shifts in American society, there is nothing approaching equality in terms of the ratios of black men and women who choose white spouses. Looking at the graph below, you will see that the black female/white male pairings of today are about what they were 30 years ago for black male/white female dyads. (The blue line represents black husband/white wife). In other words, today, white men and black women marry at about the same rate that black men and white women married about three decades ago.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Table 59 and Table MS-3.

Even when we look at interracial cohabitation, black men are far more likely than black women to be living with a white partner of the opposite sex. In fact, 82% of blacks cohabiting with whites are male. Why is this so?

As I contemplate this question, I can’t help but reflect on my own experiences in the world of dating. When I attended USC—which had, and still has, a majority white student body—I felt invisible to white men—completely and totally invisible. It was like I didn’t exist to them, not as a person, let alone as a woman. Of course, there were exceptions. My professors recognized me and knew my name. And a fellow first year graduate student once gave me a lift home on his motorcycle. This time at USC was notable for me because my experience there was in great contrast to some of my experiences when I lived among large populations of blacks; from an early age, I was used to men and boys noticing and admiring me. Any feminist worth her sensible shoes will disavow whistles, but it was an odd, if not unwelcome experience for me to be so ignored. How typical or not was my experience?

If it is typical, it would begin to explain why there are fewer black female/white male romances. If men are still mostly the initiators of relationships, one explanation may be that clip_image007men—regardless of their own race—have been exposed to a similar beauty standard. And that beauty standard is white. Tall, thin, straight- haired white women is the image most of are bombarded with as being beautiful. All men seeking that image would be seeking white women. (This is not to suggest that these relationships remain at a superficial level.) Given this standard, who would be attracted to me? This is a question that I considered as a single woman in Los Angeles. I chose to wear my hair in braids, before cutting it to little more than peach fuzz. Neither of these hairstyles created a look reminiscent of “the average girl from the video” or those on magazine covers. Perhaps, these looks underscore why I was invisible to white males at USC.

Many sociologists have used social exchange theory to explain interracial marriage. Maybe this seems cold, especially in relation to romantic relationships, but this theory asks us to think about the costs and benefits of relationships. It posits that we keep relationships in which their benefits out weigh their costs. Unfortunately it does not provide an explanation for why there are more white female-black male pairs than the other way around? (Can you guess what social exchange theory has to say about the characteristics of whites and blacks that do intermarry?)


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This article is very interesting, this article proves to me that there is no longer a sense of racial class division if it is now accepted to society that interracial couples are the norm. It is very heart warming, especially since MLK day, and the Obama inauguration, that civil rights has come such a long way.

Check out this link from bustedhalo.com. Their site has a video that has an interracial couple who have been together for over 30 years. The Adamses offer some very personal insights and experiences on race, history and opportunity in the United States.

The link is here: http://www.bustedhalo.com/features/adams-family-values/

In my online Sociology class I have recently learned about ethnocentrism (looking at the world primarily from one's own culture). Growing up in a primarily white town, I'm glad to see that people are being more understanding and acceptive about interracial relationships. Your post was very informational and I'm glad you included the chart showing the rise of interracial marriages.

I got the opposite feeling while reading this article. The author is trying to point out that there is a standard of beauty that does not include women of color, and that is why the rates of White men with Black women has risen so slowly. I wonder if the portrayal of Black women on TV and music videos as either sassy, loud and trashy or promiscuous arm candy has something to do with White males perceptions of Black women. The Social Exchange Theory might explain this by saying that White men feel that they may not gain as much from a relationship with a Black Woman as they would by choosing the universally accepted symbol of beauty in a White woman.

This article has made me think more in depth about interracial couples. I like the way it points out the fact that times are changing and it is common to see blacks and whites together. I never realized though that black men are with white women more rather than the other way around. This indeed makes me wonder as to why that is. This is deffinetely proof of how our society is changing from what it used to be.

The Social Exachnge Theory might explain the way white females are looked at by both Black and White males simply because our society gives bad examples of Black females. They show them as loud and obnoxious. This could be saying to males that they will have a better relationship with a White female.

This is such an interesting question. I can't even begin to think of a reason as to why there is more black men to white women relationships vs. black women to white men relationships. The only thing I could come up with is that black women and white men have very different programmed minds.

Also, I completely agree with a comment earlier which said that society or the media gives bad examples of Black females.

I am a black colombian/mexican female with dark sking and my bf is white/mexican with white with light skin and hazel eyes. I identify myself more with the hispanic culture, yet I am very aware of the darker color of my sking.As a female who is first though to be african-american I have still never let the color of my skin dictate the man in my life. I too have noticed how much more acceptable it is for a black man, especially athlete, to be with a white woman. I do believe this has a lot to do with the way black woment are portrayed in mainstream hip hop and the media. When I first met my bf, he admits now, that all he saw was thick thighs and a big booty in some tight black shorts, but after talking to me he realized I was smart, educated, and completely comfortable in my own skin. It is my belief that there are many white men willing to date black woment, but too many black women who have been made to believe they cannot have a white man. Black women can't help there curvier physiques and thick hair but there are definetely white men out there that notice and appreciate a black woman's beauty. I'm not saying that black women should go date white men just to prove a point,but I am saying that ladies, if you want that man, you'll never know until you try!

I was raised in a white area,however my social identity has never been something i have looked to others for validity for. As a white woman i find a darker skin more attractive,i dont know what attracts me to this however it matters not. what you like is different everywhere,in my experience i find black men are less threatened by strong women reguardless of their race and this is attractive in itself.

I can't speak for all women of color, however, it has been mentioned before that perhaps a lot fo AA women are not attracted to white males. It has never made a difference to me. I do think that perhaps people in general should have a bit more of an open mind. Also, to I guess you have to take into consideration somethings are just a physical preference like the woman above mentioned. I knew a Polish guy who loved dark woman with curves...to each his own..

I agree with the above people need to be more open minded, after all as it states at the top of the page interacial marriage was only legal from 1967, which shows how slow growth is,we are not in a free thinking world like many believe we are all still affected by others laws and judgements that it takes time for change to occur and be accepted.

as rude as this sounds, I don't like interatial for the most part. stay with your colour. I am not old fashioned I was not raised with racists.

but if a white women and black man get together, and in 5 generations there great granddaughter who is white marries a white man she has full potential to pop out a black baby, this would be awkward.

also my cousin is only into black men cause they have a bigger, eh down there, most of my friends that date black men are doing if for that reason.

I believe we were separated by water for a reason, I have many different raced friends, I have quite a few black male friends but I would never date any of them. they are very nice men, but I prefer my typical white male.

also most of my black friends say the only way they will ever get money in life is if they find a loaded white women, and they laugh about it. I'm not joking or trolling, they come from the same middle class I do, but they want a girl with a loaded daddy so they get some of it too.

again I am not trying to be rude at all. these are just my experiences and my preferences.

I'm taking an online sociology class, and the chapter i'm on right now discuses family and relationships. Reading your article on interracial dating was very informative because it explained statistics and details alot more than my sociology book does. Since i live in a town where there is essentially only one race, i didnt know a whole lot about interracial relationships, and this article really cleared some things up and made me think.

Hold on, 82% of black cohabit with whites are males, but in 2008 would black marrying with whites being males still be 72% still 28% of black females marry white males from official sources I've got.

I do know alot of people who is born half white half asian which is polar opposite of this subject matter when the gender imbalance is quite profound than vice versa. When I use to go to Chinese schools, I know many students born with white father and Chinese mother which is the polar opposite of this case. When I'm in high school my math teacher is Chinese and she is also marry to a white husband. This happens to Vietnamese too, when I go to places in orange county, Goldenwest Fountain Valley-West Anaheim distrcit is full of Vietnamese, I hear white male and asian female is profound over there comparison to vice versa. Do the link attach even provide 1/2 white 1/2 asian?

i am an african american. i do believe that their are more blacks guys dating whites. i wish their could be more white boys dating black girls. for myself i see myself with a white boy. why is it a big deal that white boys date black girls?

Interracial relationships and marriages are going to continue to increase. There are many advantages of them. For one, it brings people together more than separating them. It allows children of both racial backgrounds to be born. It works toward ending racism and division between people. Think about it - if we would all intermarry, we would then become one people instead of two "groups" which are often at odds with each other. Interracial relationships are a way for all of us to bond together, not just physically, but spiritually as well.

Sometimes we cannot just consider our personal feelings but also think about what our family and relatives would think about such a relationship.

I would just like to say when are the Caucasian men gonna wake up and smell the Cappuccino Brewing? The Caucasian women already have.

All of them are traitors to their heritage....

I keep the roots strong....

Hi Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I am a white German/ Irish decent woman. My son, 16, has cajun decent in him. I have pondered on this issue endlessly! In july he announced to me that he is dating AA girl. First off, let me explain... The white herritage and geneology and atonomy are different! Our bodies are not the same as that of african american. Now I really want to address whats really going on in America.
Due to the media, our standards of beauty and wothiness are forced apon us in every comercial and entertainment programming that is out there, hence, we look for love and acceptance from anyone that is willing to give it. Oxytocin the hormone that allows us to feel "loved" is especially raised between the ages of 14 and 26. Which is and allways will be so. However, the children of today feel less than acceptable to others and seeks out companionship in anyone willing to spare a moment to give back attention, I feel it is due to the lack of unconditional love and acceptance given at home. This Hormone tricks us into thinking that it is love... not attention seeking behavior. I feel that those such as my son and my baby sister are just reaching out to be wanted, and are suseptable to believe the love as true and honorable, However, As many come to find out in the end,It is a trap. I do not and biologically cannot conclude that Whites and african americans can co-exist without severe conflict. I feel there will allways be the biological basis of power controle and will allways expect the media to brain wash its followers to believe false as fact. It allows them the controle. and it costs us everything... For ratings. Because its interesting and unfamiliar to most. Shame

I think its just a matter of time before things change-just as your graph shows. I think we'll see more black women/white male marriages over time.

Well, from a physiological perspective the reason could be the skeletal differences. The Caucasian groups tend to have wider hips/pelvis than people of African descent. This could be one of the reasons as black men live with white women they are engendered to the differences of their bodies.

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