In 1967, Virginia’s miscegenation law (a law that prohibited blacks and whites to be married) ended when an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, took their case to the Supreme Court and won. This historic event paved the way for more interracial couples to have a legally binding marriage.
Since then, the number of interracial relationships has increased. In 1990, there were 1.4 million interracial couples in the United States, 213,000 being black-and-white pairings and 1.17 million being white with another race. In 1998, there were 1.35 million interracial couples in the U.S.
Yet, regardless of the census data, there has been some opposition, and some of it has stemmed from the Christian community. Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian college in Greenville, S.C., just ended a 50-year policy that banned interracial dating. Some pastors have preached from the pulpit that God forbids race mixing, justifying race separation and racist beliefs with chapter and verse.
But, despite some resistance, many interracial couples are in long-term relationships. And their happiness proves that love is colorblind. The realities of being in an interracial relationship still exist, however, and they should be explored if you date or marry outside of your ethnicity.
[HANDLING PARENTS, FAMILY AND FRIENDS]
In her article, “Mixed Messages: Getting Personal about Interracial Marriages,” Barbara Pement, an African-American woman, recalled the disapproval from her future white mother-in-law and her own mother. “Most Christians don’t subscribe to racist theory. Yet why is it that parents, relatives and friends so often respond negatively to a person’s interest in someone of another race?” she asked. “How does one account for this discrepancy between belief and practice? Often times people’s opinions change when the issue comes home. Suddenly, abstract social opinion becomes a family matter.”
Have an honest conversation with parents, family and friends about your relationship. Listen to their concerns and fears. Let your partner know about your family’s concerns and discuss how you both can ease any fears. If the relationship is getting serious, allow both families and friends to meet on a consistent basis in order to build relationships and to remove any preexisting prejudices.
[HANDLING CHURCH DISAPPROVAL]
Some churches still preach from the pulpit that race mixing is against God’s will. Some Christians believe in race separation even though the Bible does not forbid interracial relationships. They justify racist beliefs in the name of God by misinterpreting scripture like Genesis 11:1-9. Sociologist George Yancey, in his book, The Bible and Interracial Relationships, wrote that this passage, which refers to the tower of Babel, is often taken out of context. According to Yancey, God scattered the people because of language, not race. Another aspect of the Bible that some Christians use is Old Testament scripture that says Israelites are not to marry Gentiles (Deuteronomy 7:3, 1 Kings 11:2, Nehemiah 13:25). “God is not trying to avoid having an impure race, but rather an impure faith,” Yancey explained. In certain instances, God even permitted such marriages to occur. Moses married Zipporah, an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1), and Joseph married Asenath, an Egyptian woman (Genesis 41:45).
So if your church preaches racist biblical interpretations, you might want to consider speaking with church leaders or finding another church, especially if you in fact decide to marry outside of your ethnicity. It is important that you and your future spouse agree on what church you will attend together because it will impact your relationship and your children.
Find another interracial couple to act as a mentor. Their wisdom and experience will help you because they can give advice on how to deal with unwanted stares and comments, unsupportive loved ones, living in neighborhoods where you might be the only interracial couple, having and equipping biracial children, etc. Also, find local support groups in order to meet similar couples. Having friends who have been through the same things that you have will help, especially when you have issues that are specific to the relationship.
[EXPERIENCE OTHER CULTURES]
In the article, “The Color of Love: Interracial Relationships in the 21st Century,” Shane and Dwann Olsen tried to understand each other’s cultural differences. Shane attends a predominately black church with his African-American wife and biracial daughter. “I’m comfortable with it,” he said. “But, I’m not sure most Caucasians would be. It’s a big church, but they have embraced me. Dwann and Autumn are already exposed to the white side daily through work and school. When we go to church, I see that as her [Dwann’s] time to connect to the African-American community. I look at it as my turn to be a minority and see what she goes through.”
Explore a different culture and broaden your perspective. Read books about the minority or Caucasian ethnic experience in the United States and other countries. Be involved in community affairs and events in an ethnic neighborhood. Attend a predominately ethnic or white church service. Build relationships with people of other races. It will require stepping out of comfort zones and venturing into places where you may be the minority. It will also help to determine if you are strong enough to handle an interracial relationship. Being from a particular ethnic group brings its own issues to the relationship. In addition, issues about racism are usually at the forefront. Be honest with yourself and your partner. Discuss these issues, especially before marriage.
Ask God to reveal any buried racism. Barbara Pement’s mother-in-law confessed to Barbara that bigoted thoughts rose to surface when she knew her son was marrying an African-American woman. She prayed and confessed to God, and He showed her how to deal with her feelings. Often we believe that racism does not exist in our hearts, but it can be hidden. Pray together and mutually confess these feelings to each other and to God. Also, pray that God will protect your heart from any anger and bitterness towards those who oppose your relationship.
Love is colorblind. But sadly, most of society is not. Interracial dating and marriage can be a rewarding and enriching experience, as long as issues are addressed honestly with prayer, confession and communication. Once those issues are mutually worked through, any adversity will either strengthen the relationship or prove that you are not yet ready to be part of an interracial relationship.
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