It may be difficult for younger generations to fathom, but it wasn’t long ago when interracial marriage was prohibited. It wasn’t until 1967 that it became legal to marry someone outside of your race.
It took a brave couple Richard and Mildred Loving, a White man, and a Black woman to challenge the Virginia State law that deemed their marriage illegal. Their case with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU was appealed to the highest court.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that what was called “antimiscegenation” statutes were unconstitutional and this historic case struck down state laws that banned interracial marriage. It was called a “watershed moment,” in the dismantling of “Jim Crow” race laws.
In Los Angeles and other large cities, interracial couples and families aren’t such an unusual sight, but still, in many parts of the country, mixed-race couples and their children bring stares.
According to the Pew Research Center, about 17% of new marriages are now interracial couples. In San Diego County that figure is close to 30%. Many of these unions produce children that are multiracial and multicultural. Demographers predict that by 2045 non-Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority.
The 2020 census found that mixed race is the fastest growing category under racial identity.
This was the topic of a recent briefing held by Ethnic Media Services.
While it appears progress is being made for interracial and interethnic relationships, the pandemic brought much-expressed hate to rise to the surface. As a consequence, there has been a rise in hate crimes. Justin Gest, associate professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government said the rise of interracial marriage offers a counter to the increasing “separation, polarization and some of the violence that we’re seeing in our country.” He is the author of the book, Majority Minority.
Gest believes that when people intermarry, it has the strength to disarm the “politics of polarization and division… [interracial couples] don’t allow politicians and others to use fear-mongering to divide us. ” And as more people have their own family members and friends intermarrying, these relationships become normalized.
Allison Skinner – Dorkenoo, assistant professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences & Social Psychology at the University of Georgia also points to the increase of interracial couples represented in media.
Not surprisingly, California leads in the number of interracial marriages, followed by Hawaii. Skinner reports the most common interracial marriages are White and Asian and White and Latino. Only 20 % are among two nonwhite partners.
One Couples Story
Sonia and Richard Kang, are a married couple living in Los Angeles. She identifies as African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican. He is Korean American and didn’t speak English until he was school age.
They met and got married in L.A., and have four children who they are “raising intentionally” in a multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual home.
“My father is African American, and my mom is Mexican. I’m a proud military brat. And so my parents were stationed on the island of Puerto Rico, where I was born. So I have also that third culture that is part to me that I identify with”, said Sonia. “From Puerto Rico, we went to the Hawaiian island of Oahu. And so from Hawaii, to Los Angeles, where I met my husband Richard, who is Korean American. Together, we have four children that we are raising intentionally in a multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, home here in Los Angeles.” Sonia described.
There were bumps in the road however, as she was not readily accepted by Richard’s family.
“Frankly, they were not accepting and they were opposed to us even,” said Richard.
“I think it was just not the relationship but even as we got close to getting married, that’s where the opposition surfaced because you know that was almost like finality for them. And it isn’t a story that I know is not unique to us, but to me, it felt like there was no resolution at the time that it felt like it would never resolve – this was just a crossroads that we’re at.
“It felt like I would have to choose between Sonia and my parents. And of course, I chose Sonia and I married her. Eventually, my parents did come around,” said Richard, “There were definitely struggles in the beginning.”
Richard said people would tell him that grandchildren help to bring acceptance.
“My father became sick and he knew there was limited time for him, so I think that was one [factor] but it was really not until they met their grandchildren that they really opened their hearts to us.” he shared.
Children and adults note that they can experience a lack of acceptance from not just white people but from the ethnic groups they too, are part of. Those who are of mixed race are sometimes in “limbo” – they are oftentimes told they aren’t “black enough,” or “white enough,” or “Latino enough,” etc. Those from ethnic groups can also be racist against others racial groups.
Couples like Sonia and Richard have found that building self-acceptance is an added job that parents of mixed-race children have.
“I had the surname of Smith in a predominantly Latino area in school. So I always just kind of stuck out,” Sonia said. “I spoke Spanish. I think being multiracial is this whole thing where we have to prove ourselves. You have to prove your blackness and also prove you’re Latina, and what that means is different for folks,” said Sonia.
“Then fast forward, I meet Richard and we have children who are multiracial and I’m thinking, okay, how are we gonna make this better for them? Yes, the world is changing. Yes, the numbers are increasing, but they’re still going to face you know, some bumps along the road.”
Many mixed-race families seek out others like them so their children can see it as “normal,” and see other families like their own.
Sonia is president of the non-profit organization, Multicultural Families of Southern California and created a line of children’s clothing she named, “Mixed-up Clothing,” which uses the art, images, and beauty of blended cultures.
“Folks are getting it and taking the time to see that there’s beauty in diversity,” she said.