Signals we send can reinforce gender myths
By O. Ricardo Pimentel
O. Ricardo Pimentel
The Arizona Republic
Racial lines still sharpest at the altar: Poll says whites most wary of marrying 'outside' group
July 10, 2001
Culturally speaking, my wife says tomato. I say tomate. I'm Latino. Her roots are Scots-Irish.
Through the years, our cultural differences have ranged from trifling to eye-opening. They haven't, however, impeded the relationship. They have, it has seemed to us, always enriched. It's just been no big deal.
But couples like us have always known that there is one variable over which we have little control. That is how others view us.
In a recent national survey, nearly half of Whites said it is "better" to marry within one's own group.
Others were far more accepting. Only 30 percent of Asian-Americans, 29 percent of Latinos and 21 percent of Blacks answered that way. The survey was done by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
Is it just me or does 46 percent - how the Whites answered on that question -- seem a distressingly high number for this dawn of a new century?
Nagging at me is this suspicion that who we let into our hearts says a lot about our hearts.
Now, some folks may have answered the way they did in that survey because of the think-of-the- children gambit. This, however, still amounts to a scathing vote of no confidence for race relations in this country.
The answer maybe had to do with natural desires to keep culture alive.
But I suspect others assuredly had notions of other cultures as too alien or were concerned for keeping the "purity" of lines intact.
The trend is decidedly on track toward acceptance, though. We are intermarrying and interdating in record numbers.
The Washington Post survey said that overall about one in four of the respondents said they had dated someone outside their group. But, again, minorities were more accepting than Whites, and men more than women.
More sobering, however: Non-Blacks listed Blacks as the group they would be least fine with as a family member, though Blacks were more uniformly accepting of all groups.
The most common intermarriage is between Latinos and Whites. We clearly view this as the least threatening of interunions.
Which is not to say all is always smooth sailing in these relationships.
A Latino friend once got into a beef with his non-Latina (now former) wife because he helped his father paint his house.
Her point: Why was the father bothering his son on weekends?
I share a similar view of family affairs as my Latino friend. This, I suspect, has cultural roots.
Others I've talked to who are in cross-cultural relationships have spoken of such things as a more heightened sense of duty to family than their partner and differing views of traditional roles in and outside the home.
I've talked to Latinas who say they wouldn't marry a Latino no matter what. (Guys, we have terrible reps. Women, it's mostly untrue or changing. Honest.) And I've talked to Latinos who say they will marry no one but Latinas.
My wife's father was from New England; her mother is from the South. Our 16-year-old daughter identifies herself as Latina, still talks of cultural search but lives mostly comfortably in tandem cultures.
Of course, differences and confusion can occur in any relationship. A Presbyterian likely has to adjust when marrying a Unitarian, a Polish-American with a Greek-American and any person marrying any other.
The difference is that these unions are viewed from the outside through neutral or approving lenses.
By one measure, the number of Whites responding to that particular question is good news. After all, it's been a "mere" 34 years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws banning interracial marriage. In case you missed it, that was sarcasm.
It's just so confounding that differences that prove largely inconsequential inside a marriage should still get negative reaction outside of it.
Copyright 2001 The Arizona Republic. Used with permission. Permission does not imply endorsement.