I walked around the city carrying a poster filled with pictures of interracial couples. The looks I received were all too familiar. As I tried to stop people to talk, I got it all: eye rolls, quick refusals, laughs and whispers. This is something I have experienced for years, as I have dated men from other races and have a 4-year-old son as a result.
Since the 2000 census there has been a 15 percent surge in interracial dating, according to Wilfredo Cruz, associate professor in the humanities, history and social sciences department at Columbia College Chicago.
“We are breaking barriers and are seeing more of this,” Cruz said.
Interracial marriage has only been legal since 1967. With this spike in the number of interracial couples, I wanted to know how far the country had advanced in its attitudes.
I went to train stations, sat outside buildings and carried my poster with me everywhere I went for three days trying to collect people’s thoughts and opinions on this issue. Over the course of three days, I surveyed 1,015 people who gave each couple a rating on a 5-point scale. A score of one meant the group was seen by society as least acceptable, and a score of five meant the participant thought society gave the couple top marks for acceptability.
On my poster were nine couples. Each picture had a number and their racial group labeled as follows:
1. African American male and white woman
2. White male and African American woman.
3. Asian and White
4. Asian and Black
5. Hispanic and Asian
6. White and Indian
7. African American and Indian
8. White and Hispanic
9. Arab and Asian
African American male and white woman were seen as more acceptable than a white male and a black woman. But the most controversial pair seemed to be the African American and white couples, according to participants’ comments.
“This is dangerous,” said Tabielle Matthews as she pointed to the African American and white couple’s pictures.
Matthews, a 21-year-old biracial woman, added, black women are often portrayed as sex symbols and are the most unappreciated women in America.
“No one cares about black women,” Matthews said.
Cruz said black and white couples typically involve some kind of exchange. The black man often uses the white woman for her power, or a white family will often consider the black male an exception if he has money or a promising future, he said.
“Whenever there’s an African American man with a white woman it’s because he isn’t capable of handling an African American woman,” Craig said. “The ghetto, loud and bad attitude stereotypes we have are the reason why the men are going out of their race.”
Marshelll Fenty, a 22-year-old black man, said he gets second glances every time he walks down the street with his white girlfriend. Something, he said, doesn’t bother him.
“You can’t let it get to you if you’re together for the right reasons,” Fenty said.
He explained that he has dated interracially before, but this is his first time dating a white woman.
Out of the nine couples, the Asian and white couple received all fours and fives, making them seen as the most acceptable by society.
“That’s because they both have good stereotypes that are behind them, “ Matthews said while looking at the Asian and white couple’s picture.
“When you see an Asian you assume they’re smart, so you should ask them to do your homework, or when you see a white person you automatically think money and power,” Matthews said.
Christie Kim, a 23-year-old Korean woman who is dating a white man, doesn’t experience dirty looks from passersby. She said she believes it’s because she is in a large city and people are more cognizant of interracial dating.
But Kim does encounter hateful jokes from her boyfriend’s friends.
They say he has “yellow fever” and that Asians are his fetishes. Kim said this makes her feel like a mail order bride. It also makes her feel that she is a typical Asian nerd and that her boyfriend wasn’t good enough to get a white woman.
Kim said her parents are accepting of her boyfriend. When they moved to America from Korea, they were aware of the country’s diversity and knew the chances of her dating outside her race was likely.
Asians are the ideal minority, Cruz said, listing stereotypes about education and family values. Many parents would be happy if a child brought home an Asian man or woman because they usually are hard working and will have a decent job, he said.
The Hispanic and Asian couple, receiving fours and some threes, was seen as more acceptable than the white and Hispanic pair, which got threes on the five-point scale. The black and Indian couple, who also got fours, were more accepted than the white and Indian couple. This pair had the lowest score, receiving all twos and ones.
Matthews said she believes the black and Indian and Hispanic and Asian couples are seen as more acceptable than the others that are with a white person because minorities tend to stick together.
“It’s more accepting than seeing a white person date interracially because we will question it more,” Matthews said.
A white person stepping outside her race and dating a minority often sparks a negative reaction.
Rush Shivni, a 21-year-old, comes from a traditional Indian family, who strongly believe in arranged marriages, which have been an entrenched part of the Indian culture. Shivni has found love with a white man. While her parents have strong feelings against the relationship, Shivni said she already knows she would saying ‘No’ to whomever they pick as her husband.
Shivni isn’t the only one who has defended her relationship to her parents.
Kathleen, 49, and Miles Lee, 47, a black and white couple, are still going strong after 23 years of marriage. They said over the years they‘ve seen a change in attitudes from when they first married. Kathleen said her parents strongly disliked the idea of her being with someone of color. To get away from that environment, after a few months of dating, Kathleen moved in with Miles to get away from the drama she was experiencing at home.
Eventually, her parents grew to love Miles, she said.
Miles said he started interracially dating in college because he found black women difficult. In college, when he had no money, black women wanted nothing to do with him. However, now that he’s educated and has a decent salary, those same women are asking for his attention, he said. When he started dating white women, Miles said, there was less nonsense.
While Miles didn’t stray, Cruz said, when it’s time to take the relationship to the next level and think about marriage, people go back to their own race. Interracial dating is something you do in college, when you’re young and want to experiment.
“It’s trendy, a novelty, the forbidden fruit, you do it to shock your friends and to say that you did it,” Cruz said.