Growth Of Interracial Marriage
The United States has historically promoted the concept of purity, or the separation of the races. Laws were enacted to keep the races separate and to prohibit marriages between members of different races, especially between people who by virtue of marriage would not maintain the purity of racial-ethnic groups. These laws were often specifically worded to make marriages illegal between Caucasians and African Americans (Davis 1991). In 1664 Maryland enacted the first anti-miscegenation law in the United States, and by the 1700s five additional states had enacted such laws. Between 1942 and 1967, fourteen states repealed these laws through legislative action. In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (Loving v. Virginia) declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. However, due to the stigma associated with these unions, the court's decision resulted in little increase in the numbers of interracial marriages.
The number of interracial marriages has steadily grown since the 1980s and has increased rapidly in the early twenty-first century. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1990 there were 1,348,000 interracial marriages, compared to 651,000 in 1980. The growth of interracial marriages is even more pronounced when one notes that the 1960 statistics indicated only 149,000 interracial marriages. The rise in interracial marriages in the United States coincides with changes in the legal status of interracial marriages and in the changing attitudes of Americans towards individuals engaged in interracial marriages and relationships. In U.S. Census Bureau (2000) data, the number of interracial marriages rose to slightly more than 3,000,000 and comprised approximately 5.5 percent of all marriages. Some of the growth can be accounted for by declining societal prejudice towards—and less shame experienced by—people in interracial marriages. In addition, changes in the census forms encourage individuals to identify all parts of their racial composition.
The growth in interracial marriages is not occurring only in the United States. For example, the number of interracial marriages in China between Shanghainese (individuals who live in Shanghai, China) and individuals from other countries increased 67 percent from 1991 to 1992. In 1996, 3.5 percent of the marriages in Shanghai took place between Shanghainese with foreigners.
The growth in interracial marriages is not uniform. In other words, interracial marriages have become more common for some racial and ethnic groups, but not for others. In the United States it is estimated that 40.6 percent of Japanese Americans and 53.7 percent of Native Americans engage in interracial marriages. However, only 1.2 percent of black women and 3.6 percent of black males engage in interracial marriages. According to Anita Foeman and Teresa Nance (1999), these small percentages are due in part to the continued condemnation of black-white intermixing.
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