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When I was in college, I had a Black professor who grew up in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He shared many horrifying stories about what it was like to exist during this dark period of American history, but one story stood out to me the most.
My professor said that one night he had gone on a date with a white woman he’d met at a local diner down the street from his apartment. Someone, he would soon discover, had something to say about this match. The next day, after awakening to the smell of smoke coming through the window of his third-story walkup, he went to the street to find that his car had been lit on fire. And he never saw that white woman again.
It would be a lie to say that hate crimes such as these don’t happen anymore in the U.S. Just ask the U.S. Department of Justice. Recent studies reveal, however, that overall acceptance and normalization of interracial relationships have come a long way since interracial marriage was legalized in 1967. To what extent? That’s what we’re here to figure out. Let’s check out some facts and figures.
It’s one thing to accept an idea and another thing entirely to embrace it for yourself. Are the lyrics to Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” coming to mind for anyone else?
According to recent studies, Asian Americans are doing exactly that. PEW Research Center found that 46% of cohabitating Asian Americans have a partner of a different race or ethnicity. This is a pretty hefty chunk, especially when compared with the stats of other racial groups: 12% for white cohabitors, 20% for Black, and 24% for Hispanic.
The cause of such a discrepancy is difficult to pinpoint and likely incredibly nuanced. But one thing we can know for sure: The capacity of singles to embrace relationships with a “love is love” type of approach is growing by the day — and we’re here for it!
Unless you’re a participant on the hit reality show Queer Eye, you know that most change doesn’t happen overnight — especially the lasting kind. Interracial couples are becoming increasingly normalized, but the numbers have not budged as much as we may think. In fact, research says that 88% of individuals in new marriages are partnered with someone of the same race or ethnicity. For what is likely a multitude of reasons, a majority of singles still prefer to marry within their familiar groups.
But one racial group in particular serves as an interesting outlier. Based on a study using the dating profiles of 1,200 Match users, biracial singles are more likely than any other racial group to voice openness to dating outside of racial lines. Millennial biracial singles make up a majority of this subgroup — likely a result of these participants coming from multiracial families themselves.
Findings released by the Pew Research Center — discussed under the first statistic — revealed that some ethnicities/races are more likely than other groups to enter into interracial relationships. What’s more, that same study unveils interesting insights regarding the impact of educational background on interracial preference.
According to the results, 20% of cohabiting adults with at least some college experience are living with a partner of a different race or ethnicity, compared with 14% of cohabiting couples with a high school diploma or less.
While it’s true that receiving a higher education does not guarantee anti-racist attitudes, it can be argued that attending university is an enlightening experience in itself. Not only are students exposed to a melting pot of perspectives, ideas, and cultural backgrounds the moment they step onto campus, but they’re often encouraged to engage in critical and open-minded conversations in the classroom —- race likely being one of them.
The thing about racists is that — unless they’re walking around waving a Confederate flag — they’re pretty difficult to spot. This has been a particular worry of mine in the online dating world, where the information I receive about a man is limited to a couple of meticulously selected pics and (most likely) an ironically inspirational quote by Michael Scott. This next statistic, however, does something to calm my nerves.
According to a survey conducted by OkCupid, no more than 4% of respondents answered “Yes” to the question “Is interracial marriage a bad idea?” And it was ranked among the least skipped questions on the dating platform. Although online daters could have answered the survey question dishonestly (it is the internet, after all), it’s nice to know that American attitudes surrounding race have come a long way since 1967.
Being single has its perks: No fighting for covers, no arguing over which Chinese spot to order from, and no months-long thermostat wars (Anemic girlies, where you at?). This kind of lifestyle is even better when it’s your choice. Not so much when it’s not.
According to a research study released in 2020, Black American adults are about 47% more likely to be single than any other demographic, compared with a 28% likelihood for white adults and 27% for Hispanic.
Certainly many Black singles are intentionally embracing the solo dolo life. That said, it would be irresponsible not to consider the United States’ history of racism as having a significant influence on this statistic. We’ve made strides in the right direction as it pertains to racial equality, but, evidently, underlying social, economic, and social discrepancies remain.
Next time you’re watching cable TV (what is this, 2012?!), I challenge you to pay very close attention to the commercials featuring couples or families. My guess is that you’ll spot various interracial matches: Maybe a white man with a Hispanic woman or an Asian man with an Indian man or a Black woman with a white man. There are all sorts of different pairs being represented on screen — and what a beautiful sight to (finally) see!
A particular match that I doubt you’ll find, however, is that of a white woman and a Black man. This phenomenon is something I’ve noticed over recent years, and it turns out, research has backed it up.
According to a study published in 2021, white women receive more backlash than white men for dating outside of their race — particularly when their partner is Black. In fact, white participants of the study were more likely to find these women “rebellious, stubborn, controlling, cynical, promiscuous, and/or arrogant” and even “lower in status” than white women who stayed within relationship racial lines.
This study serves to underscore the fact that more obvious, big picture racism in this country may have diminished significantly, but underlying racial misconceptions continue to impact the way we live, love, and date in the U.S.
Despite the strides made since the legalization of interracial marriage in 1967, white people remain at the top of the racial hierarchy. Knowing this, it isn’t surprising to find that 75% of interracial couples include a white partner. What is surprising, however, is that white people remain the least likely to enter into an interracial couple.
Sounds paradoxical, right? For what may appear to be an overwhelming openness from white people to venture outside of their race may not actually be so. Conversely, that statistic suggests that singles from other racial or ethnic backgrounds are more willing to date outside of their race than white people — and that they may be doing so under the pressure or subconscious desire to feel more integrated into American culture. Either way, there’s a lot to unpack here.
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: “I don’t see color.”
What perhaps started as a well-intentioned attempt to demonstrate anti-racist attitudes is now a quick and easy way to invalidate the experiences of millions of non-white Americans.
The reality is this: Color (or race) is real and influential in shaping the systems under which this nation operates. To deny this fact is irresponsible in many ways, especially (but not surprisingly) if you’re in a relationship with a non-white partner.
According to the Journal of Personality and Psychology, individuals who acknowledge the presence of institutional racism report higher relationship quality within their interracial relationship than those who deny it. They receive less pushback from the partner’s family, place higher value in the societal contributions and experiences of the non-white race, and can expect more positive relationship outcomes. Who woulda thunk it?
I can think of a lot of takeaways from these interracial dating statistics — some confusing and others more clarifying. The two biggest ones are these:
With each new interracial couple we spot on a Super Bowl commercial, a Hallmark movie, or even at the local diner down the street, we get closer to becoming the nation we can and want to be: A nation where, above all, love wins.