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March 25, 2011

Mixed Race Marriages and Our Attitudes

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/mixed_race_marriages_and_our_attitudes_20110325/

Even as we face serious world issues competing for our attention, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times featured this headline … “Bachelor casting draws fire.”

I’m no fan of reality television, but it is ubiquitous among today’s offerings.  I’ve seen snippets of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and as best as I can tell, the show is about a harem of young women competing for the attention of one guy … the aforementioned “Bachelor.”

The focus of the article was a lack of diversity on the ABC show.

Apparently, there has never been a non-white contestant in the featured role in any of the twenty one seasons since “The Bachelor” has been on … something that’s angered some folks.

Shawn Ryan is the creator of two successful television shows, “The Shield” and “The Chicago Code.”  He says the lack of a minority “Bachelor” is an example of “straight-up racism.”  Further, he says “They just don’t think America will watch a black bachelor or root for mixed-race marriage.”

But before anybody recruits the NAACP to this cause, arguing for diversity in the context of a loosely-scripted reality show that, for my money, comes awfully close to pimping is stretching the boundaries of what constitutes “civil rights.”

I don’t know much about the executives who oversee production on “The Bachelor.”  Ryan may be right.  These executives may be wallowing in their own prejudices and timid views about America’s acceptance of interracial love, because one thing is clear –

most Americans have gotten over their anxiety about this issue long ago

.

Other forms of popular culture have embraced these relationships. 

The most recent example was the hugely popular sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” featuring Charlie Sheen, the bizarrely self-destructive actor, that featured a story-line revolving around Sheen’s next-door neighbor and his teen-age daughter.  The very muscular and intimidating father was played by Michael Clark Duncan.  You might remember him from the film “The Green Mile.”

Duncan’s daughter has begun to display an interest in Sheen’s nephew, something that was, apparently, mutual.  The fact that Duncan and his daughter were black, and Sheen’s nephew was obviously not, was something left un-explored by the show’s writers.  The race of these kids in the midst of puppy-love simply wasn’t an issue.

Okay, you may think, the show is set in the bucolic beach community of Malibu – a haven for wealthy, hedonistic types.  Liberal attitudes about “race-mixing” may dominate in Malibu, California, but what about Hattiesburg, Mississippi?  Yes, that Mississippi.

A recent front-page story in The New York Times featured married couples from different racial backgrounds who were living happily in a state where only forty five years ago their marriages would have been illegal.  Forget legality, forty five years ago

their lives would have been in jeopardy

.

As it turns out, today’s Mississippi has one of the nation’s most rapidly-expanding multiracial populations – up 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to new data from the census Bureau.

And it’s not just Mississippi.  North Carolina’s “mixed-race” population doubled.  In Georgia, it expanded by more than 80 percent – and by nearly as much in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota the multiracial population has increased by about 70 percent.

What’s the take-away from all this?  It’s about an increase in the numbers of Americans who routinely cross the imaginary color-line for love and marriage in places that aren’t the usual suspects.

One man in the Times’ story is Mississippi resident Marvin King.  He’s married to a white woman and says simply “racial attitudes are changing.”

America is changing.  Some – like me – argue that it has already changed, but the people most invested in racial identity politics have not, or more pointedly, cannot acknowledge the changes for fear of putting the final stake through their tattered relevancy.

There are obviously Americans of all skin colors who resent so-called “race-mixing.”  But what is clear is that they are the diminishing minority – remnants of an older generation.  Despite claims that some Americans aren’t prepared to accept steamy interracial activity on prime-time television, or anywhere else for that matter, in practice they’ve been proven wrong by the increasing numbers of multi-racial children in our society.

In fact, “interracial” couples barely merit a glance these days … to do otherwise is “so 1960s.”  I should know.  I was part of an “interracial” marriage for more than 20 years.  Our skin colors were hardly the most interesting thing about our relationship.

Beyond discussions of “mixed-race” couples, there is a far more serious issue for us all to consider.

Nearly all social scientists reject the view that “racial differences” have any objective or scientific foundation.  In other words, a “white” person is no different biologically from a “black” person.  But if “race” is scientifically meaningless, why do we cling to this concept politically?

I think we understand the motives of strident race advocates and hustlers.  For them “race” is something to exploit for political or personal advantage.

As for the rest of us who have no real vested interest in the concept, an explanation for our curiosity about race is that we humans are visual animals. So we notice each other’s skin color.

But, other than curiosity, this interest still doesn’t answer the basic question – do skin color and “race” matter in any fundamental way?

Here’s the thing … the genetic difference between so-called races is minute.  On average there’s .2 percent difference in genetic material between any two randomly chosen people … on earth!

Think about that the next time you hear some race huckster claiming they represent the interests of their people.

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