The general views about intermarriages between different races have changed in the last five decades going by the number of couples that are married from different races. This is a new trend that is fuelled by popular cultural beliefs that interracial marriages are based purely on love. People from different races are also finding more platforms to interact and thus increase chances of interracial marriages. This is unlike in the past when segregation based on race was rife and the first casualty of this segregation was interracial marriages. However, this is in contrast to the traditional beliefs that argued that interracial marriages are an escape route for couples who do not want to participate in the preservation and continuation of their cultural values and practices.
Traditional and Popular Culture Beliefs on Interracial Marriages
The ability of human beings to intermarry in spite of their racial and cultural differences is an interesting area for sociologists given that the same phenomenon is not exhibited in species of animals. Civilization and general development have increased the chances of a person from one racial group intermarrying with another one from a completely different race. To this end, various races have established their own systems of beliefs about interracial marriages which could be divided into traditional and popular cultural beliefs.
Understanding how these beliefs shape and influence the perceptions of people who want to marry is important in determining whether the marriage is based on love or is used as an escape route from values, cultures, or practices or even to embrace the same aspects from a different culture. In this paper, I compare and contrast the marriages between the black and the white on the basis of their differences in worldview about the aim of marriage and how cultural values, practices, and beliefs contribute in determining whom to marry. Moreover, I explore the notion that interracial marriages are based on the need to escape from ones' self as perceived in the traditional belief systems or that such marriages are based on love as perceived in the popular cultural beliefs.
In many traditional beliefs and especially among the black who trace their origin in Africa marriage was seen to be more than a love relationship as it espoused the continuation of certain cultures and norms. To the white, interracial marriages were considered illegal though the white slave owners would occasionally sire children with black women but not accept legal marriages. Though interracial marriages are thought to be based on love in the view of popular culture, this is not true given the long history of segregation and seclusion of people who are married from a different race. Both white and black communities, until recently, did not approve the marriage between them as it was viewed as detrimental to the continuation of cultural values and practices that formed the basis of their respective societies. As described in the film Jungle Fever, interracial marriages could easily attract the recriminations and racial animosity from the respective communities whenever.
Interracial Marriages as an Escape Route
The traditional belief on interracial marriages is that people who marry from a different race are merely trying to escape from the responsibility of acting as vessels to continue the values and practices as defined by their race. Many indigenous races have distinct cultural values that are passed down to the next generation through marriages. It is therefore believed that a person who marries from a different race introduces practices and values that are in conformity with the traditionally held views about marriage. In black communities, marriage is not complete when there are no children to act as agents through which culture will be passed to the next generation. Yet, intermarriages will not guarantee that children who are born out of such marriages will be willing to carry on with the traditional practices and values. They do not fully fit in any of their parents' respective cultures because they are viewed as cross-breed of the two races and therefore are more likely to develop their own culture that is different from their parents'.
While traditional beliefs regard interracial marriages as an escape from the responsibility of carrying on the values of a particular race, popular cultures view it as an expression of borderless love. Interracial marriages are thought of as an expression of human love that overrides the obstacles that are put in place by the custodians of traditional culture. This is the kind of love on which two people from different races decide to marry despite the outward view that comes with interracial relationships. This is the view that undercuts legal structures that were put in place by traditional view that illegalized the marriage between the white and black in the United States. It is until the Loving case which led to the Supreme Court acknowledgment of the retrogressive traditional beliefs about interracial marriages. It led to the total knockdown of all laws that prohibited intermarriages between the white and the black in 1967.
Despite the fact that interracial marriages are more acceptable today than they were two decades ago as viewed through the popular culture beliefs, it is arguably tilted towards the race that is considered superior to the other. For instance, intermarriage between a white man and a black woman is more agreeable and approved than that of a black man and a white woman. In essence, the popular cultural belief on interracial marriage has not yet managed to entirely remove the obstacles that were created by the traditional belief on interracial marriages. As such, the society finds it more normal for a white man to marry a black woman than it is the other way round.
The need to escape from cultural obligations notwithstanding, interracial marriages like any other form of contemporary marriages faces challenges as revealed by a large number of people who are opting not to marry. Furthermore, the emergence of marriages between people of the same sex has also impacted on the institution of marriage in a manner that reflects the societal change of view about marriage. The traditional and popular cultural beliefs about interracial marriages establish a basis on which people who want to enter into such marriages can evaluate their reasons for the same and are able to sustain their relationships. However, love seems to be a logical reason for entering into any form of marriage, whether interracial or otherwise since it provides the couple with an opportunity to have a relationship that is not attached to any other factor apart from love. The need to escape from cultural values or even to sustain a particular form of culture does not form a formidable base for starting the volatile and complex institution like marriage. The need to have an interracial marriage acceptance that is not based on any other factor other than love cannot be overemphasized at a time when the institution of marriage is under threat of extinction.
In conclusion, modern interracial marriages are based on the need to develop emotionally rather than that to perpetuate a particular cultural perspective or even on love. With the increased interactions between people from different cultures, it can be difficult to single out the reason why more people from different races are choosing to intermarry. In some races, interracial marriages are being encouraged as a tool that can help fight animosity between the races. This means that it is no longer thought to fuel animosity as was the case five decades ago. It is now generally believed that interracial marriages foster coexistence between warring races and helps in fighting any differences that may exist between the races. At a time when statistics show an increase in the interracial marriages between the black and the white in the United States since legalization in 1967, many people from the two races are opting not to marry at all. The reason for this is not traditional or popular cultural beliefs, but rather because new obstacles like expensive divorces are forcing people not to marry.