Love is Color Blind
American attitudes indicate increasing acceptance of interracial dating, especially among Millennials.
Most Americans are open-minded about interracial dating, with younger generations increasingly more tolerant than their predecessors, says a Pew Research report. People of any generation also grow more accepting of interracial relationships as they age, the survey indicated. Overall, says the report, since 1987, the percentage of Americans approving of interracial dating has increased dramatically, from nearly half (48 percent) to a vast majority (83 percent).
Does tolerance of interracial relationships indicate progress across all race-related issues?
“We’re not done yet but things have certainly progressed since 25 years ago when my husband and I started dating,” she says.
Older generations—the same people who may have given interracial couples grief years ago—have also measured as more tolerant. Why?
“We’re in this era of political correctness,” Dion says. “People may be more willing to say interracial dating doesn’t bother them even if they don’t truly feel that way. Some things were okay to speak and disapprove of ‘back in the day’ but now these attitudes will get you labeled a racist.”
“I think the explanation for why all cohorts are showing greater acceptance of interracial dating is more complicated than it seems,” says Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D. who teaches a course of the psychology of race and ethnicity at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Lyubansky agrees that sometimes people are not completely honest about their personal feelings on race due to potential social ramifications.
“I believe there is a strong social desirability effect,” he explains. “Because our current norms are more accepting of interracial dating, there is increasing pressure on those who are opposed to it to keep their views to themselves, even in an anonymous survey.”
Sometimes, just knowing and seeing more people date outside of their race encourages acceptance, Dion adds. “I also think some older generations are seeing interracial relationships as more common and therefore less taboo.”
Diversity speaker Clint Cora is Asian and lives in Canada. “One of the things I talk about in my presentations is changes in acceptance of interracial dating as well as media exposure for all races during different times,” he says.
“As an Asian, I've experienced the attitudes in interracial dating in particular,” he says. “I still recall in my younger days that my own parents were very much against me dating girls other than Chinese.”
Like many in the poll reflect, even his formerly strict parents have grown more tolerant with age. “As the years went by, they relaxed their stance on this as they became more exposed to interracial couples out there as well as even some of their own brothers and sisters—my aunts and uncles—marrying outside their culture,” he explains.
Despite big poll numbers, there are some people whose views never change. “Some people are slower to adapt than others, even within my own generation and perhaps some never will,” Cora says, adding that in his experience dating non-Asians, one girlfriend revealed doubts about the relationship due to their different races. “However, I have had many dates and a few relationships with women from different races since then.”
Cora says that the diversity of the local population influences attitudes as well; living in Toronto, which is highly diverse, interracial couples are a “common sighting.”
“Nobody even takes a second look. As a result, I think that increased tolerance of other types of relationships have also been observed,” he adds, citing increased social acceptance of same-sex couples.
It is difficult to compare nation to nation, Cora says, but it is easier to compare communities. “I think it depends on the diversity of each specific community,” he explains. “Toronto and New York will have more interracial acceptance than say, small farming towns in rural parts of both countries. The same goes with foreign countries as it depends on location within each country.”
Despite what seems to be greater openness towards interracial couples, Cora adds that there will still be exceptions. “There are still many ethnic communities regardless of generation which still do not seem to accept interracial relationships, at least not with someone of their own culture,” he notes.
Are Americans truly as open-minded about race as this survey indicates? As is often the case in polls, what we say and what we do may be two different things, Lyubansky cautions.
Like the case with the young woman that Cora dated, sometimes theory and action don't connect. “It is one thing to accept some ‘theoretical’ interracial couple and quite another to be open to being in such a relationship oneself,” Lyubansky explains.
Surveys also may force people to make sudden declarations about their beliefs, which they may not be prepared to accurately describe, Lyubansky, who is also managing editor at OpEd News, adds. “If we haven’t thought an issue out carefully, and many younger people haven’t had the chance to do so, we are more likely to just go with what we know to be the socially acceptable response,” he contends. “This response may not actually be indicative of personal beliefs.”
Baby Boomer Gene Myers, a Caucasian who dated women of different races when he was single, spent his formative years in ethnically and religiously diverse Southern California, which, he says “may have formed my worldview.”
“Before I was married, I dated Mexican, Asian and African-American girls, and felt no awkwardness, but again, the environment may have helped,” he says. “I never sensed nor heard any judgmental comments.”
He says that while he and his dates caught some stares, it may not have been solely due to race. “At the same time [I] overheard remarks about how attractive the girls were,” he says. “The gapers were envious, and that made me feel like a pretty lucky guy. The dating seemed normal.”
Years later, Myers notes, “My blond daughter went to the prom with a black young man, and married a Hawaiian.”
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