Posted on July 12, 2022

Racism Is Still a Big Problem in the US, but This Trend Offers Some Hope

John Blake, CNN, July 3, 2022

A White judge tells an interracial couple that “Almighty God” placed the races on different continents because he “did not intend for the races to mix.”

A US Senator writes a book about the dangers of interracial unions called, “Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.”

A White father is so disgusted after reading a magazine article on interracial marriage that he writes a letter to the editor saying if his daughter even thought of marrying a Black man, “I would personally kill her and then myself.”

These are soundbites from an earlier era, when most White Americans were repulsed by the idea of interracial marriage. It was a time when White judges and politicians talked openly about protecting the “purity and integrity of the white race” and the evils of “race-mixing” and miscegenation — a pejorative term for intimate relations between people of different races.

That all began to change in June of 1967 when the US Supreme Court unanimously struck down an anti-miscegenation law in the Loving v. Virginia case. The case concerned the marriage between a white man, Richard Loving, and his wife, Mildred Jeter, a woman of Black and Native American ancestry.

The Loving case did more than make interracial marriage legal nationwide — it helped spark a mini social revolution. When a Gallup poll first asked Americans about their views on marriage between Black and White people in 1958, only 4% approved. Last year, that number was 94% — an all-time high — with 93% of Whites saying they approved.

This dramatic shift represents a rare moment of racial progress that’s equally embraced by a vast majority of White and Black Americans. But it also begs a question that’s rarely, if ever, asked:

Why have Americans reached a consensus on interracial marriage when other racial issues, like affirmative action and integration, remain fiercely contested?


There was a time when interracial couples and their children had to hide in shame. Not anymore.

Advertisements today routinely depict interracial couples, straight and gay, along with their children. Biracial public figures such as filmmaker Jordan Peele, NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama are heroes to millions of Americans.

The advertisers are following demographic trends. People who identity as multiracial increased by 276% over the last decade, according to the 2020 census.

When Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in last week as the first Black female justice on the Supreme Court, she did so while standing next to her husband, who is White. His race was not even noted in the stories on her swearing-in.

So how did such an enormous shift in acceptance occur?

CNN put this question to several authors and scholars who not only study race but are biracial themselves. One of them is Lise Funderburg, author of “Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity.” Funderburg was born before the Loving decision to a Black father and White mother who married and raised her in Philadelphia.

Funderburg says the difference between attitudes about interracial marriage and other racial issues like voting rights is one word: proximity.

“You can dehumanize people when they are just abstract concepts to you,” she says. “Affirmative action, voting rights—these are issues that you can depersonalize. But you can’t depersonalize your cousin’s husband at the barbecue who asks you to pass the ketchup. It’s hard to dismiss or take a stance against love when it’s in your face.”

The importance of physical proximity in bridging racial divisions is backed up by social science. There’s a name for this dynamic. It’s called “contact theory.” This term was coined by Gordon Allport, one of the 20th century’s towering psychologists. Allport said that racial prejudice against Black people could decrease among White Americans if the two groups had interpersonal contact.

In one of his most famous studies, Allport conducted surveys of White soldiers who fought alongside Black soldiers during World War II. He discovered that in companies with both Black and White platoons, White soldiers disliked Black people far less than did White soldiers who served in segregated units.

But Allport found it was not enough for Whites and non-Whites to simply know one another. Other conditions also had to be met, such as personal interaction, equal status and both groups sharing common goals. Allport’s findings, which were replicated with civilians in varying settings, proved that hatred and racism stem from lack of contact—or physical proximity.


There could be another reason why so many White Americans now accept marriage between Black and White people: They don’t perceive it as a threat to their status or economic well-being, one scholar says.


By contrast, many White Americans believe their property values will decrease if “too many” Black people — usually more than a handful — move into their neighborhood. Whites move out so often when this happens that sociologists have a name for the phenomenon. It’s called “racial tipping.”

A similar dynamic takes place in public schools. If more than a small number of Black students enroll in a school, many White parents withdraw their children, fearing they will receive an inferior education or start making lower test scores.

These are some reasons why schools and housing remain heavily segregated in the US, despite increased racial diversity in many suburbs.