Nearly 43 percent of respondents said that interracial marriages are good for society. Meanwhile, more than 15 percent of new marriages in 2010 were between mixed race couples. This number has doubled since the 1980s. The results of the study reflect a generational shift, showing that our society is gradually becoming more “mixed.” Interestingly though, the responses of African-Americans showed a stark gender disparity.
Only 9 percent of black women embraced marrying outside of their race in 2010, while 24 percent of black men did. A much higher percentage of Asian women marry outside their race, but the disparity with their Asian male counterparts is not as large. In terms of white and Hispanics there is no significant difference between men and women.
The face that a small number of black women choose to marry outside of their race isn’t exactly a new discovery, but it might be indicative of a willingness not only of black men to look elsewhere for a partner, but for other races to seek out black men to wed. On the other hand, black women, for a variety of reasons, are not marrying other races and perhaps are less sought after by other races as potential spouses.
It’s possible that this is the result of traditional Europeanized standards of beauty where black women are not considered as desirable as other races of women.
When Psychology Today attempted to “prove” a thesis about the inherent and objective unattractiveness of black women there was a huge outcry and the writer, Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, was subsequently fired.
The thesis and the study were not scientific and the findings were racist, but subjectively speaking the gender gap between black men and women marrying outside of their races may have ties to a racial beauty bias.
White women are often viewed as a status symbol, signifying either a level of economic success, or gratifying embrace of what was once taboo or even criminal for black men. Furthermore, black males may not have the same level of criticism directed at them for choosing a mate outside of their race since it has become so common.
Black women who have achieved a certain level of professional success may also be choosing not to marry black men. Another interesting detail in the Pew study is that women of other races who choose white spouses have a higher median income. This could be due to a rejection of their own race, or a result of who they come into contact with once they work their way through graduate and professional schools and finally reach the boardroom.
Some of the study’s findings may simply be the result of access; who black women come into contact with, in professional environments which aren’t racially diverse. Black women may not be deliberate in their choice to settle down with men of another race but those are the men who are available to them.
The key is that since the 1980s, interracial marriage has lost much of the stigma it once had. Most Americans have at least one family member married to someone of another race and multiracial children are literally shifting the demographics of the country.
Progress on the issue of race of course takes time and change is much slower in the areas of the country where there is less diversity and where interracial marriage is less frequent. But the shift towards interracial marriage, for all races, including black men and women, will shape the next generation and create a completely new dynamic surrounding issues of race. Perhaps if the same study were conducted 30 years from now the interracial marriage gender gap among black men and women will be closed as well.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell