A white woman marries a black man or vice versa. Not so long ago that would have been a very big deal. As recently as 1990, 63% of nonblack American adults were opposed to the idea of a close relative marrying a black person, according to one survey. It was just 50 years ago that the Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional.
But America’s opinions about interracial relationships have changed, for the most part. The popular TV dating show The Bachelorette recently featured an African- American woman choosing among a racially diverse group of suitors. And the number of Americans who say that the increasing rate of interracial marriage is good for our society dwarfs the number who say it’s bad by a ratio of more than four to one, according to a recent poll by Pew Research.
There are many reasons why interracial relationships are becoming more common, but don’t overlook the influence of the Internet. Online dating has revolutionized how we meet people. We meet people online who we otherwise would not have met.
Still, it would be naïve to imagine that increasing societal acceptance of interracial relationships means interracial couples won’t face any opposition. They might never be directly confronted by prejudice, but they should expect some sidelong glances and whispers in their wake. According to the Pew poll, 9% of Americans still consider interracial relationships bad for society, which means that one person in 11 is against the couple. Actually, it’s probably worse than that—polls that ask about “interracial relationships” tend to gloss over the fact that some interracial pairings or perceived interracial pairings are more accepted than others. Asian/white and Hispanic/non-Hispanic white couples tend to raise fewer eyebrows than black/white matchups, Bachelorette or no.
What should you do if you wish to show support to friends entering interracial relationships? Don’t fall over yourself insisting that you’re OK with the pairing. The couple is probably tired of being viewed in racial terms. Instead, show your support by asking your friend questions about the partner that are not related to his or her race…and expressing your happiness that this friend has found someone who makes him/her happy—just as you would with a same-race partner.