The Dream in Fulfillment: What My Interracial Marriage Has Taught Me About Racial Harmony in the U.S.

I tend to be reflective on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because it is Dr. King and other leaders like him who pioneered the changes that make my marriage possible. As many of you know, I am white and my husband is black. I’m often asked about our experience with interracial marriage. Did your family accept him? Did his family accept you? Is it hard being married to someone of a different race? Do people discriminate against you?

Dr. King’s dream hasn’t been completely fulfilled, but it is being fulfilled. My experience in an interracial marriage leaves me hopeful about our progress.

As I reflect on the answers to these questions, I realize that I’ve learned a number of things about racial harmony in the U.S. from my marriage.

1. Most Americans approve of interracial marriage.

My husband and I have never experienced discrimination. No one has spoken to us using racial slurs. We’ve never felt like people were shocked to see us together. People don’t stare at us. I’m sure people notice we have different skin colors—it’s hard to miss—but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

If what I’m saying is true, then you might wonder why you’ve seen news stories about interracial couples and families that have been the recipients of hateful words and actions (see examples here and here). Unfortunately, these things do happen. As you’ve seen, they often make the news. Consider why these incidents are newsworthy. It’s because they don’t happen all the time. If every interracial couple was discriminated against on a daily basis and had racial slurs hurled at them several times each day, then these experiences would be normal—they wouldn’t be salient enough to make the news. (If you’ve experienced these types of hateful words or actions, please know that I’m not trying to belittle your experience. The incidents shouldn’t happen at all.)

In case you’re curious, statistics verify that most Americans approve of interracial marriage. According to Gallup, 87% of Americans approve of black-white marriages.

2. News organizations are sensationalist, featuring stories that draw in readers or viewers.

Nearly every time I hear about race on the news it’s in the context of conflict, crime, discrimination, or some other hateful action. There’s a reason for this. News agencies need viewers and readers. Sensational accounts typically garner more attention than stories about strangers who help each other and neighbors who get along, which are the types of experiences we have every day.

As I noted above, negative incidents do happen sometimes. However, the news makes it seem like they happen constantly. In reality, individuals of various races get along every day, but this is a common occurrence so it’s not newsworthy.

3. Emphasizing “racial” differences can create them.

When my husband and I go to the grocery store, he grabs a “buggy” but I grab a “cart.” His family consumes sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving, but my family has never once served it. He is very careful to address others with “sir” and “ma’am,” but this comes less naturally to me.

These differences aren’t due to the fact that he’s black and I’m white. They are due to his experience being raised in the South (mainly in North Florida) and my experience being raised in Colorado.

A lot of the purported differences between racial groups are rooted in socioeconomic status, developed environment, or religion (i.e., they’re cultural differences, not racial differences). For example, if you compare a black individual from an urban location with a white individual from a suburban location, you’ll likely see some significant differences. Many of these differences will not be due to race, but to the developed environment. You’d see the same differences when comparing an urban black to a suburban black or an urban white to a suburban white.

When we attribute these differences to race, we start assuming that people are one way or another simply due to their skin color. We begin generalizing and stereotyping. One thing leads to another and cultural differences that can be handled calmly and objectively become difficult to handle because they’re racially charged.

4. Political correctness can inhibit authentic conversation and connection.

When we’re worried that we may step on someone’s toes, we often hold back and our conversations remain superficial. How can we really connect when we hold back out of fear of being labeled as racist or biased if we say something that’s not politically correct?

In my home, we’re far from politically correct. We’re respectful, but we’re candid. Subsequently, we have open, honest dialogue about race and other important topics.

I’m not suggesting that we should say offensive things just because we can. In fact, we should be speaking only in ways that build others up (Ephesians 4:29). However, I am suggesting that growing thicker skin might help us in forming authentic, deep connections with others.

Though my outlook is bright, I’m not pretending that racism doesn’t exist in the U.S. It certainly does and I acknowledge and denounce it. This is why I used the term “in fulfillment” in the title of this post. Dr. King’s dream hasn’t been completely fulfilled, but it is being fulfilled. I’m hopeful given our nation’s progress.

What things have you seen that show Dr. King’s dream is in fulfillment?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Works for Me Wednesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Growing Home, Titus 2sday, Tuesday Talk, and Living Proverbs 31.

Comments

  1. Charlotte Thiel says:

    When my daughter first told me she was interested, seriously interested in a black man I confess (we are white) I was unprepared foe it, and I had to pray a LOT to accept it. Part of my concern was the way they would be treated as an inter-racial couple. I took extra care to notice other like couples as I went about my life and got more comfortable with it, and God worked on my heart.

    It was easier for me when I focused on the love she felt for him, and the character we were beginning to see from him. I had prayed for a mate for her since she was about 7 and I had to realize that God may have prepared THIS man to be the one. It surprised me to hear him say things I would have expected to hear her say. That is stil weird to me a little,

    The next step was to get comfortable acknowledging it with him there–talking about it, or at least not being afraid if I said something about it that it would be offensive. That was a big elephant in the room–I guess I was afraid of being politcally correct or of what he would think if I pointed it out that they were a little different. She and I were able to talk about it but I really didn’t want to say the wrong thing to him.

    I am glad to hear your success story. I think things are pretty good in our litte micro-society of family now. I love my daughter and her husband and I will be “mom” enough to say I will love any grandchildren thet give me.

    • It is great to hear your story!
      A big part of Dr. King’s dream was that his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It sounds like you see your son-in-law’s character and accept him because of it.

  2. Really enjoyed reading your post. As I’m married to a black man too. He’s African. From Botswana and I’m a Mexican. Thanks for sharing your heart. Found you through Titus 2sday Link-Up Party, Would love to connect on Fb, Twitter etc 🙂 blessings

    • Hi Angie,
      Great to hear from you! I hope your experience has been as positive as mine. 🙂
      I don’t have a Twitter account, but I’ll look you up on Facebook.

  3. Wonderful post. I saw it shared on a friend’s wall but also saw it today in a link-up! As a white woman, I see a lot of racism still going on, on both sides! I wish I could underline that part – on both sides. I do love that quote by Dr. King about not judging by the color of their skin but the content of their character. That should be the goal whether you are looking at a white person, black person, or any other “race” or “ethnicity.” I think the laws seem to be in place, but our attitudes have a long way to go.

    • I agree, Nicole, racist attitudes and actions can come from people of any color.
      Likewise, people with great character come in all colors!

  4. Norma VanMatre says:

    You make me proud! I am ever amazed with discrimination. I was taught from a tender age that “I am no better than anyone, but I am just a good as everyone.” Thankfully the color of skin was never in that statement. Thank you for the post!!

  5. What a great way to approach this subject and what a balanced view you give. I enjoyed reading your experiences and thoughts. I’m from Colorado myself and now live in North Carolina, and I have to say that my heart is saddened (and sometimes angered) by subtle racism I see and hear even though they are not the thoughts/actions of the majority. God bless you and your husband and may God continue to give you wisdom to pass along to the rest of us.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Gail.
      There does seem to be some difference in people’s opinions based on geographic location. As you say, though, the majority of people are tolerant and kind, so this is still encouraging.

  6. Shannon, I was so blessed to read your story. I’m white, but grew up in the south in the 60s. I can still remember when my elementary school was integrated. It’s sad that while there were those LOUD voices, I know my family always believed we are all the same … different cultures and backgrounds yes, but the same as human beings! I love seeing all the interracial couples today and all the different sizes, shapes and colors in our church community and our community at large (I live in the Southwest now). I think it’s the way heaven will look! I visited from Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesday. I read the post you linked and had to read this one, as well. I’m so glad I found you. Blessings!

    • Hi Donna,
      Thanks for sharing about your experience. It’s such a blessing to be surrounded by so many diverse people!

  7. This was a great read. I’m not in an interracial marriage, but we are a transracial adoptive family. I was very nervous at first because of those sensationalist news stories, but everything you’ve said has been true for us as well. I know my situation is a little different, but I have people of all races come up to me quite often to make a point of how beautiful my family is. And I am so grateful for it. But I think I will still always be a little guarded in my heart because I do know their is discrimination out there. But all I can do is pray for it to end and be ready to say the right thing is anyone every says anything to me about it. Thanks for sharing this with us for Tuesday Talk! -Jessica, Sweet Little Ones

    • Hi Jessica,
      We know a number of families that are multiracial due to adoption and they have had experiences similar to yours. People often have questions, but they don’t respond negatively. I think this is so promising!

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