Color Blind Love

Youth and Their Relationships: Crossing the Racial Divides

Posted Oct 11, 2010

The previous entries on this blog cannot help but lead one to the conclusion that the long reign of the white male as the ostensible apex of male beauty is slowly coming to an end. And though there will be pockets of resistance to this gradual societal change, it is inevitable.

Modern dating habits typify this change. Interracial dating is now at its highest level ever in the United States. We’ve come a long way since 1967 when Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested in Virginia for violating its interracial marriage restrictions; the resulting Supreme Court decision ended all race-based legal restrictions to marriage in the United States. Consider that currently more than 6% of marriages are interracial (in 1970, it was less than 1%). Also, polls find that 95% of 18- to 29-year-olds approve of blacks and whites dating, and almost 60% of that age group said they have dated someone of a different race. While there are some who currently fare less well in interracial dating (Asian men and Black women are less likely to be chosen as prospective dating partners by those of other races on Internet dating sites), few doubt that the amount of interracial dating will continue to increase.

I spoke to Dugan Romano, one of the country’s experts on intercultural marriages. Her book Intercultural Marriages: Promises and Pitfalls is now a classic. When she stated her research she postulated that there were several prevalent reasons people tended to be attracted to those who were markedly different from themselves. One group (those she called rebels) engages in intercultural dating as a protest against their own culture and traditions.  Another group – the romantics – crosses boundaries for adventure and excitement. The third group, compensators, holds a strong belief that only individuals from a specific culture are the perfect match for their own desires and needs. For example, many non-Asian men seek Asian woman because of their assumed passivity, and White women (and gay White men) seek out Black males for their ostensible sexual indefatigability.

It is a fourth group however that is most applicable to our current discussion. Romano wrote that internationals – those who live outside of their countries of origin for much of their lives – are attracted to “others” simply because they are more familiar and comfortable with differences. It has been twenty years since Romano created these categories, and she now believes we have all become more international in our perspectives, particularly young people.

According to Romano:

What I see is a major change in the worldview of couples meeting and marrying today from that of the couples I interviewed 20 years ago. I see that many of these changes are reflected in freer and more independent ways in which they conduct their romantic and sexual relationships right across the board, from West to East, North to South. 

Obviously today young people are much more global.  Even those who never leave home (today in the minority) are exposed to different ways of thinking, believing and behaving due to exposure to “others” not only through their universities and their workplaces, which was the case in the past, but due to the fact that the outside world has come into their homes. The old authorities (parents, teachers, religious ministers) are giving way to the authority of the Internet. I believe the youth culture today is being formed by the Web. And the Web is a great leveler.

Every time they turn on their browsers, young people are bombarded with different visions and exposed to diverse values, beliefs and practices (through blogs, videos, Facebook, chat rooms, etc). Their innate assumptions that theirs’ is the one, only, best or right way of seeing, doing and believing are being challenged on a daily basis. The “no-holds barred,” “nothing is sacred,” doubting and challenging atmosphere of the Internet breaks down the cultural divide and influences the worldview of most if not all young people in the US today. There are fewer certainties for young people today, more cynicism, more ambiguity.

Mix and Match marriages and relationships are producing cross-cultural identities that are being defined as they go along. Young people today are interpreting the old social and sexual mores of their parental, social, national, religious cultures in their own ways. Today, I see couples making up their own minds regarding whom they want to date, who they will marry, when they marry and with what criteria they will live their lives.

Romano’s beliefs accord with others I have interviewed for this blog series: As we become more familiar and comfortable with differences (much of this arising from the media and the Web) we inexorably become more willing to cross those romantic and sexual boundaries that separated past generations.