Monday, January 19, 2009

Post No. 74: Our National Discomfort with Miscegenation

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The exchange of comments related to this issue should be interesting, should we receive any comments at all.

We chose to use the word "miscegenation," rather than some more commonly used descriptive language, realizing that the subject is one which makes people uncomfortable.

We wanted our readers to at least get past the title.

The Institute is no stranger to controversy, and obviously does not avoid the discussion of sensitive issues, as evidenced by the pillorying that we took recently, for merely suggesting that there was a biological component to heterosexual infidelity.

Moving along, today is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday. All this morning, we've listened to people from all walks of life talk about how far we've come in the area of race relations.

At least we've heard from those who think that it has been a positive change. (It is far more difficult to gauge the sentiments of those who deplore this transformation. Quite frankly, there might be some benefit associated with hearing directly from them, and being able to clearly identify them. It might aid in the discussion.)

Tomorrow, the first African-American President of this nation will be sworn into office. Some would say that it is indeed fortunate that he has an African-American spouse, and two similarly ethnically situated children. We should note that it has not gone unnoticed that the President-Elect is, himself, the product of miscegenation.

Just a few minutes ago, we saw a young Asian boy in a scene interacting with a young Asian girl on the ABC Family Channel. Because we do not see Asians on television with much frequency here in the U.S., it caught our attention.

We then started flipping through the channels for other instances of boy-girl, male-female interaction, that might be perceived as romantic or something else potentially more problematic in nature.

As we continued to surf, every single time, the couples essentially had the same ethnic background.

Some years ago, O.J. Simpson and Elizabeth Montgomery (the "blonde" of Bewitched fame) were paired in a made-for-television crime drama. The complaints to the sponsors might best be described as "intense."

Share with us the name of any regularly aired television show which has an interracial couple prominently featured.

We observe lots of innuendo and flirting; but rarely do we see them paired up. When was the last time that you saw a commercial for any product, where a couple, ostensibly engaged in an intimate relationship, consisted of people from different races. (It ain't "commercial" as Bobby Womack used to say.)

We're simply not comfortable with that.


This is not to mention how family members, friends, church members, business associates, and schoolmates treat others within their circle, who "stray" from the herd.

We all probably know some instances of mixing in our neighborhoods. However, we find it interesting that such images are rarely projected through our media vehicles, with the exception of "immoral pieces" disseminated by those referred to as the "out of the mainstream, degenerate liberals" in Hollywood.

So as we celebrate Dr. King's contribution to this nation, and hand over the reins of power to young Barack Obama, let's contemplate the work that remains to be done, should we feel that getting beyond this issue has an upside.

As Mikhail Gorbachev, former Premier of the U.S.S.R. once said, some things take time and must evolve gradually.

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense


  1. While I agree that the US as a whole is still biased against multi-racial couples, I believe that this bias is fading. A few decades ago such couples were almost completely unheard of and subject to extreme discrimination and were often ostracized socially even by their family and friends.

    Today such couples, while not completely embraced, face reactions that are significantly less negative. In a few more generations I suspect that this bias will not only fade, but that mono-racial couples may well become the minority, particularly as the percentage of our population that identifies itself as multi-racial continues to grow.

  2. Thanks Robert. We agree with you that with time, our nation's attitude will probably change. However, we believe that the change will come about for more pragmatic, functional reasons, as opposed to people consciously and emotionally embracing the change.

    We previously wrote a piece entitled, "Why Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Purpose." []

    We believe that men and women have historically paired themselves together for very pragmatic reasons. If we had a nuclear holocaust, and only two people were left on the earth, we would want not two men, nor two women, but rather a man and a woman. Why? Because each one has different skills, strengths, and brains. By combining the resources of two dramatically different creatures, the number of survival resource combinations is exponentially increased beyond those flowing from the combination of two people of the same sex.

    It is our suspicion that as life becomes more complex on the earth, men and women will once again probably have to work more as team members in a collaborative fashion, and become less concerned about the personal issues and concerns, including race and physical appearance, about which we appear to be so concerned today.

    Thanks for weighing in on this delicate topic.

  3. We kept pressing you folks yesterday regarding the spending of $150 million for the inauguration, trying to get someone to express something that is obviously worth millions, if not billions, in terms of intangible value.

    On C-Span right now is the coverage of some event (probably not live but held earlier today), where Obama and his spouse are walking amongst a large group of people, presumably in a convention or events hall.

    He asked that people remain in their seats, and neither request autographs nor photographs, because it would impede his ability to get around to everyone and shake their hands. He has on a microphone allowing us to hear his conversations with everyone.

    As he approached a table of what we assume were high school cheerleaders, they went crazy, and started jumping up and down. They apparently informed him that they had put together a cheer for him, and he allowed them to perform it.

    They were sooooo excited, and the emotion was palpable. Then he and Michelle hugged the group of girls.

    That's why the inauguration should be conducted. To provide the citizenry a feeling that they have a stake in this whole enterprise, and to gain a sense that he is concerned about them. The participants in the audience will become ambassadors of good will for Team Obama. That a pretty good buy for $150 million, as opposed to paying some high priced PR firm.

  4. face it bro, hollywood is out of step, mainsteam and all wrong, it is as the individual thinks, right wrong or indifferent, what you feel is what you feel (black white yellow or green we are all human, of the same breed)

  5. You are correct that there are no featured interracial couples on any of the mainstream TV lineups. When that happens, you will find that it is already common in everyday life. TV lags behind society, it does not lead it. The WB network does, however, cross that barrier regularly.

    I do not think we should embrace that change consciously or emotionally it. I think we should, and will, have it come about because people stop seeing themselves as this, or that, or the other. When we stop looking at people's skin color, when we stop looking at people's ethnic backgrounds as meaning something different than having blue eyes rather than brown or blond hair rather than black then we might start seeing inter-racial couples as just another couple.

    How do we get there? Not through emphasizing it.

    I was amused by your post nuclear holocaust scenario. The primary reason for the only two people left on earth being a male and a female would have nothing whatsoever to do with skill sets or "diversity" and everything to do with re-population. Two males or two females would definitely be the last two humans to ever walk the earth.

  6. I think education and socio economic levels of any specific area have a greatest influence on how interacial couples are regarded and how quickly changes in thinking occur.

    But as society-we’ve taken our first step but we have miles to go.

  7. My goodness where have you been? That whole interracial couple thing as problematic is so yesterday. Methinks it may be more of a generational thing than even a regional thing. Sure, more couples of the same backgrounds end up with one another but I don't think it is planned.

    OK so I'm a low brow that watches w-a-y too much television. You asked for examples and her are some pretty popular ones.

    Cristana Yang (Sandra Oh) and Preston Burke (Isiah Washington) on Grey's Anatomy
    On Grey's Anatomy, the race difference between the lovers isn't talked about but other differences have been highlighted. Sandra Oh's character is messy; Isaiah Washington's character is tidy. She's Jewish; he's not; he's spiritual; she's not.

    Bernard and Rose on LOST
    Sweetest older married couple I've ever seen portrayed on television, very much in love. Rose is African American Bernard is Caucasian

    Darnell (crabmam) and Joy on My Name is Earl
    Darnell African American and in the witness protection program and he is smart ( I hate his messy hair) Joy is Caucasian trailer trash but sexy and isn't so much stupid as ignorant with decidedly low morals. Plots don't revolve around there races.

    Grace of Grace and Will dated a wildly successful and sophisticated character played by Gregory Hines.

    Ross was in love with Charlie on Friends and in case you didn't watch the show he was Caucasian she was not.

    Lee (Apollo) Adama and Anastasia Dualla were married on Battlestar Galactica. Two GORGEOUS people.

    And if you ever watched Six Feet Under the was a biracial gay couple who were central characters. Keith Charles and David Fisher. David was an uber conservative undertaker, Keith was an African American cop. The issue there wasn't race, it was that David didn't want to com out of the closet.

  8. Neo: After considering your comment, we definitely understand how those outside of Los Angeles and New York feel that Hollywood / The Entertainment World is out of step with the majority of the citizens in America, and definitely not mainstream. Individuals living in those states, including those in the entertainment industry, would be the first to admit that their states are not representative samples of America.

    On the other hand, many in the entertainment BUSINESS would argue that they provide exactly what the media consumers request or desire. After all, it's arguably more about business and less about art, in that if the consumers don't buy the media product, they won't last very long, and the sponsors and other financial backers will pull the plug. Consequently, so the argument goes, the entertainment industry is relatively cautious, particularly in connection with free channel product. That's why you rarely see interracial couples on the traditional networks.

  9. Douglas: We would not necesarily say that there are no interracial couples featured on any of the mainstream televison shows; however, we submit that they are relatively rare.

    We also believe that there is a difference between the free and traditional channels, and those only available only through cable or satelitte.

    We're not sure that television lags behind society in all instances. In many instances, we suspect that it pushes the envelope. We see kids having sophisticated, intense, emotional, interpersonal relationships at 12 and 13 on many shows. (On Will & Grace, having already made the leap to giving two gay males top billing, pairing Grace with the now deceased African- American dancer, Gregory Hines, was not a quantum leap.)

    With respect to the nuclear holocaust scenario, if one were in the position to choose the remaining two, and propagation was viewed as a desirable goal, then the chooser might select one man and one woman. However, we suspect that if that decision was made by the people on the ground, the primary reason for the pairing would, in our opinion, be survival.

    "Doing the nasty," would in our opinion, suddenly take on a secondary, if not tertiary, status.

  10. Vikki, we agree with you that educational, socio-economic, and geographic factors are prime determinants. Under the geographic factor, we would also add two sub-factors: the number of different cultures existing in the area, and the density of the population per unit distance.

    We recall seeing a study some years ago to the effect that interracial marriages are in far greater abundance in the large, dense, urban centers of our nation, and that once one traveled outside those areas, the incidence of interracial marriage decreased dramatically.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone recall the theoretical underpinnings which led many of our states, primarily in the South, to make miscegenation illegal? We'd be interested in examining the legislative history and papers surrounding the promulgation of those laws. It would provide us with better insight into the thinking of the lawmakers.

  11. Well you visited my blog so I returned the favor...I must post to this one tho, because I have been in a interracial relationship for a long time, I being bi racial white and native, married a black man. All tho my color is more white then brown, I still am the "off" color.

    As far as outsiders looking in, we have not had much problems. I have had some encounters from black womyn commenting how we (im assuming white) are always taking their men. I have looked past their comments. My family didnt look at my husband funny, nor treat him any different, His family has learned that I am not going anywhere and are more acceptable of me as well. As far as tv goes, I think that it society is still stuck in the June Cleaver days...

  12. We love you June. It's "so yesterday," eh? As the product of a Russian / Japanese Father, and a Persian / Brazilian Mother, and based on his experiences having grown up in Biloxi, Mississippi, we suspect that the Logisitician would beg to differ.

    You must be watching alot of HBO and Showtime shows.

    We're just being silly. You have appropriately presented some examples of interracial couples in the media, but they are few and far between. Additionally, we believe that in each instance, if you contacted the business department associated with the studios which generated each of those products, they'd tell you that there was some tension in the room, and that there was a lengthy discussion about how the advertisers would respond.

    You've been quite good at identifying shows with interracial couples. We hereby challenge to identify a commercial for any product with an interracial couple.

    Thanks as always.

  13. Thanks much Babee for visiting us, and sharing your experiences. It good to know that the problems which you and your husband experienced, as a result of being an interracial couple, have been few in number.

    You raised the issue of female members of the African-American community expressing their concern about those outside of the community "taking their men." That is most definitely another issue which we considered raising in our post, but chose not to do so in the interest of brevity. Indeed, there are internal racial issues of this sort, including family member concerns about members marrying "outsiders."

    One must keep in mind that television is about selling advertising, and emulating June Cleaver is akin to operating in safe mode.

    Thanks. Visit us often. We'd appreciate it.

  14. You have, though you may not know it, challenged me with that reply. the reason that they are rare on TV is because they are rare in society. "Rare" is, by definition, a relative term. We are ~300 million people. Of which, there may be 50 million formal couples (marriages) and another 50 million informal couples. Of these, I had no idea how many are interracial so I tried looking it up. Here are the census bureau statistics: Interracial Marriage

    Percentage wise, very rare. BTW, I would suggest you read through that Wikipedia article, very interesting.

    You may, however, live in a neighborhood where the percentage is much higher. I do not. Sebring is very "old school" and interracial couples are extremely rare. Possible because of the median age characteristic.

    But you also reminded me of something. When I was in the Navy (late 60s) and returned home to south Florida on leave, I saw a lot of interracial couples in bars and restaurants. When I left for the Navy only a few years prior, there were close to none. I also noted that there seemed to be a higher percentage than I had seen in the Los Angeles area and that is something I did not expect. Was it true or was it my perception based upon my own biases about area and cultures?

    Two more things...

    June - Thank you for pointing out those couples. That many of us were unaware of them may mean we are becoming less focused on the issue.

    Log - I disagree completely with your nuclear holocaust premise. Human survival would be more important. We have a biological imperative that would take precedence over immediate survival. I am sure there is a survey, somewhere, where the question is asked:

    If you were the last man (or woman) on earth and could choose one other person to also survive, who would it be?

    I would bet a winning lottery ticket that the answer would be heavily in favor of a member of the opposite sex.

  15. At this moment, as we type, C-Span Book TV is re-airing a panel presentation conducted yesterday at Howard University, as part of a forum on issues affecting African-Americans in American society. This particular panel discussed gender issues. Rarely will you find a panel consisting of women with such divergent perspectives, discuss gender issues. It is a very good program.

  16. Thanks Douglas. Good. Each and every one of us should be challenged on a daily basis, either by ourselves, or by others. That's one of the purposes of our blog. Once again, we're not necessarily taking a position, and definitely not drawing a line in the sand.

    We don't care where one ends up, as long as you take the journey. Staring at the intellectual starting line doesn't work for us.

    We took a look at the wikipedia article concerning interracial marriages, and found it interesting in that the US has the dubioius distinction of being paired with Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany with respect to the promulgation of anti-miscegenation laws.

    On the last two humans left on earth issue, the woman alone would have the choice as to whether there would be copulation. We'd rather put our energies on immediate survival, rather than trying to woo and court her with the prospect that we might have sex. First things first.

  17. Douglas: I'd be curious to see how the media reports on the mis-communication on the oath tomorrow. While we admit that it first appeared that the President stumbled, the subsequent response of Chief Justice Roberts seemed to suggest that he might have misread his portion. President Obama's response then suggested that he was expecting something else in the form and substance from Roberts, and it did not flow as he anticipated. To the credit of both, they got beyond that and moved on.

    Just the view of an old trial lawyer, accustomed to "flubbing the dub" during presentations to the court and jury, and seeing others, including the most storied trial lawyers, do the same with some degree of frequency.

  18. Oy Vay !
    For far more information than I have you should try Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity by Marilyn Halter. But before that here are a few examples. Keep in mind I try as hard as I can to ignore commercials of any sort unless they are very amusing, and I’ll grant you that commercials lag behind the general population and even tv programs. Seems people get all hinky about it and I don’t mean just Caucasian people. African American woman don’t like seeing “their” men with women of other colors. Asian Americans are often upset seeing “their” women with men of other colors. Can you see my eyes rolling from where you are?
    Mastercard- Japanese girl and her Caucasian fiancé introducing the inlaws

    ring: $9,000
    flight from Tokyo: $6,800
    flight from Chicago: $1,400
    Dad? Mr. Suki. Mr. Suki? Dad. Mr. Carson. Akiko. Brian. Mrs. Suki. Mrs. Carson. Dad? Brian?
    There is definitely an ad with an African-American woman walking arm-in-arm with a young, Caucasian man in a Verizon wireless ad. Then there was the Verizon "sit-com" ads featuring an interracial family
    EHarmony wasn’t showing any interracial couples in their commercial but they’ve just ordered some and here is a cool display of interracial success stories on their website
    If the BCC doesn't work on this blog just take away the brackets and the IMGs and then click to get the photo
    Ikea hasn’t been doing much advertising lately but when they were buying ad time I seem to recall they ran ads with not only an interracial couple but a gay couple as well.

  19. Thanks much June. We know that if anyone could do it, you could. Thanks as always for contributing to this lively discussion.

  20. Many professional black men, with educational backgrounds similar to Barack Obama, are married to white women. If that had been the case with Obama, do you think that it would have affected his chance of being elected?

  21. It didn't stop Thomas from getting appointed to the Supreme Court even with the "stuff" Anita Hill tried to throw on him.

    My thinking is that this like the worse and most hateful racist acts/beliefs/myths will pass away with the current 40+ year olds of both races. The young Blacks and Whites simply have neither the time for nor tolerance for the nonsense surrounding who has the darkest tan.

    As evidence it was this 40+ group who said Amen at the end of Lowery's (I refuse to call it a prayer!), and it was the young people who were, and are, embarrassed by it. BB

  22. Arguably an appointment is a different setting than an election. Additionally, we imagine that it is possible that the members of the Senate responsible for consenting to the nomination of justices (and whose votes are a matter of public record), might have a different view or position on racial issues, than the general voting public who are not as concerned about expressing their true views (and who vote in the privacy of their voting booth).

    Let us ask you this Brenda. Let's say the economy deteriorates further over the next three years, and more and more people are hurting and finding it difficult to make ends meet, will we see a different expression of racial attitudes/tolerance?

  23. The Stranger

    Someone sent this to us today. We do not know the origin of this piece, and do not claim any intellectual property rights to it. In light of some of the comments responsive to our post about interracial couples on television, we thought that you might find it interesting.

    A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Texas town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

    As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

    If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present, and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped
    talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

    Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

    Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home... Not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
    He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

    I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.

    More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you will still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
    His name?

    We just called him 'TV.'

  24. Earlier today, on Tavis Smiley’s radio talk show on PRI [], we heard a very interesting discussion about miscegenation. The guest was Peggy Pascoe, an Ethnic Studies Professor, who discussed the roots and what’s left of laws barring interracial marriage. Her book is “What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. If you got to the site above, you can actually listen to the interview.

    Loving v. Virginia was a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case which declared the Virginia state anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional. What we found most interesting during the interview was that at the time of the ruling, there were still 16 states with anti-miscegenation laws on the books, and they were eliminated fairly quickly. However, Pascoe noted that there were 7 states which had it in their state constitutions, and that it took far more time to remove those. This is further evidence that integration was forced on the American public and that there was not enough voter sentiment to legislate such a change. Consequently, the courts had to address the matter, and some would say that the courts exceeded their authority.

    We also found it interesting that the laws also barred marriage between whites and Chinese, Japanese, and later Native American Indians. At one point, it was argued that the laws were not discriminatory in that the restrictions applied to whites desiring to marry outside of their race also.

  25. On tomorrow, Wednesday, March 12, at 5:30 pm EDST, Turner Classic Movies will air a 1965 movie starrring Sidney Poitier, about an interracial "relationship."

  26. This was a very interesting discussion concerning miscegenation. Right this moment as we type this, Turner Classic Movies is showing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."


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