It has happened again: A black man dies at the hands of white police officers, this time in Atlanta. Like clockwork, crowds gather, angry voices fill the air, mingling with the smoke of arson-lit fires. It’s another made-for-media performance of the nation’s race ritual, one that hardens hearts and betrays the dream of a colorblind society that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held so dear. An altogether different rite is playing out across America, though. And over time, it cannot but extinguish the hatred: interracial and interethnic marriage.
Hidden behind the inflamed headlines, a steady process of racial reconciliation has been underway for decades, driven by men and women with the foresight to focus their affections on characteristics more essential than skin-deep color. Birds of a feather may flock together, the old-time proverb observes, but human beings aren’t birds.
The rise of interracial couples in the United States is documented in numerous surveys conducted by both government and private entities. The Pew Research Center survey published in 2017 reported that the proportion of intermarriage, defined as newlyweds with a spouse of a different race or ethnicity had risen from 3% in 1967 — the year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled interracial marriage to be legal throughout the nation — to 17% in 2015. If the trend line were to hold, nearly half of U.S. marriages would unite differing ethnicities by the next century.
Online dating apps may be accelerating the tendency. A Stanford University study in 2017 found three in 10 couples who met online were interracial. Apparently, the World Wide Web makes for worldwide weddings.
The survey also found that 10% of white women and 12% of white men were intermarriage newlyweds. Among blacks, 12% women were likely to intermarry, while 24% of men were married to a woman of a different race or ethnicity. This last statistic is a departure from conventional perception.
The millions of Americans — black, white, Hispanic and Asian — who have taken to the streets in protest over the inexcusable death of George Floyd have marched to the narrative that black men have been relegated to an underclass and pinned there by a systemically racist society backed by a merciless police force. The current media portrayal on America’s TV screens of the disaffected men of color raging against a deadly culture is more stereotype than fact. Beyond the scope of the cameras, black men and their non-discriminatory marriage tendencies are setting the pace for blunting the cultural impact of race.
The steady surge of mixed marriages is gradually altering the complexion of households across the nation. U.S. Census data shows that between 2000 and 2016, 11 states and the District of Columbia experienced at least a 3.3% increase in the number of interracial and interethnic married-couple households. States containing the cities frequently considered the center of the melting pot, like New York, California and Illinois, were laggards, though. Leading the trend are Middle-Atlantic and Western states, including Hawaii, the District and the location of President Trump’s first post-coronavirus campaign rally, Oklahoma.
Unsurprisingly, the share of multiracial and multiethnic babies born has also soared during the same period. Amounting to 5% of U.S. births in 1980, the proportion reached 14 percent in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center.
George Floyd’s death three weeks ago in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks’ Friday night in Atlanta — both during altercations with white police officers — are individual tragedies that have fueled nationwide outcries of racism. Consequently, there is only one reaction that is allowed to echo through the streets: Black lives matter.
Americans are united in their longing for communities that are safe for all citizens, and defenders of erroneous, or felonious, policing are nowhere to be found. Leaders of the nation who are serious about racial harmony should step out from behind their slogans and boldly champion the only real means of achieving King’s dream: the rite of interracial and interethnic marriage.
There is no racially charged lecture, demonstration, riot or war that can better melt hearts hardened by racism than the innocent eyes of a child born from the love of an interracial couple. One look is all it takes to rediscover a simple truth that no one can reasonably deny: All lives matter.
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