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Interracial Marriage

October 23, 2009

I have been thinking about the justice of the peace in Louisiana who denied a marriage license to an interracial couple. When I first heard about this story, I thought it sounded so antiquated that it couldn’t possibly be happening today, much like this story from July of this year. The “concern for the children” excuse is so outdated, but it’s still being used as a reason to discriminate.

When I married “outside my race,” it didn’t occur to me that my nonexistent children might have identity issues because of their mixed race. Then again, I am the whitest Asian I know, so it didn’t really seem like I was going outside my race or culture to marry a caucasian man. The difference in our religion was probably the biggest differentiator that gave me pause, and besides, I thought love will conquer all. (And now, the Catholic Church seems to be raking in Episcopalians left and right, so even our religious differences have  been diminished. More on that development in a future post.) Frankly, what I envisioned were the adorable mixed-race children that I have seen come out of interracial marriages. There is a reason we like to choose mates who are genetically different from us. It makes us stronger as a species, and the offspring are damned cute. Interracial kids are some of the most beautiful kids I have seen, and I often find their beauty special and mysterious. You can still play the “he has his daddy’s eyes” game, but the curious blend of DNA gives that game new meaning. And yes, I know these thoughts probably make me racist, though I’m not sure what kind of racist they make me.

Perhaps it’s because I’m from a culturally diverse area and I have also lived in or near cities for years, but seeing interracial couples does not stop me short in the street. Children of all shades are still children, mischievous and angelic. But I do understand that it may not strike some people as “natural,” even though I heartily believe people who think this should keep these sentiments to themselves and get over it. Most couples are not interracial. Seeing two people together who are so genetically different as, say, black and white stands out. Color blind is a fallacy. You notice these things. It registers. Even if you see it all the time, you still notice it. You get used to it and you forget, and maybe it eventually becomes unremarkable. But we do not all live in diverse cities. If you live in a homogenous area, it might strike you as odd when you see people “of color” or interracial couples for the first time in the flesh. Still, we live in a country where we are hyper-aware of race, and interracial marriage has been around in America since 1967. This is not a new development, and as our world continues to shrink, it will become more common. To try to stop it now makes you look small and scared and just plain wrong.

The second reason behind the refusal was the idea that interracial marriages don’t last. I find this an even less compelling argument than the concern for the children. If two people shouldn’t get married because the marriage might not last, few people would ever marry, interracial or otherwise. It is not for the justice of the peace, priest or minister to decide such things. It is a personal decision made by the couple. There have been plenty of ill-timed and unwise marriages, but we can’t go into marriage thinking it might fail. There are plenty of long-lasting but unhappy marriages, too, and I hardly think it better to choose an unhappy marriage over a divorce.

The idea that two people who love each other shouldn’t get married because of what anyone but the two of them thinks is just plain crazy. Marriage is a contract between two people, not between the couple and the community, or the couple and the state, or the couple and their priest. That anyone who values the institution of marriage would deny couples that have made the choice to enter into such a contract with one another seems counterintuitive. Shouldn’t we encourage couples to marry if they love each other? Wouldn’t more marriages make the institution stronger? Hasn’t the number of marriages been on the decline? Hasn’t the number of divorces been increasing? It baffles me.

Fortunately, this justice of the peace has come up against harsh criticism and calls for dismissal by almost every elected official in or from that state. Sadly, Senator David Vitter still has no comment. Apparently, he values marriage fairly lowly since he disrespected his own, and is not inclined to support certain other couples in joining the ranks of married people.

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