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Love And Color Essay, Research Paper
Is love colorblind?
Just three decades ago, Thurgood Marshall was only months away from appoint-
ment to the Supreme Court when he suffered an indignity that today seems not
just outrageous but almost incomprehensible. He and his wife had found their
dream house in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., but could not lawfully
live together in that state: he was black and she was Asian. Fortunately for
the Marshalls, in January 1967 the Supreme Court struck down the
anti-interracial-marriage laws in Virginia and 18 other states. And in 1967
these laws were not mere leftover scraps from an extinct era. Two years
before, at the crest of the civil-rights revolution, a Gallup poll found
that 72 per cent of Southern whites and 42 per cent of Northern whites still
wanted to ban interracial marriage.
Let’s fast-forward to the present and another black-Asian couple: retired
Green Beret Lieutenant Colonel Eldrick Woods Sr. and his Thai-born wife,
Kultida. They are not hounded by the police — just by journalists desperate
to write more adulatory articles about how well they raised their son Tiger.
The colossal popularity of young Tiger Woods and the homage paid his parents
are remarkable evidence of white Americans’ change in attitude toward what
they formerly denounced as “miscegenation.” In fact, Tiger’s famously mixed
ancestry (besides being black and Thai, he’s also Chinese, white, and
American Indian) is not merely tolerated by golf fans. More than a few seem
to envision Tiger as a shining symbol of what America could become in a
Interracial marriage is growing steadily. From the 1960 to the 1990 Census,
white-Asian married couples increased almost tenfold, while black-white
couples quadrupled. The reasons are obvious: greater integration and the
decline of white racism. More subtly, interracial marriages are increasingly
recognized as epitomizing what our society values most in a marriage: the
tri- umph of true love over convenience and prudence.Nor is it surprising
that white-Asian marriages outnumber black-white marriages: the social
distance between whites and Asians is now far smaller than the distance
between blacks and whites. What’s fascinating, however, is that in recent
years a startling number of nonwhites — especially Asian men and black
women — have become bitterly opposed to intermarriage.
This is a painful topic to explore honestly, so nobody does. Still, it’s
important because interracial marriages are a leading indicator of what life
will be like in the even more diverse and integrated twenty-first century.
Intermarriages show that integration can churn up unexpected racial
conflicts by spotlighting enduring differences between the races.
For example, probably the most disastrous mistake Marcia Clark made in
prosecuting O. J. Simpson was to complacently allow Johnny Cochran to pack
the jury with black women. As a feminist, Mrs. Clark smugly assumed that all
female jurors would identify with Nicole Simpson. She ignored pretrial
research indicating that black women tended to see poor Nicole as The Enemy,
one of those beautiful blondes who steal successful black men from their
black first wives, and deserve whatever they get.
The heart of the problem for Asian men and black women is that intermarriage
does not treat every sex/race combination equally: on average, it has
offered black men and Asian women new opportunities for finding mates among
whites, while exposing Asian men and black women to new competition from
whites. In the 1990 Census, 72 per cent of black-white couples consisted of
a black hus- band and a white wife. In contrast, white-Asian pairs showed
the reverse: 72 per cent consisted of a white husband and an Asian wife.
Sexual relations outside of marriage are less fettered by issues of family
approval and long-term practicality, and they appear to be even more skewed.
The 1992 Sex in America study of 3,432 people, as authoritative a work as
any in a field where reliable data are scarce, found that ten times more
single white women than single white men reported that their most recent sex
partner was black.
Few whites comprehend the growing impact on minorities of these interracial
husband-wife disparities. One reason is that the effect on whites has been
balanced. Although white women hunting for husbands, for example, suffer
more competition from Asian women, they also enjoy increased access to black
men. Further, the weight of numbers dilutes the effect on whites. In 1990,
1.46 million Asian women were married, compared to only 1.26 million Asian
men. This net drain of 0.20 million white husbands into marriages to Asian
women is too small to be noticed by the 75 million white women, except in
Los Angeles and a few other cities with large Asian populations and high
rates of inter- marriage. Yet, this 0.20 million shortage of Asian wives
leaves a high propor- tion of frustrated Asian bachelors in its wake.
Black women’s resentment of intermarriage is now a staple of daytime talk
shows, hit movies like Waiting to Exhale, and magazine articles. Black
novelist Bebe Moore Campbell described her and her tablemates’ reactions
upon seeing a black actor enter a restaurant with a blonde: “In unison, we
moaned, we groaned, we rolled our eyes heavenward . . . Then we all shook
our heads as we lamented for the 10,000th time the perfidy of black men, and
cursed trespassing white women who dared to ‘take our men.’” Like most guys,
though, Asian men are reticent about admitting any frustrations in the
mating game. But anger over intermarriage is visible on Internet on-line
discussion groups for young Asians. The men, featuring an
even-greater-than-normal-for-the-Internet concentration of cranky bachelors,
accuse the women of racism for dating white guys. For example, “This
[dating] disparity is a manifestation of a silent conspiracy by the racist
white society and self-hating Asian [nasty word for "women"] to effect the
genocide of Asian Americans.” The women retort that the men are racist and
sexist for getting sore about it. All they can agree upon is that Media
Stereotypes and/or Low Self-Esteem must somehow be at fault.
LET’S review other facts about intermarriage and how they violate
conventional sociological theories.
1. You would normally expect more black women than black men to marry whites
because far more black women are in daily contact with whites. First, among
blacks aged 20-39, there are about 10 per cent more women than men alive.
Another tenth of the black men in these prime marrying years are literally
locked out of the marriage market by being locked up in jail, and maybe
twice that number are on probation or parole. So, there may be nearly 14
young black women for every 10 young black men who are alive and unentangled
with the law. Further, black women are far more prevalent than black men in
universities (by 80 per cent in grad schools), in corporate offices, and in
other places where members of the bourgeoisie, black or white, meet their
Despite these opportunities to meet white men, so many middle-class black
women have trouble landing satisfactory husbands that they have made Terry
(Waiting to Exhale) McMillan, author of novels specifically about and for
them, into a best-selling brand name. Probably the most popular romance
advice regularly offered to affluent black women of a certain age is to find
true love in the brawny arms of a younger black man. Both Miss McMillan’s
1996 best-seller How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the most celebrated of
all books by black women, Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 classic Their Eyes Were
Watch- ing God, are romance novels about well-to-do older women and somewhat
dangerous younger men. Of course, as Miss Hurston herself later learned at
age 49, when she (briefly) married a 23-year-old gym coach, that seldom
works out in real life.
2. Much more practical-sounding advice would be: Since there are so many
unmarried Asian men and black women, they should find solace for their
loneli- ness by marrying each other. Yet, when was the last time you saw an
Asian man and a black woman together? Black-man/Asian-woman couples are
still quite unusual, but Asian-man/black-woman pairings are incomparably
Similar patterns appear in other contexts:
3a. Within races: Black men tend to most ardently pursue lighter-skinned,
longer-haired black women (e.g., Spike Lee’s School Daze). Yet black women
today do not generally prefer fairer men.
3b. In other countries: In Britain, 40 per cent of black men are married to
or living with a white woman, versus only 21 per cent of black women married
to or living with a white man.
3c. In art: Madame Butterfly, a white-man/Asian-woman tragedy, has been
pack- ing them in for a century, recently under the name Miss Saigon. The
greatest black-man/white-woman story, Othello, has been an endless hit in
both Shakespeare’s and Verdi’s versions. (To update Karl Marx’s dictum:
Theater always repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as opera, and finally
as farce, as seen in that recent smash, O.J., The Moor of Brentwood.) Maybe
Shakespeare did know a thing or two about humanity: America’s leading
portrayer of Othello, James Earl Jones, has twice fallen in love with and
married the white actress playing opposite him as Desdemona.
4. The civil-rights revolution left husband-wife balances among interracial
couples more unequal. Back in 1960 white husbands were seen in 50 per cent
of black-white couples (versus only 28 per cent in 1990), and in only 62 per
cent of white-Asian couples (versus 72 per cent). Why? Discrimination,
against black men and Asian women. In the Jim Crow South black men wishing
to date white women faced pressures ranging from raised eyebrows to lynch
mobs. In contrast, the relatively high proportion of Asian-man/white-woman
couples in 1960 was a holdover caused by anti-Asian immigration laws that
had prevented women, most notably Chinese women, from joining the largely
male pioneer immigrants. As late as 1930 Chinese-Americans were 80 per cent
male. So, the limited number of Chinese men who found wives in the mid
twentieth century included a relatively high fraction marrying white women.
In other words, as legal and social discrimination have lessened, natural
inequalities have asserted themselves.
5. Keeping black men and white women apart was the main purpose of Jim Crow.
Gunnar Myrdal’s landmark 1944 study found that Southern whites generally
grasped that keeping blacks down also retarded their own economic progress,
but whites felt that was the price they had to pay to make black men less
attractive to white women. To the extent that white racism persists, it
should limit the proportion of black-man/white-woman couples.
SINCE these inequalities in interracial marriage are so contrary to conven-
tional expectations, what causes them? Academia’s and the mass media’s
preferred reaction has been to ignore husband-wife disproportions entirely.
When the subject has raised its ugly head, though, they’ve typically tossed
out arbitrary ideas to explain a single piece of the puzzle, rather than
address the entire yin and yang of black-white and white-Asian marriages.
For example, a Japanese-American poetry professor in Minnesota has written
extensively on his sexual troubles with white women. He blames the
internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Presumably, the
similarity of frustrations of Chinese-American men is just a coincidence
caused by, say, China losing the Opium War. And the problems of Vietnamese
men stem from win- ning the Vietnam War, etc. But piecemeal rationalizations
are unappealing com- pared to a theory which might explain all the evidence.
The general pattern to be explained is: blacks are more in demand as
husbands than as wives, and vice-versa for Asians. The question is, what
accounts for it?
The usual sociological explanations for who marries whom (e.g.,
availability, class, and social approval) never work simultaneously for
blacks and Asians. This isn’t surprising because these social-compatibility
factors influence the total number of black-white or white-Asian marriages
more than the hus- band-wife proportions within intermarriages.
By emphasizing how society encourages us to marry people like ourselves,
sociologists miss half the picture: by definition, heterosexual attraction
thrives on differences. Although Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering are so
compatible that they break into song about it (”Why Can’t a Woman Be More
like a Man?”), Higgins falls in love with Eliza Doolittle. Opposites
attract. And certain race/sex pairings seem to be more opposite than others.
The force driving these skewed husband-wife proportions appears to be
differences in perceived sexual attractiveness. On average, black men tend
to appear slightly more and Asian men slightly less masculine than white
men, while Asian women are typically seen as slightly more and black women
as slightly less feminine than white women.
Obviously, these are gross generalizations about the races. Nobody believes
Michael Jackson could beat up kung-fu star Jackie Chan or that comedienne
Margaret Cho is lovelier than Sports Illustrated swimsuit covergirl Tyra
Banks. But life is a game of probabilities, not of abstract Platonic
So, what makes blacks more masculine-seeming and Asians more
feminine-seeming? Media stereotypes are sometimes invoked. TV constantly
shows black men slam-dunking, while it seems the only way an Asian man can
get some coverage is to discover a cure for AIDS. Yet try channel-surfing
for minority women. You’ll see black women dancing, singing, joking, and
romancing. If, however, you even see an Asian woman, she’ll probably be
newscasting — not the most alluring of roles.
Conventional wisdom sometimes cites social conditioning as well. But while
this is not implausible for American-born blacks, who come from a somewhat
homogeneous culture, it’s insensitive to the diversity of cultures in which
Asians are raised. Contrast Koreans and Filipinos and Cambodian refugees and
fifth-generation Japanese-Americans. It’s not clear they have much in common
culturally other than that in the West their women are more in demand as
spouses than their men.
One reasonable cultural explanation for the sexual attractiveness of black
men today is the hypermasculinization of black life over the last few
decades. To cite a benign aspect of this trend, if you’ve followed the
Olympics on TV since the 1960s you’ve seen sprinters’ victory celebrations
evolve from genteel exercises in restraint into orgies of fist-pumping,
trash-talking black machismo. This showy masculinization of black behavior
may be in part a delayed reaction to the long campaign by Southern white
males to portray them- selves as “The Man” and the black man as a “boy.” But
let’s not be content to stop our analysis here. Why did Jim Crow whites try
so hard to demean black manhood? As we’ve seen, the chief reason was to
prevent black men from impregnating white women.
So, did all racist whites a century ago make keeping minorities away from
their women their highest priority? No. As noted earlier, the anti-Asian
immigration laws kept Asian women out, forcing many Asian immigrant
bachelors to look for white women (with mixed success). While white men were
certainly not crazy about this side effect, it seemed an acceptable
tradeoff, since they feared Asian immigrants more as economic than as sexual
competitors. But why did whites historically dread the masculine charms of
blacks more than those of Asians? Merely asking this question points out
that social conditioning is ultimately a superficial explanation of the
differences among peoples. Yes, society socializes individuals, but what
There are only three fundamental causes for the myriad ways groups differ.
The first is unsatisfying but no doubt important: random flukes of history.
The second, the favorite of Thomas Sowell and Jared Diamond, is differences
in geography and climate. The third is human biodiversity. Let’s look at
three physical differences between the races. 1) Asian men tend to be
shorter than white and black men. Does this matter in the mating game? One
of America’s leading hands-on researchers into this question, 7′1″,
280-pound basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, reports that in his ample
experience being tall and strong never hurt. Biological anthropologists
confirm this, finding that tal- ler tends to be better in the eyes of most
women in just about all cultures. Like most traits, height is determined by
the interaction of genetic and social factors (e.g., nutrition). For
example, the L.A. Dodgers’ flamethrowing pitcher Hideo Nomo is listed as
6′2″, an almost unheard-of height for any Japanese man fifty years ago,
owing to the near-starvation diets of the era. While the height gap between
Japanese and whites narrowed significantly after World War II, this trend
has slowed in recent years as well-fed Japanese began bumping up against
genetic limits. Furthermore, it can be rather cold comfort to a 5′7″ Asian
who is competing for dates with white and black guys averaging 5′11″ to
hear, “Your sons will grow up on average a couple of inches taller than you,
assuming, of course, that you ever meet a girl and have any kids.” In
contrast, consider a 5′1″ Asian coed. Although she’d be happy with a 5′7″
boyfriend if she were in an all-Asian school, at UCLA she finds lots of boys
temptingly much taller than that, but few are Asian.
2. This general principle — the more racial integration there is, the more
important become physical differences among the races — can also be seen
with regard to hair length. The ability to grow long hair is a useful
indicator of youth and good health. (Ask anybody on chemotherapy.) Since
women do not go bald and can generally grow longer hair than men, most
cultures associate longer hair with femininity. Although blacks’ hair
doesn’t grow as long as whites’ or Asians’ hair, that’s not a problem for
black women in all-black societies. After integration, though, hair often
becomes an intense concern for black women competing with longer-haired
women of other races. While intellectuals in black-studies departments’
ebony towers denounce “Eurocentric standards of beauty,” most black women
respond more pragmatically. They one-up white women by buying straight from
the source of the longest hair: the Wall Street Journal recently reported on
the booming business in furnishing African-American women with “weaves” and
“extensions” harvested from the fol- licularly gifted women of China.
3. Muscularity may most sharply differentiate the races in terms of sexual
attractiveness. Women like men who are stronger than they; men like women
who are rounder and softer. The ending of segregation in sports has made
racial differences in muscularity harder to ignore. Although the men’s
100-meter dash is among the world’s most widely contested events, in the
last four Olympics all 32 finalists have been blacks of West African
descent. Is muscularity quantifiable? PBS fitness expert Covert Bailey finds
that he needs to recom- mend different goals — in terms of percentage of
body fat — to his clients of different races. The standard goal for adult
black men is 12 per cent body fat, versus 18 per cent for Asian men. The
goals for women are 7 points higher than for men of the same race. For
interracial couples, their “gender gaps” in body-fat goals correlate
uncannily with their husband-wife proportions in the 1990 Census. The goal
for black men (12 per cent) is 10 points lower than the goal for white women
(22 per cent), while the goal for white men (15 per cent) is only 4 points
lower than the goal for black women (19 per cent). This 10:4 ratio is almost
identical to the 72:28 ratio seen in the Census. This corre- lates just as
well for white-Asian couples, too. Apparently, men want women who make them
feel more like men, and vice versa for women.
Understanding the impact of genetic racial differences on American life is a
necessity for anybody who wants to understand our increasingly complex
society. For example, the sense of betrayal felt by Asian men certainly
makes sense. After all, they tend to surpass the national average in those
long-term virtues — industry, self-restraint, law-abidingness — that
society used to train young women to look for in a husband. Yet, now that
discrimination has finally declined enough for Asian men to expect to reap
the rewards for ful- filling traditional American standards of manliness,
our culture has largely lost interest in indoctrinating young women to prize
The frustrations of Asian men are a warning sign. When, in the names of
free- dom and feminism, young women listen less to the hard-earned wisdom of
older women about how to pick Mr. Right, they listen even more to their
hormones. This allows cruder measures of a man’s worth — like the size of
his muscles — to return to prominence. The result is not a feminist utopia,
but a society in which genetically gifted guys can more easily get away with
acting like Mr. Wrong.
George Orwell noted, “To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a con-
stant struggle.” We can no longer afford to have our public policy governed
by fashionable philosophies which insists upon ignoring the obvious. The
realities of interracial marriage, like those of professional sports, show
that diversity and integration turn out in practice to be fatal to the
reign- ing assumption of racial uniformity. The courageous individuals in
interracial marriages have moved farthest past old hostilities. Yet, they’ve
discovered not the featureless landscape of utter equality that was
predicted by progres- sive pundits, but a landscape rich with fascinating
racial patterns. Intellec- tuals should stop dreading the ever-increasing
evidence of human biodiversity and start delighting in it.
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