Societal norms still slight interracial relationships

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Though CSUN is undoubtedly a multiethnic and multiracial campus, interracial relationships still remain taboo to some, both on campus and in society as a whole.

“Racial, social, and sexual lines remain stridently intact,” said Adilifu Nama, a Pan-African Studies professor.

Nama described a recent news story about New York Yankees player Derek Jeter that discussed his dating of women from various races and ethnic groups. Jeter allegedly received threatening letters calling him a “traitor to his race” for dating white women. Jeter’s mother is white and his father is black.

Similar threatening letters that denounced interracial relationships were sent to other public figures, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Jason Taylor, and the parents of tennis star James Blake, according to a story from the Associated Press.

Nama said the reality of interracial relationships could be determined by looking at how society as a whole perceives these relationships rather than by examples of what may be happening on a day-by-day basis.

The United States is still struggling with racial inequality, Nama said.

“The basic distinction is that race is genetic and inborn, it is identified by physiological features,” said Donald Robertson, a sociology professor at CSUN. “Ethnicity is based upon culture and is not at all inborn, but (rather) is based on learning.”

The difference between races is not demonstrable on a large scale, but racial groups have remained divided throughout history.

As a result, different races have developed unique cultures that in turn create a basis for social barriers between racial groups, Robertson said.

Despite such differences, Robertson said he believes society’s view of interracial relationships is in the midst of a revolution.

“Previously (an interracial relationship was) one of the most off-limits, negatively sanctioned violations of norms next to crime,” Robertson said. “But certainly the trend is clear that the barrier is being broken down.”

Joy Sharma, junior health sciences major, said that in general, minorities are more tolerant of interracial relationships. Sharma is multiracial; her mother is Indian and her father is Kenyan.

Sharma said she has been in a relationship with a black male for about a year. Sharma’s stepfather, like her mother, is Indian and she said he has reservations.

“My stepdad might have a problem,” she said. “He thinks I should just marry an Indian.” Her mother, on the other hand, “loves him.”

Although she sees no problem with dating a black male, Sharma said a division still exists between black and white students.

“It’s difficult to introduce anyone to your parents,” said Katie Pike, senior international business major. “Race adds to that difficulty,”

Pike said she has dated men from different minority groups, including Asians, Latinos and blacks.

Like Sharma, Pike comes from a biracial background; her mother is Mexican and her father is Caucasian. According to Pike, it would be most difficult for her to introduce a black boyfriend or significant other to her father, and in the past she has avoided doing so. Pike is confident that her mother would have less of a problem with such a relationship.

The relationship she had with her black boyfriend lasted a little over a year, and Pike said that her race was not a problem for his parents.

Data from the 2000 U.S. census showed that only 1 percent of all marriages were between blacks and whites.

“If there were no social barriers against it, we would expect the percentage to be higher than one percent,” said Kristyan Kouri, a sociology professor at CSUN.

Additional census data from that year shows that there are three times as many black men married to white women as there are black women married to white men.

“It appears that black men are more favorable toward interracial marriage than black women,” Kouri said.

According to Kouri, one reason for this may be that black women tend to be very loyal to black men.

Though opinion polls show that people are becoming more accepting of interracial relationships, progress is still somewhat slow, according to Kouri.

Strong beliefs in each group that one should marry within their own race remain strong for both blacks and whites, Kouri said.

Michael Salseda can be reached at michael.salseda@gmail.com.