Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mixed Marriage Flap Provides Food For Thought

This week a justice of the peace in Baton Rouge, Louisiana resigned because he refused to marry a mixed race couple. I think this incident made national news because it is so out of line with the trends of the past forty years.

It is true that mixed race marriages have not been popular in America, nor readily embraced for some reason. In my own life I once had a crush on a black girl in New Jersey while in high school. Her dad did not approve of her dating me, and my dad did not approve of me dating her. In short, we never really dated, though we saw each other at high school dances and in the school hallways. But I especially remember the reactions of our dads. On one level it was possibly not racism that caused these reactions but a belief that their children were unaware of the hardships that would faced if the relationship ever went somewhere. Our mixed race acquaintances can tell stories of the difficulties of this path. But what's the root of it?

In other parts of the world this line of demarcation between races seems much less pronounced. For example, in Mexico the Spanish and native peoples became so mixed that the county itself became mexclado, which means mixed. When I lived in Puerto Rico I saw a very mixed race culture that ran the gamut from white-white redhead who spoke no English (Melvin) to black-black friend from Chicago who spoke no Spanish, and everything in between. This is the true origin of the Rainbow People, people of every shade of skin color.

It wasn't really the Baton Rouge resignation that stimulated my thinking on these matters, but rather the maps and charts on this site here which was developed based on information culled from 2000 U.S. census data.

The 2000 Census questionnaire was the first to allow respondents to select more than one race. Nationwide, approximately 2.4 percent of the population, over 6.8 million Americans, marked an identification with two or more races.

As is the case with many racial and ethnic groups, the multiracial population is not evenly distributed across the country. Hawaii has the largest multiracial population with 24.1 percent of its population identifying with two or more races. Alaska follows a distant second with 5.4 percent identifying as multiracial. The five least multiracial states (Mississippi, West Virginia, Maine, Alabama and South Carolina) all have multiracial populations of less than 1 percent.

So my question today is, why did Mexico become such a mixed race culture and this nation has such rigid lines between races?

I am not an authority on these matters, but just curious. Check out the stats in this site which was developed based on information culled from 2000 U.S. census data.
Interestingly, I am sitting in an internet cafe in Las Vegas as I write this and the Hispanic fellow at the next monitor is looking at a slide show of images of Abraham Lincoln, who with the stroke of a pen declared all slaves to be free in 1863. The freedom was legal, but not really a true freedom as long as our attitudes, ignorance and fears keep us in shackles. As Rodney King was widely quoted, "Why can't we all just get along?"

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