Special Report: The Black and White of Racism Today

Posted by: Valorie Lawson - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "Love is blind." You've heard it before but, when it comes to interracial relationships, some see only "black" and "white. It was just 10 years ago when Alabama voters repealed the state's century-old ban against interracial marriages. The move made Alabama the last state in the country to do so.

Eric and Karen found falling in love easy. Karen met Eric while shopping for furniture at the store where he worked. "Basically she was a costumer of mine and I asked her out," he recalled.

"Initially I didn't know how to take it, because it had never happened before. She had never dated outside her race." Neither had Eric, but they took a chance on something new that wouldn't be easy.

"We were very cautious at first, like she said, one of us would ease into a restaurant or go to a place to see what the crowd was like before we would actually go in," Eric explained.

"I think with my parents, they were just afraid they just didn't know. They didn't want anything to happen to us because of our choice," Karen said.

In 2005 more than 7 percent of America's 59 million married couples were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970. Although more common than ever, some still some question interracial relationships.

"Why do people marry outside their race?"-

"Love should be able to transcend the color of skin in everything," Karen believes. "I don't think there should be any boundaries."

Dr. Pat Maggard teaches multi-cultural psychology at Alabama State University. She believes it mostly stems from our upbringing. "Sometimes people are taught your color has to do with how well you can achieve and how successful you will be in life, even as young children we do that. As we get older and we see people willing to cross those lines it's confusing."

Seventy-seven percent of Americans in 2004 said they approve of marriage between black and whites. That's vastly different from the answer in 1954 when Gallup first asked the question. Back the, only 4 percent approved.

"It's a shock and it's disappointing," Dr. Maggard said, "but we're moving forward."

Eric and Karen agree. After 15 years of marriage the stares don't matter much to Karen and Eric, and they try to teach their children tolerance. "We just tell them, you've got the best of both worlds. You know two different cultures."

As Americans become more accepting of interracial relationships, couples like Eric and Karen hope the focus becomes "how" two people fell in love rather than "why" it happened.

In 2008 four percent of marriages in Alabama were interracial, a little more than half were between white women and black men or men of another race.

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