Love and color





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
post-racial age.

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