Interracial marriage shouldn’t be an issue

Published 11:54am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By KIMBERLY BARRETT / Guest Columnist

These days the presidential campaigns have been on everyone’s mind. But a recent survey of potential Republican voters in Mississippi and Alabama caught my eye for a reason that has nothing to do with choosing the next president.

The survey conducted by Public Policy Polling indicated that 29 percent of those surveyed in Mississippi thought that interracial marriage should be illegal. Twenty-one percent of those polled in Alabama believed it should be banned. As someone who has been happily married to a person of a different race for almost 25 years, four of those in Shelby County, I was a bit taken aback. My husband and I often joke that we are “old news.”

In my time spent in Shelby County, I have known a number of interracial couples, both married and dating, all of whom seem to be accepted and pursue their relationships openly without negative consequence.

However, I have had discussions with young adults who indicate that their parents would not approve of them dating someone of a different race. In fact, once I recall being concerned for a student during a diversity activity that involved participating in a group discussion of a book about an Alabama family of mixed race. One participant was terrified that someone in their family might find out that they voluntarily participated in the discussion.

But there is reason for optimism. Results of a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center indicate that interracial marriages are increasing significantly. In fact, the percent of newlyweds that married outside their race in 2010 was double that of 1980. In addition, according to Pew, 43 percent of Americans indicated that they believed that more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better while 44 percent say it has made no difference.

So it seems that reason and compassion are winning in the court of public opinion after all when it comes to the issue of interracial marriage. In the end this issue is not about politics or race. It is about allowing the universal principle of love to prevail when two consenting adults decide to be life partners. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo.

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