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Navigating Interracial Borders

Navigating Interracial Borders: Black-White Couples and Their Social Worlds

Erica Chito Childs
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Navigating Interracial Borders
    Book Description:

    "One of the best books written about interracial relationships to date. . . . Childs offers a sophisticated and insightful analysis of the social and ideological context of black-white interracial relationships."-Heather Dalmage, author Tripping on the Color Line

    "A pioneering project that thoroughly analyzes interracial marriage in contemporary America."-Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

    Is love color-blind, or at least becoming increasingly so? Today's popular rhetoric and evidence of more interracial couples than ever might suggest that it is. But is it the idea of racially mixed relationships that we are growing to accept or is it the reality? What is the actual experience of individuals in these partnerships as they navigate their way through public spheres and intermingle in small, close-knit communities?

    In Navigating Interracial Borders, Erica Chito Childs explores the social worlds of black-white interracial couples and examines the ways that collective attitudes shape private relationships. Drawing on personal accounts, in-depth interviews, focus group responses, and cultural analysis of media sources, she provides compelling evidence that sizable opposition still exists toward black-white unions. Disapproval is merely being expressed in more subtle, color-blind terms.

    Childs reveals that frequently the same individuals who attest in surveys that they approve of interracial dating will also list various reasons why they and their families wouldn't, shouldn't, and couldn't marry someone of another race. Even college students, who are heralded as racially tolerant and open-minded, do not view interracial couples as acceptable when those partnerships move beyond the point of casual dating. Popular films, Internet images, and pornography also continue to reinforce the idea that sexual relations between blacks and whites are deviant.

    Well-researched, candidly written, and enriched with personal narratives, Navigating Interracial Borders offers important new insights into the still fraught racial hierarchies of contemporary society in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-3757-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Interracial Canary
    (pp. 1-18)

    The 1967 Academy Award–winning movieGuess Who’s Coming to Dinnerconcluded with this warning from a white father to his daughter and her “Negro” fiancé. That same year, the Supreme Court overturned any laws against interracial marriage as unconstitutional. Yet how does the contemporary U.S. racial landscape compare? In this ever-changing world of race and color, where do black-white couples fit, and has this unimaginable opposition disappeared?

    While significant changes have occurred in the realm of race relations largely from the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, U.S. society still has racial borders. Most citizens live, work, and socialize...

  5. Chapter 1 Loving across the Border: Through the Lens of Black-White Couples
    (pp. 19-43)

    Ablack person and a white person coming together has been given many names—miscegenation, amalgamation, race mixing, and jungle fever—conjuring up multiple images of sex, race, and taboo. Black-white relationships and marriages have long been viewed as a sign of improving race relations and assimilation, yet these unions have also been met with opposition from both white and black communities. Overall, there is an inherent assumption that interracial couples are somehow different from same-race couples. Within the United States, the responses to black-white couplings have ranged from disgust to curiosity to endorsement, with the couples being portrayed as...

  6. Chapter 2 Constructing Racial Boundaries and White Communities
    (pp. 44-74)

    Interracial couples can be understood as social products in that they are formed and transformed by the defining process that takes place in social interaction, the ways in which others act toward them, and, just as important, the ways in which others produce images and ideas about them and their relationship.¹ The experiences of black-white couples and the meanings their families, communities, and even popular culture attach to black-white unions are not individual but based on one’s group. “Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them,” and these meanings are often...

  7. Chapter 3 Crossing Racial Boundaries and Black Communities
    (pp. 75-108)

    Benedict Anderson discussed communities in terms of the members who “will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”¹ In terms of race, blacks are more likely than whites to think and talk in terms of racial communities, since many whites refuse to even name their own identity in racial terms, much less acknowledge that they think of other whites as their community—even though their words imply that they do.

    In black communities, there is a painful and complicated history attached to...

  8. Chapter 4 Families and the Color Line: Multiracial Problems for Black and White Families
    (pp. 109-138)

    Black-white couples come together across the boundaries of race and perceived racial difference seemingly against the opposition of their communities. This is not to say, however, that the couples are free from racialized thinking, whether it be in their use of color-blind discourse or their own racial preferences, such as to date only interracially or to live in all-white neighborhoods. Nonetheless, these couples create multiracial families, not only creating multiracial families of their own but also changing the racial dynamic of the families from which they come. What significance does this have for the institution of family, and how does...

  9. Chapter 5 Racialized Spaces: College Life in Black and White
    (pp. 139-168)

    There are many stories about race on college campuses—debates over affirmative action, race in the classroom, as well as diversity issues among the faculty and student body.¹ In media reports, particularly, the university campus is most often heralded as a place that promotes interracial relationships, primarily because it has an ethos of tolerance, the assumption that education decreases negative racial attitudes, and the belief that the younger generations are more open about race. For example, a 2002New York Timesarticle reported that “in a world brimming with bad news, here’s one of the happiest trends: Instead of preying...

  10. Chapter 6 Surfing the Interracial Internet
    (pp. 169-181)

    The Internet is a particularly interesting social arena that symbolizes for many the future of interaction and society. The images and discourses around black-white unions on the Internet can serve as an important data source that—like the transcript of an interview—can be read and analyzed for content and meaning, including the social, cultural, and political interactions that take place online.¹ The meaning and significance of these Internet discourses and images are “social products in their own right, as well as what they claim to represent.”²

    The word “interracial” returns thousands of results with search engines such as MSN,...

  11. Chapter 7 Listening to the Interracial Canary
    (pp. 182-194)

    Like the miner’s canary that warns of a poisonous atmosphere, black-white couples expose lingering racism, prejudice, and segregation in society. Interracial couples’ experiences are important not for what they tell us about themselves but for what they tell us about the racial attitudes and practices of the families, groups, and communities from which they come. The central question is not how these families and communities respond, but why black-white intimacy evokes such emotional and complex responses. Why couples come together is less telling than why more individuals do not come together across racial lines.

    Looking at the research as a...

  12. Appendix: Couples Interviewed
    (pp. 195-200)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 201-228)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-248)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-250)