By Cassandra Jaramillo. It was the late s, more than two decades after the Loving vs. Virginia U. Supreme Court case that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Sincethe percentage of bicultural marriages has more than tripled nationally to 17 percent, a Pew Research Center study shows.
Elaine and John were still one of only a few mixed-race couples on campus. Especially as it grows between two people from different racial and cultural backgrounds. In an ongoing video and story project " Questions of Color ," The Dallas Morning News seeks to reflect how North Texans navigate issues of race in their everyday lives with ground-level details. The News solicited the Stittens' story and those of 50 others in interracial relationships. These couples shared some of the difficult and beautiful moments of being in love. Communication is crucial, as is the strength to let go of some of the smaller slights from family members and strangers.
Couples said they learned to keep an open mind and figure out together how to bridge their cultures.
John played on the football team and although his athlete status made him popular, he was very shy. He met Elaine through a mutual friend and saw her at several parties.
She was a social butterfly, sparking a conversation with one group and moving on to the next. They were opposites to a degree, but balanced each other out. When Elaine told her father about the man she loved, his reaction surprised her. He was happy for his daughter. But he worried about the children they would bring into a racially charged society.
John, 53, grew up in East Texas, and remembers being told to be careful in his hometown because of Ku Klux Klan activity.
InJasper made national headlines as the place where three white men were arrested in a racially motivated crime for the dragging death of a black man, James Byrd Jr. In the late s, only 36 percent of those surveyed approved of interracial marriage, the Gallup Poll showed. ByGallup said, 87 percent supported it. Parents and other family members can make first meetings awkward in any relationship. But bringing home someone from a different race can give rise to stereotyping thoughts and comments.
Delarosa, 27, is biracial and strongly identifies with his Latino heritage, but his fair skin often le to confusion about his ethnicity. The social worker helps people find affordable housing in the city of Dallas. The two, who live in Dallas, have been inseparable since they were teenagers at Booker T. Now after 12 years together, they find that the awkward comments come less frequently. Couples who cross racial lines often find they must have difficult conversations with family members and then with each other.
The two, who share easygoing personalities and a love for traveling, quickly discovered they had chemistry. Their relationship started through flirty messages on Instant Messenger. Other friends, Catie noticed, would call their moms about upcoming dates or ask advice on dating problems.
But in her family of Filipino descent, those conversations would have been awkward, she said. Centurion was much more comfortable talking to his mother about dating Catie. Her mother worried about whether a black man would make a good husband. Would he be loyal?
Would he have children with various women? Even liberal parents can stereotype others, Catie realized.
Discussions about race are key to making the relationship work. They built trust and strengthened their relationship. The two, who live in Prosper, have been married for eight years, and are expecting their first child, a boy. Bart Rogers and Lisa Mesa-Rogers found they had vastly different upbringings although they both grew up in the Dallas area. Bart, 48, was raised in an upper middle class, white, Protestant family in North Dallas. He describes his family as soft-spoken and polite. Lisa, 48, grew up in Oak Cliff with a boisterous Hispanic Catholic family. Despite their different upbringings, both found a common cause as volunteers at a nonprofit helping people with HIV in the early s.
Although she could understand and speak English, she preferred Spanish, which Bart did not speak fluently.
She responded with two words that left him speechless. There was no long heart-to-heart, emotional conversation to help build the family connection. Bart showed his appreciation with a big appetite. Martinez Ballet Folklorico. One sticking point for Bart and Lisa was their different expectations about their responsibilities to extended family. Lisa said that she was used to putting her siblings and other relatives first.
Unannounced visits were common. She was quick to lend money or take in relatives for extended periods of time. Bart, meanwhile, says he has gotten more comfortable with sharing a household with extended family members.
Nearly every couple we spoke with experienced the same subtle treatment from strangers: double takes and stares that make them uneasy. In Dallas, about 19 percent of couples are in an interracial marriage — higher than the national average of 17 percent. The study did not have statistics on interracial dating. Unfriendly stares are especially worrisome for Gary Johnson and AD Henderson as an interracial gay couple, they said.
Johnson and Henderson met one night at a bar while out with friends. But friends visiting from out-of-town insisted on getting drinks nearby.
The stares make them more careful about how they act in public. They try not to show a lot of affection. Sometimes, they stand farther away from each other than usual. Johnson, 52, who grew up in Mississippi, has seen racism and discrimination against gay people all his life. Johnson and Henderson, who work in management and health care, break down barriers with humor. But the way strangers regard their two children still takes them by surprise.
The reactions have confused their kidswho see their parents' love as normal, not a rarity. Society needs to change. Cassandra Jaramillo. She ed The News in She's a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She likes to write about public safety, police ability, criminal justice and mental health. Get alerts on breaking news stories as soon as they happen. Stand with us in our mission to discover and uncover the story of North Texas. More from Home. What will trigger a campus closure for Dallas-area schools?
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