Bigot refers to a person who stubbornly believes in his or her own ideas, especially ideas indicating prejudice and hatred towards persons holding contrary views. Bigotry can be manifested through hatred towards persons of different sex, race, religion, nationality, etc.iii There are two major factors which generate, sustain, and shape bigotry. These are society and culture. One of the social aspects that have been greatly influenced by bigotry is interracial relationships between people of different races, especially relationships between blacks and whites in North America. Bigotry towards interracial relationships in North America is a historical issue that dates back to the seventeenth century. During this period, it was illegal for people from different races to marry and such an act was criminal, attracting dire legal consequences. Today, however, such drastic measures towards interracial association are a thing of the past, and the only remaining problem is a social one.
While many Americans embrace interracial unions, there are those who hold extreme views and are not open to dating a person from a race different from their own. The society may be quick to level criticism against these people, but clearly there exists social and cultural justification for such views. This paper will look at interracial relationship bigotry from the perspective of a bigot and will seek to investigate the factors behind this form of prejudice.
Don’t Bring Home a White Boy by Karyn Langhorne Folan
In her book titled ‘Don’t Bring Home a White Boy’, Karyn Langhorne Folan spells out the reasons why black women should avoid marriage and relationships with white men. Karyn, a Harvard Law School graduate and professor of law, describes her marriage experience with the two races. She has been in two unions, the former with a black man and the latter with a white spouse, bearing a daughter in each of them.i Thus, her views against interracial unions are balanced and based on an insider’s perspective making them more credible. Folan attributes her bigotry to social, cultural and historical reasons. The reasons she has put forward to discourage interracial relationships are valid and are as follows:
- External Pressure on the Relationship
Interracial relationships are vulnerable to devastating outside pressure from two main sources, namely the extended families of the spouses and the general public. These two institutions have for a long time been a source of stigma to interracial unions.ii
a) Influence of the Extended Family
The influence of the family on love and marriage matters cannot be overemphasized. The social bonds created between family members during childhood remain strong even in adulthood and, as a result, most people rely on family members’ approval before accepting a person as a spouse or lover. Because of the influence of racism and culture, other family members may be reluctant to accept one of them marrying someone not of their race. Their opposition may be manifested through reduction of moral and financial support for the family member involved, hostility towards the person of the other race, spite, anger, etc.
b) Influence of the General Public
The stigma of the general public towards people in mixed marriages or relationships is perhaps the most important cause of aversion for interracial relationships. A person in a union outside his race is very likely to encounter discrimination from members of the other race, whether it is in seeking restaurant services, moving into a new neighborhood, doing shopping in a shopping mall, etc. Interracial spouses also suffer hostile reactions from the public, including unkind stares, gesticulation, comments, and even violence. Thus, the influence of the public adds more stress to interracial relationships.
- Cultural Differences
Cultural differences also play a major role in creating biases against interracial unions. Different races have developed different cultures over time. When people of different races enter a relationship, it is imperative for each of them to try and learn the racial culture of the other. Learning a new culture may be an exciting and enriching experience, but, at the same, it can be frustrating and confusing for the person in question. Moreover, a person from one race is bound to find some aspects of another race which are inconsistent with those of his or her race, which may be unpleasant or even generate loathing. Other people may not want to learn another culture as this may cause them to forget their original culture. Therefore, culture presents a host of challenges to interracial relationships and is one of the factors discouraging such unions.
- Children’s Identity
Children born out of mixed race marriages face a major challenge regarding their racial identity. Such children often struggle with the question of who they really are since they are neither black nor white. These children also suffer from discrimination and aggression from society members and may not interact freely with people of distinct races as they see themselves as belonging to a marginalized minority. Due to the difficult question of racial identity and socialization challenges that children of mixed-race marriages encounter, people usually prefer to enter relationship with members of the same race.
Bigotry towards interracial relationship has been a much criticized subject with those guilty of the seemingly vice being accused of lacking in civilization. However, not much has been done to uncover the real causes of this form of bigotry which relates to cultural and social systems. Opposition towards interracial unions may stem from fear of outside pressure on the relationship, cultural differences, and the fear of bearing children who do not have a clear racial identity. All this factors have been critical in the development of bigotry towards interracial relationships.