October 26, 2009

Drawing Lines in the Sand for Interracial Dating

author_janis By Janis Prince Inniss

Boy and girl meet. Boy and girl decide to wed. Boy (Terence McKay) and girl (Beth Humphrey) decide to marry. Girl calls justice of the peace to arrange for them to seal the deal.

And that’s when what may be a fairy tale romance came to a screeching halt: The justice of the peace was Keith Bardwell who refused to marry the pair because McKay is black and Humphrey is white. Bardwell said his refusal to marry the pair was not due to racism, but because of his concerns for children that the union might provide According to Bardwell, neither group accepts such children.

Boy and girl did marry, but no thanks to Justice Bardwell.

What do you think of the justice of the peace’s decision? Even if we agree with Bardwell, how would we decide who should get married? I take it that this justice of the peace would not have married President Barack Obama’s parents: The president’s mother was S. Ann Dunham, a white woman from the American Midwest, while his father was a black Kenyan, Barack Obama Sr. (Click here to have a look at some of the President’s family tree in pictures.)

The president self-identifies as African American and to most of us probably “looks” black, so I take it that if President Obama showed up at this justice of the peace’s with a woman who was the same color his mother was, the justice of the peace would refuse to perform such a marriage.

But what about Malia and Sasha Obama, the daughters of the President and his wife? Only looking at their recent paternal genealogy, we know that one of their grandparents and two of their great-grandparents were white. What if one or even both of the Dunhams was really “passing” for white?

Hmm, to simplify our thinking, let’s put aside the idea that one or both was really of mixed race. So going ahead with the idea that their paternal great-grandparents were white, would a prohibition against interracial marriage mean that neither girl should marry a white person?

Now factor in their maternal ancestry. The New York Times recently published a family tree of First Lady Michelle Obama. Included among the First Lady’s ancestors are Dolphus T. Shields, Michelle Obama’s great-great grandfather whose mother was an enslaved African. Perhaps that’s not surprising given that Michelle Obama is African American. However, Mr. Shields’ father was white!

And how would the “American Indian” strands of the First Lady’s ancestry that the The York Times mentions factor in to the equation? Exactly how much ”white blood” would the younger Obamas need to have to marry someone white?

Going back to the case of boy and girl being asked to wed elsewhere by the justice of the peace in Louisiana, a look at the video of the groom being interviewed about this dust-up suggests to me that the new husband, McKay, is “mixed”. (Given our tangled ancestries, such terms really should have “recently” as a prefix.) Suppose McKay has white ancestors, how recent would they need to be for his marriage to Humphrey not to be considered interracial and therefore problematic?

President Obama once would have been considered mulatto (of one white and one black parent) —a term formerly employed by the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, in 1890 the Census Bureau tried to be more specific by adding the terms quadroon (one-fourth black blood) and octoroon (one eight black blood) to mulatto and black.

What ”portion” black are Malia and Sasha? Are you dizzy with the amount of math this way of thinking requires? More dizzying to me is that all of these terms and prohibitions (such as those from the justice of the peace) suggest that we know who is “fully” white or black or whichever race. In the context of trading enslaved Africans, the desire and need to “measure” black blood makes sense, at least economically and politically.

But given that we often don’t have to look very far to find “race mixing” in America, how can we make even attempt to regulate such unions? (Have you heard of Strom Thurmond? Thurmond was the longest serving Senator in U.S. history at the time of his death in 2003. He vehemently opposed Civil Rights but after his death, the daughter he had with a black woman revealed he was her father.)

As you might imagine, the Louisiana case has attracted lots of attention, including a call by the state’s Governor for Bardwell’s removal. Interracial marriage has long controversial, enough so to gain a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court: In the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case, the Court struck down state laws against interracial marriage. The ruling reads in part: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state." Just as well…unless you have a bright idea of how we could, with great efficiency and clarity, actually define someone’s race. This case and others like it highlight that race is not as clear-cut of a concept as many of us might think. While we often view race as a biological construct, it is a social construct that we constantly struggle to define and make meaning of, often with serious consequences.


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I don't think it is right to tell someone or decide on who to marry based on one's race. I think the decision should be based on love and love only. You never know the person you could be looking for might be of another race than of your race. I really applaud that boy and girl who still got married and not let ignorant people get in the way of how they feel for each other.

Two years ago my best friend's mother (a white woman) married an African American man. I helped supervise and schedule the wedding, and it was probably one of the most gorgeous weddings I have ever seen. Watching the two families come together to celebrate such a beautiful union was breathtaking. Unfortunately, through out the town there were disapproving whispers and murmurs about the relationship, and it is such a shame. Most would automatically think that Americans have matured from racism, but with stories such as these, it is obvious that they have not.

I dont think it should matter what color you are. If you are in love with someone then you should get married. Granted African Americans come from a different culture than White Americans so it could complicate the marriage. But if the two people are willing to work through their differences if shouldn't matter what color they are. I think its great that the couple didn't let someone's negative opinion of their lives affect their decision to get married.

I'm amazed how gentle the comments are in disagreeing with the judges decision.

As a Kiwi (New Zealander) these sorts of clearly ignorant decisions are totally unacceptable to most clear thinking people and, thankfully, almost all Kiwi's.

You just have to appose them! and I hope the judge suffered a suitable backlash.

I often deal with mixed marriages at my How To Get Your Ex Back blog, and I can tell you that black, white, mixed, and anything else, the challenges, and the decency of the participants are the same regardless of colour.

I agree! I think that society puts far too much emphasis on race. Sure, we say there is very little racism left, but actions like this sure make me wonder. What would he say to someone who has already married a person from another race? Would that marriage be wrong? There is no reason for us as Americans not to have this freedom, and it should not even be going against our culture.

I feel that this isn’t not right. Just because you are of a different race you can’t marry someone you love? The United States is supposed to be home of the free. If you can’t even marry someone you live, what’s the point? I also think it it’s a great thing that the couple didn’t let someone influence their opinion.

I think that people should marry who they want to marry. Who cares about their race, they are human beings which is all that matters. They should make decisions for themselves.

It really suprises me to see such a story considering how much our country holds pride in it's belief of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. You would think that, in this age, we would not see people's rights denied (especially by any level of the Government) based on something such as race. I must say that this I find it somewhat disturbing to see this story. It really makes me wonder about how many other U.S. government officials are out there who would behave similarly to Justice Bardwell.

"Bardwell said his refusal to marry the pair was not due to racism, but because of his concerns for children that the union might provide According to Bardwell, neither group accepts such children. "

I can't help but grimace at this circular logic: "I don't accept them because people don't accept them".

I saw a similar argument against gay marriage in which the person wanted to keep it illegal because "outcomes aren't good for children" in gay marriages. Huh. I wonder if that's because people like you keep those families illicit and those "outcomes" not good.

It does not surprise me that this actually happened, i had to ask myself first if it did; and it sure did not. why? well, in my Intro to Sociology class this week we were just discussing the race issue and if is still is an issue in the United States today? and the answer is clearly yes. Just take a look on how long it took for a biracial (or what so many people refer to as African American) president to get to this position. I think that to all of us is more than clear, and if is not let me make it clear, that the problem why this Judge did not want to marry this couple was not for the sake of the children, but because of racial discrimination or less to say, race issues. Does it mean that every kid who has biracial parents is abnormal (for example, the president, as mentioned in the post)? Us, as a society, have to start realizing that racial issues still do exist and try to eliminate these problems.

I must say that this I find it somewhat disturbing to see this story. It really makes me wonder about how many other U.S. government officials are out there who would behave similarly to Justice Bardwell.

I was born in other country. When I came here in U.S., I wondered why race discrimination exists including interracial marriage. I came to understand now that U.S. is country of Immigrants except American Indian. I was married to a white man and I am an Asian woman. I still love my ex-husband and I am still living with him.
Therefore, marriage is a bonding of a couple who is in-love with each other and no one can stop them from marriage. What Justice Bardwell did was absolutely discrimination.

I don't really care about the color of your skin or who you decide to marry. I believe that is the choice of the individuals involved and that is all that matters is their happiness. I come from a small southern town where everything is still segregated very much in a way, and its not just interracial marriage would bother a community like that, its a change in community, a change in the normal conditions of the culture. Its more of a fear in things changing than a hatred of peoples of a different race.

This does not surprise me at all. People in America want to act like racism does not exist and it is a reality that I have had close to my heart for a long time. Being in an interracial relationship has caused me to see and experience racism that is still alive and well in America. The funniest part is people who say they are not racist have a problem when their kids or someone in their family starts to date or marry interracially. Most people try to hide their racism until something hits close to home. This incident has probably happened many times and it is really unfortunate. People need to realize that ANY marriage regardless of race is going to have problems. Yes there might be some more problems for interracial marriages, but if two people want to be married who are you to say they cannot be? It is sad really and hopefully sometime in our lifetime people will begin to open their eyes and see past the color of peoples' skin.

It's disturbing to see that "race" still matters. I would like to think that our society has become mature enough so that people can make choices regardless of the color of anyone's skin. Justice Bardwell had no right to make assumptions on behalf of the currently nonexistent children. This couple could be very caring and make wonderful parents. Plus, the law is, "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state." Justice Bardwell should not have interfered.

I believe that even the most racist people; even though they will never admit to it, know that not allowing people of different "races" to marry is simply ridiculous, pathetic and childish! What defines race Skin color? Where does skin color come from? It depends on the degree of melanin found in skin cells. So even the whitest of all rednecks is only different from a native African my amount of a hormone in their skin cells. I believe that the idea of race is simply close minded. I am not saying that all the people are the same and we should all love each other, but the amount of pigment in our skin should not be a determining factor in any aspect of society. People differ by their culture, education, manners, and sense of humor, abilities and talents. Those are the factors that determine which people should be together or not. However we do not need a judge to determine that, it comes natural. If I meet a man who, according to me, is nice, well mannered and intelligent I might marry him, and it makes no different whether he is white, black, or quarter Indian.

I also believe that people should marry whomever they feel is the "right" person for them, whether they are the same race or not, skin color shouldn't matter. My boyfriends mom, after getting divorced married an African American, and they are probably the happiest couple I have ever seen! They told me about all the looks they got in the beginning, but it just didn't matter to them, they were in love!

I find it strange that people are in so much shock when they hear of a racist moment. I also find it strange that people don't realize that the justice of the peace is old so the new age anti racism which is becoming more widespread may not be instilled in him because of the way he was raised. I know this does not give him an excuse for refusing to marry these people especially in an elected position. Eventually with time these types of situations will die as more people learn why its wrong to judge people by the color of their skin. Time will change all of these things but considering he holds a public position racism should not be tolerated and he should loose his position. People deserve to marry who they wish to marry and they did the right thing by finding someone that will marry them. Things will change people just need to keep doing what they are doing and continue to point out the flaws with racism.


I am also upset that racisim still exists. I think that it doesn't matter what the person you love looks like as long as you love each other and have IMPORTANT things in common like morals, beliefs, and values. I think the justice of peace was wrong to deny marrying them and no matter what he said he did it out of descrimination.

I think that, although the judge may have personal concerns with interracial marriage, he should not have imposed these concerns on this couple. I am dating a cuban guy, and i am white...should we NOT be allowed to get married just because we are of two different races? I also agree with what was said about how it is very difficult to distinguish race: he is cuban, but he also has, way back in his background, black relatives--does this mean that he is partly black? maybe it does, but when it comes to love and marriage, it really should not matter.

I feel like our society should be way past this belief of people of different races can not get married. Our society is so diversed and we need to be able to accept that. The government or anyone else has the right to tell someone they can not get married because of their race or the person they plan on marriaging.I agree with Inniss that race is majority of the time thought to be biological construct but it is also socially constructed. Race is based on physical criteria and is institutionalized. When it comes to marriage I think race should not have any kind of affect on a couple getting married or not.

This story was blown entirely out of proportin! The justice has a right to either take part in marrying a couple or not marrying a couple. The justice claimed that he would not marry an interracial couple due to the fact that he feels the children would suffer based on his own previous experiences. Therefor he was not saying the couple could not get married and he did not attempt to somehow make sure the couple was never united at all. He simply turned this couple away because of his beliefs. He has a right to choose who he will and will not marry, just as the two individuals wanting to get married chose to date someone of a different race. If anyone would have actually followed this story themselves, rather than listen to the biased, liberal media they would have also seen that the justice did nothing wrong. END OF STORY! Th topic of race is overly sensitive in our country today. Get over it and move on.

Unfortunately today our society is still using the 'one drop' rule meaning, if you have one drop of black blood than you classify as black. Why do we have such strict standards to be considered white? Eiher your pure white or your black? That doesnt make sense. I would think that by now we would have moved back these social constructs about race. I am bi-racial, my mother is white and my father is black. I have been able to see because of my parents marriage how often their interracial marriage comes up as an issue, even now. I can only hope that with the coming generations will be a new way of thinking when talking about race.

This whole ordeal is rather ridiculous. As long as the woman and man both consent to getting married and they love each other, there should be no problem.

"A child needs to be completely prepared to face racism. Categorization and racism pose a problem to a biracial child. Those who are racist thinkers need to place everyone into a category, but a biracial child does not fit neatly into a category. Racists may become more resentful and more racist towards these children, and these children may draw inordinate amounts of attention in situations in which the usual racial category system has no clear place for somebody who seems not to fit in one category or another."

"A second problem a biracial child may experience is that he/she could encounter an identity crisis because they embody two racial groups that are defined very differently in the category system of American racism. When the child is old enough to understand their identity, the parents need to step in and educate the child. This is not always easy for the parents who usually come from two completely different backgrounds. However, parents have concurred that it is absolutely essential that a biracial child have a clear and positive sense of identity."

"A third problem a biracial child may face is conflicts with their grandparents. At times grandparents may become very attached to the child and the biracial family will draw closer together. However, even though the grandparents are very attached to the child, at times the White grandparents historic views overcome them, and they will still keep their distance because of the fear they will get labeled for associating with a Black family. This resentment and distance of the grandparents leaves a lasting impression on the biracial child and how they are viewed by society."

"One last negative effect children receive because of their racial identify comes from their siblings. Some biracial children can pass as White while others can not. This can result in the whiter child receiving privileges society will deny to the darker skinned child. This will ultimately lead to resentment in the family and barriers to sibling closeness. On the other hand, the child who can pass as White may bring with them a lifetime of identity struggles, the unpleasantness of secret keeping, and personal and family pain arising from efforts to hide the existence of relatives of color."

I can understand Justice Bardwell's concern, no one can deny that a child of an interracial marrige will have some psychological ordeals to overcome, but the situation as a whole seems to be more than concern. I believe that there is racism involved. It's sad that racism is still practiced in the modern world. I hope there comes a day that it will no longer be around.

i think one must choose to marry who he wants to marry..
well, that is my point of view..

interesting post!

I do not agree with what they Justice of the Peace did because it is not his decision who should get married, he is only making it legal. However, I do understand the reason for why he did it. It would be hard to be a bi-racial child because they wouldn't know if they were white or black. Because of the one drop rule a child who has even a little bit of black in them that is what they are considered. Anyone should be able to marry someone of a different race. I think it was out of line for the judge not to marry them although he has the right to not do it. Everyone has different opinions and this also makes me think if our society will ever be "okay" with interracial marriage and "okay" with different races without hostility.

I do not think anyone should be denied marriage especially because of their race. It goes against the ideas our country was founded upon. It states in the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" so they should be married like everyone else. I think the preacher doesn't want whites to become the minority. There is no reason by law or by the bible that two people that love each other can’t get married.

I am biracial, my mother is creole and my dad is black. because of my parents relationship I see interracial marriage different. My boyfriend is white and I love him with all my heart I dont look at him because of the color of his skin I look at him because of his amazing personality. But his family really opened my eyes to the discrimination in this world.They only see me as his BLACK girlfriend , I know they dont see me for who I am and it really is amazing that people are still like that in this world. if I were to marry my boyfriend I feel like I would have more problems to deal with just in his family than I would anywhere else. I can only see the beauty in interracial couples , I see the world coming together and people loving one another no matter what the color of your skin is. God made each and everyone of us in his own image and he loves us all ,why cant everyone in this world realize that?


Being of different race is not something you can control. It's an ascribed status and no ones opinion should be able to change your feelings. Put yourself in their shoes. If someone had told you you were not aloud to marry the one you love, what would you do? Racisim might be something that never completely dies, which is very sad. People may never change. But all we can do is put the word out, and be as helpful as we can to over come this challenge of racisim.

I believe that Justice Bardwell is stupid for not wedding the two. Interracial couples is what makes America special because in other countries people cant do that. America is based on freedom and rights, and if people of different race cant get married that ruins the whole purpose of America. Anybody of any race should be able to marry anybody they want, if they want to be another miserable married couple like every other married couple in the nation they should be able to. And since the Judge said its not about race its about race because there is no other reason to not wed the couple. People like the judge should be erased off the planet because they are against the beliefs of this country.

A person should be able to marry whomever they want to marry. With that said, this is America where a person is entitled to their opinion no matter how stupid or pig headed. America has become a country that accepts everything and rejects very few things. Date and marry who you like but don't expect others to accept your relationship.

In my sociology class, I am learning about family and marriage. How each cultures' marriage is different and how some marriages are allowed while others are not. One type of marriage that people have a problem with is interracial marriage. I believe that interracial marriage should be allowed. It doesn't matter what the color of your skin is, as long as you are in love. You should be able to marry who you want because you love them. The state should not be allowed to infringe on this type of marriage either. Even if interracial marriage is allowed, there will always be issues on it.

Im saddened that a person in authority would say such a silly thing - or have the power to say it. I don't think you should stop interracial marrige because there are racists who could give the children a hard time. Talk about getting your values mixed up. I do agree with an earlier comment - there are still lots of racist people out there, and we probably shouldnt be so shocked.

I think that this is ridiculous. I'm so sick of people being so concerned about interracial marriages. When people love each other they aren't concerned about the skin color. It's not something they can hide, and they shouldn't have to. It should just be accepted, people are going to marry the one they love whether anyone likes it or not. Five years ago my cousin Kim gave birth to an African American child. The same goes with this. Having a child that has a different skin color shouldn't matter, we're going to love them either way black or white, alien or human there our kids so people should just back off and concern themselves with their own lives.

I like this post. I learned about interracial marriages and how society is beginning to accept it more and more. I think that yes society is accepting this factor of life but there is and always be people who don’t believe in it. Like Keith Bardwell, they don’t realize that interracial marriages are here to stay and should have an open mind about it.

Racism is a thing that is frowned upon in many developed areas of the world. Even though society today has evolved greatly evolved from racism, it seems that specks of racist behavior still remain in some people. Interestingly, the people who still look at “race” as a part of their judgment are afraid to admit to it. Are these people actually unaware of their views on “race” or are they just saying pretending to be unaware?

I would have to say that everyone in society has some sort of prejudice to a particular extent whether the person admits it or not. There will always be racism to an extent but what matters is that society grows and tries to mature from racism but the hardest part will be change because change is a problem for society. Change is new and people do not like new. So as far as the couple goes, I am glad that they did not let Bardwell’s rejection stop them from getting married.

Yeah it is a fact that people in the society do not accept inter race dating. Well even family members hesitate in this. Well this is a shame that even in this modern world, people have such a poor point of view.

What white females must know before dating a black man, shocking but true… don’t hate me I did not create these statistics.

The situation is apparently racism. We may call this another term but it is straightly discrimination. We are an open world bounded with the interconnectedness. There are a number of doors open for each other to communicate. So there is a big possibility of inter cultural marriages. It is my fervent hope that racism will be eliminated.

I really don't think there's discrimination involved. He's just more concern to what the children might say and I believe that it was a good move.

God created this world equally.I don't believe that if two persons in different races got married created a negative result to their offspring.Colors really doesn't matter in terms of love.My congratulations to the couple.You really did the right decision.

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