Some romance stories never get old. Two kids from hardscrabble backgrounds meet. They fall in love. They work hard to plan a life together. And then the girl gets the crap beaten out of her by her racist parents. Oh wait, that’s not how the story is supposed to go? Sometimes it’s hard to remember how race works today when ever since Obama took the oath of office the world has been transformed into a ‘post-racial’ Old Navy commerical. Unfortunately the issue of violence in and around interracial couples is seldom discussed because everyone wants to pretend that it’s all multi-culti love and there is no ugly underbelly. Which is a huge problem given the growing number of people marrying across, race, religeon and color – lines.
In this case, we pop over to jolly old England, where David and Frances Champion (what a great and ironic name) were sentenced to 12 months and 9 months prison time, respectively for beating their 17 year old daughter Jane. Why did they beat her? Because they found out she was in a two year relationship with a black man (Alfronce McNube, an immigrant from Zimbabwe) she met in college. David and Frances punched Jane in the face, choked her and went after her boyfriend at his job at a local pub, all the while screaming racial slurs and telling Jane she’d “…brought shame on the family.” Now a judge has thrown both Mom and Dad in jail and Jane and her 12 year old sister have to fend for themselves. The judge’s admonishment was particularly interesting in that he addressed the violence and the racial component of the attacks.
Judge Peter Heywood told the couple: ‘Your behaviour was disgraceful and you used vile language. ‘We live in a liberal and enlightened society and these sorts of racist behaviour cannot be tolerated. The way you reacted was totally inappropriate. ‘I would be failing in my public duty if I was to do anything other than impose a custodial sentence.’
Of course the more interesting thing about this story is not so much the issue of two brutal parents attacking their child and a boyfriend (my guess is that this is not the first time the Champions got rugged with their children or each other) but the larger story of how interracial dating, marriage and sex is still handled within the majority of white society. While interracial marriage is much more common in England where the black and Asian populations are relatively small, than in the United States, everyone is not all gung ho about the browning of the U.K. The same Daily Mail that carried the story of the Champions had just a week earlier posted an incredibly racist editorial about the prominence of an interracial couple (Black man and white woman) in the London Games opening ceremony.
Back on the homefront there has been an explosion of interracial marriages in the United States starting around 2008 when almost 20% of all marriages in the country where interracial. Mind you, that includes the typical White male/Asian Female pairing, the near ubiquitous Latin-American/White American pairing and the much less common but excessively promoted (thanks network television) Black / White coupling. And while these new couplings are celebrated in a way, when events like the Champions, or various other attacks and violence on interracial couples occur, the news has barely a peep to say. Unfortuantely violence within and around intrracial couples is increasingly common but most sociologists, commentators and social workers don’t want to touch on the subject for fear of exaccerbating the racial hostility in this country that most people pretend isn’t there to begin with. Thank goodness for a few outlandish researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
Rachel Fusco, a researcher at University of Pittsburgh released a study on IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) amongst interracial couples and she along with other researchers found some interesting results. First, that amongst interracial couples the minority party often felt pressured to avoid or dismiss their past and current racial experiences (positive and negative) in order to comfort the partner in the majority, especially in Black Female / White Male relationships.
Translation: My husband feels odd being the only white person in a room with black people so I compromise and go to events where I’m the only black person in the room. Hint: That’s not progress, it’s cowardice. Studies have also found that domestic parnter violence is higher amongst interracial couples than white couples, and varys with balck couples.In particular the violence level in IR couples v.s. African American couples by gender is almost equal. In other words, in interracial couples women are giving as good as they’re getting when it comes to violence. Much of this violence according to researchers, stems from interracial couples not receiving support from their families, outside racial tensions and added pressure to make the relationship work to counter-act hostile opinions from the outside. In other words, in addition to the normal problems that any two people in love have, mixed race couples have to bear the burben of white supremacy weighing down on their lives as well.
None of this suggests that there is anything inherently wrong with interracial marriages, or coupling in the United States. However the case of the Champions and the studies at the University of Pittsburgh do highlight how deeply ingrained some of the racial ills are that still plague this country. If interracial marriages are on the rise, from a sociological and public health standpoint it’s important to see how these societal issues are affecting these new families. This is compounded by the fact that most people want to ignore race entirely in public discourse. Jane and Alflonce are kids in love and shouldn’t let crazy violent parents determine their lives. However, down the road is Aflonce ready to marry a woman whose parents will always hate him and their future children? Is Jane willing to sever her relationship with her racist family or will she always try to find some apologetic way to stay connected with them despite their bigotry? In general how often are these types of questions really explored when two people of different races fall in love and have to make the tough choices and endure the hard stresses of a life together in a society that may only accept their union in small pockets and certain circumstances? Failure to address these questions can lead to violence both from within and outside of the relationship. But if the current marriage numbers in the U.S. are any indicator, these questions need to be broached more often.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more atwww.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson