While I'm trying to finish my paper on the historical archaeology of black/white married couples in nineteenth century Boston...
...why don't you read Body and Soul's thoughts on anti-condom conservatives and AIDS in Africa?
By the way, I'm not joking, that is actually my paper topic. I was doing research on black abolitionists in Boston (who often get overlooked in favor of white abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison) when I came across the following odd little fact: the rate of black/white interracial marriage for black men in 1880s Boston was 38%, which is MUCH MUCH higher than it is now (about 8%, I believe?). From what I could gather in the 1880s Boston census, most of these marriages were between black sailors or laborers (some of them ex-slaves) and poor Irish working women.
Which is interesting, because I think the general perception is that interracial marriage has become more common as white Americans have become less racist (or overtly racist, anyway). Which is true--to an extent. Marriages between whites and Hispanics and whites and Asian-Americans have skyrocketed in recent years, and black/white interracial marriage has increased, but much much more slowly. As Randall Kennedy writes in a recent piece from the Atlantic Monthly ("Interracial Intimacy", which is also the title of his new book):
It should be stressed that black-white marriages remain remarkably rare—fewer than one percent of the total. In 1998, when 330,000 black-white couples were married, 55,305,000 couples were married overall. Moreover, the racial isolation of blacks on the marriage market appears to be greater than that of other people of color: much larger percentages of Native Americans and Asian-Americans marry whites. According to 1990 Census data, in the age cohort twenty-five to thirty-four, 36 percent of U.S.-born Asian-American husbands and 45 percent of U.S.-born Asian-American wives had white spouses; 53 percent of Native American husbands and 54 percent of Native American wives had white spouses. Only eight percent of African-American husbands and only four percent of African-American wives had white spouses. The sociologist Nathan Glazer was correct in stating, in The Public Interest (September 1995), that "blacks stand out uniquely among the array of American ethnic and racial groups in the degree to which marriage remains within the group." Of course, the Native American and Asian-American populations are so much smaller than the African-American population that relatively few intermarriages make a big difference in percentage terms. But the disparity is real: it has to do not only with demographics but also with generations' worth of subjective judgments about marriageability, beauty, personality, comfort, compatibility, and prestige. Even now a wide array of social pressures continue to make white-black marriages more difficult and thus less frequent than other interethnic or interracial marriages.
More on this later (in case you hadn't noticed, it's of personal interest). But while we're on the topic of interracial marriage, there was an interesting discussion at Atrios' place recently about a white teacher who told her class she thought interracial marriage was wrong. (Atrios also found a must-see AP graph about Bush's stimulus package).