Intermarriage and Destroying Cultures

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One common but bad argument against interracial marriage stems from the fear that it destroys cultures. Mixed Media Watch has a good response to this argument. I would add that racial interaction of any sort, especially intermarriage, should create culture as much as destroying it. Once you stop assuming that culture is the same thing as race, it becomes pretty clear that kids of mixed race can have a culture, and this is so even if both parents avoid continuing cultural traditions of their families. We all have a culture, and every culture is changing. In the U.S., there used to be a black culture and a white culture. Now there's still something to black culture, but there really isn't much of a white culture anymore, just a mainstream culture that includes many historically white elements but has many elements from non-white ethnic groups. If black people were to give up the remaining distinctives (which isn't what I'm recommending; I would recommend giving up only bad elements of any culture), it still wouldn't mean black culture is lost. It would mean some (but only some) of those distinctives would be lost. Many of them would remain on in the continuing culture that contains those and some of the original mainstream features.

But what's really silly about this argument is the idea that mixed race children are being robbed of their own culture if they are not raised in ways that the culture of one side of their ancestry had. Whatever you're going to say about what they're being denied, they're not being denied their culture. It's not their culture unless they once had it. Those who were taken from Africa and made slaves were robbed of their culture. If Sam and I adopt a Korean girl, we're not robbing her of her culture just because her parents would be of two very different ethnic groups that are not her own. That Korean culture was never hers, so no one could claim that she would be robbed of her culture. At best she would be robbed of a culture that might otherwise have been hers, but that's not the same thing. We might say there's some kind of ancestral heritage that she has, but it's not her culture. Her culture is what she's raised with.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine dealt with this issue nicely in the second season episode "Cardassians". A Cardassian child was raised by Bajorans. I've used that episode with good results in my classes when I've talked about race. A Cardassian child was raised by Bajoran parents. The Cardassians had been the oppressors of the Bajorans, until the Bajorans freed themselves. Some Cardassian children were left behind, and this kid was one of them. The Bajorans took them in. His culture was clearly Bajoran, but his father wanted him raised as a proper Cardassian to appreciate Cardassian things. Sometimes thinking about these things with a no-stakes context like science fiction really helps put things into perspective when you return to the real-life cases.


Thank you very much for this very nicely written article. as a parent of interracial children i have had that thrown at us. course we not they are learning about many cultures.


Way back when I was 18 (and dating) part of my husband's family was unhappy with the situation because I'm Irish. They're German. (shakes head)

My kids - my son's first girlfriend was black, my daughter's first boyfried had parents that were both born in Mexico.

We visited a church yesterday that was very interacial. Of the couples that I saw, I think that 1/3 were black, 1/3 were white and 1/3 were intermarriages. Of the churches that we have visited so far, this is the first that I have felt comfortable enough in to want to go back.

the only "mixed marriage" that I would put my foot down and forbid is the mixed marriage between either of my children and a non-Christian. That is the one that I'm concerned with.

It seems to me that part of the problem is due to the false view that culture is somehow static.

When even the basic component of culture, language, changes over time it seems that we ought to view cultural heritage as something of interest as a component but realize that the reality is that culture is as organic as mankind itself. Even our phsycial structures, of the most lasting materials we know, decay and must change over time.... how much more such cultural attributes as manners, art, and music?

I find this static view is in line with the modern viewpoint that everything is within controlled, and controllable, environments. Then we label it and file it. Making "it" far removed from us as people, rather than understanding that people meld and grow and influence each other in a rich panoplay. There is something so out of touch with the notion that we can culture like some jar of beans. It is more like spices - best when fresh and well-integrated into the meal at hand. Sometimes familiar and sometimes something delightfully new.

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