Moving beyond Our Comfort Zone: The Role of Leisure Service Providers in Enhancing Multiracial Families' Leisure Experiences. (Research Update)

Article excerpt

For decades, leisure researchers have attempted to identify and understand the leisure patterns of diverse groups within our society. Early research in this area revealed that African Americans and European Americans often demonstrated different leisure patterns. Since then, additional research has been conducted in order to examine and better understand the dynamics of these leisure differences. Research has identified several factors that explain these differences: (1) the limited socio-economic resources of many African Americans; (2) a historical pattern of oppression and racial discrimination towards African Americans; (3) distinct cultural differences between African Americans and European Americans; and (4) feelings of discomfort and constraint by African Americans in public leisure settings. Although much has been accomplished, little is known about the leisure patterns and preferences of those who historically have been racially categorized as "other:" multiracial families and biracial people. Since combinations of multiracial families are virtually endless, this update only focuses on research related to blended African American and European American families. The purpose of this research update is to summarize what we currently know about the leisure patterns of these blended families and identify strategies that parks and recreation professionals can employ to improve their programs and facilities.

Various types of interracial relationships have become more common and acceptable over the course of the 20th century. Spickard (1989) explained that romantic relationships between African Americans and European Americans have a long, though not necessarily celebrated, history in America dating back to the nation's colonial past. However, the concept of interracial marriage is, by and large, a more recent phenomenon and has gained increased attention in the media, as well as in the popular literature. Today, there are nearly three million married interracial couples in the United States, representing approximately 5 percent of all marriages (Suro, 1999). Sandor (1994) estimated that there are 2.5 million interracial couples dating. Further, the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2001) reported that seven million people selected the new option of checking more than one racial category, therefore declaring themselves "multiracial." Furthermore, demographers contend that interracial relationships will continue to grow, thus increasing the numbers of individuals and families with their own unique set of social issues (Xie & Goyette, 1997).

A substantial historical literature base suggests that multiracial marriage may have a number of negative effects on couples and their children such as: anxiety, insecurity, guilt, anger, depression, and identity conflicts (Gordon, 1964; Henriques, 1974; McDermott & Fukunagua, 1978; Washington, 1970). On the rare occasions that biracial people and/or interracial couples have been asked about their social reality, they have often reported that the psychological and sociological problems they face are manifestations of a racist society (Reddy, 1994). Taken together, this research indicated that perhaps the broader concern is not one of issues affecting those involved in interracial relationships, but rather issues regarding race relations in our society. In other words, our society's preoccupation with race is at the crux of the problems facing biracial people. The story of Lorezo, a biracial male, illustrates this point:

   Unfortunately, what makes it [interracial relationships] a loaded issue has
   everything to do with caste and politics, not really cultural differences.
   That's nothing. Nothing. It's what we have in a psychological way and a
   social-political way done to race and culture that's got things all screwed
   up. And that's where the problem lies. (as cited in Rosenblatt et al.,
   1995, p. 295)

Clearly the issue of preoccupation with race affects interracial couples' leisure patterns, and several key questions warrant attention. …