Navigating Interracial Borders: Black-White Couples and Their Social Worlds

Navigating Interracial Borders: Black-White Couples and Their Social Worlds

Navigating Interracial Borders: Black-White Couples and Their Social Worlds

Navigating Interracial Borders: Black-White Couples and Their Social Worlds


"One of the best books written about interracial relationships to date.... Childs offers a sophisticated and insightful analysis of the social and ideological context of black-white interracial relationships."--Heather Dalmage, author Tripping on the Color Line

"A pioneering project that thoroughly analyzes interracial marriage in contemporary America."--Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, author of Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

Is love color-blind, or at least becoming increasingly so? Today's popular rhetoric and evidence of more interracial couples than ever might suggest that it is. But is it the idea of racially mixed relationships that we are growing to accept or is it the reality? What is the actual experience of individuals in these partnerships as they navigate their way through public spheres and intermingle in small, close-knit communities?

In Navigating Interracial Borders, Erica Chito Childs explores the social worlds of black-white interracial couples and examines the ways that collective attitudes shape private relationships. Drawing on personal accounts, in-depth interviews, focus group responses, and cultural analysis of media sources, she provides compelling evidence that sizable opposition still exists toward black-white unions. Disapproval is merely being expressed in more subtle, color-blind terms.

Childs reveals that frequently the same individuals who attest in surveys that they approve of interracial dating will also list various reasons why they and their families wouldn't, shouldn't, and couldn't marry someone of another race. Even college students, who are heralded as racially tolerant and open-minded, do not view interracial couples as acceptable when those partnerships move beyond the point of casual dating. Popular films, Internet images, and pornography also continue to reinforce the idea that sexual relations between blacks and whites are deviant.

Well-researched, candidly written, and enriched with personal narratives, Navigating Interracial Borders offers important new insights into the still fraught racial hierarchies of contemporary society in the United States.


As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem
almost unimaginable…. I’m sure you know what you are up
against. There will be 100 million people right here in this coun
try who will be shocked, offended, and appalled at the two of you.

The 1967 Academy Award–winning movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner concluded with this warning from a white father to his daughter and her “Negro” fiancé. That same year, the Supreme Court overturned any laws against interracial marriage as unconstitutional. Yet how does the contemporary U.S. racial landscape compare? In this ever-changing world of race and color, where do black-white couples fit, and has this unimaginable opposition disappeared?

While significant changes have occurred in the realm of race relations largely from the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, U.S. society still has racial borders. Most citizens live, work, and socialize with others of the same race—as if living within borders, so to speak—even though there are no longer legal barriers such as separate facilities or laws against intermarriage. Yet if these largely separate racial worlds exist, what social world(s) do blackwhite couples live in and how do they navigate these racial borders? Even more important, how do white communities and black communities view and respond to black-white couples? In other words, do they navigate the racial borders by enforcing, ignoring, or actively trying to dismantle them? My goal is to explore these issues to better understand the contemporary beliefs and practices surrounding black-white couples. This book takes an ethnographic look at interracial couples. Unlike most ethnographies, however, it is not geographically located but rather an exploration of the social worlds of interracial couples. My data comes from varied sources, including Web sites . . .

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