For Nyarayi and Jeff Wickert, opposites attract.
A few years ago, on their first date at a South Side bar, Mrs.
Wickert learned they were "complete polar opposites."
She was a former punk rocker, he was a fraternity brother; she
was a cat lover, he was allergic. Still, their fondness for one
"Somehow, our relationship's awesome and it's so strange," she
But the most apparent outward difference -- race -- mattered
little. Mrs. Wickert is biracial, herself the product of an
interracial marriage. Mr. Wickert is white.
The pair decided to elope last year on June 12, dubbed Loving
Day, the anniversary of the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v.
Virginia, which struck down laws barring people of different races
A report from Pew Research Center released Thursday showed the
prevalence of interracial marriages is at an all-time high, a rise
that has been accompanied by greater acceptance of multiracial
The report, based on the center's own nationwide telephone
surveys and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, showed that nearly one
in six marriages that occurred in 2010 was between people of
different races, more than double the ratio in 1980.
Michael J. Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at
Stanford University who has studied interracial relationships, said
the rise in interracial marriage is both a harbinger and an
indicator for improvement in race relations.
"It generally says something about race relations because the
kind of strict segregation and de facto segregation [of the past]
... was really abetted by the ability to keep those other people out
of our family," he said.
Interracial marriages are less common in Pennsylvania than the
national average. Just over 9 percent of the marriages that occurred
in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2010 were interracial, compared
with 15 percent of marriages nationwide during the same time, which
may be reflective of demographics, said Wendy Wang of the Pew
Research Center, one of the study's authors. Predictably,
researchers saw more interracial marriages in areas with more
Surveys showed 63 percent of people said they "would be fine" if
a family member married outside his or her race, while the remaining
respondents took issue with a family member marrying within at least
one racial category. This is a meteoric rise since a 1986 study,
when just one-third of Americans said it was "acceptable" for
someone to marry a person of any racial group.
Ms. Wang said the rise of prevalence of intermarriage and the
growth in the acceptance of it are linked, but researchers are
unsure which comes first.
"These two go hand-in hand. We don't know which influenced
which," she said. "We definitely see this link there and they seem
to feed each other."
Reflective of the data, interracial married couples in the area
said they've seen a greater acceptance of their relationships over
Ms. Wickert, of Downtown, said her own mother, who is white, was
disowned when she married her father, who came to the United States
from Zimbabwe. When her newlywed parents went looking to buy a home
in the Pittsburgh suburbs, they were threatened by neighbors, she
It's made her keenly appreciative of the progress that has been
made since then. …