Historical Analysis of College Campus Interracial Dating

By Firmin, Michael W.; Firebaugh, Stephanie | College Student Journal, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Historical Analysis of College Campus Interracial Dating


Firmin, Michael W., Firebaugh, Stephanie, College Student Journal


Interracial dating on American campuses has had a relatively stormy past. Until the past three decades or so, it was outlawed in some states. Southern institutions, in particular, such as the infamous Bob Jones University have made this issue divisive even among their own constituencies. Age and generation seem to be cogent factors with younger people and succeeding generations more open than older and preceding ones. Researchers need to distinguish literature on interracial dating from interracial marriage and the two phenomena possess significantly different psychology. Given the surprising paucity of literature in this area, we call for a new line of research dedicated to this domain.

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Interracial dating in the United States has faced many struggles. The struggles echoed the long historical opposition between different ethnicities, particularly Caucasians and African Americans. Caucasian and African American romantic relationships are not new and evidence suggests their occurrence from before the time of slavery. During slave times opposition between these two races was exacerbated by some slave owners raping African-American women. Evidence also suggests that some Caucasian women used African-American slaves as concubines. In many areas of the country miscegenation was outlawed or faced strong opposition. Infractions often resulted in imprisonment, beating, or death. As recently as 1967, sixteen states still banned interracial marriage until the Supreme Court struck down those laws (Davidson, 1992, Foeman & Nance, 1999).

Opposition to interracial relationships continues to exist, although it has lessened over the past few decades. This opposition still occurs though laws banning miscegenation were revoked and the occurrence of the desegregation movement decades ago. Interracial relationships have become more accepted by society, however, and individuals are more open to participation (Fiebert, Karamol, & Kasdan, 2000; Lovstuen, 2001). Krikor (2001) reports that interracial marriages are increasing, from 51,000 African American-Caucasian marriages in 1960 to 330,000 in 1998. Gurung & Duong (1999) and Moore (1999) also report that the occurrence of interracial marriage has greatly increased the past few decades.

Age and generation seem to affect openness to interracial relationships. Few studies exist that have studied generational influences, but some suggest an age and generational factor. Younger generations seem to be more open toward and view interracial dating and marriage more favorably than older generations (Knox, Zusman, Buffington, & Hemphill, 2000). Though younger generations appear to be more favorable to these relationships, they are still affected by their parents and older family members. Since family interactions are one's first experience and training in socialization, parents and other family members provide a cogent influence. Miller, Olson, and Fazio (2004) surveyed college students on perceived friend and family approval for dating someone of a different race or status group. Non-Caucasian males reported more disapproval from their Caucasian partner's friends and family than from their own family. Caucasian females predicted more opposition from their family regarding dating individuals from low social ranking groups than did Caucasian males. However, Caucasian females predicted opposition to interracial dating only if they viewed their parents as prejudiced.

Many parents express disapproval of their children interracially dating or marrying, therefore interracial dating couples may delay informing parents of their interracial union. After acknowledgment, they may avoid family outings and reunions (Foeman & Nance, 1999). However, younger generations tend to prize freethinking and individualism apart from the standards and beliefs of their parents and older generations. Parents also may tend to become more open and less involved in their children's lives. …

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