Danielle Gallman, 22, and Christopher Normann, 19, have been together a little more than a year.
Gallman is black and Normann is white. As a result, Gallman said she has lost several people she used to consider friends over judgments and ill feelings toward her interracial relationship.
“We have gotten pressure from people about our relationship but mainly from people close to us,” Gallman said. “There hasn’t been disrespect from outside people. Some of my very good friends talked about it negatively and questioned whether I was confused about who I was and about how we should act together. I’ve lost a lot of people that I thought were friends and had a lot of broken friendships, but we’ve gained a few, too. There were some people we just had to leave behind.”
Gallman has had her share of tainted friendships and bonds, but the relationship that matters most, the one with her family, remains strong.
“As long as he’s taking care of me and treating me like a young man should treat a young woman, my family is fine with it,” Gallman said. “It may be because of my family’s background though. My dad is mixed with Tongan and black, so a lot of my family members are OK with interracial dating.”
In the early 20th century, it was completely illegal for an interracial couple to marry. By 1967, 16 states, mainly states in the South, still had anti-miscegenation laws in place. As 2010 is here and as the country is under the leadership of a biracial president, the question of whether interracial relationships are now more accepted still exists.
Douglas Blackburn and his wife Maggie Blackburn have been married 22 years. He is white and she is black. Douglas says he has never encountered any kind of racism about his marriage.
Douglas is the higher education editor for the Tallahassee Democrat, and he and his wife met in 1982. His family has never pressured him about whom he chose to marry and he said it has never really been that big of a deal.
“My wife and I met late at night at a bar in New York City,” Blackburn said. “I am from Ann Arbor, Mich., and she grew up in Long Island, N.Y. Her family has embraced me from day one.”
The end of miscegenation laws began with the Loving v. Virginia case. Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and a Native American woman, were arrested and pleaded guilty to a felony by marrying each other. The judge ruled that they had to split and leave the country for 25 years and could not return together.
The judge’s mentality was that God created different races and placed them separately on Earth for a reason and these races were not meant to intertwine. Mildred was referred to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Virginia law was overturned along with similar miscegenation laws in the states. Various people of different ethnicities and backgrounds have been able to marry ever since.
Douglas Blackburn agrees that people have definitely changed over the years in response to couples marrying outside their races.
“I think society has shifted to be sure,” he said. “You just have to ask yourself, am I in love with this person because of who they are, or because of their color?”
Gallman agrees that on the surface, society has lightened up on the notion of mixed couples, but there is still an exception with blacks and whites specifically.
“When it comes to black people dating whites, there is still a bit of a lingering disdain for it, especially when there is a big difference in the shade of black and the shade of white,” she said.
However, not only black and white couples receive backlash.
Cyni Winegard, 20, is Filipina and her fiancée, Adam Byrd, 20, is white. They have been together for one year.
Byrd and Winegard met on the campus of Florida A&M. He said he was introduced to Winegard through a mutual friend. The next time he saw her, he asked her out and she agreed. The two have been inseparable ever since.
Although the couple has not been shown any discriminatory treatment from outsiders, Winegard’s mother does not accept her relationship with a white man.
“My mother met Adam when we first started dating and she basically ignores him now,” Winegard said. “I spoke with her last week and she does not even know his name after a year. My brother and sister love him and so does my dad. My mom is just insane.”
Winegard said her mother has a strong dislike toward whites because of a bad experience between her mother and father.
“My mom hates white people because my dad is white and he made her move to America from the Philippines where she has no family,” Winegard said. “And then he left her for a white lady, so she’s kind of hurt. Plus she refuses to learn how to speak proper English and gets frustrated with everyone that knows how.”
Byrd said he has similar problems with his family, so Winegard’s mother does not easily bother him.
“I have my own dysfunctional family,” he says. “I learned a long time ago to not get upset over things such as this. Cyni and I will be together no matter what anyone thinks and we are extraordinarily happy together.”
Tony Cox of National Public Radio recently held a segment on his show focused primarily on interracial relationships and its transition over the years. Debra Dickerson, the author of The End of Blackness, and Carmen Van Kerckhove, the co-director of The New Demographic, were guests on the show.
Dickerson critiqued the movie The Wedding Crashers and in her argument she mentioned the various ethnicities and races of weddings that these men would crash to meet women. She thought of it as an ode to multiculturalism.
“There were Asian women, Hindu women with the red dots in the middle of their foreheads, Jewish weddings, everything except for black weddings,” Dickerson said.
“There are just some times when I think it becomes really clear that we’re still not totally comfortable.”
Van Kerckhove agreed saying that people are still uneasy about accepting interracial relationships. She said that in several parts of the county, people are still racist and there are constant cross-burning incidents that target interracial couples across the country.
In 2008, 13, 690 law enforcement agencies submitted hate crime data to the Uniform Crime Reporting program, according to fbi.gov. Within that year there were nearly 5,000 racially motivated hate crimes reported. More than 70 percent of these hate crimes were motivated by anti-black biases and 81.9 percent of these crimes resulted in destruction, damage or vandalism of victim’s property.
Van Kerckhove also said that there is a generational shift with acceptance of these relationships. She says the younger generation is more open to where race is not that huge of a factor.
Verna M. Keith, Ph.D., is a sociologist at Florida State University. She thinks the aspect of interracial relationships goes a lot deeper than what many think.
“It’s a bit more complicated,” Keith said. “Surveys have shown that people are more accepting of them generally, but at the same time, there is a substantial population of people who don’t accept those relationships.”
In 2002, an article written by Randall Kennedy was published in The Atlantic addressing interracial relationships specifically in the black community. The article stated that there is a huge disparity in acceptance of black/white couples than other races being together.
“It has not to do only with demographics, but also with generations’ worth of subjective judgments, marriage ability, beauty, personality, comfort, compatibility and prestige,” as stated in the article. “A wide array of social pressures continue to make black/white marriages more difficult and thus less frequent than other interethnic and interracial marriages.”
Gallman admits reactions she has gotten from those closest to her has made her a bit apprehensive about her relationship.
“I was such a big part of this group and it made me think about why I was really with Chris,” she said. “But then I realized, as long as I’m happy and we both function well in the relationship and are both happy, then it does not matter what anyone else will say or think.”
She wants people to move past color lines and know that who you love sometimes has no boundaries.
“I would encourage people to look past skin color,” Gallman said. “There are a lot of cultural differences between people of different races, but there is so much that we have in common as humans and so much we can learn in relationships from people in other races about ourselves and about each other.”