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Interracial marriages are almost as old as the history of organized society. People from most cultures practiced interracial marriage for various reasons. With the development of transport technologies, traders, explorers, and soldiers moved far away from their homes and landed in new places (Wensveen 20). If their destination was the home of a different race, then interracial marriages ensued.
In the twentieth century, man’s mobility improved with the invention of the automobile, air travel and passenger cruises across the oceans. The number of people living in different continents away from their native societies is on the increase. This means that the number of interracial marriages is on the rise too. The goal of this paper is to investigate the issues that influence the raising of children in interracial marriages with the view of taking a position on whether to support or oppose interracial marriages.
Historical View of Interracial Marriages
Prior to the twentieth century, interracial marriages were the result of the movement of people from certain parts of the world to another (Laster 42). Whenever the newcomers settled in a new place, interracial marriages ensued. The two main factors that influenced interracial marriage prior to the twentieth century were trade and colonization.
Most traders used ships to travel to distant lands to trade. They carried goods from their native land and took them to new places to exchange them for goods. Some of these traders ended up settling in the new territories. Some of them took local wives, thereby establishing interracial marriages.
In places like America, hordes of settlers from different parts of Europe met in the new land, and intermarried as they sought to colonize the land (Fellman, Getis and Getis 55). Apart from the trade in goods, perhaps slave trade is the most significant factor that drove interracial marriages before the twentieth century. Slave traders usually took local women for themselves, and at times, they made some of their slaves their mistresses. Some of them eventually married the slave women effectively forming interracial marriages.
The colonial period also saw the rise of interracial marriages. Some colonial powers such as the French and the Portuguese practiced policies intended to make their colonial subjects part of their citizens. For instance, the French in West Africa worked towards assimilating the locals to the French culture to make them French West Africans (Griffiths, O’Callaghan and Roach 23).
Some of the colonial settlers eventually took local women as their wives resulting in interracial marriages. Colonial powers such as Britain and Germany had stricter rules relating to racial integration hence there were fewer interracial marriages in colonies governed by these powers.
In the same period, there were factors that discouraged interracial marriages in some parts of the world. A case in point is the apartheid South Africa, and America before the abolition of segregation laws in 1967 (Laster 42). These two countries had laws prohibiting interracial marriages. In fact, children born out of interracial liaisons had no place in the society. These laws are no longer in place.
The fate of children born out of interracial marriages before the twentieth century depended on the legal and cultural acceptance of the marriages in the first place. In the East African coast, the intermarriage between Arab traders and local Bantus led to the emergence of the Swahili culture. Very many people living in the coastal regions of East Africa today have a mixed decent as a result. In some places, mixed race children suffered from discrimination especially where the community frowned upon such unions.
Trends Driving Interracial Marriages
The factor discussed above no longer play an important role in modern day interracial marriages. Slave trade no longer exists as a legitimate trade and colonialism is long gone. However, there are new forces driving the establishment of interracial marriages today. These forces include globalization and the promotion of personal freedoms.
Globalization refers to the process leading to greater integration of human experiences with the aid of technology. Globalization is possible because of improvements in transportation and communication infrastructure across the world (Holmes 37).
People all over the world can now know in a matter of seconds what is happening half way across the world because of the internet. In the same way, any opportunity for a job is available to all people. Anyone with the skills and the technological tools to handle the job can do it effectively from any part of the world.
This is the basis of the increasing trend in business of sending work to competitive regions of the world. Many tax returns for American citizens are the work of accountants in India and the Philippines (Mongay 29). Globalization is making it easier for people to relocate from one country to another in pursuit of jobs and educational opportunities, without losing their local social ties. The result is that a growing number of people have an intercultural experience hence are open to interracial marriages.
The second issue influencing the growth in the number of interracial marriages is the increasing respect for personal freedoms. Many counties have adopted laws that allow the citizens to make personal decisions regarding marriage without legal repercussions. In some societies, the parents played an important role in determining whom their children married.
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While this practice is still strong in India and among Indians living abroad, the influence of the parents is waning. Many young people prefer the western model, which allows people to pick their own spouses. Since the young people have grown up in a global setting, their choices do not reflect racial loyalty. The result is an increase in interracial marriages.
While there is a lot of progress in regards to personal freedoms in the democratic nations of the world, cultural and religious issues, sometimes coupled with legal restrictions prevent interracial marriages in some societies. In the Arab world, marriage rarely goes across racial lines. The choice of a husband and wife is not an individual’s decision, but a consensus of the whole family.
The parents have a lot of say regarding the person their son or daughter marries even if the choice of the person comes from the child. Interracial marriages are not acceptable in most cases within the Arab countries. The laws may prohibit interfaith marriages only, but the cultural practices do not condone interracial marriages, thereby halting such liaisons. When some of the people from the Arab world immigrate to the western world, they become more open to interracial marriages.
The Arab world is not the only place where cultural reasons prevent interracial marriages. Indians abroad have maintained pure bloodlines by forming cultural enclaves and living in close-knit communities. It is common to find marriages between relatives in Indian communities because of the limited choice of spouses within their communities. In conclusion, cultural factors play an important role in determining the occurrence of interracial marriages.
Challenges of Interracial Marriages
Before considering the impact of interracial heritage on children, it is vital to consider some of the challenges that interracial couples face. The potential list of challenges that an interracial couple may face is long. External challenges include social rejection, legal limitations is some countries, and unwarranted attention. For the purposes of this paper, the two challenges found relevant to child upbringing are language and communication barriers, and cultural barriers.
The language and communication barrier is the most significant barrier that interracial couples deal with. The language barrier can be a significant problem in the communication process if the two people lived in different regions before their marriage (Holmes 44).
Speaking a similar language does not mean that someone will fully understand everything the partner says. For instance, an interracial couple made up of a person from Britain and another one from India will experience language related problems based on whether the two people are native speakers.
In addition, the manner of speech in one country can vary from another despite using the same language. In the case of an American married to a Chinese spouse, the American can seem overbearing and insensitive because of the aggressive and the freestyle nature of American communication. A third dimension of the communication barrier is the use of body language (Griffin 33). This can affect communication with in-laws and sometimes, with one’s spouse.
Cultural barriers are very significant for interracial couples. While the couple can work on their personal differences that come from cultural issues, the wider society will continue to be a source of conflict for the couple. For instance, in many African cultures, there are cultural prohibitions against men cooking for their families. This is not true in the western world.
Therefore, a mixed marriage between an African man and a western spouse may experience strain related to the husband’s role in helping out in the kitchen. The couple may find a compromise on the matter, but if they live in the husband’s community, then the society will reinforce the taboo prohibiting men from cooking. This many hinder the ability of the husband to support his western wife in the Kitchen. These issues illustrate some of the issues that can influence the upbringing of children in interracial marriages.
Effects of Interracial Marriages on Children
Children born by interracial parents have a number of unique opportunities as well as challenges. This section examines these issues in order to conclude on whether it is good or bad for children to have interracial parents.
The main benefits children enjoy because of a mixed heritage include development of a broader worldview, having a rich cultural heritage, and developing strong relational skills. They also inherit a stronger gene pool. The main challenges associated with interracial upbringing include increased risk of discrimination and the potential of suffering from an identity crisis.
One of the distinguishing marks of truly global citizens is their worldview. Anyone involved in a global enterprise need to have a global worldview (Sutter 54). In fact, anyone who grows up with a global worldview has a better chance of success in the increasingly globalised world of the twenty first century. Interracial parents give a child a richer worldview. The child grows up with the fact that this world consists of different races. Such children will have a better grasp of the racial tensions, differences, and coping mechanisms.
Children born to interracial parents will enjoy the benefits of viewing the world from three perspectives. The first perspective is the father’s perspective. The children will learn from the experiences of their father what it is like to belong to his race. In addition to the father, the social experience of interacting with relatives from the father’s side will provide them with a unique view, different from the view provided by the interaction with relatives from the mother’s side.
The second perspective will come from the mothers view and from the interaction with relatives from the mother’s side. Thirdly, the children will have a glimpse of the unique perspective formed by their parents based on their interracial experience. Children from single race parents do not have such benefits.
Secondly, the children born to mixed race parents will have a richer cultural heritage from the paternal and maternal sides. Culture in this sense refers to the way of life of a community. It includes their beliefs, practices, and customs (Griffiths, O’Callaghan and Roach 61). Children born to an interracial couple can enjoy the insights from the cultures of both parents. The power of these experiences comes from the fact that the children are bona fide members of both communities hence there is no need for mediation.
It is important to note that it is possible to have an interracial relationship within the same cultural setting. One of the impacts of globalization is the rapid urbanization. Many interracial relationships take place in urban centers. In this sense, people who grow up in urban centers may conform to the same urban subculture despite differences in race. In this case, while the parents may be from different races, the cultural elements associated with their races may not have a significant impact.
Despite this, it is still interesting to note that the way different people experience the same cultural setting such as an urban center varies based on broader issues. For instance, blacks and whites in South Africa and America have very different experiences despite living in the same cultural setting. The difference in perspectives is what serves to enrich the experience of interracial children.
The third benefit that interracial children are likely to enjoy is the development of stronger relational skills in a globalizing environment. Any two people in an interracial marriage deal with many challenges from the marriage and from the wider community. As such, they learn to resolve conflicts based on the desire to keep the relationship (Bercovitch and Jackson 42). Children born to them therefore come into a family that excels in conflict management.
As the children observe how their parents interact with each other and with other people, they pick up values like tolerance and accommodating different opinions. As such, the children will grow up to become tolerant people. They will have special skills to handle different people and to appreciate differences in perspectives. In this sense, children born to interracial parents make better global citizens because of their experiences in a racially diverse home.
The fourth advantage of interracial upbringing is biological. Parents from different races bring together two different genetic pools. This provides the offspring with certain benefits such as stronger resistance to some diseases, and reduces the chance of developing genetic disorders (Perkins 11).
On the other hand, there are certain challenges that are unique to interracial children. They include growing up with discrimination and the risk of suffering from an identity crisis. In some countries where racial tension is high, children born to interracial parents face rejection and discrimination from the community. Cases of infanticide can occur because of the birth of interracial children.
For instance, some mixed race children born in apartheid South Africa did not survive long enough to leave the hospitals. The racial tension in the country led to policies that promoted their killing. In general, there is an increasing acceptance of mixed race children all over the world because of the increase in their number. In addition, the promotion of personal freedoms and the requirement for all people to be tolerant to others is making life easier for mixed race children.
The second challenge that mixed race children face is identity. If the children find that they are the only ones in the community with a special identity, they may fail to fit in it. They may face external rejection and internal identity crisis as they grow up. In societies that lack tolerance, the children may come under pressure to identify with the race of one parent.
Since the children know that they have a mixed heritage, they may develop an identity crisis. The good news is that the number of mixed race children is growing because of globalization. In time, having parents from two races will not be special. Therefore, the social stigma associated with a mixed race heritage will reduce.
After considering the issues relating to mixed race children, the logical conclusion is that bringing up children in a mixed race family deserves support. The reasons are as follows.
First, people will keep moving from one part of the world to another in search of opportunities because of globalization. This means that there will be more mixed race children all over the world. Therefore, the challenges associated with the minority status of mixed race children will reduce gradually.
Secondly, mixed race children make better global citizens because of their upbringing in a culturally diverse home. The children have better cross cultural relationship skills that can help them to settle anywhere on earth and to be effective participants in their communities. This comes from their family experiences, which include observing the relationships between their parents.
Thirdly, cross-racial children have a diverse gene pool. This means that they are likely to enjoy better health because of the reduced chances of contracting genetically transmitted diseases, and other genetic defects. Good health is a factor in measuring the quality of life (Perkins 43). As such, cross-racial children may enjoy better health that most people.
Fourth cross-cultural children that manage to overcome discrimination and unwarranted attention will develop stronger social skills. They can manage to relate with other people from a point of strength and therefore they have a better chance of succeeding in life.
Based on these reasons, the conclusion of this work is that it is beneficial to bring up children in a mixed race family. Some challenges exist, but the benefits far outweigh these challenges.
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