Black America's Unrequited Love [re-post from Feb. 2010]

The conventional wisdom is that because of a rise in interracial relationships, all Americans will be brown in the future. Henry Louis Gates Jr., for example, recently stated, "I'm looking forward to the time when we all look like Polynesians." Current data, however, suggests that the most we might see in the future is the beige-ing--not the browning--of the white population. Additionally, we can expect to see a phenotypic black population into the foreseeable future because while blacks seem somewhat open to interracial relationships, non-blacks prefer whites over blacks. In the American "melting pot," blacks are the least loved group.

While blacks appear to be the most racially tolerant Americans, they are the least tolerated racial group. These are the conclusions suggested by a recent Pew Research Center survey on racial attitudes. Blacks are more likely to accept an interracial marriage by a family member than are whites and Hispanics. But whites and Hispanics view blacks as the least desirable group for interracial marriage.

Given a choice between an Asian or a black person as a relative, whites choose Asians. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all whites are "fine" with a family member marrying an Asian, but only 64 percent are comfortable with a family member marrying a black person.

Hispanics are more positive toward interracial marriage and toward blacks than whites. The highest rate of acceptance of interracial marriage whites express is 73 percent. The lowest rate of acceptance for Hispanics is 73 percent for a family member marrying a black person. The highest rate of acceptance for Hispanics is 81 percent for a family member marrying a white person. While Hispanics are more accepting of blacks than whites, they still express a greater rate of support for a white person joining the family than a black person.

Interestingly, when one examines blacks' preferences for specific groups, blacks show no favoritism toward any group. Among blacks, the acceptance rate for whites and Asians is 80 percent and 81 percent for Hispanics.

The Pew Research Center data is an attitude survey. It records what people say they would do which may be different from what they actually do. It also asks about a family member and not about the interviewee. A person might accept a family member marrying someone of another race while they think that interracial marriage is unacceptable for themselves.

There is data that provides some insight into people's actual racial preferences for love and marriage. The dating website OkCupid conducted an analysis of response rates to first-contact messages from potential male and female suitors. The analysis took account of compatibility, attractiveness and height. The OkCupid analyst found that white, Hispanic and Asian women on average revealed strong preferences for white men. Black women had the lowest response rates. In the interracial online dating world, white men have a distinct advantage. Blacks are disadvantaged and especially black women.

Interracial marriage data from the 2000 Census paints a picture similar to OkCupid's findings. Asian and Hispanic women have higher rates of intermarriage than white and black women. More than one-in-five married Asian women (22 percent) were married to non-Asian men. Eighteen of the 22 percent of Asian women were married to white men. The overall out-marriage rate for Hispanics was a little lower, 18 percent, with 15 percent of Hispanic women married to white men. Only 4 percent of married black women were married to non-blacks, and only 2 percent were married to white men. Asian and Hispanic women are much more likely to marry outside of their race than black women and when they do marry outside of their racial group in the vast majority of cases it is to white men.

The picture for married men of color differed from that of women. While Asian women were the most likely to be married to someone of another race, among men, Hispanic men were the most likely to marry outside of their group. Fifteen percent of Hispanic men married non-Hispanics with the vast majority (13 out of the 15 percent) marrying white women. Black and Asian men were equally likely to marry outside of their race with an out-marriage rate of 9 percent for both. Six percent of black men married white women and 7 percent of Asian men did the same.

The attitudinal data shows non-blacks less accepting of interracial marriage with blacks compared to other groups. The online dating data shows that blacks, and particularly black women, are seen as less desirable for romantic relationships. The marriage data shows that black women have very low marriage rates to non-blacks and to white men specifically.

If there is a mixed-race future for America, at present, it looks like it will largely exclude blacks.