Love may be blind, but many Americans aren't blind to who's in love — which can be a problem for interracial couples.
Recently, The Daily Beast reported how "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts, an African-American, and her celebrity chef boyfriend, Brian Lucas, who is white, experienced the ongoing social stigmas associated with being an interracial couple.
The article quoted Lucas' account when police approached them and asked how he knew her and what their relationship was. "They were questions that quite frankly made me feel like that they were questioning me being like the client of a prostitute,” Lucas said.
The Daily Beast writer, Keli Goff, continued, “Mixed-race families are the fastest-growing demographic in America, there is not a single interracial couple I know who has been together for an extended period of time who has not experienced some awkwardness or indignity that same-race couples do not.”
How the couple was treated created a flurry of outrage online. On Monday, HuffPost Live provided some perspective on how bias against interracial couples has persisted for decades. Musician John Mellencamp recounted to the online news publication how his 1980s hit “Jack & Diane” was actually a song intended to describe interracial sweethearts:
The song says Jack is a football star, but Mellencamp said the original lyrics described Jack as African-American.
"In 1982, when I turned the song in to the record company, they went, 'Whoa, can't you make him something other than that?' I said, 'Well, I don't really want to (change it.) I mean, that's the whole point. This is really a song about race relationships and a white girl being with a black guy, and that's what the song's about.”
Despite the stigmas interracial couples must face, they make up a large percentage of America's married population. “Interracial marriages in the U.S. have climbed to 4.8 million — a record 1 in 12 — as a steady flow of new Asian and Hispanic immigrants expands the pool of prospective spouses,” the Associated Press reported in 2012, citing a Pew Research Center study.
The Pew Research Center also found attitudes toward interracial marriages differ by generation. "Fully 50 percent of Millennials say the trend toward more people of different races marrying each other is good for society. By comparison, 38 percent of Gen Xers, 33 percent of Boomers and only 19 percent of Silents say the same," Pew reported.
But Pew also found non-whites (40 percent) were more likely than whites (29 percent) to view the rise in interracial marriages as a good thing for society.
The generational differences were illustrated by the experience of Hai Nguyen, a Vietnamese woman, who married a Vietnamese man because of their common traits, cultures and their families knew each other. But after their marriage ended in divorce, she remarried a man who is white.
"My parents have prejudices, but they've accepted it," Nguyen told NBC News, describing occasionally feeling different with her parents and other single-race couples. "They know it's inevitable. My native tongue will eventually fade, and history will take its course."
As more interracial couples marry and have children, the stigmas associated with such relationships will gradually fade away, predicted Daniel Lichter, a sociology professor at Cornell University.
"Mixed-race children have blurred America's color line. They often interact with others on either side of the racial divide and frequently serve as brokers between friends and family members of different racial backgrounds," said Lichter, as quoted by the AP. "But America still has a long way to go."