Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We’ve lived through Donald Trump’s appeals to America’s racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We’ve also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.
Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given all that we’ve seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.
A Gallup poll taken over the summer found that 42% of adults in the U.S. say relations between white and Black Americans are “very” or “somewhat” good, while 57% say the relations are “somewhat” or “very” bad.
This is a sharp decline from 2004 when 72% of American adults said that race relations were “very” or “somewhat” good.
However, a recent poll by Gallup has found that more Americans support interracial marriage between white and Black people than at any time in the country’s history.
“Ninety-four percent of U.S. adults now approve of marriages between Black people and White people, up from 87% in the prior reading from 2013,” Gallup said. “The current figure marks a new high in Gallup’s trend, which spans more than six decades.”
When Gallup asked the same question in 1958, just 4% of Americans approved of marriage between white and Black people.
“Shifts in the 63-year-old trend represent one of the largest transformations in public opinion in Gallup’s history — beginning at a time when interracial marriage was nearly universally opposed and continuing to its nearly universal approval today,” Gallup wrote.
To show how far we’ve come, consider the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case in which the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage. Before that decision, marriage between white and Black people was still illegal throughout the south. At the time, the decision was extremely unpopular because only 20% of Americans approved of interracial marriage.
via Wikimedia Commons
The big change in attitude towards interracial marriage has come from white Americans. Majorities of non-whites have approved of interracial marriage since 1968. The majority of white people didn’t come to this opinion until 1997.
Geographically, the western United States is the most accepting of interracial marriage with 97% approving and the south is the least tolerant with 93% of people supporting interracial marriage.
How do we make sense of the fact that support for interracial marriage is at an all-time high in American while, at the same time, so many believe race relations are on the decline? I think the lesson here is that when it comes to race relations anything is possible. If you were alive in 1958 it probably seemed impossible that one day just about everyone would be fine with white and Black people getting married.
That should give us all hope that if we keep fighting the good fight, eventually we’ll live in a world that is a lot less racist and a lot more loving.