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The Many Colors of Matrimony

Marrying across racial and ethnic lines has become more common, and more accepted, in the 50 years since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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Halil Binici kisses the hand of his bride, Jade Calliste-Edgar, after their wedding on October 6, 2017. The newlyweds “went right back to work” that day, Jade says, but planned to combine honeymoon trips with visits to her family in Florida and his in Turkey.
This story is part of The Race Issue, a special issue of National Geographic that explores how race defines, separates, and unites us. Tell us your story with #IDefineMe.

Halil proposed to Jade by writing WILL YOU MARRY ME in the sand on a beach. Both wanted a small, frugal wedding. Jade wore a Rent the Runway dress for their vows, witnessed by a few friends, at the city clerk’s office in Manhattan.

Jade Calliste-Edgar is an African-American woman raised in Florida. Halil Binici is a Turkish man raised in Istanbul. The two 23-year-olds live in New York City, where Halil works as a cameraman and Jade is in graduate school, studying to be a mental health counselor. During two days in fall 2017, they were one of numerous pairs of mixed race or ethnicity who tied the knot at the Manhattan marriage bureau, then happily posed for National Geographic photographer Wayne Lawrence.

This story helps launch a series about racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st-century life. The series runs through 2018 and will include coverage of Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.

Couples Share the Happiness and Heartache of Interracial Marriage In 2015, 17 percent of U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. We sat down with couples from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to talk about their experiences of being in a marriage that crosses racial or ethnic lines and to learn about their hopes for the future.

Jade and Halil also are part of a cultural shift. In 2015, 17 percent of U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That’s roughly a fivefold increase since 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia made interracial marriage legal. Simply put, Pew reported, “Americans have become more accepting of marriages involving spouses of different races and ethnicities.”

The Loving decision invalidated state laws banning interracial marriage, which 17 of the 50 states still had at that time. Changing the law was a start—but it didn’t “necessarily do anything to change people’s minds,” says Syracuse University law professor Kevin Noble Maillard, who writes frequently about intermarriage.

Maillard suggests that the growing acceptance of interracial marriage in the past 50 years—and of same-sex marriage in the past dozen years—has been influenced by shifting social norms and by public and media validation. Partners of different races or ethnicities are nothing new, he notes: “But it’s very different when there’s public recognition of these relationships and when they become representations of regular families—when they’re the people in the Cheerios commercial.”

Jade says that she and Halil haven’t experienced overt hostility when they’re out together, though sometimes there are dirty looks or muttered insults. Both of them feel that by being a couple they’re promoting important principles: “That we’re all human beings and there’s nothing inherently different between us.”

That’s the point of the meme that the two posted on Facebook shortly before they married. It’s two photos side by side. The first shows two eggs, one brown shelled and one white shelled. The second shows the eggs cracked into a skillet, looking very much alike. The caption: “Let that sink in for a minute, America!”

50 YEARS AFTER

 

LOVING

VIRGINIA

V.

Intermarriage rates have climbed

steadily in the half century since the

U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v.

Virginia ruling struck down state

laws that banned interracial

marriage. From then until 2015, the

share of newlywed intermarried

couples went from one in 33 to one

in six. Today such couples account

for one in 10 marriages overall.

Intermarriage is equally common

among men and women, more

common among Asians and

Hispanics than other racial and

ethnic groups, and more common

among black men than black

women and Asian women than

Asian men.

Mixed Marriage

U.S. newlyweds with partners of another group

1967

2015

U.S. INTERMARRIED

NEWLYWEDS

Intermarried newlyweds,

by race or ethnicity

Share of all newlywed couples

with this racial or ethnic

combination

Data on intermarried same-sex couples are

limited. But statistically, partnering across

racial lines is more common among same-sex

couples than different-sex couples.

AMERICAN

INDIAN

WHITE

282,000 white

people in the U.S.

married across

racial or ethnic

lines in 2015.

13,500

Multiracial

63,000

BLACK

62,000

ASIAN

68,000

HISPANIC

178,000

U.S. INTERMARRIED

NEWLYWEDS

Intermarried newlyweds,

by race or ethnicity

Share of newlywed women

with husbands outside their group

Intermarried WHITE brides

WHITE

AMERICAN

INDIAN

Multiracial

BLACK

ASIAN

HISPANIC

Intermarried HISPANIC brides

WHITE

Multiracial

BLACK

ASIAN

HISPANIC

Intermarried ASIAN brides

WHITE

Multiracial

BLACK

ASIAN

HISPANIC

Intermarried BLACK brides

WHITE

Multiracial

BLACK

ASIAN

HISPANIC

Intermarried MULTIRACIAL

brides

WHITE

Multiracial

BLACK

ASIAN

HISPANIC

Intermarried AMERICAN

INDIAN brides

AMERICAN

INDIAN

WHITE

COMBINATIONS THAT ADD UP TO LESS THAN 0.1

PERCENT ARE EXCLUDED. ASIANS INCLUDE PACIFIC

ISLANDERS. WHITES, BLACKS, ASIANS, AND AMERICAN

INDIANS INCLUDE ONLY NON-­HISPANICS. HISPANICS

ARE OF ANY RACE. INTERMARRIAGES ARE UNIONS

ACROSS RACE AND/OR ETHNICITY.

I

50 YEARS AFTER

LOVING

VIRGINIA

V.

Intermarriage rates have climbed steadily in the half century since the

U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia ruling struck down state laws

that banned interracial marriage. From then until 2015, the share of

newlywed intermarried couples went from one in 33 to one in six. Today

such couples account for one in 10 marriages overall. Intermarriage is

equally common among men and women, more common among Asians

and Hispanics than other racial and ethnic groups, and more common

among black men than black women and Asian women than Asian men.

MIXED

MARRIAGE

U.S. newlyweds

with partners of

another group

1967

2015

U.S. intermarried newlyweds

Data on intermarried same-

Intermarried newlyweds, by race or ethnicity

sex couples are limited. But

Share of newlywed women

statistically, partnering across

with husbands outside their group

racial lines is more common

among same-sex couples

Share of all newlywed couples

than different-sex couples.

with this racial or ethnic

WHITE

combination

282,000 white people

in the U.S. married

across racial or ethnic

lines in 2015.

Multiracial

63,000

AMERICAN

INDIAN

13,500

of the

intermarried

newlyweds

are made

up of

white and

Hispanic

spouses.

BLACK

ASIAN

62,000

68,000

HISPANIC

178,000

COMBINATIONS THAT ADD UP TO LESS THAN 0.1

PERCENT ARE EXCLUDED. ASIANS INCLUDE PACIFIC

ISLANDERS. WHITES, BLACKS, ASIANS, AND AMERICAN

INDIANS INCLUDE ONLY NON-

HISPANICS. HISPANICS

ARE OF ANY RACE. INTERMARRIAGES ARE UNIONS

ACROSS RACE AND/OR ETHNICITY.

Wayne Lawrence is a widely published documentary photographer whose stated focus is “communities otherwise overlooked by mainstream media.” His work has been exhibited at galleries and institutions including the Bronx Museum of the Arts.


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