Contemporary racism and family approval of Black/White interracial relationships

Date of Completion

January 2005


American Studies|Black Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




The dissertation starts from the theoretical assertion that family approval is influenced by contemporary racial ideology. Moreover, I argue that approval is dynamic and complex---changing over time, place, and circumstance. Race and racial ideology along with other social factors, particularly gender, socioeconomic status, and racialized sexualities shape how couples experience and negotiate family approval. Moreover, I argue that approval emerges out a process in which family members simultaneously erect, destroy, and negotiate racial boundaries and borders through social and social psychological processes. ^ Overall, findings indicate that there is still a significant amount opposition to interracial relationships and families are a primary source of this opposition. While many couples initially say their relatives support their relationships, more in-depth analysis reveals that families have both outright rejections and more subtle rejections they label "concerns." They more covert expression of disapproval is strongly related to contemporary racial ideology in which overt expressions of racism are impolite, but more subtle expression are common place. Several other factors such as the presence of biracial children, racial identification, gender, socioeconomic status, racialized sexualities, and the modern meaning of community also influence how couples and their families experience and negotiate family approval. This study also reveals that family approval is intricately related to the larger racial politics because how individuals and couples in interracial relationships and their children define their relationships and themselves and experience their lives can be used to challenge or support contemporary racial ideology. ^