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For better or worse, the melting pot is here

My sister and I sat in her apartment in New Tampa as she recounted her recent trip to Bennigan’s. She told me that while she was out eating with a friend, she noticed that four black men were in the restaurant with white women.

My sister went on to say this is something she always notices when she goes out to eat. There is always a group of black women eating with no men while black men are out with their white girlfriends or wives. She turned to me with hurt eyes and asked why this is.

According to the Washington Post, the most recent census figures found that for every 100 single black women, there are only 70 single black men. However, these figures do not include the prison population or men living in “halfway houses.” The census also revealed that by the age of 30, only 45 percent of black women have married compared to 80 percent of white women. The reason for such disproportion on the playing field among blacks has to do with education, high unemployment and incarceration rates.

More black women are pursuing higher educations. A May 2004 article in Black Enterprise magazine states that black women are much more likely than black males to pursue higher learning – 42 percent compared to 37 percent, respectively. A New York Times article cited a study that showed 50 percent of black men in their 20s who lacked a college education were jobless in 2004. This is up from 46 percent in 2000. In addition, the 2004 Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows that 12.6 percent of black males in their late 20s were incarcerated, while 3.6 percent of Hispanic and 1.7 percent of whites of the same demographic were in jail.

If those factors are not enough, the rise of interracial marriage among black males is the cherry on top. In another Washington Post article, Kellina Craig-Henderson, a professor of psychology at Howard University and author of Black Men in Interracial Relationships, says that of 246,000 black and white marriages that took place in 1992, more than half were between black men and white women. Although there has been an increase in the number of black women in these types of interracial relationships, the number of black men in them continues to surpass that of black women.

I have read and heard many different reasons why black males have decided to date outside their race. I have heard everything from “black women are too nagging and demanding” to “black women are ‘gold diggers’ because all they want is money.” In a June 2006 article in Essence, Richard, a marketing specialist, said, “White women are a little more accepting of your shortcomings,” be it job, income, education or status. He goes on to say, “She looks at your potential, and a sister initially isn’t going to. But once a sister has your back, she will go through hell for you. Initially, though, you sisters are hard to step to.”

Black women are also guilty of giving in to stereotypes when it comes to the reasons why other black women date outside their race. I have heard black women say that “white men are less insecure” or “white men are much easier to talk to and more understanding.” In the same Essence article, Leah, a New York artist, said, “In general, it’s less of a power struggle to date white men. Black men can trip when women challenge them.”

When it comes to whites and blacks dating, there are double standards piled to the ceiling. According to an Essence survey, an astounding 81 percent of readers said they aren’t bothered at all when they see a black woman with a white man. On the other hand, 53 percent of readers admitted to being bothered when they see a black man with a white woman. I have even caught myself giving the evil eye to a black man when I see him with a woman who isn’t black – but giving a “you go, girl” when I see a black woman with a man that’s not black. Many say this comes from the perceived notion that black men tend to prefer non-black mates as a sign of success, which leaves black women out in the cold. This notion comes from Hollywood, where athletes such as Tiger Woods and actors such as Terrence Howard have married white women.

Whether someone is having a bout of “jungle fever” or someone is craving a little cream in their coffee, interracial dating looks like it is becoming a permanent trend in American society. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted people to be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Therefore, grandparents may cringe, parents might shake their heads and strangers might stare, but this country has become what many have wanted it to become: a bona-fide melting pot.

Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communication.