“What About the Children?”: When Prejudice Meets Precaution

Interfaith, Interracial and Cross-Cultural Relationships Will Strengthen Future Generations


It’s about time society realized that merging differences in faith, culture and race can be beneficial, not detrimental, to future generations. (Photo Illustration by Angelica Garza/The Observer)

Published: November 5, 2009

Not so very long ago, in mid-October, a Louisiana couple was denied a license to wed. Why? The groom-to-be was black and his fiancée was white. Supposedly, it wasn’t that the indignant justice of the peace was racist—no, no, he was just looking out for future generations. Reports have said that he claimed, “I do it to protect the children. The kids are innocent and I worry about their futures.” So two people could not marry because, somewhere down the line, their potential future children might get bullied in school, or something. Which is understandable, because nobody who’s ever had two parents of the same race has ever faced difficulties. And no biracial person has ever amounted to very much, right? Except President Obama, I guess.

We’ve got a bigger problem on our hands here. It’s not just about mixed-race marriages and biracial children. It’s about people’s acceptance of “the other” in society. Or rather, the lack of acceptance thereof. This is nothing new. The Jews have been crying the blues of intermarriage for decades, claiming it to be the number one cause in the death of the religion. And still, somehow, the religion has lasted, oh, five thousand years and change. But sure, blame it on the one shiksa who’s got to marry her nice Jewish doctor to ruin the whole race and religion.

Recently, I met a girl training to be a rabbi. She announced that she had just made a difficult decision and was afraid to tell her parents, who were an interfaith couple. Her decision? Though she has every intention of welcoming interfaith couples into her congregation, she refuses to marry them when she assumes the pulpit.

On one hand, it’s easy to see the logic behind decisions like these. A rabbi doesn’t want to wed a Jew and a Gentile because there is no guarantee of a Jewish home, and because the children might grow up to be confused about their heritage and beliefs. The Justice of the Peace in Louisiana claimed a similar internal struggle, didn’t he? Isn’t it the assumption that these children will be branded as “mixed” or lack a strong identity?

When you boil it all down, we’d all be hypocrites for subscribing to such beliefs. If a child cannot have more than one cultural identity to cling to, can she not have one Italian parent and one Polish parent? God forbid she have to choose between ravioli and pierogi at the dinner table. Can a child not have a southern belle for a mother and a yankee for a father? He would never know what baseball team to root for, or when it’s appropriate to say “y’all” in mixed company. And certainly, there has never been a person who has taken his or her religion seriously who’s come from a family of both Baptists and Presbyterians.

These seem like watered-down examples because they’ve become commonplace in American culture. But the truth is that they really should be no more socially acceptable to a person claiming that children must be raised with one absolute set of values, traditions, beliefs and ideas. If you take issue with a white woman marrying a black man, you, too, should take issue with an Irish-American marrying an Italian-American. That poor child will be so confused with his thick, dark hair and his fair, freckled skin. If you take issue with Jews marrying Christians, you too should take issue with Catholics marrying Anglicans. And if you take issue with all of these things, you probably take issue with the majority of American citizens.

The bottom line is this: we’re all better for the things that we are exposed to. No person can ever grow by being raised in a bubble. Hate stems from ignorance, and ignorance stems from a lot of the same people sitting around, not allowing themselves to be open to other ideas, cultures or beliefs. Forcing all marriages to be made up of couples that are clones of one another for the sake of having un-conflicted children is not going to breed a peaceful generation of kids who are content with themselves and their peers. It’s going to breed a generation of ignorance and hate because it will not allow children to experience the beautiful contrast of different cultures, whether that be black versus white culture, Christian versus Jewish culture, Western versus Eastern culture or even something as simple as uptown versus downtown culture.

No two people are ever going to be exactly the same. And thank goodness for that! So even though things like ethnicity, religion and often politics are considered to be the big things that no person should compromise, each cultural variation brings with it something new for our generation’s children to learn. Is it fair to equate the differences between Christianity and Judaism with the differences between the South and the North? Absolutely not. But saying a Jew can’t marry a Christian is starving children of the same diversity that would come from a southerner and a northerner marrying.

Future generations will never learn to accept the societal “other” if we don’t take the first step now in asserting that there’s nothing wrong with being different. It’s a global world, filled with all different kinds of people, and if we don’t learn to love and accept one another’s differences, we’re never going to get anywhere.