View of White Women in Interracial Relationships Essay Example
View of White Women in Interracial Relationships Essay Example

View of White Women in Interracial Relationships Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3225 words)
  • Published: July 31, 2017
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A Qualitative Analysis of Black Women's Constructions of White Women in Interracial Relationships

Research and media discourses indicate that black adult females hold a negative perception of white adult females involved in interracial relationships. In light of this, an exploratory qualitative survey was conducted using focus groups to examine how black adult females perceive and interpret interracial relationships involving white women. The discourse theory methodology was guided by social constructionism. Participants provided descriptions and insights. Social constructionism has gained prominence in psychology since the 1980s.

, Burr, 1995). According to social constructionism, human experience, including perceptual experience, is historically, culturally, and linguistically mediated (Willig, 2007). Therefore, it is important to understand gender and race historically for this survey and also consider black and white brotherhoods within a historical context. Interracial relations in


a historical context: the construction of race and multiculturalism. Throughout history, interracial brotherhoods have played a fundamental role in developing racial categories. Interracial sex and marriage were considered abnormal within the construction of a white identity that opposed blacks. The underlying reason for perceiving interracial relationships as deviant was the belief that blacks and whites are biologically and culturally different.

The idea of race is greatly influenced by the experiences, constructions, and discussions of black individuals regarding Whites as a menace to racial purity (Childs, 2005). The creation of separate races and racial groups is heavily impacted by interracial sex and marriage. Racist beliefs and actions are frequently supported and strengthened through opposition to and apprehension of relationships between different races. As a result, the concept of race as a biological distinction originated during slavery as a way to justify mistreatment. The problematic perception o

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white/black relationships arose simultaneously with changing ideas about race.

During the era of black slavery, interracial sexual relationships among white people were seen as perverted, and this belief of deviancy was primarily aimed at preventing black male slaves from engaging in sexual acts with white women. It is recorded that those who did engage in these relationships would be punished. However, black people have a complex and painful history with black and white interracial relationships, resulting in different roots of animosity compared to white people. The discussions on interracial relationships are intricate. The animosity that black communities may have towards interracial relationships stems from a societal and collective 'memory' of mistreatment by Whites. Throughout history, blacks as a group have had to deal with the devaluation by Whites, which has profoundly influenced their identity and subsequently shaped their attitudes and responses to interracial relationships.

According to Childs (2005), there is ample documentation indicating that white slave Masterss allegedly exploited and sexually abused black women, playing a significant role in the sociocultural development of race and race relations. Social constructionists argue that race is a concept based on factors such as skin color, body shape, or hair style, which falsely assumes meaningful biological distinctions and has been used to justify unequal treatment of certain groups (Machery & Faucher, 2005). The prevalence of social constructionism increased in the 1970s when it became clear that the biological notion of races, referring to genetically and morphologically distinct populations, does not apply to humans.

Delegating a person to a race does not yield the expected power based on biological characteristics. Additionally, classifications based on traits such as skin color, body shape, and hair

often intersect (Brown; Armelagos 2001). Therefore, the notion that different biological groups can be determined by skin color and superficial attributes has been proven false. Consequently, biology has fueled the recent doubt among social constructionists that races do not exist. However, social constructionists who study race are not just skeptics. They emphasize the variability and diversity in human beings' perceptions of races.

According to Omi and Winant (2002), it is crucial to view race as a constantly changing and complex system of societal meanings that is influenced by political struggles. Banton (1970) argues that this perspective emerged in modern times and can be traced back to the taxonomies established by Linnaeus and Blumenbach in the 18th century. These scholars believed that there were certain times and places where people had no concept of race (Machery & Faucher, 2005). Emphasizing the role of social environment, the constructionist approach is important in understanding racism. It suggests that our understanding of race is shaped by our social surroundings and helps explain the diversity of racial concepts across different cultures. The literature on evolutionary psychology and evolutionary anthropology has also contributed to the study of racism.

Various proposals have tried to represent the cognitive process that is responsible for creating racial constructs, but there is still no agreement (e.g., Hirschfield, 2001; White, 2001; Machery & Faucher 2005). Both of these approaches are important additions to the social constructionist approach. The existence of racial categorization in different cultures and their similarities indicate that these categorizations are influenced by a universal psychological inclination. There is a substantial amount of literature that examines interracial relationships and marriages, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods.


perspectives have been investigated concerning heterosexual relationships between people of different races. Research has been carried out to investigate interracial couples involving black men and white women (McNamara, Tempenis, & Walton, 1999; Rosenblatt, Karis, & Powell, 1995; Spickard, 1989), as well as collecting quantitative data on the attitudes towards interracial dating among black and white individuals (Davis & Smith, 1991). The social sciences have focused on comprehending the reasons behind the formation of interracial couples by examining their demographic similarities and differences and comparing them to same-race relationships (Davis, 1941; Gaines et al., 1999). Davis' (1941) article explores the interplay between marriage and societal castes while Gains' (1991) research delves into the disparities between secure and insecure individuals in heterosexual interracial couples.

The primary focus of qualitative research on interracial relationships has been the perspectives, experiences, and emotions of the couples involved and their interactions with society and the community (McNamara et al 1999; Root 2001). Some researchers have suggested that a lack of acceptance has kept the number of such relationships small. Minority groups may view individuals in these relationships as "race traitors" or "whitewashed" (Pan, 2000). However, there is limited research on how interracial couples are socially constructed and the social responses from black women towards such relationships. Previous studies on interracial relationships have failed to analyze race as a changing socio-historical concept and construct. Instead, they maintain the belief that race is real and natural. This current study sets itself apart from previous literature reviews by placing importance on examining social responses towards interracial relationships specifically from the perspective of British black women.

Evolved Cognition and Ethnicity and Culture: Cultural Transmission

Ethnicity and culture are

related but not inherently tied to biological differences or race. Ethnicity refers to a group of individuals who possess cultural traits that distinguish them from others. Individuals who share the same language, geographic location, ancestry, religion, or history, as well as common traditional values, identify themselves as part of a distinct ethnic group (e.g., Jones, 1997; Smedley, 1999).

Smedley and Smedley (2005) state that cultural groups and ethnicity are not fixed or bounded entities, but rather flexible and open to change. These groups are usually self-defined according to Barth (1998). Theories of cultural transmission offer a framework for integrating the study of racism, combining traditional social learning theory with beliefs, preferences, and reasoning patterns that are socially learned (Richerson & Boyd, 2004). These theories suggest that individuals acquire these beliefs from their social environment, including their cultural parents (Boyd & Richerson, 1985). Machery and Faucher (2005) argue that race is also culturally transmitted, supporting the reliance on traditional theories of social learning within social constructionism. Therefore, an individual's understanding of race is acquired from their social environment. This helps explain why people within a culture at a specific time period have similar understandings of race and why different cultures in different eras embrace similar notions.

The Social Construction of Interracial Couples The concept of race is created and perpetuated through the formation of racial groups and social interaction, resulting in various effects on beliefs and behaviors. Consequently, the perceptions and interpretations associated with relationships between black and white individuals are not solely influenced by black women, but rather constructed socially, culturally, and politically within their society and by evolving societal groups (Childs, 2005). Therefore, black women's understanding

of their own identities is shaped by the reactions of others and the societal attitudes towards interracial relationships.

Unnatural discourse In British culture, there is a problematization of interracial relationships. "Interracial sex" is viewed as a problematic issue.

Recent films such as Jungle Fever, Bodyguard, and Rising Sun have depicted interracial sexual relationships as abnormal acts (Mencke, 1976). These stories often come with strong moral lessons about the destructive nature of such unions, which not only harm the lives of the characters but also their families and friends. Despite different situations, the common thread in these popular portrayals is that interracial relationships do not succeed. The clash within academia often revolves around the culturally significant discourse of science, which has been historically used to justify various agendas, including providing a moral justification for slavery and the colonization of the New World.

Infused with ideas drawn from Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection, these writings often focus on the notion of 'purity' and 'degeneration' of races due to intermixing of blood. Typically, researchers argue that individuals involved in interracial relationships are seen as abnormal, rebellious, or rejected by their racial group (Buttny, 1987; Muhsam, 1990). It is evident that racial categories are influenced by cognitive concepts that label any wrongdoing as unnatural or even incorrect. The sexual relationships between black men and white women have predominantly been discussed within the context of the abnormal. Sexual relations between different races have been constructed as sinful.

Saxton (1995) argues that the belief in race continues to be based on categorization, and it is also true that ideologies of racism, once articulated, take on a life of their own and assume many

contested and diverse forms. Hooks (1990) asserts that our attempts to challenge the naturalized discourses that define and construct 'race' and gender are hindered by language (Tyner & Houston, 2000).

Mapping a discourse

The current discourse against interracial relationships includes the following. First, it involves a range of racialized masculinities and images of what it means to be a man differentiated by race and class, sometimes drawing upon racist stereotypes from the 19th and 20th centuries. Secondly, white femininity is racialized; white women who choose interracial relationships are portrayed as sexually 'loose' or sexually extreme.

The discourse surrounding interracial relationships is offensive because it reinforces fixed racial and cultural boundaries. This is based on the assumption that race is an essential and unchangeable factor of distinction, and that cultural differences are connected to racial and biological identity (Frankenberg, 1993).
Another important area of research focuses on the social construction of black adult women, black femininity, gender, and mixed race as the ideal (Childs, 2000). Morrison (1972) observed the detrimental impact of European beauty standards on the self-perception of black women. Furthermore, individuals with lighter skin within the black community are often regarded as more attractive and successful in terms of income and employment opportunities (Hughes ; Hertel, 1990). This significantly influences how black women perceive interracial dating, especially involving white women. Discrimination based on skin color may lead to a preference for lighter skin tones and ultimately white partners (Russell et al., 1993; Childs, 2005).

It is crucial to acknowledge that there are two separate sets of myths which outline the experiences of black women in comparison to those of other groups. This recognition is important because race and gender

classifications play a significant role in society's understanding. In fact, historical evidence presented by White (2001) demonstrates that race was frequently utilized by 19th-century scientists to explain gender, and vice versa. Consequently, this practice contributed to the division of individuals based on their racial and gender identities. Certain groups were portrayed as dominant and 'normal,' while others were depicted as subordinate. These societal constructs have real-world consequences, impacting power dynamics both within and between different groups. In order to uphold these power relations and structures, cultural stereotypes rooted in mythical beliefs and symbols are employed.

The use of cultural symbols achieves the normalization of the unfair position that black women face, which is a result of both race and gender. This leads to double marginalization for black women. The first level of marginalization occurs when comparing black women to white men, while the second level occurs when comparing them to white women. These various forms of marginalization have resulted in the creation and evolution of cultural symbols that represent black femininity (Zachery, 2009).

The current dominant discourses surrounding interracial sexual relationships in the United States and the United Kingdom are still controversial. When examining the discourse on these relationships, it becomes apparent that there are various issues that are crucial to understanding the impact of racism on the experiences and perspectives of black women, as well as on society as a whole. In black communities, interracial relationships are still seen as a social issue. According to the UK census, most black-white relationships involve a black man and a white woman. Collins (2000) argues that black women are often expected to accept and love the

mixed-race children born to their brothers, friends, and relatives, who also serve as visible reminders of their own rejection (2000, 195).

According to Dickson (1993), the shortage of "good" black men is attributed to interracial relationships between black men and white women, high murder rates in black communities, and levels of incarceration. While there has been an increase in black-white interracial relationships and marriages, the opposition to these relationships has not necessarily disappeared. Regardless of how these relationships are perceived, it is interesting to examine the responses they receive from black women. Conducting a thorough analysis of heterosexual interracial relationships among black British women will contribute to a better understanding of this phenomenon.

This project focuses on British black women's responses to interracial relationships, particularly their perceptions of white women in interracial relationships. The project investigates how black women construct their views on interracial relationships by examining their attitudes and beliefs, as well as analyzing popular culture and media portrayals. The study also explores the images and discourses surrounding interracial relationships and how they contribute to black women's perceptions of white women in such relationships. It is important to note that this research does not aim to provide a nationwide representative study on attitudes, beliefs, or occurrences that can be generalized.

This study offers an ethnographic exploration of the experiences of black women. In order to gather data, I conducted in-depth focus groups.
To recruit participants, I distributed a recruitment sheet during various talks. The sheet provided information about the study and instructed interested individuals to contact me. Participants were either students at London Southbank University or personally known to me. They were Black British

women, with ages ranging from 16 to 45. All participants were born in Britain.

It was emphasized to all participants that they had the option to withdraw from the survey at any time.


Dianoetic analysis offers an excellent opportunity to analyze political orientation in psychology. In the 1970s, a 'new paradigm' emerged in social psychology. Researchers following this new paradigm advocated for a 'turn to language,' drawing inspiration from theories and research in other disciplines. This linguistic turn took place during the 1980s, not only in social and developmental psychology but also in other major areas of psychology (Parker, 2005). Studies like Henrique et al. (1984) demonstrated how spoken language can be organized into patterns of discourse.

The concept of discourse is grounded in the societal constructionist approach (e.g., Burr, 2003). This approach emphasizes the importance of understanding human interaction and linguistic communication. According to cognitive psychology, language not only expresses experiences but also shapes them and the subjective psychological reality (Potter & Wetherell, 1987; Shotter, 1993; Wetherell, 1995). By using language to construct a "social world," discourse analysis can be conducted. This social process is maintained through social interactions (Burr, 1995). Discourse is not static but can change and adapt over time. It is historically and culturally specific and can be examined through the language used in social interactions.

This paragraph discusses the method used for a research project on inter-racial relationships and white women in such relationships. The author chose this method because they were not interested in personal experiences, but rather how participants construct these relationships. The authors Potter and Wetherell introduced the concept of discourse in 1987 as a way to understand social texts and

interactions. The aim was to analyze communication, both verbal and written, in order to assess discourse. Various themes are examined in discourse analysis, including rhetoric, voice, language used, and the interactive nature of conversation. Potter and Wetherell's work in 1987 and later in 1992 was highly regarded in the field of social psychology. Their research focused on analyzing interpretative repertoires related to racism.

The following paragraph highlights how discourse maps ideologically and how discourse analysis can be conducted. Specifically, a discourse on heterosexualism is used as an example to illustrate how it defines what is considered aberrant. The process of discourse analysis involves various steps such as treating and recycling written text, as well as coding and recoding. According to Potter (2003), discourse analysis focuses on how language and texts are used to perform actions. He proposes that discourse analysis research should concentrate on four aspects: how language shapes societal constructs, how linguistic actions accomplish social practices, the ideologies behind specific social actions, and the examination of psychological concepts through discourse.

The transcript will be analyzed using this method. The focus group discussions between young black women will be examined closely, known as cryptography, which involves selecting relevant information from the text. However, there may be parts of the discourse that cannot be analyzed. In such cases, the same text can be analyzed again to gain further insight. The information will examine any key discourse that emerges from the data and how it constructs the information.

The discourse analysis will identify interpretative repertories (Gilbert, Mulkay, 1984) and instances that occur in the text. This will require reading and re-reading the transcript, making various notes and coding gathered by

the repertories.


The process of enrolling participants was not difficult, mainly because some of the participants were known personally to me and I also recruited LSBU pupils, therefore the participants were easily accessible. Needless to say, the women who took part in the project did so voluntarily.

They also understood that they had the option to refuse to answer specific questions or discontinue the treatment at any time. I distributed a consultation information sheet (see Appendix A) to multiple students to advertise the study. I provided them with a brief overview of the study and asked if they would be interested in participating. Two focus group discussions occurred in a private area within the LSBU library, where all participants were given consent forms to sign (see Appendix B). Predetermined questions were asked, and the process was recorded using a tape recorder and Dictaphone. Personal matters pertaining to relationships were addressed, so all participants were introduced to one another to ensure comfort was maintained.

The survey's purpose was explained to each participant individually and during the focus group session, ensuring that no offense was taken when discussing the questions amongst themselves. I directed the focus group to express their opinions and thoughts on the topic at hand, while ensuring that the discussion stayed on track by applying restrictions. Afterwards, I transcribed the focus group and identified the emerging themes from the conversation.

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