Interracial “ness” and the “Academy”

Janette and I caught one of many Little Rock Travelers baseball games while I was delivering a week-long history presentation at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I started thinking about this post while at this conference when the topic of race, religion, and academics emerged. Moreover, I could not help but notice the number of interracial couples at the ball park and while back in Houston at the above July 4th volleyball tournament, which got me thinking back to my undergraduate days at the conservative Harding University. Thus while at the ball park in the historical civil rights city of Little Rock, I pondered the nature of race and academic institutions; I will admit that I have given this some thought in the past, though it has been a while. In general, places that value ideas, knowledge, and social progress tend to favor racial diversity, gender equality, and an understanding of one’s sexual orientation. However, I have discovered that places can be rather liberal on matters of race and dating, but less so on matters of sexual orientation and gender equality.

The above pictures were taken of us while out for wine and dinner at an upscale Houston restaurant. Though my current city of Houston has a reputation for being very conservative, it does offer some semblance of public acceptance when it comes to interracial couples.This tends to be the case for many large cities; it is the fourth largest city in the country… one that recently supported a democrat (Obama) for the presidency, elected Anise Parker who is openly gay for mayor, but is a bit divided along class lines. In Houston, I have never felt out-of-place while experiencing the night life or interacting in various public venues. But, there is an element of class that portrays a far more negative notion of interracial couples.

If one were to watch Jerry Springer, the natural image of the “typical” interracial couple is one who is not highly educated nor middle class. The Springer Show tends to play on race in what black liberals call the ghetto image: An obese uneducated white woman dating a skinny black man who recently discovered that English might be a language. This perception is what the black bourgeoisie notes as the typical perception of interracial couples.

But, it is the conversation about race, religion, and academic institutions that encourages the most discussion among academicians.  Attending a conservative college upon graduating from a conservative private upper school might not seem like a big deal to many, but coming from Montgomery, Alabama where the racial and class tension is clear, the thought of crossing both class and racial lines seemed daunting. Yet, on many college campuses today, this is not an issue for the youth of my classes who interact and date frequently in an interracial fashion. Recently I had dinner with a former student who informed me that this seems to be a topic for my “generation.”

I must admit that I was taken a bit by how open Harding University was to interracial couples; it was a first for me, though I have always interacted with friends from various backgrounds. The most interesting element about the academy and interracial ness comes not from those on its campus, but those left at home. Students who attend schools dominated by one racial group often find themselves meeting, liking, and interested in others who are of a different race. Harding University is a predominantly white college; it does attract a number of talented minority students who find themselves choice less when it comes to dating within their own race. In my case, I had a huge ego and just assumed most girls would want to date an athletic academic star. But in truth, it is not this simple. Parents of both white and black students warned them of the consequences of dating beyond the confines of their race. The contradiction emerges among two population of people: Christians who contend that Jesus is the saviour of all and loves all; he sees no color but the human soul as it warns off sin daily; however, at times there are those who belong to this population that embrace segregation and to en extent, promote a sense of inferiority. Thus, it is not unusual to discover what writer Toni Morrison calls the segregated church; it is Sunday that most divides Christian America.

Then, there is the other population: American liberals. This population talks a great deal about tolerance, understanding, and acceptance of those who are different in terms of race, religion, class, and sexual orientation, but only do so to promulgate their own agenda. Political motives are usually involved here as they dismiss the religious/Christian right as being composed of racist bigots and homophobes. I recently had a conversation with a colleague who is considering removing her teenage children from a private Christian school in hopes that they might have dating opportunities during their formative upper school years; she stated that the climate at her Christian school is not conducive enough from the parents’ side to promote such a healthy environment. Of course, this is not true of all religious schools.

On the campus of Houston Christian or at one of its functions, it is not unusual to find interracial high school couples. Though the faculty and the school is categorically conservative, it does teach from a Christian perspective of loving and respecting all people.


7 thoughts on “Interracial “ness” and the “Academy”

  1. I would disagree with your last paragraph. I understand that many of your colleagues/my teachers may truly believe in the Christian concept of loving and accepting all. However, many members of the student body (and their parents) do not feel the same way. I love Houston Christian – this is not just me telling lies to make the school come across as some evil hate-filled institution. It is just the reality that I experience everyday in interacting with my fellow students.

  2. I am in an interracial marriage and also attended Harding University and lived in Searcy for 10+ years. Although Harding University/Searcy is primarily white, I never detected any problems or animosity toward us. I think if you look for it, you may find it OR something that resembles it. Often times if you are constantly looking for it, it’s an easy excuse to blame everything on it even when that is not the culprit. However, it never really crosses my mind.

    Really, only after reading this – it took me a few minutes to realize that hey, I’m in an interracial marriage. I don’t even think about “that” in itself.

  3. Hey Brad!!!

    I think I know you(?) It is an issue if one feeds on it and believes it is what defines their relationship. For us, it is very easy to forget; I like that; I want that world.

  4. Back in my day at Harding ’68-’72, the administration would write to the parents of kids involved in interracial dating. Or so I was told. It has been many years but a white girl I sat by in chapel our first semester was, I noticed one evening at dinner when I was eating with them, by the second semester enjoying attention from African American guys. Bless you wherever you are JoAnn! And Mose and all of you.

  5. Wow! Steve. Really? I wonder then if they did the WWJD? I mean I am not sure Jesus asked his father if he could handg with non Jews. I am sad by this but not shocked. Still, the place and society as noted by Brad has come a long way.

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