The boundaries of Americans’ partisan identity now largely overlap with the limits of our personal identity. As a result, American politics is now deeply entrenched with questions of “who we are” and, not surprisingly, indolent.
While researching the politics of the world’s six “majority minority” societies—where one or more racial or religious minority groups have overtaken the majority group over time—I noticed tribal politics that may be similar to our own. . And I have found that whether their diverse communities coexist or conflict has a lot to do with the choices of governments and influential leaders.
While the same is true in America, there is something one can do (which no timid politician can stop) to fight the toxic divide that erodes America’s social fabric: Build relationships with people who are different from you.
Relationships and marriages between people of different racial or religious communities blur the boundaries that separate otherwise diverse societies and thwart political campaigns and policies that aim to divide. When multi-ethnic or multi-religious populations mix and intermarry, they are less likely to stigmatize their opponents, making it more likely that partisan blame lines shift from racial and religious identities to other sources of affinity. – such as policy priorities.
Legally, California pioneered the idea of endogamy in the United States. In Perez v. Sharp, the California Supreme Court struck down state laws that prohibited marriage between white people and racial minorities. The 1948 decision, which ruled that discriminatory laws violated the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protections, preceded the US Supreme Court’s legalization of interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia by 19 years. According to the Pew Research Center’s most recent review of U.S. Census Bureau data, nearly half of the U.S. metropolitan areas with the most intermarriages are in California.
At the time of the Loving Decision, about 3% of American marriages were between people who identify with different races or ethnic groups. By 2015, the rate of American newlyweds rose to 17%. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, 22% of newlyweds married, as well as 28% in San Diego, 29% in Stockton, and 30% in the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria areas.
According to Pew, 5 out of 6 American interracial marriages today involve a partner who identifies as white. The most common racial or ethnic pair among these newlywed couples is a Hispanic and a White spouse (42%) and a White and an Asian spouse (15%). Intermarriages occur in 11% of white/black newlyweds.
Despite the growth of intergroup marriages and people who identify as mixed-race, the extent of intergroup contact in the United States is still small. New research from Ipsos Public Affairs shows that 57% of Americans haven’t even shared a meal with someone of a different race in the past year. Only 14% of Americans report that they have shared a meal with at least one person from every major American racial group in the past year.
In the world’s wealthiest democracies, Americans often report the strongest conflict between those who support political parties and between people of different racial backgrounds. A fifty-point gap separates Democratic and Republican public opinion on questions about the character of different groups such as immigrants, Muslims, and black people. Only when these differences are less, will politicians be more likely to focus on issues not based on racial or religious differences. But those who share at least some food with racial or partisan groups are more likely to believe that Americans can settle their differences.
If California is to move beyond American identity politics, we must redefine or push aside the social boundaries that currently divide us.
Progress will happen when more Americans come to see this nation the way multiracial people see themselves – as inseparable.
Justin Guest is an associate professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. He is most recently the author of “Majority of Minority”. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.