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Columnist: Interracial marriage — a difficult subject for some, even in African-American community

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

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A friend recently called me to ensure that I watch a popular daytime television program. The guest on the program was Taye Diggs, a famous African-American actor, choreographer, dancer and producer. His work has made him quite wealthy, with a net worth estimated to be $22 million.

He appeared on the program to address what he felt was a backlash in this country regarding his decision to embrace his son’s biracial identity. This decision was bold and brave — particularly for an African-American.

Diggs has been castigated by some blacks — and even some whites — for marrying across racial lines when they become popular or wealthy. He has particularly been accused of wanting to deny his being a person of color.

It was revealed on the program that Diggs felt that the anger directed at him in social media based on his position has been so serious that he was forced to hire a security detail to ensure his safety. This animus towards Diggs from the African-American community is not without precedent. One-time super professional golfer Tiger Woods has also been on the receiving end of similar criticism, particularly from the African-American community.

Reasons for anger in African-American community

There is a prevailing attitude in the African-American community that when blacks “make it,” they immediately forget about their race and rush to marry across racial boundaries. This sentiment has also been reserved for entertainers and popular figures such as Diana Ross, Dianne Carroll and Tina Turner, to name a few.

A major target for resentment against blacks for marrying across racial lines without any equivocation would be sports figures. Some African-Americans believe that when they become famous they abandon black women and the community.

Many blacks, in fact, consider them as traitors. They are quick to say the talents of such blacks were first celebrated and recognized in the African-American community.

But back to the matter of Taye Diggs. African-Americans, among others, vigorously protested the introduction of a “multi-racial” category in the 2000 U.S. Census. They were successful.

That success essentially transitioned over into the 2010 Census. The Census questionnaire listed 15 racial categories, as well as places to write in specific races not listed on the form. The 2010 Census continued the option first introduced in the 2000 Census for respondents to choose more than one race.

Only about 2 percent of Americans overall identified with more than one race in the 2000 Census.

Diggs is challenging these sentiments, believing that America is rapidly changing due to interracial marriages. In fact, nearly 7 percent of Americans describe themselves as mixed-race, according to a June Pew Research study (Source: New York Post, “Taye Diggs’ Brave Defense of his Half-White Son,” David Kaufman, Nov. 19, 2015).

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and O.J. Simpson — what do they have in common?

It should not come as a surprise that Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas and Simpson probably now reach the threshold of actually being despised by many in the African-American community.

This was not always the case. Remember the contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in 1991 related to Thomas’ ultimately becoming a member of the Supreme Court? It seemed as if the entire black community advocated for his confirmation.

A woman, Anita Hill, however, accused him of sexual harassment before the committee. He went on to secure the Supreme Court seat, but blacks now feel that Ms. Hill was a victim, and not Thomas. He is now reviled by most minorities because his decisions on the bench to date are perceived as destroying the achievements made by blacks during the civil rights movement.

Some among black women, in retrospect, abhor the way he was alleged to have treated Anita Hill while at the same time being involved in an interracial marriage.

Remember O.J. Simpson? Of course you do. Leading up to the 1995 jury’s decision, this country was divided along racial lines as to whether he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

Most in the black community celebrated the jury’s verdict of his innocence. You won’t find, however, many in the African-American community today who continue to respect Mr. Simpson. Unfortunately, the conversation today in the African-American community is not about his guilt or innocence but most often about his continuous involvement in interracial relationships after the verdict.

It is sad that in the year of our Lord 2016 these emotions continue to be strong and alive among blacks and whites in the country we call the United States of America.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at glenn.dowell@gmail.com.