There's no racism in Mississippi anymore, right? After all, just last month the New York Times reported that the state's "home to one of the country's most rapidly expanding multiracial populations." Between the 2000 census and the 2010 census, the number of people identified as multiracial there rose by an astonishing 70 percent. To boot, during that timeframe, Mississippi topped all states in the spread of interracial marriage, the Brookings Institution stated.
"Racial attitudes are changing. Day in, day out, there is certainly not the hostility there was years ago," University of Mississippi Professor Marvin King, himself in an interracial marriage, told the New York Times.
But perhaps King spoke too soon, as did the others quoted in the Times article who hyped Mississippi as a multiracial mecca far removed from its Jim Crow past. That's because results from a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in late March reveal that 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans not only oppose interracial marriage but believe it should be legally banned. So, how many Mississippi Republicans actually think that interracial marriage should be legal? Shockingly, just 40 percent. That's right. In the year 2011, more Mississippi Republicans support a ban on interracial marriage than support the legality of it. Given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ban on interracial marriage more than four decades ago, this finding proves particularly distressing.
It's uncertain why these Mississippians feel the way they do about interracial marriage. Maybe they subscribe to the same views as the Louisiana judge who made headlines two years ago after refusing to marry an interracial couple because he believes the children produced by such unions suffer. Yeah, they might even grow up to be president one day like the mixed-race Barack Obama. It's mind-boggling that people continue to buy into the "tragic mulatto" myth when it's clear that having parents from different races doesn't cause multiracial people to suffer. Racism causes multiracial people to suffer.
Why else might Mississippi Republicans oppose interracial marriage? There's the fact that Mississippi's situated in the so-called Bible Belt, and there's a prominent misperception that the Bible forbids interracial marriage. Evidently, those who believe this are unaware that the Bible features interracial romances and cross-cultural relationships throughout. Moses, for example, married an Ethiopian woman. And Galatians 3:28 declares that there's "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Now, I'm no theologian, and I certainly don't want to start a religious debate with anyone about interracial marriage, but if you're interested in learning more about the mainstream Christian take on interracial marriage, I suggest reading John Piper's views on the matter and a Cornerstone Magazine analysis of the subject, not to mention About.com Christian Teens guide Kelli Mahoney's take.
Another reason Mississippi Republicans may oppose intermarriage is because the state's not as mixed as it seems. While the multiracial population there has risen exponentially, mixed-race people only account for 34,000, or 1.1 percent, of the state's total. As more and more Mississippians are exposed to mixed people and their families, opposition to intermarriage will likely decline. In the meantime, Republican leaders such as Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour should use their platforms to promote cross-cultural acceptance instead of divisiveness. That's a move Barbour neglected to make when he remarked last year that the notoriously segregationist Citizen Councils were no big deal.
If Mississippi's to become a state where multiculturalism is embraced on all fronts, its leaders cannot downplay segregation's tragic failings.