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International marriages, discrimination and stereotyping

by Chris Ezeh

This report is a summary of an EAMN Research Conducted in Hamburg Germany: The  trans-border social networks between people due to international migration and tourism are some of the most remarkable features of globalisation. One of the consequences of easier access to other countries and increased intercultural communication is the increased incidence of bi-national marriages. Figures in Germany, for example, indicate that in 1960, every 25th marriage was cross-cultural between a German and a non-German partner, and  in 1995 one in every seven newly-married couples was bi national (Beck- Gernsheim 1998:154). In 2006 one in every 5th marriage in Hamburg was cross-cultural – EAMN Research 2006

Often many couples involved in international marriages are plagued with extra special difficulties which, in comparison to normal local marriages, constitute an enormous strain for a relationship.

This situation leads to big conflicts if the children are involved in international relationships or marriages.  Then stereotypes, racism, fear of the unknown, will combine to produce vehement resistance. The following arguments are often used as support for the indifference and non-acceptance of the new family-entrant:

The wrong assumption still reigns that international marriages are unpredictable owing to a lot of unknown risks and therefore prone to fail. Such marriages are plagued with communication problems and misunderstanding reinforced through cultural, lingual, religious, racial, and geographical barriers. There is also the danger that their child will move overseas, leading to a “loss” not only of their child but also future grandchildren. Children’s attitudes—which culture will they accept?

Inadequate knowledge of the country where the marriage partner comes from. Some families argue that the genealogy lineage of the family would be disrupted or destroyed. “In this case, goes the argument, children from such marriages are not at home in either country of their parents.”  This last argument is the racist argument and has no basis. At this point, this is where racism takes off from stereotypes.

Interracial Marriage/Bi-national partnership Factors

      The ratio of individuals becoming involved in an interracial marriage increase with higher educational attainment.

       Both men and women from ‘lower status racial groups’ but with higher education levels tend to marry spouses from a ‘higher status racial group’ with low education levels.

      Blacks and Whites who marry interracially tend to have a higher socioeconomic status than those who don’t.

       Most Interracial Marriages occur in mixed-race geographic areas.

       Native-born racial minorities are more likely to be involved in an interracial marriage than foreign-born.

       Most interracial marriages involve whites and another minority.

·          Interracial couples must work harder to make the marriage work.

·          Women more affected by type of marriage than men are.

·          White families have lower acceptance-rate of interracial marriage: “marrying down”

·          Minorities are more aware than whites of negative reactions to interracial marriage.

·        Partners living in “mixed marriages” have to  develop new strategies to cope with the dispersed family network and to organise interaction with family members: (affined and consanguine) within and beyond the borders.

On the other hand, the advantages of cross-national marriages are enormous but often underrated. Recent trends in interracial marriage has increased in recent years (both in nominal value and per cent of total marriages) There are a lot of advantages for the bi-racial children and their families. Firstly, the child has a unique unparalleled chance of getting exposed to multiple racial, cultural and linguistic perspectives and will be better in the socialisation process to relate to people in more than one racial group.

In addition, some parents learn things about their own sense of identity as they work in bringing up their own children that helps both the child and parent. A second advantage is within education. A bi-racial child can gain the educational advantages that are given to children of the minorities.

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