Due to globalization, the world has become highly diversified as people travel across borders to study, work, and/or live (Hirabayashi et al., 2002). Unfortunately, the problem of racism remains a large elephant in the room. A study by two Swedish economists revealed that racial tolerance is remarkably a challenge in Asia, whereas in the Anglo former colonies, people were likely to embrace racially diverse neighbors (Fisher, 2013). Meanwhile, marriage has historically been a unification tool. Traditionally, people married from their communities, but as the world becomes highly diversified, cross-cultural marriages have become a common phenomenon (Marrow et al., 2007). Although cross-cultural marriages are affected by language and cultural barriers that affect individuals’ free will to marry from other races, a case study of Japan and the US reveals that cultural marriages promote racial tolerance as people interact with new cultures, broaden their perspective about those culture and races, and develop a free will to embrace people from varying racial backgrounds.
Cross-cultural marriages broaden the interaction of people from different cultures, eliminating racial biasness. For the most part, people might not be completely comfortable with their current friends and families. Even so, with the advent of technology, such as online dating, the world has become a global village from where people can select their spouses (Karraker, 2013). According to Karraker (2013), cross-cultural marriages bridge cultural gaps by allowing people to learn about the culture of their spouses, which entail food, music, hobbies, and friends. This offers people the opportunity to test and subsequently appreciate other cultures, thereby developing tolerance towards them. Even so, the outcomes of this appreciation vary by gender. In a study conducted in the US, interethnic marriages was found to be common among foreign females than foreign males (Alexander & Alexander, 2005), a phenomenon, which is true in a male-dominated country like Japan (Hirabayashi et al., 2002). Between 1980 and 2000, Japanese men marrying non-Japanese women shot up 6.5 times (Hirabayashi et al., 2002). According to Hirabayashi et al. (2002), Japanese men mainly marry Chinese women, followed by Philippine, South Korea, and North Korea women. Overall, social interactions have widened on a global scale, allowing people to broaden their minds.
Secondly, cross-cultural marriages promote tolerance by broadening the minds of people. Individuals married in cultures apart from their native ones tend to produce families that are less likely to be swayed along racial and ethnic lines. Research reveals that the younger generation has shed off discriminatory practices and beliefs, promoting a more open and accepting attitude towards people from other cultural backgrounds (Tubbs, 2003). In fact, the authors concluded that the younger generation was highly likely to adapt to new cultures and societies considering that they are more assimilated and thus, less likely to strongly attach themselves to their native cultures (Karraker, 2013). Furthermore, Karraker (2013), noted that children of cross-cultural marriages learn more than one heritage. This widens their perception about their different ancestries, creating tolerance towards the two (dad’s and mom’s) cultures. In a bid to heal and redefine the racial differences that disturb the slavery waters, Black-White couples continue to spring up. While most of such couples face negativity, their relationship dynamics are not different from a white-white or black-black relationship (Tubbs, 2003). Society prejudices, thus, continue to dissipate as people acknowledge that love has no race, allowing them to freely choose spouses from whichever race.
Finally, cross-cultural marriages promote tolerance as people exercise their free will. In the US, President Obama was quite an inspiration to most Americans. According to Karraker (2013), the most powerful leader in the world was a product of a cross-cultural relationship between an American and a Kenya. Up to that point, it is apparent that people are not only more tolerant but also able to make a free choice about whom to marry. Interestingly, the trending concept of free will and the individual’s right to select a life partner extended into the US military. Both World War One and World War Two saw the US establish its military bases in Europe and Asia. A cross cultural study by Lee and Lee (2007), revealed that in fact, countless military brides such as the Korean military bride currently live in America. The majority of the respondents (the military brides) further maintained that their lives were improved from the unfortunate circumstances in their native countries (Lee & Lee, 2007). Apparently, Japanese Americans are already an assimilated group. In a study conducted by Fu (2001), racial boundaries do not matter when marrying Whites. This demonstrates the absence of racial boundaries in marriage as people exercise their freedom to select their partner of choice.
Even so, critics of cross-cultural marriages have raised significant concerns that challenge the concept of racial tolerance as a result of cross-cultural marriages. For instance, Lichte & Qian (2007), pointed the issue of communication style and interpersonal relationships, which are key cultural aspects that can differ from one culture to another. Language barrier is a major challenge as some cultures are not even in the lime light. For instance, when a Russian man marries an Italian woman, they are likely to differ in their languages, religion, and more so, significant cultural differences associated with emotional expression, conflict management, and the role of family in child rearing (Lichte & Qian, 2007). The underlying beliefs and values are barely changeable when necessary.
Moreover, individual ethnic and cultural differences further exert pressure on cross-cultural marriages. According to Ono & Berg (2010), families with two diverse cultures tend to struggle to understand their differences. For the most part, some of the differences are subconscious, making it difficult to do away with an individual’s traditional beliefs and values (Ono & Berg, 2010). Different cultures have different forms of matrimonial laws and parental disagreements, which are likely to contribute to family disputes, and subsequently divorce. Karraker (2013) maintains that high divorce rates and lower marital satisfaction in Asia are associated with cross-cultural marriages’ language barrier and society’s disapproval. For instance, when a non-Muslim marries a Muslim, he is expected to convert to Islam for the religion does not recognize such unions (Karraker, 2013). On the other hand, Muslim men can marry Jewish and Christian women, but when they divorce in the West, child custody is automatically awarded to the mother (Karraker, 2013). In the US, therefore, Muslims barely have a chance to survive in a marriage or win a divorce lawsuit, making it hard for them to marry non-Muslims. As such, not only friends and family members but also modern legislation may hinder the notion of free will. In fact, Fisher (2013), noted that people have only been conditioned by the media to maintain a low profile when it comes to racial preference, making most research respondents lie when asked about racial tolerance.
Despite the challenges facing cross-cultural marriages, people are still tolerant towards race and have embarked on initiatives to bolster a global perspective on relationships. Foremost, it is imperative to state that interracial marriages may not always be equated to intercultural marriages. For instance, in the US, people of different races may have similar cultural backgrounds (Marrow et al., 2007). From that perspective, it is apparent that when these people marry, despite being from different races, they have a similar culture (background, religion, values), and thus, tend overlook their racial differences. What is more, studies have shown that people marry based on their education level regardless of their race (Qian, 1999). According to Qian (1999), Chinese Americans that intermarry are highly educated, and thus, have a wider cross-cultural perspective of race and ethnicity. To enhance cross-cultural interaction, the Japanese government introduced the Japan Exchange and Teaching program to enhance foreign language teaching, and subsequently improve cross-cultural communication. In 1999, nearly 6,000 Assistant Language Teachers and Coordinators of International Relations teaching English were Americans (Hirabayashi et al., 2002). Successfully, they worked alongside Japanese teachers and students to provide English language training and bridge communication barriers between Americans and Japanese.
Overall, cross-cultural marriages tend to broaden interactions and perspectives, besides promoting the free will to tolerate other cultures despite communication and cultural barriers. People marrying across cultures are likely to interact with new people from other cultures, which shapes their beliefs about those cultures. Out of this, they are likely to have the free will to respect other races, and thus tolerate them. Poor communication and the society may however discourage racial tolerance. As spouse selection is a personal decision, everyone has a choice to tolerate people from varying cultural and racial backgrounds.
Alexander, K., & Alexander, M. D. (2005). American Public School Law (6th ed). Belmont, Calif.: Thomson West.
Fisher, M. (2013). A fascinating map of the world’s most and least racially tolerant countries. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/05/15/a-fascinating-map-of-the-worlds-most-and-least-racially-tolerant-countries/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.feed17eed5c5