WGBH Roundtable; Intermarriage: Inter-Racial; Inter-Faith; Inter-Ethnic
We're here to discuss a book on intermarriage by Rabbi Albert garden of Temple Emanuel in Newton. This book was recently published by the Beacon Press and has stimulated a great deal of interest. Here to discuss it today are Dr. garden the author Dr. Martin kills and lecture on Government at Harvard University and Dr. Jack Mendelson minister of the Arlington Street Church Unitarian Universalist of Boston. There's so much to discuss about this book it's hard to know where to begin. Dr. Gordon has taken an extremely broad point of view toward the problem of intermarriage. He deals with inner faith inner racial and inner ethnic marriage.
And summarizes a great deal of the research evidence that we have regarding the nature of intermarriage. Community attitudes toward it the changing rate of intermarriage and so on. He also takes his own value position with regard to it and this is one of the issues we'll be discussing. Perhaps we might begin by trying to clarify just a little what we mean by intermarriage in a general sense we mean the crossing of group boundaries how broadly would you like us to use the term Dr. Gordon. Well Dr. Levinson I would say that one can of course carry the subject of intermarriage to the point where the whole idea of enter something rather becomes rather absurd.
And that's why I limited only to these particular aspects of intermarriage between persons who are of different ethnic backgrounds different racial backgrounds and different religious background. I have not paid too much attention to the question of economic or class background because I felt that we could logically carry this thing to such an extreme that we just would never be able to finish and conclude that on any particular or gain any particular knowledge with respect to the subject to talk how do the others feel would you like to take some of these other factors into account. Well I think one interesting thing about. The Whartons approach to the turn in this usage into marriage is that it turned and perhaps correctly to assume that irrespective of how race how much a society moves from what we call a traditional close society to a class
society which means a relatively open society a society in which one standing because of the someone else becomes a basis of of achieve things rather than other things which you carry over through ascription and assumes that despite how much his approach I think assume despite how much a society does become class and its and its character mistakes factors of. Subgroup factors of religion of ethnic cultural and of a racial over. Riot is still hold as a kind of basic determining forces in such behavior as the choice of one's marital spouse. And this is probably a valid US assumption I suspect that we are still far from the point where a modern economic industrial society based upon class has been able to overcome the sway of the continued influence of factors of faith facts of religion factors of cultural past factors of ethnic and racial crime.
I think there's a there's an object of truth therefore in the approach. I think the approach does make some sense in terms of what we know about the general characteristics of a modern class society. But you seem to be suggesting that. Our society continues to change that some of the some of the group differences will tend to break down or to dissolve so that the meaning of intermarriage may be quite different in 20 years than it is now or maybe quite different now from what it was 20 years ago. Yes I would assume that I mean and I think most people assume that that as most elements in a society become an integral part of the most high C's of a modern US social system they slowly but surely leave these the influence of these of these subgroup of forces upon their behavior. This this we we I think all assume as to how the how a class society as against a
traditional closed or feudal society or explicitly caste society tends to operate. This I think is a normal assumption about the nature of modern industrial class society as against any other kind of human social or economic organization. Dr. Mendelson would you like to comment on that. Well go back to the original question of us talking Levenson about the scope of the thing. I guess I assume we are going to talk about the question of whether blue eyed people should marry brown eyed people or not or whether people with unusually large featured marry people with unusually small feet. So whether we're really talking about some practical situations that exist in our society. Those are generally accepted as a heavy duty was that it have to do with with some established patterns of GROUP BY difficult ation right. And so I think this is all right with a I think it includes class class structure in America without any question. In fact I think some of the worst strains that are put on families these days
in terms of intermarriage have perhaps not so much in the interreligious field of the interracial field as it has in the enter class field. Still an awful lot of feeling involved about you know the level of 371 canonically and culture except for one factor Dr. Mendelson and that it seems to me has to do with the fact that we saw it theoretically at least accept the idea that there is a kind of transition from one class into the other economically. So on we assume that this is the norm for America that people can travel in that direction much more easily and even though it may disturb us as it disturbs some of my sample the idea of being married there marrying someone in a different economic groups in the sort of floor of them. Nevertheless it seems to me that the whole idea.
Economic differences is really not as great as are some other differences which might have to do with educational background for example. They do they aren't don't stand in the way in the same degree as does educational difference difference between the parties concerned. And certainly insofar as the religious and the racial by all means the racial difference which I think is the most pronounced. Of course there's another factor involved there and that is if if a college graduate wants to marry someone who had six years of school and the two of them can work it out. It's largely up to the two of them. They won't meet much community opposition or what they meet will be a lot of family and within the family but in the case of certain kinds of religious intermarriage and racial intermarriage. The
couple have to deal not only with whatever feelings there are in themselves about it and their family but also the wider community. This is really the big question isn't it. When you come right down to it this is what we're really talking about here if we if we go at this from the standpoint of values. It's whether the existence of these prejudices and barriers and traditions predispositions with respect to these things whether they should be defended whether they should be reinforced or whether they should be resisted and actively overcome. Well sir that is really the value area that's involved here. Perhaps they ought to be understood. I mean there's no any question of whether they be resistance whether they be overcome in any way. It seems to me that some times. We don't understand the values by which these people live sufficiently well. And as a consequence this very fact tends to create problems for example. I
have a feeling personally that the values that are represented by the Judaism which I profess has some special significance for me. And this of course as a rabbi I seek to teach as well. And I would assume that the other clergyman would be doing pretty much the same thing attempting to teach their values. I don't define religion in terms of right and ritual alone. I think it should be defined in much broader terms and that if you think in terms of specific values then you would of course want to preserve these values. And so it isn't always a question of trying to take a stand to defend something just because you inherited it up because it's come out of the past because it has the they. Sense of being old which is important but rather because you feel that there are still some values that have significance today within that traditions deserve being
perpetuated. Dr. Gordon that brings us right to your book doesn't it. Because in the book you make very explicit your own value position with regard to intermarriage and perhaps if you you could summarize that briefly and then we can see where we stand on it. Well that's a large order I took the number of pages in the book to do just that Dr. Levins and I do say as I've said before that the values are important. And for example in the in Judaism the emphasis upon the ideal of image day he the imitation of the qualities of God are the attributes of God. Seem to me to have some significance. I would like and I do in fact have spent a good number of years trying to teach others what these values are and having them and hoping that they would in some degree at least live there abide by these principles. I think that the idea of Sadako for
example the Hebrew word which means charity which actually means righteousness is an idea worthy of being perpetuated. That in so doing I help people to realize that this is a quality that will help to make the world better and make people better. And I'm not even concerned now with the matter of perpetuating Judaism or with perpetuating a particular. Segment which is either a denomination or a particular faith. I'm concerned with perpetuating these particular values or this type of power. For example Judaism does not speak of Jesus as the savior. It has a different emphasis and as a consequence in speaking of Jesus as a man and speaking of him as having qualities which other human beings have as well perhaps in greater degree than some
but nevertheless being a man and a human being it seems to me that this is a value in itself which is worthy of being perpetuated. And that if I can teach this to my people this will help them to see that within themselves as well. There can be those qualities. They can develop within themselves those qualities that will help to make them perhaps able to serve this society of which they are part in better fashion and so on this basis you you you believe that intermarriage should be discouraged. I think that if you believe in certain values if you have if you have a feeling that there are certain values that are worthy of perpetuation that the idea of an America becomes exceedingly difficult and that to intermarry means that you must ultimately. Well let me say either drop or you must discourage some of
these values. But that's just the point doesn't necessarily mean that. I mean I think Dr. Gordon's position is a curious one in a way because there's a catch to it. I mean ultimately what he's saying is that the values which he find significant in Judaism and which he thinks can have meaning for the total human says a situation they can only be perpetuated if you remain a Jew. That's not apply also by the way do I with most of the Protestant and Catholic. Beside the point I'm not sure if that's correct then and if it is correct then I think the human situation is in for a bad look out that that somehow the kind of world in which people can interact effectively and and meaningfully meaningfully from whatever set of values they they operate will never be attained
if you assume doubting that a Jew can only make his his value contribution to the total human situation only and exclusively within the framework of Jewry he can do so if he if he if he if he lives his life outside of Jewry say by marrying a Catholic or by marrying a negro etc.. Somehow I find this catcha very difficult that is what I'm saying that you are. You haven't said it but I think it's a fair deduction from the assumptions upon which you operate. What you're saying in effect is that a Jew cannot make this contribution which you think Judaism has for the total situation. If he leaves jewelry he can only make it within the confines. Well perhaps like the nub of the jewelry. Perhaps I can offer another another suggestion with respect to statehood for example some people who say you can't establish it.
Peace in the world unless you eliminate all nations. Now most of the institutions presently established in the world assume that nations will continue to exist but that nations will learn how to live in peace that they must ultimately learn to live in peace with the other nations. Now this is what I'm saying I'm saying that each nation has a unique personality each religion has a unique personality. I'm not saying that it is the best. I'm saying that for itself it may be good it may be right it may seem to that group of individuals who are associated with it who have lived with it to have values worthy of perpetuation. Just as nations feel this way. Are you identifying. Jewelry and Judaism that is the Jewish religion that is you say that the religion has its personality. The is the non-religious Jew. Yes the non-religious Jew has a sense of identification. Sometimes he may not. He may be have been born of Jewish parents and this is as far as it goes.
He has not not necessarily identified exclusively with the Jewish people as he chooses to be. And if he has a sense of identification then I would say that what he wishes to identify with. Maybe for him at least. Or I'm inferring that for him that there isn't some reason for his wanting to maintain that identification. And there's nothing which is come upon the scene which makes me believe that to lose that identification is to give something of any particular value to the world. Well let me describe the value framework in which I work. This is Dr. Mendelson for the sake of the audience. Several times a month I talk with couples who are confronted with the dilemma we're discussing here today and in a world which has grown small in many respects where people of different faith and race social class meet easily. They study side by side they work together. They participate in common group activities of
various kinds. It is inevitable that they're going to be attracted to one another. They're going to fall in love but they're going to want to marry and then suddenly they discover that they're in a good deal of trouble. Very often though they're hard in their mind has said yes to this marriage the church or the synagogue or a society or family say no. How this disapproval of interfaith interracial enter class marriages has of course a very long history and it's rooted partly in common sense. Marriage is one of the most important decisions an individual makes to a great extent it shapes the meaning in the future of his life. It can cause his life to open up and flower it can cause his life to close in and corrode in the wisdom of human experience we know that the harmonious growing together of two persons is difficult enough in any case
without adding further problems of different cultural racial religious backgrounds. So quite aside from any personal prejudices that they may have priests and rabbis and ministers know that a common faith in a family is a source of strength and stability and that conversely differing a competing faith may be a source of endless controversy. Interracial marriages often face additional problems of social ostracism into glass marriages provoke both internal conflicts and family alienation. Numerous studies now most particularly Dr Gordon's book on intermarriage leave little doubt that statistically such marriages are more fragile than those marriages between partners of the same faith or racial or class backgrounds. But people are people rather than statistics and I Society is now it's organized that more and more young people are falling in love with each other without regard for these old barriers of race and creed and social status.
They are deciding that they want to get married whether the church or to synagogues or parents approve or not. And for such young people the church with which I am associated Unitarian Universalist Church can be of some real help. Being a religious community which is open to all and free from dogma and creed free to seek truth wherever it may be found in whatever faith or cultural context. My church is also free to recognize and emphasize the possibilities as well as the difficulties of intermarriage. If it is true that adjustments are more complex it is also true that when a full hearted effort is made there can be warmer love and deeper understanding because the struggle is necessary. They can be a richer sharing it can be a more exhilarating family fellowship because two traditions or cultures or sets of life experience have been blended together each making its own unique contribution to the whole. Each member of such a family can become a person of larger rather than lesser loyalties and come to identify his
fate and future more readily with the whole of mankind rather than just with one particular segment of mankind. That's the value framework in which I approach this problem. Do I understand you correctly from those last remarks especially that you then see intermarriage as something to be positively valued something that you would. Encourage except under special. What I said was that within intermarriage is the possibility of larger values rather than lesser values. Another word you can't say with any degree of assurance documents on that and each and every case in every instance that such marriages are bound to be enriched or the Toronado is in fact I don't say that at all or what I am saying which is somewhat different from yours. Your approach is very very good and is that I feel that it's not up to me to approve or disapprove of intermarriage. It happens it's a very important part of our culture today and it's happening with greater frequency and I want to be forgiven
I just need to give the things it's going to increase in my oh so the question is how do you deal with it. What you what you deal with in a pluralistic society is a situation where people make up their own minds about who they're going to marry. You see. That's what happens in that kind of society. It's not a rabbi or a priest or a minister who determines who you're going to marry. You determine this yourself. It's not your family that you don't so you're going to increasingly in our society the individual decides who he's going to marry who she's going to marry. Perhaps the difference in the value position could be put in this way. In his book Dr. Gordon makes a statement roughly to the effect that intermarriage is the price we will have to pay for the fact that we live in a pluralistic society in a society where groups are thrown increasingly into closer contact. So he also regards it as a historical trend but he regards it as a
Price is Right is there something for which there is a great because actually I know that Dr. Mendelson would see again as well as a price in it or would emphasize that you would see it as a given which has both dangers and great potentialities. Yes and I of course in my view. Speak of the dangers not only to the individuals involved in terms of the statistical evidence which I present but in terms of the dangers to the society I think that there is some good has come out of the particular respective religions concerning which we speak not everything is good about any one of them. But the fact is that there is so much that is good that is worthy of being perpetuated that it seems to me that part of the job the Pens upon the attitude of members of the clergy and parents as well take toward their respective religions I think that in large measure they have most people have been quite indifferent
to their religions and that as a consequence they have not really really taught anything positive so that young people or others as well say. But what I do is quite all right this depends only on me and has no relationship to this Issiah tea of which I am a part and frankly I think that this is an unfortunate attitude. Dr. Gordon would you like to comment on the on how this position how your position would apply in the case of racial intermarriage. Well let me first say that insofar as Judaism is concerned Judaism is colorblind with respect to other religious colors. It has no feeling of tall with respect to the marriage of persons with respect to marriage to persons of another color. It has a feeling with respect to the perpetuation of the values that are associated with the religion. And so it assumes that
persons who are Jews whatever their color can are should be married and may be married. Let me put it that way. And does not this guy's a question of I mean has no no fears and phobias on the other question and you can see this certainly in in the state of Israel as well because there are you getting people of a variety of different colors persons who are Jews who call themselves Jews who are living together and who are intermarrying. Now it's true that the Western world hasn't readily accepted this idea but it is also true that they are I think bound in time certainly in an ever increasing degree to accept this idea of inter racial marriage with the emphasis being upon religion as the uniting factor rather than upon color. But what I was thinking of your position say with regard to a white Protestant marrying a negro Protestant so there would not be a.
Religious crossing but only a racial one. What would be your position on that. Well the problem there it seems to me Dr. Levinson is one it has to do with the attitude of society more than with the attitude of the individuals themselves I was talking one of my interviews as a matter of fact a white man married to. And you go girl. They've read a very lovely family. And they said to me the question with us is not a question of color. We know what we are and our children know that what they are they know that they're colored. There's no question about that. But they come to us and ask us what is all religion. And because both of them apparently have left their respective churches and they say that the children are the problem. Represent a problem in terms of what religious upbringing shall we provide for them that will help them to acquire.
And so I think that the problem is more frequently. Question insofar as the couple itself is concerned a question of religion. What values to provide in and from an organizer through an organized religion and how to deal with the problems presented by society as a whole. These same people in a variety of others with whom I've spoken to indicate to me that problem very frequently is one of having a certain amount of antipathy on the part of the society at large on the part of landlords in the part of the neighborhood and these present special problems for these people. But I don't think that in the case to which you refer that would be a special problem. The religious problem would be one that concerns the children more than the parents. If I can interrupt just for a moment. For those of you who have tuned in late this is a panel discussion of a book entitled intermarriage interfaith interracial interethnic
by Dr. Albert R. Gordon. And we're discussing it today. The discussions are Dr. Gordon the author of Dr. Martin of Harvard University and Dr. Jack Mendelson of the Arlington Street Church Universalist Unitarian in the other order. Could I put a query to a doctor which I think's interesting one which to some extent comes out of the data in his book and that is how do you how would you explain the fact that at the level of middle class and upper middle class interracial marriages in this country a high proportion of the whites involved are of Jewish background. Would that come from something in the values of the Jewish religion something which which has been cultivated in the in the family and the religion the upbringing of the jew or just what would you put your hand
on. Well this is a rather large order I can't cover the universe but I imagine that this question should perhaps be directed to Dr. Levinson who's written specifically on this name. It seems to me it seems. I would say that it is in part it may in part be a matter of religious upbringing but I think in large measure too it may be a matter of rebellion and it may be a matter that has to do with escapism a rebellion or some other factor of this kind which people trying to get away from their family the family background maybe one or both of these five there's one in the same time. Would you have an idea about why this should be more common among Jews than other groups. Well this too I would say what perhaps come out of the Jewish tradition itself. First of all you member statement I made before about you doesn't mean colorblind. This would be the first thing. The second place is that we keep on mentioning the fact in just about
every phase of Jewish life remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. And this somehow even though it doesn't penetrate the minds of all people as you may readily expect. It nevertheless does have its effect and people do associate the psychologically at least with persons who are perhaps the victims of being a minority in this land of ours. I wonder whether Dr. cosen would like to express an opinion on the general issue. The value question. Well yeah you know for your marriage my hands on it are what I have. I have a value position on it and it would run something like this I would say that the basically whatever the point from which one enters the question of marriage is essentially a personal question. And I think that that this is this is the only way anyone who
identifies himself as a as a open minded liberal or a progress a person can can honestly come to this issue. I can I can hardly go along with the with the view that it is something which organized religion or any other organized group should impose on the person that it's something that should be left to freedom of choice and that when one enters it one should know what one is entering and be willing to accept the good and the bad. This is this is this is essentially my own value point on it. Well Dr. Carlson do you think that let's talk for a moment about the matter of the problems that many children of intermarried face under these circumstances you say it's a perfectly purely personal issue I say that it isn't completely that it tall that it involves a generation of children at that involves. There are psychological attitudes and perhaps their own happiness
and their uncertainties and doubts and insecurities and that it would seem to me that potential parents have a responsibility in that degree to try to the greatest degree possible to safeguard their unborn children. But I said if it but I don't think he was being solve problems by running away from them I don't think we get on to something we consider a better world whatever that is by running away from all the obvious obstacles which we know are involved in moving on to a better world. But you make an inference to cosen and that is that all the other world that a better world is bound to come if you eliminate this fact. I suspect that's correct and I don't and I think that anyone who has an image of a better world also makes this assumption that basically the ethnic religious and racial barriers to lead to the issue of marriage must be basically removed fundamentally altered from something that we
know which they are today if we are going to move on to this thing we call a better world. I don't have any blueprint as to precisely what all the components of this world would look like. But in this phase the sort of fuzzy notion which I do have I'm convinced that barriers to interracial marriage. US must be moved. You see I am somehow thinking of the prophet Isaiah who I think had a rather fair picture of at least part of a better world. When he spoke of world peace and he didn't say about didn't speak about the elimination of nationhood he rather spoke about the fact that nations shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war or no war anymore. Now the idea I gather from that is that he believe that it was the responsibility of nations to learn how to live in peace with each other. He didn't speak or he wasn't speaking in terms of his blueprint for the better world.
The elimination of nationhood. And it seems to me that in the same category I would place. Religions certain religions above others perhaps but I would say that there are values that are unique not everything about the fact that unique in itself doesn't make it a perfect thing but I would say that there are certain values that are worthy of perpetuation. And I would certainly like to see them perpetuated. But I also think that new human forms can be created to perpetuate values which were which were which recently took place under under different and older forms I hold out therefore much more hope with respect to the ingenuity of the human being to come to grips with what ever is required to have this better world a basically stable peaceful and predictable and happy place for people to live in. I'd like them OK we had a doctor mental health likely a couple comments on this I think the
issue in world peace is not the abolition of nationhood. I think the issue in world peace in practical terms is the is the diminishing of certain aspects of sovereignty not the question of people identifying themselves with the land and with the tradition and with a history. So I don't think this is an overly apt analogy. The question of intermarriage is as Dr. Killen suggests always a personal question. It's a question of people individual human beings and it doesn't really have an awful lot to do with a large sweeping matters of radiology or anything of the sort. Two people decide that they can make a life together. They do this because they've come in contact with one another and they have had an opportunity to learn to know one another in a way that directs them toward marriage the establishment of a family and a home. The facts that we face in our society is that increasingly this happens to human beings without
regard to what used to be more formidable barriers separating them one from another. Barriers of race or religion or cultural background. But these barriers are progressively diminished now because of the essential nature of the society in which we live. So more and more young people fall in love they want to get my what are you gonna do about this. Well this is a tough thing to do if you're going to sit down discourage them from getting married because they happen to come from a religious different religious backgrounds. What what would what this will if effectively do is to turn these people away from all religious formal religious associations if it happens. I talked with a man just a couple days ago. He called me up he was terribly agitated. He had a he and a young woman had decided to get married. She comes from an active Jewish religious association so she wanted to be married in a temple or synagogue.
He comes out of a Jewish background but is no longer actively identified with with a Jewish religious institution although he thinks of himself culturally in Jewish terms. He called a rabbi to see about arranging for this service and he was told by the rabbi yes I'll do this service if you will join my temple you are. You were born a Jew. You are a Jew you ought to be associated with a Jewish religious institution. If you are I'll marry you. If not I won't. There's nothing to do with Islam by the way we'll take care of them and I say well I would say it's ridiculous too. I've never in all the years I've been a rabbi in over 35 years and I've never once asked the person or made such a statement to anyone say I am concerned with the fact that they identify with the Jewish people because as a rabbi I am authorized by my ordination to officiate at the marriage of Jewish persons. You see and I take that responsibility seriously. But there's nothing within Judaism.
This is personal. I have a ration on the part of some individual in Iraq I encourage him then to go on and seek out some other possibilities. He was turned down a half a dozen times on the same ground. And so it's not just an individual one of the things that really bothers me is the change that I see happening in many religious groups with respect to this question a hardening of attitudes back in my early years in the ministry when I was a young wet behind the years minister of the church in Rockford Illinois the rabbi of the temple there and I often used to exchange marriages that is if there was an occasion when I couldn't be present to perform a wedding he would do it in my stead. This sort of thing is out the window completely now. This kind of cooperation this kind of cross-fertilization. Of religious lines I see it happening in Protestant groups is hardening this business of instructing young people about the dangers of going over the line over the religious
line to get married. I see it happening in the Roman Catholic Church. I don't think the position there is essentially changed I think it remains the same. And of course the justification always is well the dangers are just too great. More of these marriages are going to fail in your book. Rabbi Gordon you say for example that 15 percent of these into marriages and some approximate end up being a disaster and that this is something like three times the national average of divorces righting all marriages. Well of course this is something that's got to be taken into account but at the same time considering the attitudes that exist and the opposition that is in the family problems the fact that in India marriage has a six to one chance of succeeding. So you know this to me pretty impressive pretty good. Well there's also more about human beings than I think people who oppose it and I don't like or really really went no I have respect for human beings too.
Now do you have a very cynical notion about human beings I think it pervades the whole book. I have a strong feeling of a lie on the contrary I think I have. I don't think this is a time for me to justify whether or not I have. Cynical attitude towards human beings. I think that to be a member of the clergy for these many years and to still feel challenged by it means that I'm quite the opposite of being isn't it. But I feel that in addition I have a responsibility and I want to live up to that responsibility not to be cynical about society but to say that I must do the very best of my ability try to preserve those things which seem to me to have some significance. Why wouldn't you do the same. Well I'm not sure that I would do it precisely within the framework within which I think you operate. I have one area of being of great gratitude to Rabbi Gordon. That is by spending here is that he spent conducting the interviews and compiling
the statistics from these interviews he has put into my hands for example in this book some very useful material in connection with the counseling that I do with with couples who come to me to talk about getting married. It seems to me that in fairness to the two persons who contemplate marriage across some of these old traditional barriers all of this should be talked well out in advance it should be very well understood that this isn't just somebodies imagination. You know that there's a greater risk in this kind of marriage but here's some here's some pretty hard factual material in relation to this. And so I find it in this sense very useful material I don't agree with your conclusions but I am very grateful for the material that you put together out of which you have drawn your own conclusions as you have a perfect right. And you will note that I separated my personal view from the rest of the material and I deliberately cited it or used it for a
concluding chapter so that I would as much as possible avoid having my this view of mine permeate all the other parts of material. Now it's true that no one I think no one including political science is completely free from personal view personal objective have something personal so it gets into the material. And I recognize that and I think we all must recognize that. But I have tried as conscientiously as possible to avoid the tendency to keep on expressing my own view all through this material. I'd like to direct a question to Dr. Tilson for May because of this problem in another direction actually. Because and it's an area in which I'd really like some some reflection on your part. Is there any tendency now in the Negro community to harden its attitude against
racial intermarriage. I shouldn't think so. I thought the point at that segment of the community where such intermarriage is a cur that is among the middle classes among the upper middle class pro pro factional groups I think basically there's a there's a there's a very high degree of open mindedness on the question and I have seen no evidence of change in this. Surely you do have have and you have always had since the great movement from the south to the north among urban negroes essentially black nationalist races chauvinist groups who work on the assumption of all white folks being devils those devils responsible for the press of experience which Negroes have had in 300 years of residence in North North America and that. Negroes should not
sleep with them or live with them or or or have any meaningful integrated relationship to them but I don't think that this is essentially the two which could be found among the wider population. I think generally that there's open mindedness to question all then the girls aren't going to marry whites that's for sure. But some will and I think they they approached the question with with essentially an open minded viewpoint with respect and with respect to this particular issue call attention to an article I just noted in The New York Times a male a twenty fifth headed negroes are cool to mixed marriage to sociologists. Fine. This is Donald Bo and John and discard the University of Chicago both of whom said that in the study which they did interviewing some seven hundred twenty one negro and eight hundred thirty nine white families in their study of prejudice they found
and quote Contrary to what may be the popular stereotype almost no Negro respondents reported that they would encourage their child to marry a white person. This I think in other words there isn't any any really strong feeling that if it happens it happens and I thought well that was it. Say the same that you want then that's my point. Yes yes well that's quite different. I don't think there's any active discouragement of against interracial marriage among the different question whether or not they would encourage. Well that's because that's because for a long period of time as you very well know the attitude was once white is right with a great number of me. Well to some extent that's quite quite quite true but that was really a function of the great social and economic gap between white and black and really what you what you meant when you said what's what is right is that to be white is to have all those things which make you powerful in a once significant and meaningful
and American society. This was this was not this is NOT have any biological reflect on this hardware and I understand that. I was so mad I was not you know it was you know it was not quite that friendly a comment either not it wasn't I don't I mean in the eyes of white people and not necessarily in the eyes of yank your license. You know I wonder if we could get to one of the specific issues that came up before and we got away from it and that is the question of how it is for the children of intermarriage. This certainly is a great concern of many people who consider and it's it's one of the major reasons given by those who oppose intermarriage. You were speaking of that before documented and I wonder if you could give you your general views or even a clinical example might be very useful in giving us more concrete here. Well let's take the prickly problem of children with respect to interracial marriage.
It seems to me that an interracial family is not likely to live in environmental setting a social setting where there's going to be undue pressure brought upon the children because they're products of an interracial marriage. So one of the realistic factors in interracial marriage is that probably interracial families will plan to live in those sections of urban communities where there was likely to be the greatest amount of acceptance of this so that the children are concerned in that setting the children are not going to have any more problems than any children that all children have certain kinds of problems they all have certain kinds of problems but nothing extraordinary. Now an entire religious marriage the alternatives are a little different. There of course you have the question that comes up should the children be bought or brought up in the religion of one partner should they be brought up in the religion of the other partner. Should they seek a common ground for the children which is neither the religion of one parent or the other. Or should they simply bring their children
up in a secular setting with value education in the home and for the time being until the children are older. Avoid an affiliation with a religious institution. These are these are essentially the alternatives which are available to parents with children over going into religious marriage and in every single case. There is no blueprint as to what they should do because every single family will have a set of different circumstances surrounding it with their larger families for example and where they happen to live and how they feel about it inside themselves and what kind of pressures they're under. So I don't think there is any one solution to this you deal with each one of these is an individual set of human beings. Well on the basis of your experience counseling would you offer our audience some thoughts on the conditions under which things go better for the children or the conditions under which is harder. For example if.
If the family finds a third neutral religion or a secular viewpoint it is not likely to make it easier or harder than if they pick the religion of one parent or or the kind of community they live in or or whatever. Well I'm like Dr Gordon I haven't done a statistical study on this so I really can't back it up. My impression however is that there is less stress in those families which can satisfactorily find a religious education program for their children which enriches the child without in any way denigrating either one of the heritage is there in the two backgrounds. And of course there are possibilities of this kind of A-level to them. If this is possible then it seems to be a relatively peaceful solution and it isn't always possible however. And in religious marriages oftentimes partners have to learn one partner the other has to learn to accept the fact that the children are perhaps going to be brought up in a religious
setting different from his own but this is one of the things that they should be prepared to work out in in a religious marriage. Part of the difficulty it seems to me is the fact that couples very frequently young blind girl contemplating a mixed marriage think that they have got a solution they have worked out a solution prior to the marriage. Then along come a child or several children and then they begin to rethink their position. And this presents special problems and I have in my experience discovered many such situations where the matter of rethinking one's position and wishing that one had not made certain commitments of an earlier age while wishing that one could change completely a position taken is in my mind a very serious problem and it presents special difficulties to children because children sense very quickly the insecurities of the uncertainties of their own parents. Could you give an example of that Dr. Gordon. Well yes I have had the experience of
having Well let me cite the case of an intermarriage involving a person of different religions and the mother in this case is a protestant the father is a Catholic and a very devout Catholic. The mother I think married this young man who in his own right was certainly a fine gentleman in every way but in reacting against her own parents. She was married and gave a promise that the children would be reared as Catholics. The children being where it is Cathy but she has some hollow sense the time of the promise and since the birth of the children come to feel that this is not right. She wants to be closer now to her own family background and she has developed such a difficult time created such a difficult time of it that she is under psychiatric treatment herself. This marriage
has already involved one marriage counselor and as a matter of fact this is how I came into the picture and I discovered that this was truly a very serious situation and both. Psychiatrist and the marriage counsellor indicated that was when our children were when I saw them too young for me to discover what if anything it happened to them I hope that nothing untoward has happened to them. But it does seem to me in this particular case which is the first to come to mind and there are a variety of other circumstance and places I could refer to where such problems do present themselves. But the thing that strikes me about this rabbi Gordon is that you can't really pin this on the different religious backgrounds. My lord I see this all the time to really nothing to do with the fact they come out a different religious background. The one thing I tell the couples who come to me with this is if your marriage is soundly based that is if you want to get married and
you want to get married in the sense that you're going to be able to cope with the problems of marriage it doesn't make any difference whether you come from different religious or racial or whatever backgrounds. But if you're going to get married on an essentially shaky basis anyway in terms of emotional psychological spiritual I'm talking spiritual in the broadest sense now factors then of course the difference in your backgrounds is sooner or later going to crop up and create a problem will become a focus for your problems. But this isn't the cause of them. This is a this is nothing but a symptom of deeper and more underlying causes. Problems in marriage without any really hard you're a couple It seems to me can solve a problem of different religious backgrounds because if they can't solve that then they can't solve a problem by budgets or they can solve a problem of different emotional levels with respect to sexual relations and so forth. If they can't solve these problems all together the marriage is going to be in trouble. The religious one has no special significance. It's only one of several possibilities in which weaknesses in
marriage can crop up. Well I would say that it's my impression that you are perhaps defining religion too narrowly and I'm rather surprised at you for doing so. Well I define religion as the whole of life you've been to all in all as affiliation No I don't define No no intimacy. Not that we agreed on a definition and yet I didn't think that in your I should have said religious affiliation. All right but all right clear. It's perhaps fitting that we close this discussion on a note of disagreement. Had we ended on a note of agreement. Our listeners would know that we were forcing ourselves because there are important issues here to disagree about and I'm sure that our listeners who have been interested to stay with us through this discussion have their own ideas about this and we will find a great deal of value in reading the book on intermarriage
by Rabbi Gordon. Whether they agree with his personal conclusions or not. Perhaps what comes out most clearly from our discussion is that. A person's stand on the particular issue of intermarriage is part of a broader approach to life. Dr Gordon is strongly identified with a particular pattern of Jewish religion Jewish tradition. It's important to him to preserve that pattern and he is concerned about any historical trend that threatens the continuity of this tradition. And he sees intermarriage as a threat to it and primarily I believe on this ground opposes it. Dr. Mendelsohn on the other hand
offers a religion that is universalistic that embraces all of the formerly disparate religious traditions. If the persons who come from those traditions are willing to look beyond them. And so within the framework of his thought it's quite meaningful to. To take in persons of different backgrounds and to be helpful to them and synthesizing their differences into some new Unitarian. If I can use that word pattern perhaps in the long run it will gain a deeper understanding of intermarriage by looking at the deeper processes of social change the to the new developments in personal identity that are result of these changes and as we clarify our stand toward history toward
- WGBH Roundtable
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- A discussion of Rabbi Albert Gordon?s book, Intermarriage: Inter-Racial; Inter-Faith; Inter-Ethnic. Moderated by Dr. Daniel Levinson, Director of Socio-Psychological Research at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.
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- WGBH Roundtable is a talk show featuring discussions with panels of experts on issues of public interest.
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Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Identifier: 64-0026-06-16-001 (WGBH Item ID)
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- Chicago: “WGBH Roundtable; Intermarriage: Inter-Racial; Inter-Faith; Inter-Ethnic,” 1964-06-16, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 24, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-375tbd02.
- MLA: “WGBH Roundtable; Intermarriage: Inter-Racial; Inter-Faith; Inter-Ethnic.” 1964-06-16. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 24, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-375tbd02>.
- APA: WGBH Roundtable; Intermarriage: Inter-Racial; Inter-Faith; Inter-Ethnic. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-375tbd02