Changing Attitudes, Changing Lives, by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.

robinson_smBack in 1958, the pollsters at the Gallup organization began what became a regular survey of American attitudes about race.  In particular, they asked people whether they approved of interracial marriage and if they could support a black person running for president.

The successes of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in his campaigning for presidency this year proves Gallup’s 2007 finding, in which 94 percent of those polled said they could vote for a black person (though not necessarily Obama) running for the highest office in the land.  This figure had improved from only 37 percent in 1958.

On the subject of interracial marriage, however, acceptance can still be improved.  Up from a dismal four percent in 1958, the 2007 survey found 77 percent of those asked approved of marriage between blacks and whites.  This is certainly a great change, but not as much as one would expect or want today.

Whether people like him, and whether he eventually becomes president, the ascendance of Barack Obama presents America with a unique opportunity.  Think about it.  If an overwhelming majority of Americans can agree that a black person can become our commander-in-chief and can occupy the White House, then why can’t a white person select a black person – and vice-versa – to fill the most cherished positions in our lives?  Why can’t someone of another race command a place of friendship and love in a family and find universal acceptance? 

I am an economist by trade.  From an economist’s perspective, marriage is a business arrangement involving an intricate production process.  It is a strategic chemistry of physical, financial and human capital that produces positive returns such as more wealth and more human capital (children).  It is the fulcrum of successful societies.

While objective and smart business partners can operate a successful business, famously successful businesses usually evolve out of loving human relationships between partners.  It really does not get good until the parties in the business/marriage learn how to love each other and fully enjoy the art and process of business/marriage.

Now that America has graduated from the hypothetical possibilities of a black person running for president (no offense to Jesse Jackson and others) and there is now an actual viable candidate, it is time to address the issue of interracial relationships.  After all, Barack Obama himself is the product of a marriage between a white American woman and a black African man.

How can acceptance transform our society?  Let’s consider an example.  “White John,” who knew and secretly loved “Black Mary” as a child, a teenager or as a co-worker, may finally gather the courage to abandon a vacuous-yet-socially-acceptable relationship and find Mary to start something serious.  Similarly, “Black Jim” will set out to find “White Sue.”  This should also apply to other racial pairings outside of just black and white.  These actions may be disruptive at first, but if “love conquers all” then let it be found and “let love abide.” 

In the end, no matter who wins in November, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign may produce searches for true love that will transform lives, create new relationship and make our society better because it will be based less on what is acceptable and more on truth.

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B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21.   You can visit his website at  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


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