Serena Williams' Engagement Highlights What Most People Get Wrong About Interracial Relationships

December 29th 2016

Tennis star Serena Williams' engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian dominated social media conversation on Thursday afternoon. And while many users offered messages of support to the couple, there was no shortage of shock and condemnation in response to the interracial coupling.

Some people on social media were surprised to learn that arguably the most famous black female athlete in the world plans to marry a white man. Ohanian is Armenian and German.

Others implied that Williams could no longer be a role model for black women because she's engaged to a white man.

After black civil rights leader Malcolm X popularized a more militant Afro-centric philosophy, and the Black Power Movement came to the forefront in the 1970s, some considered dating white people an "anti-black" thing to do.

Malcolm X called dating a white woman a part of the black man's attempt to be accepted and successful in white society.

"Some Negroes think that they're not making progress or they don't have anything unless they're living in a white neighborhood, the white man's neighborhood, a seat in the white man's school, or a position on the white man's job, and they even have taken it so far, they don't think they're successful in life unless they have a white woman as a wife," he said in a television interview.

However, other people on Twitter rushed to her defense, calling the criticism antiquated and prejudiced.

Despite the controversy, interracial marriage is actually becoming more and more common.

Interracial marriage didn't become legal across the country until a 1967 Supreme Court decision struck down all remaining state laws against black and white people marrying.

Since then, interracial marriages have steadily increased, according to Pew Research Center. In 2010, interracial marriages made up 8.4 percent of all existing marriages, an increase from only 3.2 percent in 1980. However, white and black people remain the least likely to marry outside of their race, according to Pew Research Center.

Interracial Marriages Vary by Race
Marrying Out of One's Race

In 2013, 19 percent of black men and women who got married that year married someone outside of their race. However, black men were much more likely than black women to marry someone from another race. In that same year, 25 percent of black male newlyweds married someone of a different race, compared to 12 percent of black women.

RELATED: These Interracial Couples Reveal the Taboos They Had to Overcome When They Started Dating

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