CHICAGO — In the late ’60s, race relations in America were in turmoil. People clashed with police over civil rights, cities burned, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated. The country was polarized.
And in 1968, Clarence Krygsheld, who is white, married his sweetheart, Faye Hightower, who is black.
"We were just two people that met and really liked each other and wanted to get married, Faye recalls.
But Clarence soon found society's divisions existed among his own relatives. Some even refused to attend the wedding.
"It was like I had died," he says.
The union of Faye and Clarence was rare. According to a report by the Council on Contemporary Families, fewer than 2 percent of married couples were interracial.
Since then, the numbers have risen steadily. And by 2005, interracial marriages numbered 7.5 percent.
"The civil rights revolution broke down barriers between blacks and whites in the United States, and those barriers continue to erode," says Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University.
But the largest reason for the increase, he says, came in 1965 with a more open immigration policy.
"So we have a lot more intermarriage between Asians and whites and a lot more intermarriage between Hispanics and non-Hispanics — simply because there's more Asians and Hispanics in the United States," Rosenfeld says.
As a result, Americans have become more tolerant of diversity — even among the Krygshelds. Some who boycotted the wedding turned out for the 25th anniversary party.
"If you're looking at the right reasons for getting together, color plays no part in it. You're looking at the kind of person. It's what's in here," Faye says, pointing at her heart.
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