Continuing with the discussion of Jewish attitudes towards intermarriage with blacks, co-blogger David Bernstein and Ta-Nehisi Coates (in one of the posts that started this exchange) suggest it would be useful to compare Jewish attitudes with those of other whites. We do in fact have data on the percentage of whites who would oppose a “close relative’s” decision to marry a black. In this 2001 poll, 22% of whites said that they would be opposed. A more recent 2007 survey of New York opinion found that 23% of New York whites take that view.
These figures are much lower than the 38% of Jews who say they would oppose a close relative’s decision to marry a black. Jews are, of course, included in the overall white numbers, but they are a negligible percentage of the total, since only about 2% of the nation’s population is Jewish (though that percentage is much higher in New York state). However, comparing the 38% figure to the 22% tells us very little about relative racism among Jews as compared to other whites, or about the state of black-Jewish relations. As I explained in my earlier post, much Jewish opposition to intermarriage with blacks is probably a reflection of more general opposition any intermarriage with gentiles – opposition that is religious rather than racial in nature. By contrast, most gentile whites are Christian, as are most American blacks. So a gentile black-white intermarriage would not necessarily be an interfaith marriage. The two partners might belong to different Christian denominations. But intermarriage between different branches of Christianity is now extremely common and most American Christians no longer consider it a major compromise of religious principle. Intermarriage between Jews and Christians is more controversial, especially at a time when many American Jews worry that intermarriage might lead to the eventual disappearance of their community.
Interestingly, the GSS data linked by Coates show that 19% of blacks would oppose a close relative’s decision to marry a Jew, compared to only 9% who would oppose a relative’s decision to marry a generic “white.” Much of the difference between the two figures may also be due to concerns about interfaith marriage rather than to anti-Semitism in the black community.