Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Exogamy and Diversity

                                                                                                    *Image from Pixabay

Humans live in small groups dictated by Dunbar’s number, the limit of active relationships that can be managed as a mental system. That number is limited to around 150 people.  However, we need to go outside our close genetic lineage for marriage partners in order to opt for genetic diversity, a seeming contradiction to our close social bonds cultivated by territorial bias.  Exogamy is the fusion of reproductive cells from distantly and unrelated individuals, or outbreeding.  But it comes with a host of advantages beyond the genetic.

Humans are wild breeders, meaning that there is no set pattern to our marriage / reproductive choices – except that of excluding close relatives.  This means that we must actively seek out and recruit different genetics for reproduction—including racial and ethnic “others.”  Thus the appeal of the exotic man or woman – like Harry’s choice of a mixed-marriage product to import within the British Royals.  Did this cause a stir?  Indeed it did.  But the racial factor in Meghan’s makeup was the least controversial aspect of the coupling.  This was far more a matter of class. 

North American Inuit tribes live in paired kinship groups called moiety, two relatively even groups that marry each other, under assigned totem names.  This keeps lineages separated until they pair off. Intermarriage long ago became an excellent way to produce in-laws from warring groups to keep the peace, with continuing exogamy as a primary tool for maintaining alliances between diverse groups.

Beyond the social and political bonds, the gene pool is greatly enriched by intermarriage, meaning more combinations leading to genetic innovation.  In addition, “once the members of human groups began to marry outsiders, and thus to spread beyond their own relatively narrow limits, the knowledge of one group became potentially the knowledge of all, and the possibility of human progress was vastly increased” (Life Nature Library, The Primates).  Diversity is a source of enrichment and biological progress, the banner of DEI programs so much a part of corporate awareness following George Floyd’s May 2020 death.  His long criminal past--including serial rape--makes him a problematic champion as well.

Americans have long been multiracial, considering that race is an informal concept without any scientific validity or formal definition.  Ask an American about their ancestry, and they will instantly cite the most divergent one, not the boring mainstream example.  The cattle rustler or bandito, immigrant or eccentric, not the shopkeeper or accountant.  American culture favors the bottom caste, especially as a point of origin for later success.  There are no purebreds here, because we don’t depend on bloodlines to establish anything important, like citizen status, voting rights, property holding, or clan membership.  The head of state was famously one such person—Barack Obama. 

Since the late 1960s, with the SCOTUS decision in Loving vs. Virginia--under Equal Protection and Due Process--all marriages between races have been legal, setting the precedent for legal same-sex marriage as well. Since 1967 there has been a steady increase in out-marriage between ethnic groups, from 3% in 1967 to 19% of all newlyweds now marrying someone of a different ethnicity.  The average across all married people is 10%, or about 11 million (PEW study, 2017), a five-time increase since 1967.  In California in particular (as a style leader for the nation), white-plus families abound, and it’s almost unnecessary to state “My son is married to a Japanese,” or Chinese, or Latino, Jew, Indian, Iranian, etc.  My own California family is heavily outmarried—60% between five siblings, up to 80% if you let in the Irish. 

Still, whites are least likely to inter-marry, Asians and Hispanics most likely.  30% of Asians are outmarried, and nearly as many Hispanics (who are, in fact, in the White classification).  This carries us beyond the European pale, where Italian used to be considered a sub-white group (along with Jews and Irish).  The rate of outmarriage reliably rises alongside college education, in keeping with middle-class values prevailing over racial stigma.  Striving middle-classers tend to make race far less important than personal achievement.

When your in-laws are members of another group, your feelings about that group improve instantly. And by the time these half-other children begin to have their own children with other half-others, it almost becomes irrelevant to try to name 4 to 8 other groups to cover their offspring's heritage.  As the US becomes more middle-class intermarriage will become more the norm and less exceptional.  Middle-class mixed unions ignore race because it’s the class orientation that becomes the common bond.  For the middle class, race just mostly goes away.  Fifty-five years after Loving, public approval of interracial unions rose from 5% in the 1950s to 95%--virtually universal—in 2021 (Gallup).