Interracial marriage occurs when two people of different racial groups marry. This is another issue that hinders the traditionalist views and ideology of Lebanese people about marriage. There is a mixture of views on this issue – between the young and the elderly Lebanese and social theory. From a theoretical perspective, mixed marriages are foreseen as more positive than same ethnic marriages. It’s the brewing of the ‘melting pot’ analogy on marriage. Some individuals see the long-term simmering of an interracial couple as a positive and effective means to a long-lasting relationship. That is to say, partners have had adequate time to understand their commitment prior to marriage. As opposed to ethnic marriages, where in some cases, they are viewed as a rapid overflow of the melting pot. Here, couples are viewed as potentially leading a short-term relationship and the possibility of marital dysfunction.
In taking a cross-section random sample of Lebanese people across Melbourne; (Dandenong, Coburg and the Southern Hobson Bay areas), many shared negative views on interracial marriage. This negativity was surprisingly shared across intergenerational groups. Whilst, many theorists saw interracial marriage as a positive means to breaking down ethnic exclusiveness in a multicultural society. However, many first and second generation Lebanese people viewed interracial marriages as affecting the social and cultural identities of the next generation. Some third generation Lebanese individuals did not share negative views on interracial marriages. Instead, they envisaged mixed marriages as a positive spice for young individuals to explore and embrace new cultural practises. Rather, they respected mixed couples emotive feelings on the matter – and felt that external social factors should not have any influence on a couple’s desire to get married. Whilst there are mixed views on interracial marriages among the Lebanese – there seems to be a steady increase of interracial marriages among some sub-sections of the Australian Lebanese community.
“Interestingly,…Australian Lebanese marriages from same ethnic heritage was mainly evident in couples over 40 years of age – Men: 78.4% – Women: 84.2% … Intergenerational Interracial marriages was mainly high among third generation Lebanese – Men: 68% – Women: 58% … And Interracial marriages of third generation Lebanese was mainly prevalent with their unity with Anglo-saxon partners – Men: 71% – Women: 69%.” (Source: ABS 2006 Census).
In today’s society, it is difficult for Lebanese families to manage and control interracial marriages from occurring outside their own ethnic heritage. This is simply because we all live in an ethnic and cultural diverse society. From a sociological perspective, it is important to take into account some external social factors that tend to influence and move young Lebanese individuals from the influence of their parents and ethnic community. And this simply occurs through the social participation of Lebanese individuals in schools, universities and the workplace – among different forms of social gatherings. Therefore, this ‘outside’ interaction of Lebanese individuals with the broader community potentially opens up new social relationships and different ways of living.
Whilst interracial marital couples viewed their mutual relationship in terms of sheer love and destiny, many of the first generation Lebanese parents shared a conflicting view. In particular, female Lebanese parents shared a somewhat fearful perception on interracial marriages. Common negative views shared by some members of the Lebanese community:
Young Children of mixed heritage were seen to be lost between two different cultural identities
Fear of the Lebanese losing their ethnic identities
Fear of new racial partner failing to adopt to the Lebanese culture and way of life
Fear of Lebanese parents losing their son and daughter to another ethnic heritage
Interracial marriages viewed as a potential source of exclusion for Lebanese individuals to live in their former homeland at a later stage in life.
Tentatively speaking, there are mixed views among the Lebanese and interracial marriages, and from the sample of this particular ethnic community approached on this matter – it was evident that many shared negative views. However, bearing in mind, the increase of interracial marriages among third generation Lebanese people, and their vulnerability to form social changes in their lives from the influence of cultural diversity – this thought instigates new research interest on whether a different form of sub-culture emerges among the third generation Australian Lebanese group. And whilst certainly religious and political issues may also potentially have an influence on the conception of interracial marriage – this article focused on interracial marriages from a broad social perspective.
Dr Mustafa Rostom