America has reached another watershed moment in its “racial journey,” the Associated Press points out: The next mayor of New York City is a white man with a black wife.
Although interracial marriage is more accepted and common than ever, the AP says, Bill de Blasio's marriage to Chirlane McCray is exceptional: He is apparently the first white politician in U.S. history elected to a major office with a black spouse by his side.
"It reflects the American values of embracing different races, ethnicities, religions. I think it's just a great symbol," William Cohen, the former Maine senator and secretary of Defense, who is married to a black woman, told the AP.
Indeed, as de Blasio prepares to take office on Jan. 1, it is clear that McCray is likely to play a major role in his administration.
Cohen was already a senator when he started dating Janet Langhart, a black television journalist. He proposed several times, but she worried that her race would curtail Cohen's political life. In 1996, they married a few weeks after Cohen announced he would not seek a fourth term.
While there have been black political figures who have been married to white women, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas or former Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke, unions between white men and black women have remained taboo.
"It's black and white, it's slavery and Jim Crow and the fact you can't talk about it," Cohen said. "Black and white has been more of a taboo in the eyes of enough people to be a deterrent."
The taboo, however, is lifting, polls show, according to the AP.
In July, a Gallup poll found that 87 percent of Americans approved of interracial marriage—the highest rate ever—compared with 4 percent in 1958. In 2010, more than 15 percent of all new marriages were interracial, the AP reports, citing the Pew Research Center.
Read more at the Associated Press.