Howard Magazine - Page 26 - Love Is Color Blind (2)

Howard Magazine
- Page 26
Love Is Color Blind (2)

by John-John WiLLiams iv Howard Magazine

 

When Linda Firman walks around Howard County with her husband, Jeffrey Firman, she doesn’t feel judged or uncomfortable. As part of an interracial couple, she knows that elsewhere the reality can be different.

 

As part of an interracial couple, she knows that elsewhere the reality can be different.

 

“We have been cautious about where we go because we know the possibilities. We know how we could be looked upon or possibly treated,” says the 62-year-old Ellicott City resident.

 

Firman is black; her husband is white. And because of the race issues they’ve seen play out in other areas, they tend to stay in the county, where they feel safe.

 

“I think we’ve been well accepted, and we accept each other,” she says.

 

Howard County has become a safe space of sorts for interracial relationships. Though the number of mixed-race couples is unknown, 8.9 percent of children living in the county identify as two or more races, according to U.S. Census data, compared to 6.3 percent nationally. And the largest age group reporting two or more races in Howard County are those 15 or younger, showing that the growth will continue in the future.

 

Many credit Columbia founder James Rouse with establishing a vision of integration and acceptance for the area.

 

“Mr. Rouse was very forward-thinking, establishing a brand new community whose social concepts were well ahead of their time given that Columbia was founded in the mid-1960s,” says Milton W. Matthews, president and CEO of Columbia Association. Matthews is black. His wife, Barbara, is white. “He called on developers to be color-blind when it came to the individuals who wanted to live in Columbia. For Mr. Rouse, it was crucial that individuals of any race, including

 

Opposite: Barbara Russell is considered the mother of Columbia’s first baby. Hers was among the community’s first interracial families. Photo by amy Davis

 

“We are becoming a more racially diverse place. People will be more comfortable talking about having a multiracial background.”

 

—William H. Frey, a demographer at Washington, D.c.-based the Brookings Institute.