Overcoming prejudice

Germaine and Chelsea Herring met more than 20 years ago and were married in 2001. The couple says their faith has helped them overcome prejudice.

Germaine Herring met his future wife, Chelsea, on a volunteer construction project over 20 years ago. He was an outgoing Black man pursuing a career as a full-time minister; Chelsea was a quiet white woman with goals of her own. Neither had romance in mind as their friendship blossomed.

"The thing that got me personally was, she's always smiling," Germaine said. "She had such an interest in people."

He was struck by Chelsea's sweet personality and their friendship eventually blossomed into something more.

Despite resistance from some family members because of their racial differences, the couple married in 2001. Through the years they experienced a wide range of reactions to their union. Strangers gave them dirty looks and others were direct with their disapproval.

As a newlywed, Chelsea remembers excitedly introducing her husband to an acquaintance. The excitement turned to shock when the woman said she did not believe in interracial marriages and asked them to leave.

“Those little things that happen are really hard to deal with,” Chelsea said.

According to the Pew Research Center, one in five new marriages is now interracial. While statistics suggest that interracial marriages in America have gained greater acceptance, not all couples have that experience. Still, they have found ways to cope.

Shared religious faith along with a community of fellow believers have been invaluable in navigating the cultural complexities for Germaine and Chelsea. They were encouraged to concentrate on things that mattered, like goals and compatibility, not skin color.

This was a far cry from Germaine’s memories of growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. When he was 4 years old, a swastika was painted on their apartment building after moving in. He spent his childhood and adolescence experiencing varying degrees of racism.

Germaine began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses while in high school. He was impressed that the multiracial organization appreciated differences in culture and language, but did not allow those differences to sway its decisions.

“It’s the principles found in God’s word that are driving it,” he said.

According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, married couples who had shared values reported higher levels of marital happiness and individual well-being than those who did not.

The Herrings agree that love, loyalty and faith are among the shared values on which they base their marriage and family life. They credit daily Bible reading and prayer with helping them to communicate on a deeper level with one another, especially when differences of opinion come into play.

“By reading the Bible together, by praying together, it helps us make sure that our relationship with each other is strong,” Chelsea said.

Now living in Reedsport, the Herrings enjoy spending time together in volunteer ministry work, hiking and camping.

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