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For the first time ever, she started talking about the difficulties of dating outside her race. Most experts and interracial couples would agree that there is a lot less open hostility in the Bay Area, a place known for its diversity and progressive attitudes. "I did feel that there would be more open-mindedness," said the Berkeley woman, who asked that her name not be used. But in other respects, I feel there is an invisible line between racial groups." Indeed, a recent lunch hour at the racially diverse Galileo High School in San Francisco seemed divided along invisible racial lines. that's OK." Randy said his parents would be much less of a problem if he dated outside his race. When I was dating a black guy, nobody said anything to my face.But nevertheless, Morrell says, things are far from perfect here. Ariana, a light-skinned Nicaraguan, said that because there are so few Nicaraguans at Galileo, she sometimes sits with her friend, Randy Merritt, in an area of the courtyard seemingly reserved for African Americans. But he worried more about not being accepted by his peers at school. But I ended up hearing that other people thought I was trying to be black." Andrew Barlow, who's been teaching the history of race to UC Berkeley students for more than a decade, believes that some of the resistance to multiracial dating stems from the desire to have "ethnic solidarity." Charles Byrd, publisher and editor of the online magazine "Interracial Voice," believes such racial division makes little sense when so many people are mixed. Even so, black- white unions remain much less common.In addition, Ariana admitted that her mother would be very upset if she brought home someone black like Randy. As late as 1967, some states had anti-miscegenation laws preventing interracial marriages. "I could date a Filipina because my grandmother is Filipina," Browning said as he strolled through Richmond's Hilltop shopping mall with a friend."I couldn't bring home a black boy," the 11th-grader said. The reason that blacks and whites remain the most controversial of the mixed matches is that America's history of slavery, segregation and bans on interracial marriages has made it difficult for many to forgive and forget, said San Rafael marriage counselor Joel Crohn.For our community to be strong and proud, we need to stick together." Interracial couples often find that their own families can present some of the biggest obstacles to their relationships.Chuck Warren, a soft-spoken African American student at San Francisco State University, has been dating Mary, who is Korean American, for nearly two years.Santa Rosa Junior College student Larry Newsom said it was never tough to accept the family and friends of his former white girlfriends. tough," said Newsom, a 26-year-old psychology student who is now married to a black woman. Although she admits her parents are not that supportive, she said her friends think it's no big deal because many are also dating interracially.But when they met his black family, that's when "a lot of things knock heads." "When you bring someone outside your race to a family barbecue, it can be . "Some of my (white) dates would feel so out of place, they . Interracial dating also seems to be gaining acceptance and popularity on the Internet, where there are literally dozens of Web sites dedicated to interracial dating, marriages and families.

"He thought it would be interesting to date an Asian woman because of the quiet, submissive image portrayed on 'Shogun,' " said Morrell, who instructs fourth-graders at a public school in Chinatown.

"I tried to explain to my ex it's because he was never around," she said. That experience is among the reasons Vonfeldt has become somewhat politically militant in her view that blacks should not date outside their own people.

"I have too much respect for African men now," she said. Now I see the deterioration of the African community.

"I broke up with him because of that." Morrell, 26, is now married to Ernest Morrell, an African American man.

And she says she faces even more prejudice: from whites who believe she "married down," and from blacks who feel that she stole "another good black man." The experiences of the Morrells and numerous other young people show that interracial dating can still be a minefield -- although interracial marriages nationally have more than quadrupled to 1.4 million since 1970.

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