There’s been a lot of hubbub about interracial relationships lately in regards to the whole Old Navy ad a few weeks ago. Tweeters and writers alike fueled a resurgence in conversation about interracial couples and families as they pertain to popular cultural and commercialism.
Unsurprisingly people still get upset about this, which makes sense considering it was only 50 years ago that you could marry someone outside of your race legally anywhere in the country. It was a year before my father was born and since he is pretty young for having a daughter who’s 26, it means most millennial’s parents lived in a time where interracial dating was decidedly not the norm.
Of course, us millennials can’t remember a time when dating someone outside your race was a big deal. Nowadays everyone wants a Steph Curry looking baby and there is way less stigma being in and starting a family with someone who doesn’t look like you.
However, that doesn’t mean that entering into a romantic relationship with someone ethnically, racially, or culturally different than you is free from heightened scrutiny and opinions. We all like to think we’re in a post racial society, you know having elected a black President and all, but the reality is, interracial relationships are still a very much taboo subject.
As a black female I have mostly only dated white men. There have been some hispanic and asian guys thrown in there but I’m pretty open and widely known for my preference of “getting my swirl on” (for those of you who don’t know that’s a common colloquialism for white/black relationship pairs). It hasn’t always been easy but for the most part I have learned to positively navigate the many trip wires that emerge when you’re dating someone outside of your race.
Here’s what I know about being in an interracial relationship
1. It’s sometimes a lot of work.
You both experience and perceive the world differently and many times it can create tension when trying to understand where the other is coming from. Positive communication is tough in any relationship but when you’re actively trying to overcome the fact that both of you essentially come from different worlds it can feel like an uphill battle. For me, having someone who openly accepts that there are differences in our perceptions of things surrounding us makes this infinitely less complicated than someone who wants or does believe that we grew up with the same obstacles and situations.
2. People will have preconceived notions about you and your relationship.
Not everyone but some people are going to think of you one way just because of the person you’re dating. Black guys dating white women will be perceived as being too good for black women, asian women dating white men will be perceived as docile and submissive. Hispanic men dating black women will be seen as “hood”. The list goes on and on. 9 times out of 10 these people will be way off base and won’t even realize that they’re being slightly racist in these opinions. They will stare, they will question, and you will feel defensive automatically. Over time I’ve learned to dismiss these kind of things as a general lack of knowledge and keep it moving.
3. Racially, things are different but there are cultural differences too.
The best example of this has to do with weddings, holidays, and funerals. When I first started dating I thought most everyone celebrated these types of events in the same way but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you may “not see color” or feel that you are that different from your significant other until you attend one of these events and feel automatically and dramatically out of place. The first time I went to a Mexican wedding I really had no idea what I was in for. When I was dating a Jewish guy who had to sit Shiva I was equally as lost. That’s even true when you’re dating someone of the same race but one of you is Jewish and the other Catholic. Cultural experiences as so much more vast than racial ones and the fact that you may have to worry about both can be a lot.
4. You’ll do a lot of educating.
Within your relationship and with your family and friends about what it’s like to be dating someone of a different race. There’s learning curves and questions that have to be asked and answered before you can really feel comfortable within an interracial relationship. It may be uncomfortable at times and a tad annoying at others but the more you know the better you’ll be at explaining what makes you different and what actually makes you the same.
5. Racist things will happen.
They just will. We would all like a world where dating whomever you want no matter what color they are won’t matter, but that time is not now and it will happen. Subtle racist stuff might be said to the both of you, to only one of you, in front of you to other people who share the same skin color as your significant other. There will be a range of emotions both for the person who’s used to it and the one who’s not. There will be anger and sadness and helplessness and somehow the two of you will get through it together, especially if you love each other and see yourself as a team.