We ask questions when we don’t understand things. When they’re outside of the norm, or even outside of what we perceive the norm to be. Couples who don’t share the same racial background can sometimes be treated as if they’re an anomaly, and while some people are genuinely curious as to how different cultures align and differ, to point out how these relationships are less common (but growing increasingly more so) is to lay the focus on the people as different individuals, and not as a united couple. Each has a different culture that they should celebrate, but chances are good they celebrate these things together. Because that’s what couples do. And to alienate one member of the relationship from someone who makes them happy — even if you don’t mean to — puts a lot of outside stress on something that isn’t strange or weird at all.
As the child of a Latino father and a Caucasian mother, I have the vantage point that every relationship I’ll ever be in is an interracial one, because I am the product of an interracial relationship. (Even when I’ve dated Latinos, I’ve been posed with these questions, because people do not think I am Latina myself.) But being in an interracial relationship does not mean that you think you’re more open-minded than people who aren’t (that’s not necessarily so) or that their own relationships are somehow lacking (they’re not). It’s not that you don’t see color, but that color was never a requirement on your dating checklist. Love is just love.
1. “Wow, I never thought you liked [Insert Significant Other’s Race Here].”
It’s not only wrong to try to peg somebody’s “type” by skin color or nationality or race, but it’s downright dangerous. Doing so implies that there might be a reason as to why you shouldn’t like someone from another background romantically. And that’s silly. You should like whoever you like, regardless of what other people anticipate from you.
2. “Do you have something against dating [Insert Your Race Here]?”
Here’s how dating usually goes: you meet someone, you like them, you start dating them, the end. Nowhere in that dating process does it need to become an issue that you’re dating somebody who’s somehow different from you. Being in an interracial relationship does not mean that you’re actively trying to not date anyone from your own race or culture; you just happened to meet somebody from a different background who you decided you like. Because you liked them. Liking one person from one race does not mean you have something against any other race.
3. *questioning stare that is equal parts confusion and accusation of treachery*
Being in an interracial couple can constantly feel like you’re on some sort of sideshow display, because there are people who genuinely just don’t get it. (Not to mention the fact that interracial marriages were outlawed in many U.S. states for years.) These people somehow feel as if you’re trying to reject your own culture — and, by extension, them. But it has nothing to do with them. They aren’t in the relationship, and so to question it and have misgivings about it doesn’t get the full picture. Their stares aren’t any reason as to why you should question your relationship either. Laws changed. Opinions take a little longer. Do what makes you happy in the meantime.
4. “So what do you think your kids are going to look like?”
Like beautiful little bald, wriggly snots for a few months and then we’ll find out as they grow up? You can attempt to cross the dominant and recessive genes in theoretical outcomes all you want, but a kid is going to come out looking the way they’re going to come out. (My brother and I look absolutely nothing alike, so even one mixed-race child isn’t indicative of the rest.) To try to predict this is to almost turn the combination of the two backgrounds into some kind of novelty experiment of Mix Up The Gene Pool!, which is essentially how any child is made. They’ll come out with the traits that the egg and sperm decide is a fair compromise, the way any other child does. And they’ll be loved all the same, the way any other child should be.
5. “Is this the first [Insert Significant Other’s Race Here] you’ve ever dated?”
So what if you have? So what if you haven’t? Just because you do or don’t have a history with dating people of a certain racial background means absolutely nothing about this relationship, right here and right now. To suggest otherwise is a slippery slope into thinking of dating as a way to fetishize another culture.
6. “What do your parents think?”
If your parents honestly feel anything other than happy for you because you’ve found someone who makes you happy, that says a lot more about them and their views than it does about your relationship. We’re constantly striving to make our parents proud of us, but dating outside of your race isn’t supposed to be a slap in the face to Mom and Dad’s roots. It’s supposed to be something that makes you feel loved. And if your parents can’t accept that, then there is this one silver lining: it’s not their relationship. They don’t need to be in it. Their judgment shouldn’t matter.
7. “But it doesn’t really matter, right?”
But it does matter, whether or not it should. Just because something should or shouldn’t be a non-issue doesn’t mean it is one yet. It matters because there are still people who feel like it’s some sort of betrayal. It matters because there are still people who think that interracial marriage is “generally a bad idea.” It matters because this commercial was considered controversial. (Kudos to these kids for getting it right, though.) It still matters because it shouldn’t matter, because when you love someone, you don’t love them for their skin or their nationality or their race or their accent or their culture. You love them for them, and these pieces factor into who they are and they are important, but they also don’t tell the whole story. And yet to dismiss this and say it already doesn’t matter is to miss the point. Because we’re getting there, slowly. But we still have a long way to go.