Interracial relationships are culturally enriching, opening up a different worldview. In today’s climate, we may need that more than ever. However, an opening of that worldview doesn’t have to mean fetishization or tokenization.
In the age of online dating, 30% of partners who meet online are of different races, much greater than if they were to meet in other ways (23%) according to research done by Reuben J. Thomas, associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. According to the US Census, the percentage of married-couple households that were interracial or interethnic grew across the United States from 7.4 to 10.2% from 2000 to 2016 with Hawaii and Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia increasing by 4.24 percentage points or more. These numbers show that interracial couples are on the rise in the United States, but why is there not more articles, more research when it comes to interracial relationships? Stereotypes and overt racism might still have a large part in why.
There’s not much conversation online or otherwise about modern day interracial dating. Articles that come up with a Google search talk about black-and-white pairs without regard for other ethnicities and cultures. Digging deeper, there’s not much conversation about interracial relationships within the gay community, for example. In a video created by National Geographic titled “Couples Share the Happiness and Heartache of Interracial Marriage,” an interracial couple within the gay community spoke about reactions to their relationship.
“You would think a group as marginalized as the gay community would be completely comfortable with an interracial couple,” one of the couples had said. They shared how there would be multiple instances of inappropriate statements said in private, such as, “Once you go black, you never go back.”
Another couple in the video described how “Chinese and white ain’t right” was yelled at them by teenagers driving past. The woman who was being labeled as “Chinese” was actually Korean.
Overt signs of racism and snide remarks can discourage those who are in interracial relationships from outwardly expressing they are together. It may even prevent someone from dating another person because of large misconceptions about what it means to date someone from a different race.
Judgments that interracial couples face may come from those closest to them, especially family. Some parents would discourage dating someone of a certain race or ethnicity for fear of their child’s safety or for historical reasons such as war. Reasons for the past shouldn’t discredit a relationship, and it can be said the fear of someone’s safety in their family is always a priority, but someone’s background shouldn’t make them seem more “aggressive” than another person.
The idea of assuming someone’s personality and behavior based on their race and ethnicity is problematic. For instance, there is the idea that someone would date an Asian woman for their submissiveness, stemming from popular culture. You might also know it as “yellow fever,” and examples of it are everywhere, like in “Full Metal Jacket” where a Vietnamese woman is sexualized with lines such as, “me love you long time.” Admire someone for their background, but don’t objectify or sexualize. It’s not fair to someone to be part of a “race” checklist either, something that might be common among college age students trying to “explore.” It’s disrespectful.
Interracial relationships aren’t meant to be a political statement. It’s important to let two people define for themselves what their relationship may be, not being pushed by outside expectations and others to make some kind of statement. By being in an interracial relationship, the healthiest ones may even talk about racism and discrimination. But having a certain amount of interracial relationships won’t solve racism and stereotypes about people, although it can continue to add to the dialogue.
Interracial dating opens up a way of communicating difficult topics, encourages a healthy dialogue and initiates learning about a new culture. It’s unfair to your partner to put on a mindset of being “color blind,” as it dismisses a part of that person’s identity. As with any relationship, it should help you both grow as people and to understand and care for someone on a deeper level.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.