Despite the persistent prejudice in the world, we can’t deny that as a country we’ve come pretty far in taking steps to end racial discrimination. Before all of you start yelling about how I’m wrong, just take a deep breath, have a calming sip of tea and acknowledge that nowadays, in our millennial generation, we are actively open and accepting to diversity in a way that our forefathers would have gagged at. The very fact that you would even argue against me about the extent of our progress is evidence enough that we are concerned with acknowledging the inherent humanity and rights of all people. It’s fantastic, and we should be proud of ourselves for that!
Disappointingly, prejudice has evolved along with our mindsets and has adapted to become subtle and internalized. What’s shocking to me is how sneaky racial discrimination is when it comes to encountering a couple in an interracial relationship. One second you’re looking at young lovers holding hands, and then suddenly the deep dark part of your brain whispers, “I wonder if their kids are going to be white or black?” BOOM! It’s out. Though you might never say one hateful word, your mind will endlessly wonder what their freaking babies will look like.
Interracial relationships and marriages may be on the rise, but we still see them differently. Additionally, the person who’s actually in an interracial relationship is going to have a different set of experiences than a white, heterosexual cis couple, and that’s solely based on the fact that the entire universe can’t seem to get over it. Race will continually be injected into their relationship because society will put a big red stamp on their foreheads that reads, “This is different.”
We want to highlight the experiences of people in interracial relationships. We want to remove that stamp and lay bare and open what it is like to be them, the pros and cons and everything that goes along with them.
You open yourself to learning about a new perspective
In high school, I went over to a classmate’s house and she just happened to be the daughter of Filipino immigrants. Their house was starkly different than mine, and for dinner her mom made lumpia, adobo and bibingka. I stuffed my face until pork was coming out of my eye sockets.
This is what dating someone from a different background than you is like all the time, but you get food more often, so I would even say it’s better. In all seriousness though, in an interracial relationship you will gain such an in-depth perspective of the joys and struggles that exist within a different culture, beyond the food and outward differing lifestyle appearances.
“No, you can’t ever fully understand someone else’s life, but you can be deeply immersed in it empathetically, emotionally and culturally,” says Katie Kim, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles. “My girlfriend is Taiwanese and I will never have grown up Asian in a predominantly white Catholic school like she did, but to the best of my abilities I can be part of her life and know the people in her Taiwanese community. Honestly, it’s fun.”
Your partner can teach you about their experience within their own racial community, giving you the opportunity to see the world from new eyes. Not everyone has that chance of exposure. You can’t put a price on that; it’s too valuable.
You escape from your ideological viewpoint
This is a really important aspect of the conversation to address, because part of existing within an ideology means that you aren’t aware of the ideology until you’re outside of it–and if you’re interracially dating, you’re definitely outside of it. Many of us have a stereotyped picture in our heads of what love is supposed to look like, and when we see something different, it tends to make us squirm.
Psychologist Karen Wu studies multicultural relationships at the University of California, Irvine, and has found that students in interracial relationships tend to be more open to all types of relationships in general. “They don’t feel as strongly about homosexual or multiracial partners than the people who are in ‘traditional’ relationships. Because they’ve had that mask removed, they’re comfortable with couples that are considered non-traditional.”
For people in an interracial relationship, their life is different because they have broken away from that white picket fence romance. They have open eyes that are aware that what they take for a normal, loving relationship defies everyone else’s standard. The beautiful thing about this is that now they know how to truly cherish what is considered “different.”
“I’m the palest skinned woman you’ve ever seen, and I’m dating a black guy,” says Lindsay Lambert, a junior at the University of Oregon. “To be completely and shamefully honest, before I dated my boyfriend I probably would have stared at an interracial couple too. The moment you enter into a non-traditional relationship you pretty much gain a magic superpower that lets you see the world differently than before. It’s like–now me and my friends that are lesbians, gay, interracial or whatever can all gather around and laugh at the way people look at us. They don’t understand the beauty of diversity.”
This may be one of those situations you just have to be in to truly understand, but regardless, certainly one of the pros is opening yourself up to the challenge of changing the status quo and breaking away from ideological relationships.
Above all else, you have the privilege of loving someone
In every sense, it’s a normal relationship until someone outside of your relationship points out that you guys look different. It’s like saying that one of you is an orange and the other is a banana, completely disregarding that you’re both fruit in the first place!
“What I’ve found is that though race is interjected into multiracial relationships, above all else the couple tends to disregard that most of the time because for them it’s just dating and sex, it’s not about ethnicity,” says Wu.
“I didn’t realize I was in an interracial relationship until someone pointed out to me that I was in an interracial relationship,” says Carmen Pacheco, a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder. “It had always been like, ‘Hey, I love this person and we are dating and that’s cool.’ It wasn’t about race.”
Sometimes, you need to take a step back and appreciate the fact that you have a cool person who reciprocates your fuzzy feelings. Don’t let the world intrude on what belongs between you and your SO!
Living with the assumptions of everyone around you
Relationships are built on love and should not be defined by the comments and wondering eyes of strangers, plain and simple! Too bad this planet is overpopulated and everybody is constantly in each other’s business.
People make so many negative and ignorant assumptions about those of us in interracial relationships. They treat you as if being attracted to someone from a different ethnicity is a fetish, or even worse, just a phase. Your family might think you’re rebelling by dating outside of your racial heritage. Some will attribute your relationship to you not being able to gain the interest of anyone with your own coloring. It never ends.
“People say the stupidest things, and I could talk about that pretty much forever,” says Taylor Avdalovic, a senior at the University of Alabama. “I’m in an interracial relationship at a college in the South, and racism is still deeply ingrained here. I can’t tell you how many times one of my friends or even a family member has made some ignorant comment about why I’m in a multiracial relationship, trying to delve into why I’m making such a strange choice. It doesn’t happen often enough that I can’t live with it, but when it does happen it really irritates me.”
Society is multifaceted, and you ultimately have no control of how strangers or those that are close to you will treat you. What’s important is that this is your opportunity to correct them. Turn their hurtful comment into a learning experience. Educate them on why you’re proud to be with your partner and why there is nothing wrong with your choice. This is your moment to be bold and own your confident self, and in doing so honor your partner.
Always being socially conscious of how you look
Things that are different make people uncomfortable. When you’re in an interracial relationship, you learn this quickly. If someone stares at me when I’m walking around with my boyfriend, I tend to wonder, “Is there something on my face? Is there green stuff in my teeth?” But oftentimes it is not. It’s simply the fact that I am a white woman who is dating a noticeably Latino man, and admittedly it adds a level of social consciousness to how we appear to the world whenever we are out in public. I’ve learned that this is part of my relationship dynamic, but more importantly I’ve learned that this is flaw of society, and it has nothing to do with me.
Wu has found that for students there are definitely social costs. “The most notable negative experiences occur in public,” she says. “Sometimes they’re not even direct. As humans we are able to sense other peoples’ reactions to us, and I’ve received quite considerable feedback that socially, interracial couples tend to receive more stares, head shakes and people quickly looking away. It’s damaging. It’s a social cost that shouldn’t exist.”
You are beautiful people, so please don’t worry about everyone else. Just enjoy your time together and skip merrily off into the sunset, free from subtle racism and the internalized inclination to discriminate.
People making your relationship a bigger deal than it actually is
It doesn’t have to be a big deal at all! If someone makes your relationship about more than two people enjoying each other, then they’re projecting an expectation on you and it’s not nice.
“My boyfriend and I were out to dinner, and an older woman came up to us and literally said, ‘You two are the key to finally ending racism.’ I just wanted to scream at her! I wanted to grab her shoulders, shake her and yell, ‘NO WE AREN’T! WE ARE JUST TWO PEOPLE WHO LIKE EACH OTHER!’” says Taylor Steinbeck, a senior at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. “It’s just dating, it’s not a political statement.”
Those of us in interracial relationships are not trying to ignite a civil rights movement, end racism, prove a grandiose point or even publicize interracial dating. We are just trying to find a person who will put up with us for an extended amount of time and have an eternal Netflix-watching partner. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one.
Basically, what I’m getting at here is that the pros of an interracial relationship outweigh any sort of discrimination or judgement. It is a privilege to be deeply loved by a partner, and that itself makes the onlooking eyes of the world irrelevant. Yes, as a generation we are much more accepting of diversity than ever—but it doesn’t mean the problem is gone. Being an interracial dater is difficult for a lot of us young people still today, and being aware of the pros and cons that we experience is significant both to understanding our shared experience and for being aware that we recognize that negativity has no place here.