Interracial dating and marriage has been on the rise over the last few decades with about 17% of couples in the US being intermarried as of 2015. With the help of dating apps, people of varying races have also formed new mediums to form connections with one another outside of their usual circles. However, the upsurge of interracial dating doesn't come without repercussions, and I'm here to tell you all about some myths and "untruths" I and many others have faced since being in an interracial relationship.
1. The cultural differences are far too challenging.
I remember when I was immediately met with concern when I told a family member I was going on a date with an Indian man (who would later become my husband). That person told me all about his assumptions of boyfriend-at-the-time's culture in the form of warnings and cautionary tales.
"The cultural differences will be too difficult to overcome--and you should keep that in mind when you date this guy."
"I hope you know what you're getting yourself into."
My favorite was, "Don't get too attached," Like he was some kind of stray cat I found.
Honestly, the majority of issues we have run into have been interpersonal. Conflicting personality traits. Y'know, normal couple stuff. If anything, the cultural differences have been more so expressed from third parties like family and friends. Even then, the issues were never too great for us to overcome as long as we communicated with each other consistently and effectively.
Some couples do have issues with blending cultures, and sometimes that can be a deal-breaker. However, many couples don't! Cultural differences are certainly not enough to turn away from a potentially life-long union. For that, consider this myth debunked.
2. People will always be prejudiced toward you.
Okay, so it's true--there are some people who are flat out ignorant when it comes to interracial relationships. That's simply another prejudice mountain society has to climb. However, this myth implies that prejudice from a few is enough to avoid interracial relationships.
Most people are quite gracious in their interactions with interracial couples and even extremely supportive. I think many of us will take some well-intended comments about how cute our babies will be over hateful remarks about how "unnatural" our union is. There's also reason to avoid idealizing the "perfect color" of children from mixed race couples but that's a whole other discussion.
3. Dating interracially means you're not racist.
I cannot stress consistent education enough when addressing this myth. When in an interracial relationship, there are still imbalances that occur when interacting with your loved one as well as with the world outside of romance. Institutionalized racism is very real, and so is personal racism.
I can name a few times in which I, a primarily white woman, expressed the racist predispositions I had when walking into a relationship with my husband. These racist ideas can come anywhere from stereotypes to generalizations I had accumulated in my impressions of Indian people over the course of my life. The harsh reality is that these stereotypes as well as our overall system can work against people of color in various ways.
It's important to listen to our partners, address their racially-linked concerns with empathy, and try to take action in order to make their path in life a little less color-driven.
4. People who date interracially hate their own race.
This myth is often expressed by people of our own race. It's hardly ironic. Sometimes people can't conceive that interracial dating is not typically the result of hating ones own ethnic origins, religion, or skin color.
When someone makes this accusation, it's like saying, "Well all you ever wear is sweatpants so you must hate jeans." No, Karen, it's just that my sweatpants are always there to comfort me and my jeans aren't. That's why they're always invited to my Netflix binge and my jeans are not. Duh.
5. One person has to "assimilate."
I think this one possibly frustrates me the most as a woman because there's consistent pressure for me to do things the "Indian" way in order to be a good wife to my Indian husband. However, I have my limits and comfort zones and I'm not always willing to assimilate to my husband's culture. It goes both ways, too, as he's not always expected to do everything the American way or like all of my American music tastes.
The truth is that we are two people from different cultures who have found common ground despite being of different skin tones and cultures. I think accepting our differences in that regard while also bonding over things that we actually do connect on is what makes ours, and any, union beautiful.
"I think accepting our differences in that regard while also bonding over things that we actually do connect on is what makes ours, and any, union beautiful."
6. Historical treatment between races is obsolete when you're in love.
Racism and contempt along the skin spectrum is such a deep-rooted issue. Is it really possible that couples can escape the constant nag of race issues in the name of love? Sorry, but nah.
Many interracial couples do have to face these issues sooner or later, and they can be destructive or productive depending on the overall ability to listen to racial concerns each party has. However, even if the couple is productive in addressing racial issues each experiences with the other, the issues will never really go away. For example, as a white woman, I once again want to emphasize the necessity of filtering out what is okay in one's vocabulary and what isn't.
Due to the historical treatment of whites toward other races, there are some topics we should tread lightly on. We cannot get too comfortable referring to stereotypes and jokes that have been used to oppress people of color for many generations. The same applies to all races, depending on the historical treatment between each party.
We must also remain of what our significant others might be dealing with regarding our families' ability to accept them. Even if our families appears warm and welcome, issues might come up if we're not properly educated and therefore not properly educating our families on what's okay and what isn't.
We must keep ourselves in the loop, keep doing research, and keep others around us educated in order to create a safe space for our loved ones and their loved ones. Last of all, we cannot expect our loved ones to do all the educating. We should feel okay with asking questions but it can often be overwhelming for one person to explain what they experience and what they feel while acting as the voice for everyone with similar experiences.
"We must keep ourselves in the loop, keep doing research, and keep others around us educated in order to create a safe space for our loved ones and their loved ones."
We cannot erase all the race-related issues that may come up in our relationships, but the effort to stay educated and maintain a mutual understanding won't go unnoticed--I promise.