Interracial Relationships: Dating with diversity

February 19, 2012

We live in a multicultural society filled with different faces, cultures, religions and races. The majority of us no longer see the distinction between race or culture, especially living in such a diverse city as Toronto. Finding love and starting a family within one’s own culture used to be the standard, while interracial relationships were considered more of a deviance. Granted, this mindset certainly still exists. However, there has been significant growth and acceptance of interracial relationships over the years.

One in 12 American marriages are between two people of different races, twice as much as 30 years ago, according to the Pew Research Center report released this past week. 8.4% of current US marriages are between mixed-race spouses, up from 3.2% in 1980. 63% of Americans say it “would be fine” if a family member married someone “outside their own racial or ethnic group”. Comparatively, in 1986, 28% felt interracial marriage was “not acceptable for anyone.”

Interracial Relationships

(photo via Hunter Powell)

Interracial relationships can provide couples with new and exciting information about customs, traditions and religions, which are different from their own. A great respect for one another is encouraged, and cultures can become uniquely integrated into one.

Ashleigh Fong, a second year political science student, grew up in an interracial household. “I grew up with an interracial marriage; [my parents are] complete opposites. I think the success to interracial relationships is definitely communication, open mindedness and compromise. Both parties should be willing to learn about their partner’s culture and customs. Learning about each other will make any relationship or marriage thrive.”

However, not all interracial relationships are quite so simple. Just like any other relationship, interracial couples may face issues, such as language barriers, conflicting viewpoints and religions or disapproval from friends and family members.

Among all newlyweds in 2010, 9% of whites, 17% of African-Americans, 26% of Hispanics, and 28% of Asian-Americans “married out”.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians in either an interracial marriage or common-law relationship rose over 30% from 2001 to 2006. In 1991, just 2.6% of couples in Canada were in such a relationship.

Sharon Jackson, a third year English student, has been in an interracial relationship for a few years now. Being in her relationship has helped her and her boyfriend to experience new and different things they never would have considered otherwise. Jackson said, “As great as my relationship is on the inside, sometimes the outside world may disapprove or make fun of us. A lot of his outside family disapproves of me for not being Filipino [like him], especially since I am Afro-Caribbean. Sometimes people call me racist for not liking men of [my own] race, but that’s just not the case. I can’t help who I like or love.”

Even though interracial relationships are becoming more common due to a more diverse and accepting society, this does not mean family or a cultural community will always appreciate or accept it. Fourth year psychology student Nick Brooks’ (name has been changed to protect confidentiality) relationship ended due to conflicting backgrounds and disapproval from family members. He said, “My girlfriend and I were together for almost three years. Her parents never knew about us, so the whole thing was one big secret. Since I am black and she’s Indian, there was no way her parents would ever approve of us because their mindset was still in the past. I couldn’t take the sneaking around anymore and just ended things. I love her, but hiding it from her friends, family and even Facebook got tiring.”

The solution here isn’t as clear cut as it may sound. When it comes to choosing between family and love, what feels right may be difficult to distinguish; you should never have to make this choice. But while you should, as cliché as it may be, follow your heart and hope to find someone who can understand your situation, you can’t expect your partner to always make those concessions for you—it’s difficult for both parties. Ultimately, you have to do what feels right for you, as emotionally stressful as that can be.

Interracial or not, there will always be pros and cons to any relationship. Couples of the same race may face similar issues interracial couples face. The key is not to feel discouraged to like someone of the opposite race, culture, background or religion than you. You are not in love with a culture or a religion or a community—your love is for an individual. Do not let the opinions or voices of others stop you from being with whom you really love or care about.