Discussions of interracial relationships often center on couples made up of a white person and a person of color. While that kind of interracial pairing is commonplace, many interracial couples don't include whites but instead two members of racial minority groups. In the United States, such couplings date back to the time when the first Africans were shipped to the Americas during slavery and brought into contact with the indigenous peoples already living here. As immigrants from Asia, Latin America and elsewhere traveled to America, interracial relationships composed solely of minorities continued to rise. Also, international conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War, led to interracial pairings composed of black GIs and Asian women, although the women in question were often powerless or exploited. Today, intermarriage between members of ethnic minority groups continues to thrive without catalysts like war as the driving force. So, why aren't such marriages discussed more, and what distinct challenges do individuals in these relationships face?
Why Don't Interracial Couples of Color Get Much Attention?
The reason intermarriage involving two people of color hasn't garnered much attention is because historically, in the U.S., racial discussions have employed a white-black paradigm. Due to slavery and its legacy, race in America has typically focused on whites as the proponents of racism and blacks as its targets. Thus, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans and other groups have frequently found their experiences excluded from discussions of race. Accordingly, when interracial marriage is the topic at hand, not much focus will be placed on Asians who marry Latinos or even blacks who marry, say, Arabs because each of these pairings lies outside of the country's traditional black-white racial narrative. That said, times are definitely changing, as indicated by popular culture. Slang terms such as "blaxican" and "blasian," the child of a black person and a Mexican person or the child of a black person and an Asian person, respectively, are widely recognized in racially diverse states such as California. Moreover, movies and television shows increasingly feature interracial couples of color.
Intermarriage Between Minorities in Popular Culture
In 1991, the Mira Nair film "Mississippi Masala" broke ground by depicting an interracial romance between a character played by Denzel Washington and an East Indian woman. In "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004) Korean-American actor John Cho plays a character in love with his Latina neighbor. Coincidentally, Cho also plays love interest to African-American actress Gabrielle Union on ABC's "Flash Forward." Additionally, in 2005's "Hitch," Will Smith romances Cuban-American actress Eva Mendes.
When interracial couples of color aren't being portrayed on the silver screen, we can turn to celebrities themselves to spot the trend. Chicano musician Carlos Santana's wife of more than 35 years is a biracial black-white woman, and African American comic Dave Chapelle's wife is Pilipina. Actors Russell Wong and Tommy Chong, who have Chinese and European ancestry, both fathered children with black female partners. Latina actresses Jessica Alba and Eva Longoria both married men who are racially mixed black and white.
Observing Family Customs
During an appearance on PBS series "Faces of America," Eva Longoria discussed explaining the Mexican-American customs her family practices to her biracial NBA star husband Tony Parker. When two people from racial minority groups marry, they may have to negotiate how to integrate the customs of both into their home, especially if the individuals come from immigrant backgrounds. Does each partner understand the cultural practices of the other? Is each partner comfortable observing these traditions or with their children observing them?