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Interracial Relationships: A Rundown of Issues


Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

Standing up like Ramona did requires strength. While it’s certainly not wise to allow narrow-minded family members to dictate your love life, ask yourself if you’re willing to be disowned, disinherited or otherwise mistreated to pursue an interracial relationship. If not, it’s best to find a mate of whom your family approves.

On the other hand, if you’re newly involved in such a relationship and only fear that your family may disapprove, consider having a sit-down conversation with your relatives about your interracial romance. Address any concerns they have about your new mate as calmly and clearly as possible. Of course, you may end up deciding to agree to disagree with your family about your relationship. Whatever you do, avoid springing your interracial romance on family members by unexpectedly inviting your new love to a family function. That could make things uncomfortable for both your family and your partner.

Examine Your Motives

When involved in an interracial relationship, it’s also important to examine your motives for entering such a union. Reconsider the relationship if rebellion is at the root of your decision to date across color lines. Relationship author Barbara DeAngelis states in her book Are You the One for Me? (1992) that a person who consistently dates individuals with qualities diametrically opposed to those their family finds appropriate may be acting out against their parents. For example, DeAngelis describes a white Jewish woman named Brenda whose parents want her to find a white, Jewish, single, successful man. Instead, Brenda repeatedly chooses black, Christian men who are married or commitment-phobic and only sometimes professionally successful.

“The point here is not that relationships between people of different backgrounds don’t work. But if you have a pattern of choosing partners who not only don’t fulfill you but also upset your family, you are probably acting out of rebellion,” DeAngelis writes.

In addition to dealing with family disapproval, those involved in interracial relationships sometimes deal with disapproval from their greater racial community. You may be viewed as a “sellout” or a “race traitor” for dating interracially. Some racial groups may approve of men dating interracially but not women or vice versa. In Sula (1973), author Toni Morrison describes this double standard.

“They said that Sula slept with white men. …All minds were closed to her when that word was passed around. …The fact that their own skin color was proof that it had happened in their families was no deterrent to their bile. Nor was the willingness of black men to lie in the beds of white women a consideration that might lead them toward tolerance.”

Dealing with Racial Fetishes

In today’s society, where interracial relationships are generally accepted, some people have developed what are known as racial fetishes. That is, they’re only interested in dating a particular racial group based on attributes they believe people from those groups embody. Chinese-American writer Kim Wong Keltner describes such fetishes in her novel The Dim Sum of All Things (2004) of which a young woman named Lindsey Owyang is protagonist.

“Although Lindsey was admittedly attracted to white boys, she…hated the idea of some pervert honing in on her because of her black hair, almond-shaped eyes, or any of the submissive, back-scrubbing fantasies her physical features might suggest to a large, clumsy mammal in tube socks.”

While Lindsey Owyang rightfully shies away from white men drawn to Asian women based on stereotypes, it’s equally important that she examine why she exclusively dates white men (which is revealed later). As the book progresses, the reader learns that Lindsey harbors considerable shame about being Chinese-American. She finds the customs, food and people largely repellent. But just as dating interracially based on stereotypes is objectionable, so is dating someone from another background because you suffer from internalized racism. The individual you’re dating, not racial identity politics, should be your primary reason for entering an interracial relationship.

If it’s your partner and not you who exclusively dates interracially, ask probing questions to find out why. Have a full-on discussion about it. If your partner finds members of her own racial group unattractive that reveals much about how she views herself and other groups as well.

The Key to a Successful Relationship

Interracial relationships, as all relationships do, pose their fair share of problems. But the tensions that arise from loving cross racially can be overcome with good communication and by settling down with a partner who shares your principles. Common ethics and morals arguably prove more significant than common racial backgrounds in determining a couple’s success.

While Barbara DeAngelis acknowledges that interracial couples face serious difficulties, she’s also found, “Couples who share similar values have a much greater chance of creating a happy, harmonious and lasting relationship.”

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