10 Pitfalls About Interracial Relationships
I should start off with an apology at the negative tone of this post’s title; but I believe that people should know the negatives upfront, get past them (if they want to) and then go on to pursue their dreams.
I love sharing my experiences and opinions with others (hence why I’m a blogger). Dating interracially is one of the topics I have no issues talking about. However, in the past 24 hours, I was censored from another blog that focused on interracial realtionships — specifically Black women who date interracially — because of my comments regarding White and Black men and the disparity in their penis size (which is ultimately a non-issue: read on, and you’ll see why). Rather than focus on blogging about this fruitless subject, I began to think about why these are such hotbed topics to begin with. Why is it, on the heels of 2012, are we so fascinated with racial distinctiveness, yet not interested at all in what unites us? And what unites us…as human beings…is the longing to find a mate, and be fully accepted by them.
Unfortunately the “battle for love” is one that is fought among people of all persuasions. With a divorce rate of well over one-third, we all have a lot on our plate when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship. But still, interracial romantic relationships present a whole new set of challenges. Here are ten of them…and this list is far from being exhaustive.
#1 – Yourself. When you enter into an interracial relationship, you have to sit down, and make an honest assessment of yourself. Do you have the strength, courage, tenacity, and patience to deal with the issues that being in an interracial relationship poses? Can you deal with the criticism from your family? If you family is accepting, can you deal with the disdain from the public? What about your co-workers? Do you have it in you to be an “educator” or a “token” of diversity?
In all honesty, some people deal with this splendidly. They do not care about what other people think about them and they are not deterred if no one (or if only a few) around them are doing what they are doing. But some people are just the opposite. And that is ok. But you have to know what type of person you are; you have to know what your social limitations are, before you can consider dating interracially.
#2 – Family. Without a doubt, the impact of family on your relationship has a lot to do with the emotional independence of the couple. Many people could simply care less about what their parents or family think about their life choices. But many people do. Thankfully, in my experience, most families are at least quietly tolerant of interracial relationships. They may not like it, but most parents aren’t disowning their children over it. But they may feel alienated and not connected to your significant other. If this is the case, take the high road and be polite, kind and thoughtful. Don’t give them any “weapons” to use against you. But maintain that you should be respected. If there is any disrespect, then cut your losses. You are in a relationship with a person…not a family. Just make sure that your significant other is supporting you unabashedly when their family is in the wrong. If not, then it may be a warning sign. You don’t want to end up like that chick that was calling Dr. Laura.
#3 – The Public. This one is tricky and multifaceted. On one hand, you have absolutely no control or influence over how strangers treat you. If you go out with your significant other, be prepared for at least one grossly ignorant comment shot your way at least once per month. I usually choose to ignore such people. However under no circumstances do I shrink away from my status. So when people say, “Oh are you his girlfriend?” with a raised eyebrow, I don’t hesitate to answer in the affirmative. Shirking away from your lover in public is disrespectful on so many levels!
#4 – The Minority Community. I was tempted to put “The Black Community” there, but these issues are not unique to White/Black couplings. Sadly, the minority community will label those who date outside of their race as “sellouts”. This makes no sense, but many people still hold on to this. In a nutshell, just because someone chooses to date outside their race, does not mean that they hate themselves or others from their own community.
From a personal perspective, I never saw interracial relationships as problematic…in spite of having grown up in a place and time where it was relatively rare (although this is, thankfully, no longer the case). Although I didn’t understand the details of it, my father’s mother was of South Asian decent: her parents were Bengalis who came to Jamaica as indentured servants. They had 7 children and only 2 of those 7 married other South Asians. The rest, including my grandmother, married and had children with Black Jamaican men. No one demonized my grandmother for this, because she was born and raised in a country where 90% of the population was Black. Here in the United States, yes, we are blessed to have a diverse society with large, vibrant communities of different cultures. The downside to that however is people grow to believe that in order to insure the survival of your culture or community, you have to marry only within that particular community.
#5 – Other Interracial Couples. Now this is an interesting (and surprising) one. 5 years ago, I automatically saw anyone else who was dating interracially as my ally…or at least a kindred spirit. I no longer think this way by default. While I’m not sure if this is bred by jealously or insecurity, the end result is ongoing challenges to the integrity of your own relationship.
I’ve seen this in all sorts of incarnations. Other Black women who date interracially (including my BF’s ex), seem quick to make judgement calls on the quality of our relationship (in spite of having very limited information available). Many websites and blogs that seem to celebrate interracial relationships are really just a front to perpetuate very narrow views on why interracial relationships are “ideal”, “preferred” or “superior”. Well at the end of the day, no romantic relationship, interracial or not, is the same. People who imply this, usually have serious issues with my next pitfall.
#6 – Stereotypes. In regular conversation, I’ve been known to freely state that “I hate stereotypes”. Well this is not untrue…but it also doesn’t tell the entire story. You see, stereotypes do have some basis in fact. That “fact” can be concrete, or not so concrete. In addition, stereotypes must exist in that they are important in regards to social learning and the assessment of others. So what I really have an issue with is the improper application and use of stereotypes.
If you are in an interracial relationship, you cannot discount the power of stereotypes. Even if you yourself do not put a lot of weight on them, others around you do. You have to accept this, and you also have to decide how much weight that you personally will place on these stereotypes perpetuated by others…whether they be true or untrue. For example, there is the stereotype out there that Asian women are submissive and obedient. Now an interracial couple that includes an Asian woman has a fight on their hands no matter what in this regard; because if the woman is not the submissive and obedient type, then they have to decide how much effort (if any) they are going to put into combating this stereotype. If the woman is in fact submissive and obedient by nature, then they are going to have to fight for the legitimacy of their relationship in that it means more to them than just a man trying to get a woman who will obey him.
In addition, do not buy into disparaging stereotypical comments made about yourself or your relationship either. Statements like “Oh, she’s the type that would date Black men.” or “You’re the type of Black woman that White men wouldn’t like.” is just projected negativity. People who make such statements have some sort of issue with other people being happy, even though it is masked as “wisdom” and advice. Everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness, and also to be free to define what “happiness” means to them!
Interracial couples also have to examine the stereotypes that they hold between each other. Did you hook up with a Black man because of his sexual prowess? Are you dating Asian men because you want smart children? Both notions are incredibly foolish and dismissive of the deep and true qualities of romantic relationships. Which leads me to my next pitfall…
#7 – Fetish vs. Attraction. Yes, this is a very real and touchy issue. Today’s society is a “pick and choose” type of place where we are use to having lots of options. Well this type of attitude does not translate very well over into the romantic arena, and yet, many people approach their love life like shopping in a mall. When you are dating, it is especially important to determine how the other person sees you. Are you being seen as a potential mate, or as this person’s next adventure?
A tell-tale sign of this is if the person is reluctant to bring you around family and friends; or only willing to see you under certain circumstances. But I also think it is fair to not confuse a fetish with genuine attraction. While society may push out an “ideal” in regards to physical beauty, the truth of the matter is, we all have our own individual preferences. A White man who hangs up a picture of Pamela Anderson is not accused of having a fetish for buxom blondes. Likewise, a man that has a preference for the body and features of Black women shouldn’t be labeled as having a fetish or of being shallow. This goes for anyone. It is sad that we are still not free to be honest and say “Hey, I like ____” because of social stigmas. Acknowledging and loving the differences between us is not fetishism. We are not just souls floating around; we are a package of bodies and souls. While it sound utopic to just “focus on what’s on the inside”…that is just not reality. We shouldn’t pretend like it is either.
So the bottom line is you are free to like what you like. You are an individual, so lust over your well-endowed Black man, or thin, golden-locked blonde bombshell. But at the end of the day, you cannot base an entire relationship on physical qualities. You don’t have to deny that you like them…but real love goes much deeper than that.
#8 – Educating. If you are in an interracial relationship for the first time, or your partner is, prepare yourself for a steep social learning curve. It can easily be overcome…if the two of you are open-minded and honest with yourselves. You also have to know when and when not to take things personally. Ignorance is not an excuse for insensitivity. Take Black women’s hair for instance. There is no need to “call out” and make statements about the things that we do to our hair. Just like there is no need to “call out” you mother or grandmother for dying her hair. Keep things in perspective. Think about your partner as yourself for a moment. How would you liked to be asked about your body…your heritage…and your customs? If you honestly don’t know, then tell your partner this. Make it a point to be sensitive…but also make it a point to learn.
Even if you significant other is comfortable with an interracial relationship and has previous experience with one, you still are not off the hook. Other people will ask you “Why” a lot. I’m not in the habit of explaining my actions to others; but I do like to use examples and analogies. The truth is interracial dating may not be all the rage, but it is not rare either. Many famous people date interracially and have long-standing, successful relationships. Sometimes people just need to understand that you are not a trailblazer; that their own limited experience does not translate over into what society is really like.
#9 – Making a Statement. For what its worth, I’m very much against highlighting interracial relationships as a way to make some sort of social, economic, or political statement. To me, love is love. You are blessed whenever you have someone to love you — no matter what their color may be! Beyond that, the rest is just commentary. However that is just me. Like I mentioned previously, you have no control on what others think or do; and most likely, many will assume that your choice to date interracially is the result of some sort of ulterior motive on your behalf.
Well I’m not going to lie, and say that this isn’t true in regards to some interracial relationships and people who date interracially. But you can’t be bothered with every interracial relationship…you have to stay focused on yours. Only you, and hopefully your partner, know the true nature and motivation of your relationship. From there, do you best to live it out…both publicly and privately. But be forewarned, if you are dating interracially to make some sort of statement, then you are providing a disservice to your significant other and your relationship. It won’t take long for them to realize that they are just a pawn, and one day, the game will come to an end. So keep that in mind. Focus on the interior…on your life, and the home you are building with your mate; THEN worry about public perceptions.
#10 – Know Your Ultimate Desires. What do you want from a romantic relationship and how does dating interracially contribute to that? It sounds like a “duh” question…but it really is quite deep. For example, you may love the excitement of having sex with a Black woman; but you would be uncomfortable fathering biracial children. You may have no problem dating non-Christian men, but ultimately, you want to get married in a church and raise Christian children. So you have to be realistic. What issues are you willing to compromise on and deal with in the long term?
And the sooner you do this, the better. Trust me, it is pretty devastating to date someone for a year or two, only to have them “admit” to you that they can’t envision having children with you. A big reason why relationships (not just interracial ones) fail is because of not sharing the same goal…or being on “different pages” so to speak. If you don’t know what you want, then no one else does either. And when you know what you want, be sure to communicate that with your partner so that they can determine if the two of you want the same things.
So on that note, I’m going to finish up with a segment from The View where they discuss interracial relationships. It goes without saying that I totally agree with Whoopi here; and that Sherri presents an example of some of the negative feelings that get projected out from the minority community.