This shouldn't be a loaded question, but for many people from different cultural and racial backgrounds, the question of whether interracial relationships "work" or not has the power to become a heated debate.
Before we hop into this post on interracial dating, let me explain how I'm defining some key terms here.
The word racism is defined as:
Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized
and not as systemic racism.
The term interracial relationships is defined as:
Dating, marriage, or long-term cohabitation between people of different races who are engaging in romantic relations
Got it? Great! Now on to the blog post...
As a multiracial person married to a white man, this question always seems a little strange to me - not because I don't "get" where the curiousness comes from, but because the short answer is yes - interracial relationships work as long as the people in those relationships work.
It seems pretty simple, right?
Looking at it this way, let's take a moment to address what Google indicates as the most commonly searched questions about interracial dating at the time I'm writing this:
- Are interracial relationships okay?
- How do interracial relationships work? And,
- Are interracial relationships difficult?
1. Are interracial relationships okay?
Yes, of course. In many ways interracial relationships are the same as monoracial relationships.
Simply put, you've got two people who are attracted to one another and interested in getting to know each other better.
As the relationship progresses, those two people may be interested in marrying one another and / or building a long-term life together. It's all super normal stuff, really, but what you might be trying to ask with this question is - is there something wrong with dating outside of my race?
The answer is no. This said, depending on the attitudes of your parents, siblings, peer group, co-workers, and friends, you might be in for a rude awakening if you've found yourself attracted to someone who's a different race though.
Does that mean you shouldn't follow your heart? No. It means you should be prepared to challenge the intolerance you may face from people you didn't know were so intolerant.
2. How do interracial relationships work?
Interracial relationships work the same way any other consensual relationship works. Two people from different races meet and are attracted to one another, from there both parties actively engage in building a romantic relationship.
Again, this is all super normal stuff, but what this question is really trying to ask is - what's the difference between interracial relationships and monoracial relationships?
The answers to that question can encompass a wide range of things. For instance, in interracial relationships you need to:
- learn about your partner's culture, including the cultural norms and expectations traditionally associated with their upbringing
- check your bias regularly to ensure you aren't actively harming your partner unintentionally through micro-aggressions or a lack of awareness and acceptance
- educate yourself about the lived experiences of your partner's race so that you can be an effective ally against ongoing racism and intolerance
- do some personal development work to learn or strengthen coping skills you've never needed to use before
If this seems like "too much work" for you, you simply shouldn't be in an interracial relationship.
3. Are interracial relationships difficult?
It depends, really. Interracial relationships do face some unique challenges that monoracial relationships do not.
Things like friends and family members behaving in racially intolerant or overtly racist ways *can be* more prevalent. Also, racist reactions from strangers, co-workers, and peers are something that will come up.
Depending on how each member of an interracial relationship copes with these situations individually and collectively, instances where these things come up may or may not put additional strain on the union.
Overall though, I've found the major factors that determine whether any relationship can overcome any challenge is the strength of the couple's determination, the individual level of autonomy each partner possesses, and the couple's mutual commitment to respecting one another throughout the coping process.
That's not to minimize the challenge of dealing with racism. Racial bias effects every public interaction visible minorities have on a daily basis. If you're someone who's not used to what that looks like, you're not going to recognize it right away, and you're never going to understand what it feels like to be treated differently or denied opportunities based solely on your race.
The thing is, for your relationship to be a healthy one, you have to want to help change the outcome, and actively pursue that goal. If you're thinking about being part of an interracial couple, but you don't also feel like doing the work it takes to make sure your partner is emotionally, physically, and psychologically safe in your relationship, you should consider working on yourself before continuing down this path.
Now that we've addressed the top three questions, let's spend a little time on the fourth most popular inquiry:
How do interracial relationships benefit society?
Real talk, this question is sus af but I'm still gonna' answer it though.
If it's not directly obvious to you, the problem with this question is the implied bias.
Why do people in interracial relationships need to quantify and qualify our relationship's benefits to society while people in monoracial relationships don't?
This question, and all of the other questions addressed in this blog post, are prime examples of how racist thinking works. At first glance the questions seem innocent enough, but they're rooted in the implication that interracial relationships need to prove their worth in order to be valid or acceptable.
That said, interracial relationships do benefit society. Here's how:
- By inspiring others to have the courage to follow their hearts ahead of listening to the problematic and intolerant belief systems they might've been raised with
- By helping people in your social circle become educated about different races and cultures
- By challenging the status-quo and stereotypes held about other races
- By showing the world that it's possible to have successful relationships regardless of race
- By taking a stand against racial bias, racism, and prejudice
- And many more...
In summation, if you're thinking about dating outside of your race there's certainly a lot to consider.
My hope for you is that you let your heart guide your way and that you find the courage to authentically express attraction, love, and gratitude toward any romantic partner you choose - regardless of their race.