Actress Tika Sumpter, who is Black and engaged to a white man, tweeted that white people in relationships with Black people have a duty to fight racism on behalf of their partners. The landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia struck down state bans on interracial marriage in Now interracial relationships are growing in number.
As of , Every relationship, interracial or not, comes with its own issues. But now that so many more people are grappling with senseless killings of Black people and the legacy of racism in this country, interracial relationships—especially those involving Black and non-Black people—can feel more complex than ever. Here, SELF spoke to three married interracial couples about what it feels like to love each other during this moment in history.
Their responses have been edited and condensed for clarity. Lewis, 47, and Melissa, 41, have been married for 12 years and have two children. Lewis, an attorney, identifies as Black American, and Melissa, a former marketing director and current yoga instructor, identifies as Chinese American Cantonese. The two had a chance meeting in a clothing store in Philadelphia where Melissa was a sales associate.
Lewis: Nothing has changed in terms of our relationship. I think that the biggest impact has been explaining race issues to our kids. Melissa: By design, we have chosen to live, work, and raise our children in two very diverse cities where people tend to be less homogenous not only in terms of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation but also in ways of thinking and living. The biggest impact for us is balancing our innate duty as parents to protect and shield our children as much as possible with the equally important responsibility to educate them about the many harsh realities that exist today and that sadly have been perpetuated for far too long, especially in America.
For us, it is imperative for our children to be proud of who they are and where they came from. Do you think interracial relationships have made strides? Melissa: If not for the Loving decision, Lewis and I might not be married, and our beautiful children would not be here today.
So, yes, in that regard I would like to think that strides have been made. I cannot believe that we actually live in a world where a law or person could forcibly tell me who I can and cannot love or marry. Some days you can look back on history and see some strides that we have made, but then on far too many other days it sadly seems as if we have not moved forward even an inch toward equality and social justice for all.
SELF: Have you ever experienced—especially at this critical time—negative reactions to your marriage because of your races? We use these hurtful comments and experiences as teachable moments for our children. SELF: What are some of the cultural differences that you have noticed in your relationship? I am a third-generation Chinese American. With each successive generation, some of my Chinese culture has become more diluted. To the extent that I can, we keep the traditions and celebrations that were important to my grandparents.
We celebrate Chinese New Year and teach the kids how to make some traditional dishes. SELF: Marriage is tough. Do you think the added layer of race exacerbates marital issues? Melissa: I think that part of what initially attracted us to each other and what has sustained us through all of these years is our shared fundamental core values and the similar lenses through which we see the world. Yes, marriage is tough. But the challenges we deal with as a couple most often have more to do with the differences between our genders than the differences between our races—that is a completely different ball of wax.
SELF: What has been the most challenging aspect of your interracial relationship thus far? Those have been the most challenging moments for me. Lewis: Our kids are nine and seven. I would like to be more intentional about having them interact with Black people. I do make my son go to the barber, though.
I wish there were more outlets like that. Melissa: We have many ongoing conversations about race with our children and how that may impact them as they grow up. We are grateful that God made us that way. Lewis: I think about my son and how he is going to be viewed. The second thing that I have thought about in these times is that as an attorney, I feel like I have a responsibility to do something from a legal perspective.
I feel like I need to pick up a pro bono matter related to criminal justice or police brutality and use that as a way to educate them about certain issues. If anything, our interracial bond makes us and our family unique. We view ourselves as husband and wife.
Others should view us no differently. Darrell, 40, and Emmanuel, 35, have been married for eight months. Darrell, a tech executive, identifies as Black. Emmanuel, a clinical therapist, identifies as Mexican. They like to say they met the old-fashion way: in the gym.
Darrell: It has brought about much-needed conversations in our house. I was in shock, angry, numb, and frustrated. Emmanuel understood I was upset, but we had to have some conversations for him to understand the full gravity of what was behind my emotions. So in the end, I believe it actually brought us closer. Darrell: I would like to say that interracial relationships have made strides, but I also can admit that I have only lived in mostly liberal metropolitan cities my entire adult life—New York and Los Angeles—which can provide a false sense of how the world views interracial relationships.
Even so, this representation is limited in my opinion. Fear and misunderstanding come from ignorance, so the more society can see that love between two people is just as valid and beautiful when it exists people from different backgrounds, the more people will be open to the idea. We see more interracial relationships in the gay community than in the general population. One issue we recently faced happened with the purchase of our first home. Being in an interracial gay relationship, we questioned the neighborhoods we were looking to buy in to ensure that it would be safe and comfortable not only for us, but also for our friends and family who visited.
It was a new feeling for both of us. Darrell: My family is having a hard time coming to terms with it all. They are extremely religious and traditional, so when I came out, it definitely took a toll on our relationship, and is still ongoing. Emmanuel: Fortunately, I have not experienced any negative reactions to our marriage. How do you navigate them? It only solidified our commitment to each other. Darrell: The most challenging thing for me, at times, is learning how to properly articulate some of the struggles I have as a Black man in this country.
But for black Brits in interracial marriages, there was an added level of intensity: now they had to have awkward conversations with their spouses too. Sarah Louise Ryan, a matchmaker and relationship expert, said couples need to consider discussing their differing experiences of discrimination, racial profiling, stereotypes and inequality. For some interracial couples, discussions about race and privilege are established early on. In other instances, white men who have been married to black women have demonstrated that events this year made them re-evaluate their privileges: Alexis Ohanian, husband of Serena Williams, has stepped down from the Reddit board to make space for a black candidate.
The Black Lives Matter movement may centre Black voices and struggles, but members of other minority communities are having their own racial awakening after seeing how their experience relates to certain aspects of it. But looking back now it was due to the lack of experience on his behalf and my inability to explain the feelings and emotions. In a time of racial reckoning it's important that white partners especially are navigating their relationships differently.
Racism is often insidious, so advocating for anti-racism requires education and some tough but transparent conversations. For Emma and her relationship, change means more education for her white partner. While the conversations can be difficult, Sarah Louise Ryan says that couples who confront these issues successfully and respectfully will only grow stronger.
Her and Tommo want to have children themselves, and so Tommo is taking steps to become a better parent, and anti-racist, for his future family. Michaela Coel and Donald Glover have a lot to talk about.
The twenty to thirty year old set are generally very casual and already have a wide mixture of multi-cultural and multi-racial friends. Tolerance, however, especially by family and community, can vary greatly according to demographics. In many areas, especially regions that historically disapproved of mixed race dating, there may no longer be taboos, but the cultural clash still exists.
The family, and even your date, might have stereotypical views of your personal tastes and behaviors. Crossing the barriers where racial misconceptions still exist takes fortitude and patience. Interracial views are changing rapidly but not racial views. You may experience those uncomfortable moments of somebody going out of their way not to offend you, anxieties concerning appropriate behaviors, or even suspicion and reserved behaviors.
For many races, the customs are more engrained than color, status or ancestral origins. Religion may be an important influence on their lives, even if they no longer declare a religious preference, as they will make time for the traditional values of their family.
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View details. For Emma and her relationship, change means more education for her white partner. While the conversations can be difficult, Sarah Louise Ryan says that couples who confront these issues successfully and respectfully will only grow stronger. Her and Tommo want to have children themselves, and so Tommo is taking steps to become a better parent, and anti-racist, for his future family.
Michaela Coel and Donald Glover have a lot to talk about. Lady Phyll's guide to fighting for equality without burning out. Why we need to work harder, faster and stronger to make stereotypes a thing of the past. British GQ. Edition Britain Chevron. Facebook Twitter Pinterest. GQ Recommends.
By Olive Pometsey 23 January By Olive Pometsey 25 January
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So, you must learn to acknowledge these differences , and also have open conversations throughout your relationship. On the flip side, if the person you are with is not necessarily of a different race, but of a different religion, this can still cause problems. Although a third language like English can be used to communicate in relationships, this doesn't change the fact that there will be a problem in the language barrier. No doubt, it will take some time for both of you to learn each other's language, and even adjust to using a third language.
In such cases, having a sense of humor will go a long way because misunderstandings do happen. Imagine these two words embarazada in Spanish and embarrassed in English. Both sound the same right? But they mean different things. Embarazada means "pregnant", imagine the mix-up this will cause.
The whole idea is to laugh and have fun while learning. Finally, learn to communicate with your partner efficiently, if both of you are not constantly talking, it means the language barrier is already creeping in. So, understand people have different communication styles , some statements might sound blunt to you, but honest to your partner. For a healthy interracial relationship, Margaret Paul mentioned in one of her articles on Huffington Post, that people must learn to be free and accept each other.
One person doesn't have to change their cultural standards, religion, or values for the other person. Instead, they should understand each other's background, upbringing, and the way they think. For the most part, a good relationship is all about balance. But sometimes, people sacrifice a lot and tend to lose themselves in it. When this happens, the relationship will lose its fire which will likely diminish the unique traits that attracted one person to the other. Rather, try to appreciate what makes them different.
When in an interracial relationship, to fully understand your partner, it's vital to study their racial background. I know this can sound very difficult, but having knowledge beforehand will certainly help ease potential misunderstandings in the future. Additionally, before starting a relationship with someone from a different racial background, it would be wise to learn about their cultural values to know whether it's compatible with yours.
But, since you're already dating, it's not late to still do that. Maybe, start with studying your partner's country of origin, learn about their family history, and ask questions involving their ideas and beliefs. Make it a habit to listen to your partner and not try to judge or compare them with other races.
And remember, just because you have studied a certain culture, it will be wrong to assume your partner acts like that. Interracial couples not only have to deal with cultural differences but also differences in values. Our different racial backgrounds, in various ways, have a great impact on us, and it has affected our values, thought patterns, and even our way of life. For instance, if one person comes from a culture that values wealth creation and is business inclined, they will find it difficult to cope with a partner from a culture who seems to live a relaxed refreshing life.
The key to tackling this is to honor your similarities and not your differences. Remember, every relationship needs a neutral ground. So, try to focus on similar values with your significant other. You don't have to give up on them because they don't share your values and beliefs.
All relationships are tough, let alone an interracial relationship. Maybe, as a couple, you think your love for each other means that racism is irrelevant; but it could become a problem if other people including your partner's family and friends don't accept you. People might instigate unnecessary quarrels on why someone from a different race is no good.
More so, trying to brush off these derogatory comments and remarks may lead to a breakdown in communication with family members and other people you love. In such situations, always reassure your partner that you still love and want them in your life and you're standing by them, no matter what. Also, do well to inform other people that your relationships are not their business.
On the flip side, if the attack is coming from your partner's family, assure them of how much you love and cherish that person. Worse yet, if your partner's family doesn't want you to be in their life, don't be aggressive and defensive. Discuss it with your partner and reaccess each other's feelings. If you want to be defensive, it may lead to more tension, and this could stir up arguments.
Also, keep in mind that the old generation tends to have conventional customs and beliefs about race which might make it difficult for them to understand someone of a different cultural background. Yes, they might have preconceived notions about your partner marrying someone from another culture, but if you prepare your mind ahead of time, you'll easily understand their stand, and their preconception will have nothing on you.
More so, now that you have the opportunity to talk, you can show your true personality. However, don't be defensive in your thoughts, be patient, and allow them to adjust any racial misunderstanding they conceived. Being gracious and kind has a way of disarming people and it will be more difficult for them to find fault with you.
By then, you must have penetrated their wall of racial misunderstanding before they will understand what is going on, they will have to rethink why they were biased with you. Finally, look for their siblings who are in support of the relationship, and sign them up. You will be surprised how helpful they will be in influencing their parent's ideas towards you, and eventually, they might let go of their belief that their child must date or marry someone of their same skin color.
For people to understand the uniqueness of any culture, making friends is vital. This gives one the opportunity to learn about the culture of someone else from a first-person perspective. There's a possibility that they may not support your relationship; however, their reactions may come from their feeling of inadequacy. However, involving them in plans when it has to do with your partner's traditions, can help change their thoughts and make them see things from your perspective.
Rest assured that, apart from friends and family, you will likely face derogatory comments from other people. Unsolicited questions or abuse might even come from total strangers. Learn to stand up for yourself, but always be polite. Sometimes, people might not even realize they are staring.