“You know, all of the Asians I’ve been with are just great.” One of my more recent dates with a Chad began with this phrase. He had picked me up at my house and on the way to the restaurant, he casually dropped this line—perhaps in hopes to getting into my pants.
That was not the first time I’ve experienced this, since he was about the nth Chad I’d dated casually. In fact, the first time someone commented on my race in the context of dating was my white girlfriend. She asked me if it was true that Asians had “tighter pussies” than the “rest of us”. At the time, I was a teenager, so I let it slide.
We can’t and shouldn’t be so tolerant of this.
Though there is always a disconnect in relating to anyone, there is a stronger and deeper disconnect when it comes to navigating the terrain of race and white-supremacy. In a study of interracial couples in therapy done by Young and Leslie, researchers found that “…[a]lthough interracial couples come to therapy for all the same reasons as other couples, they may experience the problems that are common to all couples a bit differently because of their interracial status.” Race does not define either of them, but race certainly defines the kind of lives each person has lived.
How do we bridge that gap in understanding, then? Is it even worth it or possible to have a healthy romantic relationship of one person from a marginalized group and another raised in white privilege?
Prior to the Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s, there were many states which made marriage between whites and people of color illegal. However, by the 1980s, interracial marriages were decriminalized, and between 1980 and 2008, marriages between black people and whites in America greatly increased. An increase in interracial marriages between whites and Asians, Native Americans, and people of South American descent are also present. This reflects the normalization process of interracial coupling within American society.
Over the period of nearly 30 years, coupled with the decriminalization of interracial marriages, interracial couples became more acceptable to both whites and people of color. However, due to the increase of immigrants from Asian and South American nations, the rise of interracial marriages may also be attributed to a simple increase in non-white ethnicities.
Attitudes of white people as a group towards people of color are heavily influenced by a number of factors. With religion, whites have “…historically been opposed to legal miscegenation with racial minorities…”; whites who are opposed to interracial marriages, even today, tend have devout Conservative Protestants at their core. These places of worship simply create an environment for racial othering through having a majority of whites within their congregations.
A 2013 study by S.L. Perry found that “…whites who are more comfortable with their daughters marrying…[people of racial minorities] tend to be younger, live out of the South, more educated, and more politically liberal…”, and that “…whites who have children tend to be less comfortable with the idea…” of their children marrying non-white people, “…thereby influencing whites to be more forthcoming about their misgivings…”.
Still, a white individual’s attitude within an interracial relationship is not only influenced by their personal background in religion or family political affiliations. The lived privilege of a white person already gives them an intrinsic bias. Although whites may be able to learn from listening and research, the mere fact that they lack the lived experience of systematic racism greatly inhibits their ability to empathize with their PoC partners.
To maintain a healthy relationship with a white partner, then, would require more effort from the side of the marginalized. The daily reality of systematic racism greatly influences how they perceive themselves. And it means people of color must tailor their social performance for a white-dominated society, even in the context of an interracial relationship.
In light of all this, the truthful answer to the predicament of interracial relationships is that there is no answer, because there are intrinsic issues that are inevitable within the relationship simply due to racial disparity. Pay gaps, experiencing racism, emotions, and political activeness, for example, are all things that could cause massive amounts of friction in these relationships. These added stresses exacerbate the normal yet difficult issues surrounding mere cohabitation or intimate interdependence.
Although it’s difficult to separate politics from our personal lives, it is possible. At the same time, being in a relationship with a white person does not mean that a PoC is any less likely to face various kinds of racism with and from their white partners. It’s an added risk to the already risky notion of romantic relationships. So is it worth it? That’s up to you.