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First Comes Love
Interracial romance is one way to heal division
Brittany Humphrey
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“When you’re mixed, you see how absurd this business of race is.” I agree with this quote from mixed-race author James McBride. My own ancestry is African, Italian, and Native American. When I tell people this, they seem surprised; a lot of them say they assumed I was Dominican. This just shows that people don’t give a lot of thought to racial and ethnic categories. Since the population of the Dominican Republic is very racially mixed—especially with European, African, and Native American blood—no one should be surprised that, with my background, I look like many Dominicans.

I never thought that interracial dating, mixed marriages, or race itself were a big deal. We all came from the motherland, Africa, in the first place, so we shouldn’t care about superficial differences. And I can hardly help being in interracial relationships, since it’s hard to find guys of exactly my own race: Good luck searching for that guy who has the very same background as me!

Until recently, I had only dated Hispanics. It had nothing to do with race; the guys I was attracted to just happened to be Hispanic. Now that I’m dating an African-American guy, I can’t say there is any difference.

Gaining Acceptance

The percentage of Americans who agree with me that interracial dating is OK is increasing all the time. According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of Americans now approve of interracial dating. This is a huge jump from the late 1980s, when only 48% approved. Young people are more accepting than older generations, but polls have shown that Americans of all generations have become more accepting of interracial relationships over time.

Although people approve, that doesn’t mean that they will actually get involved in an interracial relationship themselves. The Pew survey has shown that, in the U.S., only one in seven couples who got married in 2008 was interracial or interethnic. Even though that’s a higher proportion than ever before, it’s still pretty low.

So if teens and their parents are OK with the idea of interracial relationships, is there any reason not to date someone of a different race? I talked to several teens who are or have been involved in interracial relationships to see what they think.

Language of Love?

My best friend Chavely Luna, 15, who is Hispanic, has dated African-Americans but usually dates other Hispanics. She said it makes things simpler. “Hispanics are able to understand me,” she said. “I want to be able to have a conversation with someone in Spanish and if they can’t do that, then it’s a big problem. Many of my family members only understand Spanish. If things got serious in a relationship I don’t want to have to translate word for word what everyone says,” she explained. In this case it seems like language, rather than race, is what she looks for in a partner.

On the other hand, Tairys Camacho, 16, is more interested in learning about another culture. Tairys is Dominican and her boyfriend is Tibetan. “Since I was 12 or 13, I knew that I wanted to have an Asian boyfriend. I was really interested in Asian culture and people,” she said. Her family and friends are accepting of her relationship, but some others seem to have problems with it: “The Dominican boys at my school are so jealous. They are always asking me, ‘Why are you with a Chinese?,’” even though her boyfriend is Tibetan. “I feel kind of mad because it’s a free country and it’s none of their business,” she said.

image by Steve Castillo

But the criticism hasn’t given her any second thoughts about her relationship. Tairys said she’s benefited from being with someone out of her race because it’s broadened her worldview. “Before I met him, I did not know Tibet even existed. Now I know about his culture and history. So one thing I got out of this relationship was knowledge of his culture, and he got the same of mine,” Tairys said.

All About the Person

I also interviewed two fellow writers at NYC who have been involved in interracial relationships. Evin Cruz, 18, whose background is Puerto Rican and French Canadian, has dated an African-American girl. And Angelica Petela, 17, whose background is Polish, is currently in a relationship with a Filipino guy.

Evin said that he saw no negative side to dating someone outside his race. Even though his peers were surprised to see him with a black girl and her family was a bit skeptical, Evin said, “To me race isn’t part of a relationship. It’s all about the way you feel about that person.”

Angelica echoed Evin’s point. “I didn’t have any doubts about getting into an interracial relationship because my boyfriend’s a human being,” she said. And from being in her relationship she’s been able to experience her boyfriend’s culture. “His food is pretty different from what I eat at home, and also his language—I didn’t know there were two dialects in the Philippines,” she added.

From Romance to Healing

I look at it this way: While there might be some difficulties associated with having a boyfriend or girlfriend of another race, what relationship doesn’t have problems? If two people are meant to be together, then the positives should outweigh the negatives.

And there is a lot to be said about the benefits of an interracial relationship. When you get into a relationship with someone, they don’t just bring themselves; they bring their culture and way of living. Dating someone from another culture can expand your mind.

Besides, if it weren’t for one of these relationships, I wouldn’t exist. Nor would we have our president, Barack Obama, since his father was African and his mother was a white American. I think that’s partly why he seems to see both sides of many issues, especially racial issues. In fact, if more Americans were of mixed race, maybe the race discussion in this country would be different.

Interracial dating and marriage are definitely not a cure-all, because even people who are in relationships with individuals of another race can still be prejudiced. However, I do think more interracial dating can help promote racial healing. As the number of people with mixed racial backgrounds increases, the number of people who can conveniently blame other races for societal problems, or dislike other people based on racial stereotypes, will decrease—since fewer people will know what “the other race” is.

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(NYC-2010-09-20)

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