In today's supposedly enlightened society, it may not surprise you to learn that the number of interracial relationships has massively increased over the last few decades. In fact, according to recent official statistics, the number of marriage ceremonies carried out that are classified as “interracial” has tripled since 1980, with more than one in ten weddings being between those from different races. Yet, despite the apparent normality of the situation, it appears that those from different cultures who decide to try to make a go of their relationship often face discrimination, often from unexpected sources including family and friends. It is clear to see that, even though society's tolerance and understanding of diversity has progressed in leaps and bounds over the last half century, there are still many pitfalls to be expected when entering into an interracial relationship. In this article, we look at some of the common problems faced by couples from different ethnic backgrounds and ways of overcoming them.
Facing Family Prejudice
One of the hardest problems that many interracial couples face is the disapproval of their nearest and dearest. Most people grow up expecting their family to be supportive of all eventualities and therefore the shock and upset caused when they discover that their loved ones not only dislike their new partner but are actively prejudiced against them can be extra painful. A surprising number of parents resent a child's partner from a different background, partly through fear of the unknown, partly through lack of understanding of their different culture. A partner from a different race may even be seen as a threat to the family's ongoing heritage and family line. While it may seem surprising that these attitudes can persist in this day and age, in fact it is not unusual for interracial couples to face this kind of prejudice in their own homes. One way to try to deal with this is to promote tolerance and understanding between all parties over the long term. Including both partner's sides of the family at social events is one way to increase interaction and to break down barriers. Encouraging communication and integration may take time, but if the couple are serious about pursuing their relationship in the long term, it is well worth taking this course of action to eventually enjoy peace and happiness within the family.
Fear of Losing Heritage and Culture
When couples embark on an interracial relationship, their first thought is probably love for their new partner rather than worries about their own racial heritage. However, as time goes on and the couple move into a long term relationship, the differences between their two races may become more pronounced and sometimes, one partner will feel that their own culture is being undermined in favour of their partner's. Over the years, this can lead to resentment, arguments and conflict, especially if the couple go on to have children. It is therefore important for couples to include the traditions and heritage of both sides of their partnership into their everyday life, embracing symbols of each other's cultures, visiting both sides of the family equally and celebrating both partner's important festivals. By promoting better understanding of both races' heritage, couples will achieve a deeper understanding of each other and strengthen their love exponentially.
Dealing With Public Opinion
While many interracial couples enter into their relationship without any concerns about how the public at large may view them, over time, they may find that they are surprised and often appalled by the way that they are received by strangers. From askance glances to outright prejudice, it can becoming increasingly wearing to have to deal with offensive or ignorant comments. To deal with this, couples must be sure of themselves and confident in the success of their relationship, never being afraid to show their affection for each other when out in public. By presenting a united front, couples can overcome the thoughtlessness of others and emerge unscathed.
The Problem of Mixed-Race Children
When any couple has children, their offspring has a mix of their parent's characteristics and this is never more obvious than in a mixed race relationship. No matter how much an interracial couple may love each other, they may be unprepared for the problems that this can cause. Even before their child is born, they may face speculation from friends and family about what their little one will look like, and even well-meaning loved ones may unintentionally offend with thoughtless or hurtful comments. As their child grows up, there may be further problems with questions, comments and judgemental looks from strangers. For example, issues around why an apparently black child has a white mother, or why a child that appears to be white has afro hair may seem insignificant, but can build up to cause problems in the long run. One way of handling this is to embrace the differences rather than denying them. By keeping communication channels open, parents can discuss matters about the differences in skin colour or hair texture early on in their child's life so that they will already be fully conversed, self-confident and ready to share answers with those around them once they are old enough to do so.