Growing up with a father in the Air Force was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As hard as it was to pack up all my things and move to a whole new city (or country) every 3 1/2 years, leaving behind my friends, classmates, and sometimes even my pets, I’m so grateful for the childhood that my dad provided for me. Moving around a lot exposed me to different ways of life, different cultures, and the vast variety of people that live in our world.
When it came to love, skin color was never a question for me. It was all about having a good heart, a kind demeanor, being caring, respectful, and trustworthy. When I thought of the man I would one day marry, skin color was never something that I factored in, which is why I don’t understand how interracial couples are something that some people still frown upon.
Because I’m interracial myself with a Filipino mom and a black dad, I never saw a problem with people of different races dating or getting married. I was so lucky that I had the upbringing that I did, because my dad allowed me to think for myself, be independent, form my own opinions, and not judge people by outward appearance. People are judged by so many things – the amount of money they make, their families, their jobs, who their friends are, their spouse – why does your skin color need to be another thing added to the list?
I have a friend named Nina, and we have so much in common, including us both being in interracial relationships. Nina and her boyfriend, Pai, live in Tennessee.
Huffington post published this article, highlighting questions that interracial couples are often asked. We decided to shed light on the issue and answer a few of these questions ourselves.
HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY FEEL ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S RACE?
Jon: Overall, my family has been very supportive of my interracial relationship. Coming from southern Louisiana I was exposed to a lot of racism, and unfortunately, some of my extended family was involved. The fortunate thing is that my immediate family and most of my extended family in Louisiana support my choices and believe that I know what is best for me.
Tiffany: Being bi-racial myself, I was lucky to grow up in a family that was very understanding when it came to race. My parents may have questioned my choice in guys a time or two, but race was never an issue.
Nina: My parents have always been more concerned about the condition of the heart of the guy I’m dating. My dad has always said, “You can bring home a tattooed man, but as long as he loves Jesus more than anything, that’s what I care about.” My youngest brothers love pointing out that Pai is “brown,” but I think they are just more mesmerized by him than anything. I do have some extended family members who don’t necessarily approve. That was kind of tough emotionally, but everyone in my family treats him with respect and kindness, and that’s what’s most important to me.
Pai: My immediate family has always been supportive to whomever I chose to date so they love Nina. Sometimes I wonder if they like her more than me. My extended family has always been supportive as well. I even find out from Nina that they friend request her on social media without my knowledge. We were raised that it doesn’t matter what color you are. In my church at Zimbabwe and from the international school I went to, there were a lot of cultures, so I’ve grown up not seeing race as a potential factor for a life partner.
DO PEOPLE STARE AT YOU WHEN YOU GO ON DATES?
Nina: When Pai and I first started going out, we went on a run through our town once. We walked about a mile after our run and were holding hands. I was hyper aware of the fact that everyone passing us in our small Southern town was staring at us. But in that moment I decided being with him was more important than people staring at us. Since then, I’ve not really noticed it because I choose not to pay attention. And if they are staring, it’s probably because we’re a really adorable couple.
Pai: Yes. But I’ve learned to ignore it, and the older I get, the more comfortable I am in my skin and I always embrace opportunity to hold Nina’s hand in public because it’s not only a statement of how much I love her but also a statement of the beauty of culture and how love isn’t defined by the color of our skin.
Tiffany: We get looks at some places we go, because we do live in north Louisiana. The south is very traditional when it comes to things like religion, sexuality, and race, and people and situations that don’t fit the norm (regardless of the fact that it’s the 21st century) are likely to attract attention. This is something that I’ve dealt with all of my life, so for the most part, I’ve gotten used to it. With Jon, I know I was the first black (or half black) person that he had ever dated, so I think the adjustment was a little different for him. I’m not saying that everywhere we go we’re like a walking billboard, because we’re not. We’ve gotten stares before, but it’s not a constant thing, and I can’t think of an instance where people have been openly rude about it, but it does happen, and we do notice.
YOU’RE DATING A BLACK GIRL. AREN’T YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHEN YOU GET MARRIED?
Jon: It seems like the mere mention of dating Tiffany sparks concerns about my future thoughts of marriage. Usually it’s from people who have no real standing with me at all. I’ve learned that old people will generally speak what’s on their mind and since I used to associate with a lot of senior adults, I was often asked if I intended to marry Tiffany. When I said “yes,” they were shocked that a southern white boy would be doing such a thing. They would ask questions like “how do you plan on getting loans?” or “what if her family comes to town?” One of my favorite questions was “does it bother you that your kids are going to become thugs?” The truth is that no, I’m not worried about when we get married. Not even a little bit.
WOULDN’T IT BE EASIER TO JUST DATE YOUR OWN RACE?
Jon: I don’t know if dating another race makes anything easier or harder, not in regard to the actual relationship at least. I mean, I can understand this question when immediate family is preaching to you that you shouldn’t take other races, but that isn’t the case here. I have dated many white girls. I have also dated a Mexican and an Asian. I wouldn’t say any of those were easier than any of the others. The fact is, no relationship is easy regardless of race.
Nina: I’m sure it would be easier, but I’ve dated white guys before too and those relationships haven’t necessarily been smooth sailing either. What relationship is easy? There are a lot of differences between Pai and myself, and while we don’t always agree on everything, we learn how to communicate with each other through our differences. For instance, to me food is a celebration. I love to eat and talk about it a lot. For Pai, food is food, and he eats a couple times a day, and that’s that.
Pai: Yes and no. It would be easier to date someone from my own culture because we’d hold the same cultural values and share a similar upbringing. But since I was raised in America as well, I have the privilege of being a third culture kid, meaning that with two cultures infused in my life, it’s difficult picking one culture over the other. And I think that despite what race you are, you are always going to encounter difficulties because you’re never going to find someone who is an exact replication of yourself.
For even more answers to some of these frequently asked questions, be sure to check out Nina’s post here.
What are your thoughts on interracial relationships?