The following quote from a woman named Holly, part of a panel of Asian-Americans discussing dating and relationships, speaks a lot to some of the underlying challenges that face many interracial relationships:
The liberal-multi-culti facade of all interracial relationships being cool was torn up a little bit when my sister started dating black guys, however. There was a lot more disapproval and “what does he want to do with his life,” which I’m sure could be attributed to class differences as well. Come to think of it, they did raise similar objections to a white guy she dated who was a slacker musician without much of a “future.” When I put it all together in my memory, the message we received was holistically about fitting people into a nice, harmonious middle-class liberal picture of diversity where everyone basically ought to want the same thing: college, a career, a nice home, stability, marriage, kids, family closeness, etc.
Now, I think it's very true that wide differences around life goals, educational pursuits, and some of the other things listed here are major challenges to the success of any relationship. However, there's something more going on here.
I can recall a few female family members, both young white women, getting a lot of flack for "dating black men." And I don't think it really mattered much who these guys were, what they wanted out of life, or how they treated their partners. Their race trumped everything else, which obviously points to the various negative stereotypes that have hounded young African-American men for decades, even centuries to some degree.
Another example of this comes from my own experience. One of the reasons the relationship I cited in yesterday's post broke up was due to stereotypes some of her family members about white men. Specifically, they believed that a white man would never commit to, and marry an Asian woman. Again, it didn't matter how well I treated her, nor all the other things I did in my life that demonstrated commitment and loyalty - those family members, including her mother, read me by race. They certainly liked me well enough, but because I was white, they couldn't quite trust me.
When I hear people spout nonsense like "we live in a post-racial world" - a fairly common refrain amongst liberal white folks following President Obama's election - these kinds of situations come to mind. (Many other things come to mind as well, like racially charged police beatings, redlining, the wealth gap as broken down by racial groups, airport profiling, and immigration policies, just to name a few.) But with dating and relationships, at least in the U.S., we are at an interesting crossroads, as more and more people are crossing racial lines to find partners, and yet are living in a country where racism and racial prejudice are still fairly powerful players.
And yet, people of different racial/ethnic backgrounds still manage to fall in love and build lives together. Lots of people. Sometimes, I think that's kind of amazing. Other times, it just seems normal - you know - like the most natural thing in the world - loving another.