Telling family and friends about a new relationship always comes with its own worries and concerns. Will they like the person? Will they approve of my choice? Will they get along? Thinking about these things can be nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing for many couples but for interracial couples, many of these emotions and concerns are amplified. In addition to the learning experience that is a new relationship, those in an interracial relationship often face the added challenge of adapting to and learning about different backgrounds and cultures that differ from their own. They are handed the unavoidable responsibility of normalizing interracial relationships in the eyes of a still somewhat-segregated society.
Interracial relationships are becoming increasingly common but that does not negate the fact that some people still hold prejudice against those that are in them. From judgmental stares to voiced comments, it is clear some people are still getting used to the concept of such integration.
Nisa Seals, a black senior at APU majoring in marketing, is in a romantic relationship with Joey Walsh, a white sophomore studying psychology. Seals stated that though she often doesn’t acknowledge or even notice it, she will occasionally see someone stare at the couple.
“Every once and again I’ll notice someone kind of look, especially when it comes to African-American males,” Seals said. “They look at me, then they’ll look at him.”
Though the majority of those around them are supportive, Seals went on to say that the couple has experienced a bit of backlash in regards to their relationship.
“I have recently gotten into some heated discussions with people about interracial relationships,” she shared. “I don’t think it affects us [me and Joey] directly together but it affects me because I find myself more and more having to defend interracial relationships and us.”
In today’s climate, with the heavy presence of “us versus them” in terms of race, it can be difficult to even know where to begin to remedy such an issue, especially when in a relationship. Seals and Walsh propose constant communication as a solution, saying that conversation about difficult topics and gaining an understanding of the other’s point of view is key.
Similarly, Michelle Ortiz, a Hispanic senior studying communication at APU, is in a relationship with German citizen Daniel Siebert. Though Siebert speaks fluent English, the occasional language barrier still exists, and is occasionally accompanied by a cultural barrier. Ortiz stated that being open, asking questions about the other’s culture and finding shared hobbies or activities helps them maintain their relationship and overcome any obstacles that may be faced because of cultural or racial differences. Though these hardships do exist, there are innumerable positives that make any sort of negative seem insignificant.
Ortiz shared her feelings about the benefits of being in an interracial, intercultural relationship.
“We each bring something different to the plate,” she said. “He has shown me German music, food and different aspects of their culture. I think it’s really cool learning about a completely different culture than we’re used to.”
Intercultural relationships enable us to broaden our perspective and worldview. A person can gain an in-depth experience of different walks of life, customs, and norms by having a close relationship with someone outside of his or her usual scope.
Similarly, Walsh expressed, “Being in an interracial relationship, you get to experience both cultures at the same time and really get to see how amazing they are. When you put them together, it can be something even better.”
Seals agreed saying, “I learn a lot more about both sides of my own culture and his from him.”
Instead of segregating ourselves by race, we should be appreciating and learning from those around us with different stories, backgrounds and cultures. Each person has something different to offer which allows us to grow as we are able to more closely view one another’s experiences; quite often, the result will be something much greater than that which arises from us remaining in our comfort zones. Such relationships allow us to discover and understand more about ourselves and others which aids in perpetuating the true understanding and cordial relations we desire to see in our society and everyday lives.
Lastly, the couples offered some advice for those in interracial relationships that may be faced with obstacles.
“If you guys really care about each other, then don’t care about what other people think,” Seals said. “I know that can be hard, especially when it comes to the family aspect of it, because you want your family to be accepting of whom you choose to love; but at the end of the day…they’re going to have to get over it or get used to it.”
Overall, race, background, culture or the like should not matter as long as the two people in the relationship care about each other. We cannot expect any change, normalization or bridges to be built until we first work on our minds and hearts in regards to one another.