Five Ways to Handle Disapproval of Your Interracial Relationship
You’ve finally found the love of your life after years of searching for “the one.” While you’re crazy about your sweetheart, not everyone shares your enthusiasm about your new partner. That’s because you belong to one ethnic group and your mate belongs to another. Strangers stare at the two of you when you walk hand-in-hand down the street. Friends ask questions about what “those people” are like, and family members say they fear for your future mixed-race children. So, what’s the best way to handle disapproval of your interracial relationship? Communication and boundary-setting are key. Above all else, take the steps necessary to protect your relationship in the face of ongoing negativity.
Don’t Assume the Worst
For your own mental health, assume that most people have good intentions. If you notice eyes on you and your significant other as you walk down the street, don’t automatically assume it’s because the passersby disapprove of your interracial union. Perhaps people are staring because they consider you a particularly attractive couple. Perhaps people are staring because they applaud you for being in a mixed relationship or belong to a mixed couple themselves. It’s quite common for members of interracial couples to notice similar couples.
Think that’s being too optimistic? Consider what happened to a reader of the popular blog Racialicous.com. A black woman, the reader commented how she once encountered an interracial couple composed of a white woman and a black man. The reader recalled that the couple behaved defensively as soon as they saw her, likely because they’ve heard that black women are hostile to pairs of white women and black men. The reader and the couple passed by without incident but a few minutes later crossed paths again. This time, though, the couple was shocked to see her with her white date. They’d assumed the worst, when, in fact, this particular black woman was not only accepting of interracial couples but in a mixed relationship herself.
Of course, there are times when strangers on the street are openly hostile. Their eyes really do fill with hate at the sight of interracial couples. So, what should you do when you’re on the receiving end of their glares? Nothing. Just look away and keep going about your business, even if the stranger actually shouts out an insult. Getting into a confrontation with a stranger is unlikely to do much good. You can’t exactly have a meaningful dialogue about race relations with a passerby. Moreover, your choice of mate is absolutely no one’s concern but yours. The best thing you can do when you receive the “interracial hate stare,” as Latoya Peterson of Racialicious dubbed it, is not give the person dishing it out any more of your time.
Don’t Spring Your Relationship on Loved Ones
No one knows your family and friends like you do. If they’re open-minded liberal types who’ve had an interracial relationship or two themselves, they’re unlikely to make a fuss upon meeting your new partner. If, in contrast, they’re socially conservative and have no friends of a different race, let alone mates, you might want to sit them down and let them know that you’re now a part of a mixed couple.
You might frown upon this idea if you think of yourself as color-blind, but giving your loved ones advance notice that you’re in an interracial relationship will spare you and your partner from an awkward first encounter with your friends and family. Without advance notice, your mother might grow visibly flustered upon meeting your mate from another culture. Your best friend might ask if he can speak to you in the next room to grill you about your relationship.
Are you prepared to have these kinds of awkward encounters? And how will you react if your mate’s feelings are hurt because of your loved ones’ behavior? To avoid drama and pain, tell your loved ones about your interracial relationship in advance. It’s the kindest move to make for all involved, including yourself.
Dialogue With Disapproving Family and Friends
Say you tell your friends and family that you’re now part of an interracial couple. They react by telling you that your children will have it hard in life or that the Bible forbids interracial coupling. Rather than angrily label them ignorant racists and dismiss them, try to address your family’s concerns. Point out that mixed-race kids who are raised in loving homes and allowed to embrace all sides of their heritage, don’t fare any worse than other children. Let them know that interracial couples appear in the Bible, such as Moses and his Ethiopian wife. Read up on interracial relationships and the common misconceptions that surround them to put to rest the concerns your loved ones have about your new union. If you shut off communication with your loved ones, it’s unlikely that their misconceptions will be corrected or that they will become more accepting of your relationship.
Are your friends and family trying to force you to end your interracial relationship? Perhaps they keep trying to set you up with people who share your racial background. Perhaps they pretend as if your significant other doesn’t exist or go out of their way to make your mate uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing any of these scenarios, it’s time to set some boundaries with your meddling loved ones. Let them know that you’re an adult capable of choosing an appropriate mate. If they don’t find your mate appropriate, that’s their problem. They have no right to undermine the decisions you’ve made. Furthermore, it’s hurtful for them to disrespect someone you care about, especially if they’re only doing so because of race.
Which ground rules you set with your loved ones is up to you. The important thing is to follow through on them. If you tell your mother that you won’t attend family functions unless she also invites your significant other, stick to your word. If your mother sees that you’re not going to let up, she’ll decide to either include your mate in family functions or risk losing you.
Protect Your Partner
Does your partner really need to hear every hurtful remark your racist relatives have made? Not in the slightest. Shield your partner from hurtful comments. This isn’t only to spare the feelings of your significant other but so that if your friends and family ever do come around, your partner can forgive them and move forward free of resentment. Of course, if your family disapproves of your relationship, you’ll have to let your mate know, but you can do so without going into excruciating detail about what your relatives think about your mate’s ethnic group. Yes, your mate may have already experienced racism and the pain of being stereotyped, but that doesn’t mean your mate no longer finds bigotry unsettling. No one should grow accustomed to racial prejudice.