Culture, families, interracial relationships, racism -

Navigating the World as an Interracial Family

Navigating the World as an Interracial Family
iStock/eli_asenova

Being an interracial family will always present difficulties, but ignoring what the heart wants is even more tragic. This is just a snippet of what mixed race families and relationships might look like today.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, a man and a woman got married, had 2.5 kids, and lived happily ever after in their house with the white picket fence. Now, click your heels together three times and let reality set in. Modern life is messy, blended, childless, nontraditional, urban, homosexual, interracial, and everything in between. Today, there are no rules for what the perfect family should look like, but that doesn’t mean our choices aren’t without prejudice.

Much like my little family, we’re a less conventional bunch. My significant other and I are in a committed relationship, unmarried, and we have a one-year-old daughter. Oh, and he’s half Chinese. Being in an interracial relationship is not new to me, but having a biracial daughter is. And no matter how many times I hear an ignorant comment, not only is it shocking, but with a mixed race daughter, it’s that much more upsetting.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia where it was unanimously decided that states could “not outlaw marriages between whites and nonwhites.” You’d think that after five decades of “acceptance” that there would be more…um, what’s the word? Acceptance.

A 2015 Pew Research Center article released data that revealed about 12 percent of new marriages in the U.S. were between spouses of different races. The information was collected from a 2013 analysis of American Community Survey data and goes on to say, “the share of adults marrying outside of their own group has risen steadily in recent decades, and this trend in turn has helped fuel the growth in the nation’s multiracial population.”

The piece also points out that “the vast majority of single-race whites and blacks who are married or living with someone report that their spouse or partner shares their single-race background.” A closer look at the numbers show that among adults who are white only, 92 percent have a spouse or a partner who is white-only. Single-race Asians are more likely than single-race whites or blacks to marry outside of their racial group (with 64 percent saying their spouse or partner is Asian only and 31 percent having a white spouse or partner). And among multiracial Hispanics living with a spouse or partner, 48 percent identify their spouse as being single-race white. Hispanic-only partners is 19 percent, black-only partners is 13, and Hispanics with multiracial spouses or partners is ten percent.

While the commonness of interracial relationships has increased (in 1970, the stats were less than one percent), we’re still nowhere near where things need to be when measuring emotional intelligence about it.

I wondered whether I had a place to write this article. After all, I am a white woman. But with the racist connotations from the recent election, and hateful vitriol on social media outlets being spread around long after, I was beginning to take it personally, even though I was technically exempt from the ammunition. I unfriended hateful “friends,” and had long discussions with my boyfriend about race, how it impacted him, his family, and ultimately what that meant for our daughter’s future–an aspect of her life I would always long to understand from a first-hand perspective, but will never be able to fully internalize and feel on her level.

Based on the data from the Pew Research Study, that eight percent of single-race white adults who are in mixed race marriages and partnerships is such a small margin that it does begin to put targets on them, as well. While white-only partners will never be multiracial, or face the same struggles, it is possible that they will share some of the brunt of the racism still prevalent today. Just being partnered with someone of another race could mean alienation from friends and family, undue hardship on the family as a whole, and issues for their mixed race children.

The three of us recently ventured out to a new play place exclusively for kids six and under on my daughter’s birthday weekend. It started out great. She wandered around the child-proofed venue, put lots of toys in her mouth (all of which were swiftly dumped at the designated sanitation stations), sized up the bigger kids, got poked in the face by an exploratory hand, and had an all-around good time. I was enjoying her joy and had already begun imagining a future birthday party taking place there. That is, until what happened next.

My daughter plucked a small frying pan from the pint-size kitchenette and teetered towards the business’s owner, who had introduced herself to us upon arrival, and another mother. The mother was holding a toy cat, offered it to my daughter and joked, “Are you going to fry the kitty?”  To which the owner said and chuckled, “maybe if you’re making Chinese food,” right in front of my kid. Fortunately, they could have said anything in that moment and she wouldn’t have understood, but I was honestly so shocked that all I could do was collect my daughter and head to the other side of the building. We ended up leaving a few minutes later and aren’t likely to go back.

Maybe I’m a “snowflake”–that person who’s easily offended or feels wronged by someone’s words. But like a knife, a bullet, or a fist, what we say can be weapons, too. This isn’t the first comment I’ve heard, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it does, unfortunately, mark the beginning of my daughter’s exposure to a lifelong battle with racism and stereotypes.

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