When people from different races meet and fall for each other – should there be any boundaries or should love be shared without boundaries?
We live in a multicultural society, where more cultures are now living side by side than ever before. In my hometown of Hackney (East London) you have a Vietnamese restaurant next door to your Jamaican hair dressers, a Nigerian child is sitting in class with her Jewish best friend, and a mosque is across the road from the local church. The UK is a melting pot of cultures, races and nationalities. This mixing of cultures tears down the walls of ignorance, prejudice and allows the world to become a more united place - so it would seem only natural for relationships to blossom across the divides of race.
One of the positive aspects of an inter-racial relationship is that it provides individuals the unique opportunity to learn, experience, and appreciate different cultures and backgrounds more closely. Partners are given the opportunity to see the beauty in different nationalities and people – thus become more immersed in their partner’s culture.
Some would say that inter-racial relationships strengthen individuals and build harmony between different races - as learning about and experiencing different cultures enriches us as human beings.
From a personal perspective, dating a man from a different race opens up your mind to new experiences, and also tests what you think about yourself and what you want from a life partner. It also shows you that it is not really about colour - because individuals are different, so when you meet someone that just suits you, regardless of their skin colour you really should just grab them, keep them and see where it leads. But how true is this in the lives of partners when faced with family opinions and social prejudices? And how do things work out if the relationship progresses into marriage and then kids? When mixing two cultures, some may say they become diluted. What will be lost and what will be kept? Or in today’s multi-cultural blender does this matter anymore?
The mixed race population is the largest growing ethnic minority in Britain, a sign that inter-racial relationships in the UK are growing and are here to stay. The most common type of inter-racial relationship we see in the media (check out any Taio Cruz video) is a black man partnered with a white woman. However, nowadays a growing number of Black British females are crossing the racial borders when looking for a partner. In Paris - a black woman with a white man is a common sight, or so I’ve been told. And now I find that Black British women are adopting the same views. Talking to a black female friend of mine who is in a relationship with a white Cypriot guy - I got the impression that it is not so much about your race as about class differences.. “She said: “I have been in a relationship with my partner for four years. I'm black Caribbean and he is white Cypriot. In a way, one could say our relationship is not just inter-racial but inter-ethnic. I'd say, apart from the obvious difference in race the other main difference between us are the things we've been exposed to in the life before we knew each other - owing to the contrasting environments we were brought up in. My partner has been brought up in a multicultural urban environment whilst I spent the best part of my life in the suburbs of Essex”.
Here we can see that if you remove colour from the equation there are still many differences that can oppose romantic relationships. It really is not as simple as black and white when you look at things from a cultural or socio-demographical angle. For example, a Nigerian woman from a very traditional family in a relationship with a Jamaican man can have just the same issues as a black and white couple in terms of culture clashes, family opinions and societal prejudices. An opinion held by a British Ghanaian accountant when asked how she thinks her family would react if she went out with someone from another race was that it is a generalised question, as race can be defined in many ways. A Jamaican marrying a Nigerian can be considered as two separate races, so can a Zimbabwean marrying a Ghanaian. When most people would say they are all black or all African.
She went on to say “To be honest I believe that my friends would be happy as long as I am happy and my family would always want the best for me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but once they saw the personality of the person they would be fine with it”.
When I asked my multicultural friends if they would date outside of their race, 80% said they would, only 10% said no. One friend saying “I’m open to it, however you do look more in your own race than that of others when looking for a partner - I think that’s natural”.The other 10% were undecided. For a male perspective, I talked to a young black professional male and I found a more open minded view.“I’m open minded, its 2011! I have been in an inter-racial relationship before, I’m black and she was Asian. Here- it was definitely a problem as I never met her parents! She ate dinner with mine and I don’t think hers even knew I existed. This made me think at the time it wasn’t worth it and I should just go back to black. But you see good and bad in all races. I’m a good man and all I want is a good woman, someone to feel at home with. Admittedly this probably would be a black girl".
Inter-racial marriages used to be illegal in the US until the 1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize inter-racial marriage much earlier.
The United States has many ethnic and racial groups, and inter-racial marriages are fairly common amongst most of them. According to the Washington Post, since 1960 the number of inter-racial couples in the United States has increased more than tenfold, to 1.6 million, including marriages involving Hispanics. Such unions now account for about 4% of marriages in the U.S, a statistic that is expected to increase in the coming years. This gives powerful evidence that many Americans are letting go of old prejudices as never before. Couples pushing racial boundaries have become commonplace in the U.S, a trend that is also noticeable in Hollywood and politics. President Obama is the product of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother. Supermodel Heidi Klum, who is white, married Seal, a British Nigerian singer.
In Africa, a continent where people are at war with each other for belonging to different tribes, how widely accepted are inter-racial marriages? An African woman I know has recently had a traditional wedding in Burundi to her white French partner, they will soon be having a second ceremony in Geneva to encompass more of his family and her people based in Europe. Fortunately for her - both families speak the same language (French) therefore can communicate. But I am sure they will have encountered issues in the course of their relationship. Luckily these issues did not prevent their relationship progressing to marriage.
An interesting fact I uncovered whilst researching this topic of inter-racial relationships - is that during the height of the British Empire, Indian men have married many African women in Africa. Indians first settled in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Zaire, and Nigeria in small numbers, when these countries were part of the British Empire. These inter-racial unions were mostly between Indian men and African women. However, the Indian society particularly the Indian men forbid Indian women from courting with African men. A tad threatened perhaps? So here we see that even in Africa inter-racial relationships have been prevalent for many years and can succeed.
Love is all that matters
In my opinion love is colour blind as the bible says ‘love thy neighbour’. We are all the same under our skin - culture and traditions aside we all bleed red. Any relationship comes with its fair share of problems and requires hard work. But where true love exists anything can survive. If you can see past the colour of a person and just see their heart – that is true love.