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  • Hubert Marlin

Idylls - How to behave in interracial or inter ethnic relationships

Nearly 50 years after the romance between Richard and Mildred helped change US laws against crossbreeding, partners of different racial backgrounds no longer need to hide their relationships for fear of legal persecution in the United States. But while things have changed socially, there is still a lot missing in the conversation around race relations. Meanwhile, in other countries where race seem not to be a problem, regionalism and tribalism do not smooth up the walk of love either.

Of course, there is no guide that applies to all race relations. The challenges you will face, as well as their intensity, will depend on various factors: whether you grew up with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, whether you live in a big or small town, where races interact.

Some race relationships are bound to be more racially charged and "hectic" than others, such as when a Caucasian man goes out with an African American woman in the South, or a when Mexican woman falls in love with an Indian man from a family rooted in traditional customs. It’s also rocky in countries like Cameroon when a man from the West get involved with a woman from the South and vice versa.

1 in 7 new marriages in the United States today are between people of different races or ethnic groups, it is quite possible that you may find yourself dating a person of another race. So, it's important to take into account a few tips as you take this potentially bumpy, but rewarding path.

Be sensitive to their feelings

We can never fully understand someone else's life experiences and how these situations have led to their opinion on life. For example, if an African American man grew up with the security following him around  stores every time, as if he was going to steal something, do you think it affected his opinions and beliefs about how the world works ? We assume that this is the case. On the other hand, a white man raised in the suburbs probably didn't have to think about race every day, so racial issues are probably not in the foreground of his mind as an adult.

Just be aware that the person you are dating may be sensitive to matters you cannot relate to. A woman of color can take offense if you call her "exotic," even if you just thought you were paying her a compliment. She may have had previous experiences that make her think that you just want to fulfill a fantasy or you don't have her in esteem,  if you use that particular word.


It is universally wrong to fetishize a romantic partner.

As such, fetishization and sexualization in interracial relationships are bad. Looking for a relationship with Asian women because they are supposedly submissive or black women because they are "monsters" in bed is not cool. The stereotypes “Mandingo” and “Spicy Latin Lover” on men of color are also harmful. Note that all of these stereotypes are sexualized, turning people into objects and ideas. Admiring the differences of a partner of a different race is fine. Transforming these differences into things to compartmentalize and sexualize is not so cool.

In the same vein basing your opinion about your partner in hearsays and pejorative popular assumption related to ethnic backgrounds is a big mistake. 

A good rule of thumb is to avoid assuming that your partners are feeling in a certain way solely because of their race. They can have a singular attachment to certain things you don't like, and care less about others than you hope they take into account. Instead of judging how your spouse feels by how you think he should feel, accept him (her) as he (she) is.

You don't have to step on eggshells - and why would you want it, in a relationship anyway? Understanding your partner's point of view can only strengthen the relationship.


 Solidarity of the couple is a must.

 You may want to work to deal with the inevitable problems that you will face together. Someday someone will surely make an offensive comment, or you will hear gossip from an extended family member who does not fully agree with your union. It may be helpful to remember that you two are a team, a team that requires support from one another. You want to be there for your partner and defend him (her), just as you would like him (her) to do it for you.

The truth is that Mike’s great aunt may never accept you. If Ravi's parents grew up in India and had high hopes for him to have an Indian wife, they may never change their minds. The same is true for ethnic groups. In Africa for example some marriage between ethnic groups can always be problematic. The sooner you learn not to be morally affected, even if it is not always easy as it can take some time, the happier you will be. With any luck, you will get to the point where you will be so strong and confident as a person, as well as a couple; so that no matter what others think, it will not affect you. You can just attribute this to their ignorance with a "Well, we're together we're happy, that's the most important, why care about it?"

Among advocates of universalism, there are those who think that the beauty of relations between races or ethnic groups means a better world. In reality, although having idylls outside your race can demonstrate that you are open-minded, in the end, interracial or inter ethnic relationships will not necessarily "solve" racism and regionalism. The growth of race relations over the past 20 years in the western world certainly demonstrates that we have progressed towards acceptance of this type of relationship, and racial equality as a whole, but there is a long way to go, especially at an era when nationalist reflexes are returning in several countries of the northern hemisphere, while  regionalism and tribalism in the countries of the south continue  to claim victims. In a perfect world, race, or ethnicity wouldn't be a problem, but it is, and it's okay for interracial or ethnic partners to recognize it.

Ultimately speaking is the most important thing. If one of the partners receives derogatory remarks because of his ethnicity or his race from a family member of the spouse, or from his friends or professional entourage, it is essential to tell  to his (her) partner that his friend's racial or tribal comments make him (her) uncomfortable, he (she) will probably have no idea. But if you tell him, (her) how you feel, you can both understand how to handle it if it happens again. You can decide that your boyfriend will go ahead and say something to his friend next time, or maybe you will avoid that particular friend.

The beauty of interracial relations, and of all relationships in general, is an opportunity to learn and grow with someone who could come from a different background and bring a different mutual perspective. The color-blind approach of not seeing the race of a partner, to understand how it affects the way he navigates in a relationship is not the right way to do it. Instead, one must always be prepared to approach racism or tribalism frankly. It is an opportunity for couples to become even more honest, more open and above all more aware.

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