The visibility of interracial couples in pop culture is stronger than ever.
And art is imitating life: In 2013, a record-high 12 percent of newlyweds married someone of a different race, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data.
Previous studies from Pew have shown a growing acceptance of interracial marriage. In 2014, 37 percent of Americans said having more people of different races marrying each other was a good thing for society, which is an increase from 24 percent four years earlier.
But we shouldn’t mistake those changing attitudes as evidence that we’re living a post-racial society. Interracial couples themselves frequently hear racist remarks from strangers, family members, and friends.
Here are seven common remarks made to interracial couples that are actually pretty racist:
1. “Your mixed-race babies are going to be so cute!”
That vote of confidence might seem like a compliment on the surface, but it’s rooted in valuing and fetishizing a combination of exotic and, in many cases, Caucasian features that is assumed to be *just right.* It’s best to stay away from presumptuous blanket statements like this in general.
2. “Don’t you think it’s going to be harder for your kids?”
People can be overly concerned about the hardship your children will allegedly have to endure. But this comment just contributes to the prejudice that many minority groups face, instilling passive fear rather than any kind of active empowerment. Are interracial couples seriously supposed to choose not to procreate because life might get tough for their kids? By that logic, no one should be born, like, ever.
3. “So what do you have against dating your own race?”
This question hints at some kind of self-loathing, especially for people of color with a white partner. It’s true that exclusionary racial preferences can be racist and that there’s a lot of racist myths that make dating hard for people from certain ethnic backgrounds. But to make the assumption that someone has something against his or her own race simply because he or she is dating someone outside of their race is a huge and offensive leap. It also devalues the relationship that person has with his or her partner.
4. “Are your parents upset?”
This seemingly innocent question assumes that there’s something inherently strange, problematic, or upsetting about dating someone of a different race. While it’s probably not uncommon for parents to disapprove of mixed-race couplings (especially in past generations), it’s also not something that should necessarily be expected.
5. “Wouldn’t it be funny if someone called you a racist?”
This implies that just because a white person is dating a person of color that person is rendered completely incapable of being racist. Not true. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that someone is OK with dating someone outside their own race. Beyond that, he or she can be just as racist as anyone else. In fact, a real issue in interracial dating is fetishization of another race, which manifests in ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped, such asthe way Asian women are perceived as submissive sex objects.
6. “Was it scary meeting his/her parents?”
This plays into the stereotype that certain “ethnic” parents are stricter or more intimidating than other parents. While it’s always nerve-wracking to meet your significant other’s parents or family, this assumes a lot about the personality traits of a specific race, which is — you got it — racist.
7. I didn’t think you were into [insert race here] girls/guys.
This implies that all people of a race are to be lumped together and rejected or accepted as dating material solely based on race, rendering the individuality of a person totally worthless. Also, this statement establishes anyone not of a certain race as not the “normal” choice. What is normal, and who deemed it so? The only persons who can dictate whether something is normal are the two (or more) consenting adults participating in a relationship.
Here are some other racist comments to avoid for the aforementioned reasons:
“I dated a [insert race] girl or guy before.”
“You’re so progressive.”
“You’re the future.”
“I never thought you liked X girls/guys.”
“oOo … so that’s what you’re into.”
“I’ve dated some [insert people of a certain race] before. [Insert race] girls are a lot of fun, aren’t they?”
“Oh, I used to have a [insert race] boyfriend once … ”
“I’ve always wanted to date a [insert race].”
While the implications of race are real, here’s the best advice on talking to interracial couples: Don’t say anything to an interracial couple that you wouldn’t say to a couple dating within their race. Wait for one of the members of the couple to bring it up, and once it’s brought up, try to not make any statements or ask any questions based on assumptions and stereotypes.