Love without borders

Overcoming racial perceptions in dating

October 28, 2015

An Oreo. That is what we call ourselves. A cute name for our relationship. A name that causes people to give us dirty looks, as if they didn’t do that enough already.

Interracial dating is no longer uncommon or looked down upon. That’s what most of us are told, anyway,. Since the Civil Rights movements in the 1960s, people of the United States have come a long way; but racism comes in many forms.

I have been dating a young Hispanic man named Sebastian for a little over 4 months now. We met in theater class, where I learned of his world travels and contagious laugh. We both get along very well and enjoy our time together. However, whenever we are in public, we are often accompanied by curious eyes and dirty looks (which may be due to things other than our skin color, such as the 9-inch height difference, although I am sure some of this is due to the “Oreo Effect.”) This greatly surprised and disappointed me. However, the wisdom that would follow in the few months I have spent with him overtake most of the negative.

Avery and Sebastian won prizes at the Tri-State fair together.
Courtesy of Marco Mendez
Avery and Sebastian won prizes at the Tri-State fair together.

“Is he legal?”

This is one of the first questions I am asked by most people; friends, family and strangers included. While I understand their concern, why is his legality more important than our happiness? The polite questions such as, “How did you two meet,” “Are you happy,” or even, “What’s his name,” are thrown out window and shattered as they hit the ground.

Perhaps it would be different if I was dating an American-born Hispanic. The fact that I am dating a man who was born and raised in Mexico may make a difference. Some argue the two races have different cultures. While I definitely do see some truth to this, this is generalization at its worst. I am always surprised by the comment, but merely nod in understanding and move on with my life. In a world that is supposedly accepting, many are still not encouraged to love whom they desire.

I know that many people stare at children whose parents are interracial, or children who were adopted by parents of a different race. Curiosity is understandable, especially in an area where mixed African-American, Hispanic, or other race children and couples is slightly less common, yet still not as “out of the norm” as it used to be. Instead of staring with a gaping mouth or wide eyes, try to smile. It can be disheartening to be stared at in public all the time due mainly to a difference in skin color.

On the other side of the spectrum is his family, who speak mostly Spanish but are incredibly accepting. They invite me to their church on Saturdays, which I attend when I can, doing my best to sing the words displayed on a screen. Even though we face a communication barrier, they do not see color.

It was with his family that the positive overcame the negative. I was welcomed into a culture different than my own and fell in love with it. I learned how to dance and enjoy true Mexican food. I continue to spend time learning the names of his many cousins, and I enjoy learning about his birth place or listening to his political rants. He listens to my political rants, too, and loves (most of the time) to learn about American culture through experience.

Discovering a new culture has opened my eyes in many ways, and helped me to realize that those who stare rudely have simply never experienced the culture for themselves (or are begrudgingly single). I have a found a much more satisfying world; one where I learn new things every day, and one where I teach my own culture every day. It is through this new world that I was able to understand–and no longer fear– other cultures. And that is a lesson that can be shared throughout the world, with people of every different race and culture.

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