Family vs. Interracial Dating


“Why do you like blacks?” a relative asked me.

I was in elementary school at the time. I didn’t realize that the students that I had crushes on were from a different race than I mine. The question didn’t bother me, though. The fact was I just liked whomever I liked, and that was that.

I started dating shortly after middle school. My first boyfriend was black; he was smart and a stellar athlete. We even took advanced and gifted classes together. Now, I’m not sure if the tone was joking or not, but after learning that I was dating him, the same relative asked me a question that changed my perception of race and interracial dating.

“You’re going to marry a Filipino or white guy, right?”

I was confused. Was my relationship a disgrace? Was it not good enough? Why was I being shamed for something that was making me happy? I questioned my feelings and emotions toward this guy, and others thereafter. Subconsciously, I only allowed myself to be interested in boys who were Filipino or white. Whenever I had feelings for a black classmate of mine, and things didn’t work out, I blamed it on the fact that our races didn’t mix. I had conditioned myself into believing that people from our two races weren’t supposed to be together.

Cultural expectations

In the Fil-Am community, there seems to be a common understanding that Pilipinos are not to marry outside of their race (or ethnicity for that matter), unless of course, it’s to a white partner. Was this the reality of a Fil-Am household in so-called “post-racist” America? I was positive that one could love someone, regardless of his or her race, gender, sexual orientation and faith. So how could my own family, who had raised me to be an open and accepting individual, have an exception when it came to dating someone who was black?

While racism and hate crimes affect Fil-Ams and Pilipinos in the US, I wonder if we are even aware of the racist stereotypes that our own culture has adopted. With an issue such as interracial dating, we are able to see just how family expectations continue to create generational gaps within the Fil-Am community.

For example, the act of marrying within one’s own race or ethnicity is simply part of the norm. To our elders, it may ensure that we’re preserving our family traditions, ideals and faith.

In addition, dating or marrying a white person is also culturally acceptable. This stems from the Philippines’ history of colonization. Throughout Asia, if a young lady finds a partner from a Western country, she may instantly be considered successful and wealthy. Furthermore, Asian cultures yearn to have light skin, as some people resort to using whitening creams and bleaches. Sadly, the Filipino culture, isn’t any different.

Race relations in America

But what about the fact that we are in America? Anti-miscegenation laws were recognized as unconstitutional in 1967 with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia. Our country then saw a rise in interracial marriages. According to the 2010 Census, the number of interracial marriages continues to grow, thus making our nation increasingly multiracial.

Today, however, interracial relationships are still seen as taboo. Recently, Cheerios released a commercial that showcased an interracial couple and their biracial daughter. Unfortunately, Cheerios received some negative attacks. Inspired by the commercial, Michael Murphy and Alyson West, a couple from Atlanta, released a crowd-sourced blog, which celebrates interracial American families.

Our relatives have moved from the Philippines to the US, and the same types of traditional values and expectations historically embedded in our culture continue to exist within some Fil-Am families. While younger generations of Fil-Ams may be accepting of interracial dating and relationships, some older generations are not. It is up to us to help our families understand that we are truly part of diverse country, comprised of individuals who accept others. America is in fact a melting pot. We shouldn’t be afraid to continue mixing that pot and embrace love for what it is.

Photo credit: Loving Day

Does Your Skin Tan? And Other Mestiza Musings

My mom is a 5’1" Pilipina with black hair and dark brown eyes. My dad, an Irish American, is her physical antithesis at 6’1 with red hair and blue eyes. When people first meet my parents, or figure out that I’m of mixed heritage, they usually tell me how lucky I am. They say something about how they love exotic-looking babies. I hear that I'm a mestiza, "the best of both worlds." What most people don’t realize is that these comments make me feel like caricature, a biracial “china doll,” a "halfie." Rarely do biracial people get acknowledged as our own minority group, and because of that, not many people are aware of the unique challenges we face.

I grew up in an area overflowing with diversity. Puerto Ricans, Pilipinos, West Indians, Irish, Italians, Haitians and many other ethnic minorities cohabitated in my community. However, as assorted as these groups were ethnically, there weren’t nearly as many interracial families and naturally people were curious. I often got questions like, "are your eyes real?" "Does your skin tan?" "Do you prefer to date Pilipino or white guys?" "Do you want your kids to be white?" I was always hesitant to reply because I couldn't understand why others felt so comfortable asking me these types of questions when we barely knew each other. People wanted a genuine answer, though, so I forced myself to think of everything from a racial perspective. And when I was asked with which race I identified more, I couldn't help but interpret that question as them asking which parent I preferred. Thus, my parents had become more than just my father and mother; they were representatives of their cultures.

Before we moved, my dad had a particularly hard time living in our neighborhood. He was a close friend to all our neighbors and his coworkers, but working at a bank as the only white guy made him the minority in a neighborhood where about 20% of the population was below the poverty line. He was often disrespected, an out-of-towner who stuck out. As stressful as that was, what really seemed to upset him was coming home to an apartment full of my mom’s parents, siblings and visiting relatives and hearing the room hush the second he stepped foot through the door. The family members who didn’t know him very well would greet him in polite, quiet English but they wouldn't continue speaking until after he left. I didn't think anything of it at the time but once, when it was just the two of us, my dad looked at me with sad eyes and asked, “Do you think your mom’s family doesn’t like me?” What was hard for him to understand was that because English was their second language, they were too embarrassed to speak it in front of him and because he only knew conversational Ilocano, he couldn’t participate in their conversations in Bisaya. What was simply shyness on their part was misconstrued as neglect and indifference.

I find my father’s story important in my journey to finding identity as a person of mixed race because that was the first time that I truly realized that 1) there was such a thing as race and 2) being too concerned with race will often lead to inaccessibility and despondency. For years, I was trying to identify only with my Pilipino side simply because I thought I needed this metaphysical home that I felt having one race would give me. In college, I got very involved in Pilipino organizations on and off campus and learned so much not just about the culture but our place in a global society. What I started to notice, though, was that I spent my free time almost exclusively with other Pilipinos and that realization reminded me of how my dad felt whenever my family would isolate him. I began to wonder: outside the confines of my family's apartment, could others interpret cultural differences as neglect and indifference? In other words, by surrounding ourselves completely with our own ethnicity, were we spreading the idea that “Mabuhay” was only meant for other Pilipinos?

Being biracial has caused a lot of self-analyzing and confusion in my life but now, at 22, I think that what I’ve learned to understand most is that racial identity is no longer important to me. Though I still think preserving culture is imperative, I no longer feel obligated to categorize myself, or adjust my personality based on my appearance. I love my heritage on both sides: the cultures, the history, and the people. More than anything, I love that the world has more than two cultures to offer me.