Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Have You Dated Outside Your Race?

I just finished reading this memoir by a woman who grew up biracial in the United States in the 70s and 80s, and I was surprised by her experience. She talks a lot about how different she felt from everyone else, especially being one of only a handful of kids of color in some of the towns she lived in and schools she attended growing up, and knowing hardly anyone from a mixed-race background. It wasn’t until she started college — at Stanford University — that she was finally able to connect with other mixed-race students and her journey toward self-discovery and self-identification really took off.

I guess I was most surprised by her story not because I couldn’t believe that someone who looked different from her peers (and from her parents) would struggle with identity, but because someone who is only a decade older than I and who grew up in and around college towns knew so few other mixed-race families. Granted, my own upbringing was a little unique. I grew up in and around military bases in Japan, Korea, and Germany and didn’t live in the states until I started college at 17. But my friends and close neighbors were mostly American, and so many — like, probably a quarter — were mixed-race families. Save for my college years, most of my life since graduating high school has been spent in big cities where, again, it is not unusual to see interracial couples as well as kids and adults who don’t easily fall into a single category of race. Because of this — and for plenty of other reasons — it wouldn’t seem weird to date outside my own race (if I were single). That said, I have not had a real relationship with anyone who isn’t white, and, of course, I never contended with the idea of having mixed-race children. What about you? What is your experience with dating outside your race? Have you? Are you currently? Are you the product of an interracial relationship? How has race affected your dating life and your relationship(s), if at all?

30 comments… add one
  • avatar

    TheHizzy January 15, 2018, 3:00 pm

    Engaged t someone of a different race. I always kind of knew someone of my race wouldn’t be my long term partner. The personality clash was always real.
    My partner grew up in a town of two races. His and mine. And his race was very text book to his. They had the clothes, the cars, the drugs and the teenage pregnancy. He’s 100% his race but acts more mine than other people of his race. Often he (or his kids) get complimented on “How well they speak English” even though English is their native language. He’s a second generation American. It’s amazing to see the ignorance even in a big city. He gets questioned more, pulled over more and has been put in cuffs for no reason several times.

    It’s hard. There’s some real differences in our culture. But I want to learn his and vice versa. Living in a big, but south central city, it’s easier. When we go home to my hometown some people are uneasy, including my parents. They’re having to learn along with the rest of the family.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar January 15, 2018, 7:19 pm

      And his race was very text book to his. They had the clothes, the cars, the drugs and the teenage pregnancy. He’s 100% his race but acts more mine than other people of his race.

      Hizzy what does this mean? Because it reads like you are stereotyping an entire race. Two of them actually.

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      • avatar

        TheHizzy January 16, 2018, 8:45 am

        Yes, I am text book stereotyping his hometown and the two races there. In the town he grew up there was really only “two types of people” His and Theirs. I wish it were different, but it really isn’t. I am not saying *EVERYONE* in the *WORLD* fits into those categories. But in his hometown it panned out that way.

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    • avatar

      Kate January 16, 2018, 8:56 am

      What are the two different races here?

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  • avatar

    Kratelin January 15, 2018, 4:15 pm

    I’m dating both outside my race and outside my country of origin. And man it’s tough (but totally worth it honey I love you)! As I’m also not american, I’ve found we’re more limited in shared childhood experiences, which of course means we have quite different ideas of what our future kids’ childhoods should look like.

    I would definitely agree that it doesn’t “seem weird”, but in my experience it has required much more communication and discussion so that we can understand eachother’s background. More than I’ve experienced while dating people who grew up in the same country as me. I’d love to hear from anyone else in this situation.

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  • avatar

    TheOtherOtherMe January 15, 2018, 5:50 pm

    I’m white and my husband is black. I only dated white guys till I was about 40 and got divorced. Then I moved to a majority black area and a lightbulb went on in my head — I realized that black men can be not only incredibly attractive, but the difference in culture was very appealing to me. (I’ve always been drawn to people unlike me – I guess my own race and culture just feels boringly familiar to me). I also found that black men are much more open-minded when it comes to dating larger women, older women, or taller women, or just generally women whose body types and looks don’t match up with the current “skinny, pretty and young” standard that you see perpetuated in so many mainstream movies and magazines. Luckily my husband and I have never encountered any hostility or prejudice from family or friends, but we’ve always lived in major metropolitan areas where interracial relationships are fairly common, and our families are both pretty chill. But I’ve had the occasional friend imply that I was “slumming” or had “jungle fever,” but those people are no longer my friends. They obviously can’t see past the stereotypes and see the person. And one time one of my mom’s 70-year-old friends told me she thought it was “so brave that I was dating a black guy” and proceeded to tell me all about Sammy Davis Jr and his white wife and how society frowned on them but she thought it was ok. All I could think was “lady, this is 2018 not 1952!”

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    • avatar

      MissD January 15, 2018, 7:28 pm

      “I also found that black men are much more open-minded when it comes to dating larger women, older women, or taller women, or just generally women whose body types and looks don’t match up with the current “skinny, pretty and young” standard that you see perpetuated in so many mainstream movies and magazines. ”

      Yeah, I’ve found the same thing! I grew up with white guys saying I was fat, too big, being made fun of, rejected, etc (I’m size 12) but then all of a sudden I got involved with African Students’ Association events at school and black men were loving my figure.

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      • avatar

        TheHizzy January 16, 2018, 9:37 am

        Yup, very true. I have found the same with black and Hispanic men with me.

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  • avatar

    Bree January 15, 2018, 7:08 pm

    My ex was a different race and culture than me, and it was hard. His family rejected me, despite all of my best efforts to learn their language and culture, and he didn’t stand up for me to them. I eventually ended things, because we didn’t want the same things in life. I learned a lot from that relationship, and it helped me move on to someone I was much more compatible with, which in my case turned out to be of the same race and culture as me. I have enormous respect for interracial couples and understand how hard it can be. If anything, I think they are even more solid than a lot of other relationships, because you have to be completely on the same page and have each other’s back no matter what.

    There are so many things you don’t have to talk about when you have the same race/culture, especially culture. (I’m a white American, and the ex was Vietnamese.) For example, when and how to tell your parents you’re dating, how to show respect to family, customs, and so many other minutiae that most of us take for granted.

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  • avatar

    MissD January 15, 2018, 7:22 pm

    I’m white, my boyfriend is Sri Lankan.

    My ex boyfriend was Trinidadian and the ex before that was Ghanaian.

    I’m pretty lucky, I have never had to deal with any issues. My parents couldn’t care less what colour man I bring home, as long as he’s a good guy. So far his family seem to be really happy that we’re together.

    I think the worst thing anybody has ever said to me was, “If you dated white guys you’d be married by now.”

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  • Copa

    Copa January 15, 2018, 8:26 pm

    I briefly dated a Middle Eastern guy when I was in college, but not long enough to really feel like I can talk about it in this context.

    My family moved a lot growing up, including overseas, and I was almost always surrounded by diversity. Interracial couples never seemed out of the ordinary.

    My dad is white and my mom is from The Land of Bad Hombres. My grandma has made some incredibly ignorant comments to her (and in front of others) about a country/culture she doesn’t know and I know my mom has felt very “othered” by her. She’s even not-so-subtly hinted before that it’s important for my mom to tell people she has a PhD so they’ll know my dad didn’t marry some riff raff immigrant. I was blonde-ish as a kid and at the time we lived in Southern California, and my mom was frequently mistaken for my nanny or a maid because I didn’t look like her at all.

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  • Cleopatra_30

    Cleopatra_30 January 15, 2018, 8:33 pm

    I have gone out on dates with men of other races, but almost all of my serious relationships have been with caucasian men. I do generally find caucasian men more attractive. Mind you my current BF is first generation Canadian from Lebanon. But he grew up in Canada from a young age so aside from cooking really awesome middle eastern food you wouldn’t know he was Lebanese. He jokingly says he is ‘white.’ Regardless, at the end of the day for me, the race doesn’t matter so much, as long as the personality, values and attraction is there.

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    • Cleopatra_30

      Cleopatra_30 January 15, 2018, 11:46 pm

      Well I guess with Kates comment below, my BF is ethnically Lebanese, but racially white. I have gone on dates with guys from South America (American Indian), and African American (Black).

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  • avatar

    Kate January 15, 2018, 8:42 pm

    Because it’s MLK day and all, I wanted to clarify that race and ethnicity are different. A Hispanic person can be white or black. That’s their race. Hispanic is their ethnicity. A person of Cuban or Spanish descent is white. Middle Eastern is an ethnicity too, not a race.

    https://www.census.gov/topics/population/race/about.html

    Races are:

    White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

    Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa.

    American Indian or Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.

    Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

    Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

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    • avatar

      Kate January 15, 2018, 8:52 pm

      PSA over…

      I can think of two of my parents’ couple friends when i was growing up who were different races, and I haven’t dated someone of a different race. Not even really a different culture or ethnicity. My younger cousins very much do, though. I definitely see the country getting more diverse than it was when I was young, and much more interracial dating, and that’s great, I’m glad to see progress.

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    • kmtthat

      kmtthat January 16, 2018, 1:44 pm

      Erm, well big reminder that people have the right to self identify, and I have huge issues with the census buckets. Hispanic is a DEEPLY problematic term for many people that would be considered it ( we can get into why if you’d like), and being “Hispanic” I don’t identify as white or black, though some people expect me to identify as white because I look more that way. I identify as Mexican-American, Latina, or mostly accurately Chicana, for example, and only VERY begrudgingly as Hispanic when no other term is left and I am required by law to use one (e.g. when applying to mortgages and they need to know to prove they do not have racial bias). So just a note to be careful of saying Hispanic 🙂

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      • kmtthat

        kmtthat January 16, 2018, 1:47 pm

        Not that I think you were saying anything incorrect! But basically it’s all a muck. I hate saying Caucasian or white because I tend to think in countries of origin versus lumping together huge swaths of diverse people. It’s all very fraught.

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      • avatar

        Kate January 16, 2018, 2:00 pm

        Right, the way to do it on surveys and forms is to first ask if the person is Hispanic, and give several “yes” options: yes, Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; yes, Puerto Rican, yes, Cuban, etc., plus a “no” option. The race question is asked separately, and they can opt out. But again, this is considered ethnicity / cultural affiliation, separate from race.

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      • avatar

        Kate January 16, 2018, 2:21 pm

        So we (market researchers) don’t ask you to choose, are you white or are you Hispanic. First you can tell us if you’re of Hispanic ethnicity, then you can choose your race (white, black, Asian, Native American) if you want to. There’s an “other” option too.

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      • avatar

        Kate January 16, 2018, 2:24 pm

        *if you’re of Hispanic ethnicity and what origin, then the race question is separate.

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  • FireStar

    FireStar January 15, 2018, 9:33 pm

    I’m mixed, my husband is mixed and we are from the same country. When visiting South Carolina and I noticed people staring, my friend told me it was because they thought we were an interracial couple since he looks more black and she thought they thought I was Spanish. We live in Toronto where no one bats an eyelash at an interracial couple. The joke is we actually aren’t. And we tend to identify culturally as opposed to racially.

    But my daughter is considered a little mixed black girl whereas I never got that designation unless I gave it to myself. So I’m very aware of how she is perceived and I’m sensitive to it. I’ve read the studies that racial bias starts at 5 years old in how adults perceive children. That black girls are more deceptive than white girls at that age. I’ve encountered racist teachers in my own education. I don’t anticipate hers to be much different. The school sent home a flyer for parents of black children to attend a meeting about how to encourage their children academically. I appreciate there must have been a need at some point to create such a community. I don’t much like the feeling of being co-opted into it. My kiddo could read before she was 4 and was telling me what a rhombus was at 3. Academics isn’t her problem. But because she’s black I got the flyer. And because the little boy in her class is white his family didn’t… when he actually does need a little extra help judging from the little time I spent with him volunteering in her class.

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  • avatar

    Nikita January 16, 2018, 9:28 am

    Never dated outside of my race cuz generally speaking I dont find other races sexually attractive.

    I noticed at one point that everytime I did find a man of another race attractive he was actually biracial and had caucasian mixed in.

    Apparently the bone structure is quite different between all the different races and only caucasian has appeal to me.

    On the other have a mixed friend she is half Dutch and half Turkish and only Turkish men are appealing to her, she doesnt find Dutch men romatically appealing at all.

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  • Moneypenny

    Moneypenny January 16, 2018, 12:31 pm

    My ex is half black. He told me how he was generally racially ambiguous- meaning he could pass for many different backgrounds. And I actually didn’t know he was black until he told me! We never had any weirdness from anyone, except for my mother, who was concerned that other people would give me a hard time or judge me for dating him. Anyhow, we didn’t work out, so it doesn’t matter now, but while her comment was well intentioned, I did *not* appreciate it and told her so.

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  • kmtthat

    kmtthat January 16, 2018, 1:33 pm

    So, I have dated plenty of people my race as I grew up right next to our country of origin. I’m 75% one race and 25% Caucasian, but look predominately Caucasian (I’m “passing” and have had SO many scary comments about how I couldn’t possibly be that race because I was so thin, smart, well spoke, etc). Aside from my current boyfriend, I had never dated any “white” men before, and that was a huge change for me. Having the shared minority experience, whether with someone of my own race or someone who was say, a war refugee, was something I was used to having. It has been a big adjustment dating who I would see as “the man” (e.g. tall handsome white male who comes from money and is highly educated) and someone not from the US so he doesn’t really get racial tension and history here.
    .
    I never thought I was attracted to non-ethnic men (whatever that means!) but it was an unconscious bias against people I saw as less socially aware. Which is bullshit, full stop. My bf now is learning more, and seeing why my experience as a Latina is different in this country than other people and how that shaped me (e.g. my parents were against me going to college, racial comments in work places, etc). It does seem like it’s harder for him to really understand though, as he’s never known any version of being marginalized. But judging him for that would be as bad as someone judging me for being Latina, so it’s really just an ongoing conversation where we both get new perspective. And he’s really fantastic, so that helps. I have struggled with knowing our kids would not have ethnic names and that my kids, being only 37% a minority, most likely will identify as Caucasian. It’s fourth generation loss of culture. It’s just part of generations changing and growing though.

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  • avatar

    alafair January 16, 2018, 3:49 pm

    I’m latina. My ex is white and from the Appalachian mountain area of NC. The first time I met his family and we all had dinner, one of his aunts started going on rather loudly about all those damn Mexicans here takin up the jobs. I looked at her and said “You know I’m Mexican right?” she patted my hand and said, oh we dont mean you dear. All the other ones who don’t speak English right!” So yea, meeting the family was fun…

    Another gem: I was in walmart in a small town in central NC, heavily pregnant with my son. As I’m looking around I hear someone say “look she’s got one of those anchor babies brewing. ” a whole bunch more stuff, and then something along the lines of “yea the illegals like that popping out babies is why I can’t get a check any more”. Being hormonal and highly uncomfortable at a week overdue I snapped. I turned around and smiled as sweetly as I could manage and said “Yea I hate it when people do no work and live off the government. I pay way more in taxes than most people make in a year and I’m sick of subsidizing those lazy asses” And then waddled myself out of there.

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    • avatar

      alafair January 16, 2018, 3:52 pm

      I need to add that I’m not proud of myself for that last one, but I was a very cranky pregnant woman at the end there. Oh and one of the very large reasons my ex is in fact an ex is because of his family – specifically, the ways they treated me and the kids differently since they weren’t 100% white and the fact that he didnt stand up for us when those sorts of things were said in their hearing. For us, the interracial relationship just brought some basic incompatibilities to light a lot quicker.

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  • avatar

    AlwaysALurker January 17, 2018, 9:54 am

    I’ve been married for 8 years to my husband. He is white and I am brown. We’re both not American but because of our accents people assume we grew up here. I get asked all the time where I’m from but he never does, unless he slips and his old accent comes out but that’s rare. We get a lot of side eye and even angry looks when we’re together from people of my race, not ethnicity. Also, I’m lucky to get frequent comments like: “If you were my daughter then I would never have allowed the marriage”. My usual response is: “Well I’m not your daughter and thank God for that!” In the end my husband and I are compatible in so many ways and even though our cultures are different we share similar values and complement each other and make great partners for each other. That’s really all that matters… everything else is noise. I do hope our kids have it easier than I did though…

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  • avatar

    JD January 17, 2018, 11:05 am

    I am white and often date Mexican, Puerto Rican or Spanish men. I have never been attracted to a black man and I am not attracted to light skinned/blonde/redhead men. More dark and handsome for me. My SO is tall, italian, very tan and so so handsome lol.

    I have done a lot of reading about why we subconsciously are attracted to who we are and there is a lot to be said about finding our best genetic match. Someone who shares your physical characteristics is more likely to share problematic DNA with you therefore people tend to be attracted to those with good DNA for reproducing with THEM. I found it all very interesting.

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  • avatar

    SemanticAntics January 17, 2018, 3:14 pm

    I’m white and Latina, though I look very racially ambiguous and most people think I look Italian, Mediterranean, Jewish etc. I grew up in a predominantly white area and have only dated white men so far. Does that count as interracial dating? My ex was white and though on the surface was accepting of my background, often made remarks about me not being Latina enough, etc. They were meant to be humorous but were pretty hurtful (one reason why he’s my ex).
    I’m attracted to men of other races, though, particularly dark brunettes with tan skin. I guess I’d like to marry someone who looks more like me, regardless of their ethnicity.
    I wonder a lot about having children of a different ethnicity than me, if their father was anything other than white or Latin. My own childhood was fairly confusing as far as my own concept of racial identity, my parents took the whole “color-blind” approach which I believe to have been harmful. And I always felt like an outsider at school. Whoever I choose to reproduce with, talking to my kids about their background and celebrating who they are will be a very high priority.

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  • Cleopatra Jones

    Cleopatra Jones January 17, 2018, 4:41 pm

    How did I miss this topic?!?

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