Interracial dating draws stares and dirty looks

Picture this. Your best friend starts telling you about this great new person he (or she) is dating and how wonderful and special this person is. The friend tells you all about this new love interest (hobbies, where they live, how attractive they are) and tells you “this is the one I’ve been waiting for.”

“That’s great,” you say. “I’m very happy for you.” You might also ask if they have any cute friends.

Then your friend proceeds to tell you that this new “special someone” is of a different race.

Would things change? Would your happiness and support for your friend suddenly turn into doubting and discouragement?

The answers to these questions would have probably been a lot different 30 years ago than they would be today, although some would sadly be the same. Societal stigma attached to interracial dating has definitely lessened from our parents’ generation to ours.

“I don’t see a problem with it,” said Kevin Martin, a junior who is African-American. “I see people as people.”

Senior Marty McRae, who is white, said she also didn’t see any problems with dating interracially.

“As long as you can find someone you are compatible with, race really doesn’t matter,” McRae said.

Freshman Donna Bush, who is white, has dated interracially and has three interracial siblings.

“I think it’s cool,” Bush said. “God made different colors for a reason. He didn’t say we had to stay separated.”

The progress in interracial dating acceptance can also be seen at the movies and on television, although still in relatively small numbers.

“The West Wing”, “ER” and “Ally McBeal” have all had interracial dating as part of their plotlines.

In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Greg Braxton wrote that interracial relationships were a rarity on network television until a few seasons ago because they were considered too controversial to depict or deplore.

He also wrote that the feedback received from producers of the shows has been largely positive.

Last year’s movie “Save the Last Dance” was centered around an interracial romance and was a huge hit at the box office (it grossed $89 million) and was particularly popular among teen-aged and college-aged demographic.

Interracial dating Web sites are also very prominent these days (www.whitewomenblackmen is one example) and have given those looking for interracial romance another resource to use.

There is also evidence of interracial dating acceptance on a national level as well outside the realm of the media. A poll taken last year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 65 percent of Southern whites and 90 percent of Southern blacks approve of interracial marriage.

Bob Jones, from the University in Greenville S.C., lifted its campus ban on interracial dating last year after intense pressure from various political leaders and national organizations, although students still have to get parental permission to date interracially.

So does the fact that we can see interracial couples on TV in movies, and there are interracial dating Web sites mean there is no discrimination towards interracial dating anymore?

I think we all know that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

Whether it’s from lack of exposure to interracial dating or from values and ideas that are passed down from parents and grandparents, there is still a societal veil of uncertainty that has been cast over this subject. Interracial dating is not the “norm” in society, and while the stigma attached to it has been lessened, it does still exist.

Some SHSU students have first-hand experience of this stigma attached to interracial dating, and many of their experiences are similar.

Nancy Gonzalez, who is Hispanic, said she has dated interracially and noticed people would often stare at her date when they went out to the movies or a restaurant.

Gonzalez also said people have questioned her choice to date different races and have suggested to her that she is “lowering herself” by dating outside her race.

“They would imply that the people I was dating were inferior and that they were dating me to raise themselves up to a higher status,” she said.

Junior Daphne Bottos, who is white, has been dating a black man for six months and said she has also experienced stares and dirty looks from people as a result of her interracial relationship.

“Earlier in the relationship I noticed most of the stares were from black girls and white guys,” Bottos said. “It was pretty difficult, but it has gotten better the longer we have dated.”

Bottos said some of her friends also date interracially and the people she hangs around with aren’t bothered by her interracial relationship.

However, Bottos said she has been called names by white males because she was dating a black guy, and the stigma against interracial dating is very present in today’s society.

“Sometimes, I tend to think that guys [of a different race] look at me differently now that I’ve been dating interracially. If I wasn’t going out with anyone at the moment, I wouldn’t say “no” to a Hispanic or white guy if they asked me out. I don’t discriminate against races.”

There is no doubt that there are many more examples and instances where students have experienced discrimination because of interracial dating. These students probably have not experienced societies “progress” towards interracial dating and may question if any has been made at all.

While some may question the benefits of interracial relationships, an article by George and Sherelyn Yancey published in the “Journal of Black Studies” suggests interracial relationships may be a crucial step to promoting positive black-white relationships, as well as other races.

The authors suggest negative attitudes towards interracial relations have created formidable barriers in society, which make interracial contact difficult. The separation of cultures can lead to misunderstanding and division, and it is stated that assimilation of races gives people of different races to develop personal knowledge of each other and reduce the chance of conflict.

Interracial relationships are an example of this cultural integration. This of course is only one perspective and doesn’t mean interracial relationships will fix discrimination or that everyone should date people of different color. It does suggest however, that interracial relationships provide all of us a good example of how to relate to other races (whether it’s in dating, friendship or everyday contact) and gives us all an idea of how to continue the progress our society has made.

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