8 Questions Interracial Couples are Tired of Hearing

Interracial Couples: We're just like you, except half not.

[I first wrote this article for the Huffington Post – and since then have decided to also post in on my own blog]

Dating is tricky — even more so when you don’t follow the cookie-cutter mold of what a relationship should look like. Less than 50 years ago, interracial marriage was illegal in the United States and even when the anti-miscegenation laws were deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in 1967, interracial couples were harassed and discriminated against for decades.

Wedding Ursinus College Grace and Ryosuke amwf wedding amww couple

Now we live in a new, global era with more tolerance and understanding for couples that exist outside the “norms” for relationships… yet many interracial couples still attract stares. As the “white” half of a Japanese-American marriage, I noticed some of the same questions keep popping up again and again.

[For more, check out: Asian Male, White Female Couples, an Unfinished Wikipedia Article]

After a quick chat with some other interracial couples, I realized my experiences were not unique. These are eight seemingly innocent questions that have deeper, darker implications for interracial couples.

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1. How does your family feel about your partner’s race?

Do you want the long version or the short version? Race is surprisingly difficult to talk about — you can’t just ask an interracial couple about their family’s reaction to the race of their partner and expect a single-sentence answer.

If you seriously want to know the struggles interracial couples go through, you can go ahead and ask this question. If you’re simply asking for formality (or because it is the first thing you can think of), skip this question.

2. You’re dating a [insert race or ethnicity]? Aren’t you worried about [insert country/ethnic stereotype here]?

Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they are usually offensive and misplaced. Not all African-American men end up in jail; not all Japanese men are emotionally unavailable; not all Mexican men cheat on their spouses; not all white women are loose; not all Arabic women are docile. The Internet is full of all sorts of untrue stereotypes that are passed off as “facts.”

Don’t ask me if my Japanese husband is a work-a-holic with a small penis who loves to drink sake, kill whales and pressure his wife (me) to do housework all day.
Answer: No

For a real window into married life of a Japanese man with a foreign  wife (from newlyweds to couples on their 25th anniversary), I recommend the anthology of stories from Wendy Tokunaga’s book, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband

romance amwf couple relationships interracial japanese american couple dating tokyo japan

3. Wouldn’t it be easier to just date your own race?

I understand the intentions behind this question are pure, but it always comes off a bit racist. By only dating white men, I would be cutting out a whole group of viable dating candidates.

Answer: Dating (and deciding to marry) someone outside my culture was one of the best decisions I ever made.

4. But think of the children! Aren’t you worried they will be bullied?

Do you mean “Am I worried they will be bullied because they are half white?” Or “because they are half-NON-white?” Both are equally offensive. Expressing concern for hypothetical children because of their racial background (regardless of which race you are referring to) is more offensive than you would think.

In this day and age where divorce is becoming the norm, I’m more worried about making it to our 10-year anniversary than whether or not my possible future children will get bullied because of their mixed heritage.

Of course I’m worried about racism. I grew up all over the globe (Texas, Ghana, Japan) and saw racism in all sorts of forms. Sometimes I was the recipient; sometimes I was not.

Answer: I would rather my hypothetical children grow up as interesting, deep and charismatic bi-racial children in a loving home than to be just another statistic.

Wedding Ursinus College Grace and Ryosuke amwf wedding amww couple

5. Do you only date [insert ethnic group]?

There is no way to ask about someone’s dating “fetishes” and not come off as rude. No, I do not have “Yellow fever” (inappropriate slang for someone who is only attracted to someone of an Asian diaspora), “Jungle fever” (likewise for dating people of an African diaspora) or any other fetishes you can think of. Furthermore, even if I did have a preference toward a specific race, I am free to love whomever I want..

Answer: I don’t know. If a white man only dated white women, no one would look twice. If a white man only dates Asian women, though, everyone seems to assume he is a ‘creep.’ That’s not fair.

[For more, see: Asian Male, White Female Couples: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly]

6. Can you help me find a [insert race/ethnicity] boyfriend/girlfriend?

If I find someone of your preferred ethnicity and gender who wants to date your ethnicity and gender, I will let you know, but I’m not going to go digging through my fiancé’s friends, trying to find someone who “wants to date a hot, white girl.”
Answer: I can, but I would rather not.

7. Don’t you get frustrated not being able to express yourself in your own language?

We speak the language of love; we don’t need fluency in English.

Of course couples with different mother tongues have communication problems — but so does every other couple. In fact, interracial couples might be better off because when your partner was raised in a different country, you automatically assume they do things differently. Disagreements are natural, rather than the sign of an “unhealthy” relationship.

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8. Do people stare at you when you go on dates? 

Of course people stare. By asking this question, you’re acknowledging that interracial relationships are “outside the norm.” If you have noticed this, other people have too and if they have noticed it, they have probably also stared (without meaning to).

That being said, I stare at couples all the time, regardless of their race. I am a sappy romantic who loves couple-watching. In the same way, I like to give others the benefit of the doubt. I can never tell if they are staring and thinking:

“Oh man, that guy is so hot. Too bad he’s taken…”

“Woah. An interracial couple. How weird.”

Or

“Dang, I love her shoes!”

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Questions that are OK to ask:

How did you two meet?
People love to hear love stories, regardless of race.

What is your favorite part of your partner’s culture?
There is no judgment in this question, rather the person is genuinely curious to learn something about a foreign culture.

Do you speak [insert partner’s language]?
Much like the other two questions, this is simple curiosity. I have met interracial couples who speak each other’s languages fluently and couples who cannot speak a word of their partner’s language. It varies depending on the language, culture and length of the relationship.

We were interviewed a month ago for Akita's Hottest Man spread. They did a special about us, since we were interracial

We were interviewed a month ago for Akita’s Hottest Man spread. They did a special about us, since we were interracial

 

 

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About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

6 Comments on 8 Questions Interracial Couples are Tired of Hearing

  1. I am married to a Filipino man and I’m white. My hubby was born in the Philippines, but moved to the USA when he was 7 years old with his family.

    For the most part, we’ve had no issue with racial stereotyping in our relationship…. The only only exception we had is with my elderly paternal grandmother who was concerned that my now husband was only wanting to marry me for a green card… Ugh!!! I had to explain to her that he is a naturalized US citizen and had been well before we met, so he wasn’t after me for a ‘green card’. The question she asked was so insulting. …

  2. UUUUGH I hate how so many people say “Oh you have yellow fever” or other racial comments if you like a person of another race. This one dude even made a comment when I turned him down “It must be because of my race isn’t it.” Uh no dude it’s because you have a terrible poopoo personality. I am attracted to who I am attracted to and as you say it is so sad to limit yourself to one race… makes no sense to me. Let people love who they want to and stop trying to put them in a box you know?

  3. Thank you for putting in so much of your time sharing your life stories with us. You have no obligations towards any of us and yet you commit to our learning and entertainment.

  4. Ohhhh Grace, I’m sorry but you really made my day hahahhaha Crying and rolling on the floor laughing. “Don’t ask me if my Japanese husband is a work-a-holic with a small penis who loves to drink sake, kill whales and pressure his wife (me) to do housework all day.
    Answer: No”
    OMG, you really have a knack to describe things with soooo much accuracy. I admire that and it’s just hilarious too :D I’ll keep on following you as long as you feel the need to talk about integration and tolerance on a blog. And you know, I hate the word “race” and “interracial” cos honestly, what is a “race”? I mean, if your parents are themselves a bunch of so many ‘visible’ mixes (basically they are not both the Caucasian type and have people from all the world in their family) who/what are you then? We are so much more than our physical features!

  5. ブラッド // 7 June, 2014 at 9:32 am //

    Liked the post, don’t totally agree with it mostly because you are so 素朴な (naive) and かわいい (in a childlike way), but at least you are still positive about your relationship. I’m going on 20 years (7 years in America 12 here in Japan) with a Japanese wife and trust me some of those small things that are cute now, won’t be all that cute later on.
    You seem mostly talk about why it is right and I agree people should be with the people they want to be with.
    However, I’d just like to make a couple of points. Especially #7, speaking the language of love can only last so long. No matter how well either of you speaks the others language, there will be times when you’ll just want to say things like idioms or proverbs and will end up spending more time explaining things than just using plain boring text book English, it will get frustrating sometimes to the point of not wanting to watch movies together because you miss half the movie explaining nuances. And meetings between families also takes a lot of translation.
    And # 4, what about the children. I’m from Utah and public bathing just isn’t done and even after 12 years in Japan I still hate onsens. Not from the public nudity thing, but it is just disgusting. My wife insists that in the women’s side of the onsen everyone washes before getting in the bath, on the men’s side that isn’t true. A lot of men (especially the older men) will go and sit directly in the bath especially if all the showers are being used. I often feel more dirty after visiting the onsen then before going even though physically that isn’t true. Sorry about that got sidetracked, about the children, for the life of her my wife can’t understand why I don’t want to take a bath with my daughter (she’s 8 years old). Around here (Kumamoto Japan) families sometimes bathe together at family onsens until the end of elementary school. Are you going to want your husband taking a bath with your daughter until she is 11 or 12? Or are you going to appreciate the fine art of your children and your children’s friends playing koncho?
    Just wanted to show both sides of the coin. And let others know some of the minor but very different cultural differences….
    I do wish the both of you all the best, though.

    • I agree that communication is a challenge but my Japanese husband’s words in the matter confort me and make me wish someday I’ll be able to see life the way he does: “Yes it is true that at the present moment I do not entirely understand what you are trying to say but we knew since the moment we dicided to get married that communication was going to take time and effort and I am looking foward to that journey” as for children; well I suppose you got married the traditional way and that would make it true, consequences are often the hardest to see even when they are alway our constant companions.

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