Interracial dating amongst Latinx families can be a new experience for older generations to navigate within their family ties. Although I come from a long line of Dominicans who have married and had children with other Dominicans, I never questioned if interracial dating or marriage was a concept that I had to tiptoe around. Love is love right? Meaning race, gender, or religion should not come in between who you love, or at least that is what I thought before I realized that race, gender, and religion are often spoken in close relation to social politics. With politics being as divisive as it usually is, it makes sense that these politics trickle down onto family dynamics.
My first instance of interracial dating in my family was when my older cousin was dating an African-American man. When you’re 10 years old, phrases like, “interracial dating” don’t exist in your head. Everything is simplified, calling things out for what you see them as. In my head, this was just a guy my cousin was dating that seemed to love and care for her. I liked him, he was nice to me and gave me advice on boys. He was also college educated and successful in his career field. The last thing I thought about when he came to mind was his race.
That was until I noticed that my cousin would never let him tell her goodbye at her apartment door. It was always downstairs in the lobby and usually very quickly so her parents wouldn’t see them hug or kiss goodbye. I noticed that she would make subtle remarks about his skin color that revolved around how her parents wouldn’t approve. I caught on to these remarks quickly but even as young as I was, I became pretty desensitized to microaggressions that my family members often expressed casually. My 10-year-old mind did not comprehend how painful this probably was for him to hear, and instead, I saw her attempts to hide him as a way of protecting him.
The well-known preference for lighter-skin within our community is rooted in colorism and racism. Although not all families think this way, it is important to understand that this belief is rooted in history. The need to want to have some form of proximity to whiteness is persistent but rarely talked about. It’s where the phrase, “pelo malo” comes from as a reference to people whose hair is coarse or curly instead of bone straight, an idea that upholds European beauty standards. The closer to whiteness you are, the more attractive you’re deemed to be and why some believe in “mejorando la raza” by partnering with lighter-skinned people.
In my own experience as a Dominican-American who has dated out of her race, I recognize that I need to be aware of this reality and have found there are a few things I need to always keep in mind. Growing up, I was accustomed to family members overtly or covertly making racist comments. If you come from a family that harbors racist or colorist views, depending on the extremity, never expose these family members to your partner if you’re not ready to defend them at all costs. I’ve seen firsthand how factors like race, religion, and gender (same-sex relationships) have destroyed relationships when partners don’t stand up against their family members’ bigoted beliefs.
One of your main responsibilities as a partner is to do your part in creating a safe space for your partner. The world is filled with enough bigotry, your relationship should be one of the main places where your partner can feel loved and accepted for who they are no matter the race or how dark their skin color is.
Making an effort to understand your partner’s racial and cultural experiences is also key to maintaining interracial relationships. Keeping an open mind to your partner’s beliefs and perspectives which allows your partner to feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you. Many believe that interracial relationships don’t work because you are unable to racially or culturally relate to who you’re dating. In my past interracial relationship, I always made it a priority to ask questions and become knowledgeable of their culture’s customs because it was a huge part of their upbringing and who they’ve grown up to be. Similar to how couples of the same race create a bond when relating and speaking about their similar or shared experiences, interracial couples can create a bond by learning about each other’s racial and cultural experiences.
Despite the taboo nature following interracial relationships in the Latinx community, statistics show that this taboo is quickly becoming dismantled. According to a study by the Pew Research Center report released in 2017, roughly 27 percent of Latinx newlyweds are married to someone of a different race/ethnicity. However the most common type of interracial marriages are reported to be be between Latinx and white couples, which in 2015 made up 42 percent of all opposite-sex intermarried newlyweds. These statistics point us to a realization that supports the claim of anti-blackness in the Latinx community. Though interracial relationships with someone who is Black or of a darker skin color has a higher likelihood of being frowned upon, interracial relationships with white people is deemed acceptable because of colorism and anti-Blackness.
Although the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project reported that in 2010, nearly half (48 percent) of Latinxs, and 43 percent of Americans overall, said that more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better in our society, it is important to delve into the specifics of what type of interracial marriages are deemed to be more acceptable in comparison to others. Latinx and white couples being the most common type of interracial marriage is not a coincidence that should be overlooked, instead it should be further dissected.
I have personally always remained content in the belief that love is love no matter what my family believe in. I have successfully learned to stray away from the colorist beliefs that are apart of the Dominican Republic’s history. Although upholding traditional values is a belief that I am closely aligned with, participating in the tradition of finding a partner based on skin color or race is one that I am gladly and proudly breaking in my family.