Interracial dating: the parent problem
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Eleven years ago, The Classic conducted a poll to determine the general opinions of students on interracial dating. As a concept that is still prevalent among Harrisites, we conducted a similar poll and series of interviews to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.
In 2003, 64% of students polled said that they would be comfortable dating a person of a different race. In 2005, 80% of respondents said the same. In 2014, based on a survey of 378 students, this number has jumped to 88%.
Despite the rising number of interracial couples at Townsend Harris, a primary concern of students is the stark opposition they might face from their families. In some households, parents do not give their children the opportunity to use their best judgement in selecting a partner.
Junior Javaria Sarwar simply said, “My parents would disown me.”
With the inevitability of family affecting student outlooks on interracial dating, there are nonetheless a number of interracial couples among the student body.
Sophomores Jillissa Drayton and Adam Sosnicki expressed that friends and outsiders have lauded their relationship.
Jillissa said, “I think people get excited to see a progressive, mixed race couple. We’ve never gotten hateful comments or stares. There are, of course, those few friends that say something a little rude unintentionally every now and then.”
On the other hand, Adam felt the pressures from his family regarding his choice of partner, and said, “I’ve gotten criticized by my family, especially since they’re very traditional Europeans, who, not to paint them in a bad light, aren’t the most tolerant people. I feel judged, but, most explicit comments are positive ones usually just saying that we’re cute and such.”
English teacher Katherine Yan has also experienced challenges throughout her relationship with her husband Sebastian Rodriguez, who is of Uruguayan heritage. When she was younger, Ms. Yan’s parents adamantly encouraged her to marry “a Chinese doctor.” However, living in New York City enabled them to gain a greater exposure to cultural diversity. Once Ms. Yan and Mr. Rodriguez tied the knot, her parents were very accepting of their decision.
Just as Ms. Yan strayed from her parents’ preferences when it came to her dating life, 71% of polled students said they would date someone of a different ethnic background even without their parents’ consent. This number shows a significant degree of student independence and even temerity when it comes to picking a partner, but members of the remaining 29% have a wide range of reasons for obeying their parents.
Some teens fear that going against their parents’ ideal preferences would risk their filial relationship. In such a situation, they often have to choose which is more important: attraction and chemistry or parent approval.
Commenting on whether she would be involved in a relationship even if her parents disagreed, Junior Maya Adut responded, “I wouldn’t date someone if my parents didn’t agree because I wouldn’t want to hurt them.”
Senior Eva Jiang shared that whereas her mom would most likely agree with a partner of a different ethnic background, she said that her dad would most likely shake his head in silent disapproval.
Freshman Jayda Persaud said, “If my parents thought that something wasn’t good for me, I wouldn’t do it because my parents are usually right.”
Junior Dina Goodger, on the other hand, told of her parents’ vehement opposition to her dating someone of a different race, but said that she would go against their wishes to date whomever she wished. She said, “The approval of my mom is something I highly value, but if I was in a serious relationship with someone and she didn’t approve I would go with my heart and learn on my own.”
Though a majority of students believe that their parents would allow them to date someone from a different background, it’s clear that many students believe their parents would not allow them to date people of all backgrounds.
Over 40% of poll respondents identified Black, Hispanic and Middle Eastern as groups of which their parents would disapprove.
Senior Stanley Li explains, “Considering our parents are from a previous generation, they’re more conservative in their views.”
Junior Elina Niyazov commented that her parents’ disapproval of certain races “is something so obvious that they don’t need to say it.”
When certain members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) were asked if they cared to comment, few said that they would disapprove of their children being in an interracial couple.
Michele Hutchinson said, “As long as the person is a good, honest, person, then race shouldn’t really be a factor in [her child’s] decision.”
PTA Executive Board Representative Jordan Leeds agreed with this sentiment, stating that he hopes “the fact that my children were raised in a very diverse community [means] that they’re open to every race or religion” and that he doesn’t “want them to avoid [dating someone of a different race or religion] because of me.”
One anonymous parent, however, did say that she “would probably prefer if she dated someone of the same race,” but that she “wouldn’t forbid my child to date someone of a different race solely because of that person’s race.”
The United States once had laws forbidding interracial and interethnic marriage., which were then repealed in 1967. Because our predecessors resisted interracial dating, their beliefs have carried down to later generations, affecting our present day views on partners of a different race or ethnicity.