He strides a couple feet in front, dragging her along like a rag doll. His face is creased with impatience and self-entitlement. She hurries to keep up, an indulgent smile on her face. He takes little notice of her, intent on his mission to get somewhere and do something; be something. She is just along for the ride.
This is something I see more often than not these days. Maybe it is because I'm bitter, maybe it is because it is a prominent and pressing matter, or maybe it is because it hits close to home. Whatever the case, interracial couples have been on my mind. Too often I see horrible, though sadly accurate, media representations of western men with their delicate Asian girlfriends. The image I described was something I must have witnessed at least three times just within the past week -- in real life, mind you, not in the media. Interracial couples are more common than ever and it is great. Yet, I am bitter because the media, as well as the public, is more concerned with what people think about interracial relationships than the actual relationships themselves.
It is always, "Oh, people were riled up about this commercial because it had an interracial couple," or "Oh, I thought their relationship was so romantic and beautiful, we need more commercials like that." While I certainly agree that today's media needs more commercials with diverse kinds of people (because let's face it, most of the youth of America will be racially ambiguous by 2050), it is not just about whether interracial couples are being portrayed in the media or not. It is about how interracial couples actually work. They are not exactly a new topic, but I think it is time we start looking at interracial relationships from a different angle; from within.
America as a country has only been grazing the surface of multiracial couples. Sure, we've looked at statistics like, "In 2010, there were 5.4 million interracial or interethnic married-couple households," or, according to the United States Census Bureau. "The number of interracially married couples has risen dramatically from 310,000 in 1970 to 2,340,000 in 2008." America is highly concerned with upping their interracial couples statistics, just like a college or university is concerned with ethnic diversity statistics. And while it is certainly something to be concerned about, one statistic that should be taken into consideration is the fact that more interracial couples end in divorce than non-interracial couples. Americans can quit being proud of the fact that there are interracial couples and start focusing on what these relationships actually entail. And usually it is a lot of hard work and compromise.
When I see interracial couples in real life, and particularly at home, it is not exactly rainbows and unicorns. It is exogamy at its finest and cultural isolation or ostracism is bound to occur. One side of the family is usually lost to distance. Take my parents for example. It is your typical vision of patrilocal residency; my mother -- born in Taiwan -- moved away from her family after meeting my father in NYC. Now this in itself is not a problem, but it is safe for me to say that I have been raised with solely western traditions and religion. I know next to nothing of my mother's heritage or customs. Maybe that is my fault. But I think the more likely answer is because it simply made life easier for my mother to assimilate and also resulted in fewer arguments with my father. I do not blame my father, nor do I blame my mother for giving up her past so easily. They did what they thought was best at the time.
However, I am bitter because rather than avoiding fights, they only prolonged them. My mother often misses her family but who has money for flights when you are trying to put kids through college? So arguments ensue. My mother complains about the temperament of westerners like my father. My father complains about her naivety in western culture. So arguments ensue. Every fight becomes a battle unconsciously embedded in their clashing cultural pasts. And lo and behold they are, after 25 years of rocky marriage, considering a divorce.
Of course I'm happy when I see interracial relationships. But I'm also bitter because I know many of them are doomed from the start. One side gives in too much or not enough. I want to see more compromise. I want to see a mix of cultures within interracial relationships; a melting pot within the melting pot. Unfortunately, that takes more work than a non-interracial relationship. It also takes more communication. And communication can be hard when you have been raised a culture and a world apart. I want to see more people concerned with how interracial relationships are actually faring, not just the fact that they are increasing in numbers.
When I see interracial couples I'm cheering for them on the sidelines, knowing that it is going to be harder for them than others. Knowing that they are going to have to work twice as hard. Knowing that it is worth it because interracial couples are beautifully human. I just want the rest of America to cheer too.