What not to say about mixed race relationships

Inspired by this (The comments thread rather then the article itself) .

1) You’ll have such beautiful children.

“But that’s a nice thing to say!”. Yes but it’s also a tired old stereotype. Plus, nothing magic happens when mixed race people procreate, i.e two less than averagely good looking people will probably have a less than averagely good looking child.

2) Any cooking metaphors/ animal husbandry metaphors

Mix..blend…yuck, yuck, yuck. Remember you’re talking about human beings, not food. People can’t actually mix or blend. Also, people in mixed race relationships (MRR) have children for exactly the same reasons other people do, not as some kind of eugenics project. When people say “Oh x ethnicity with y ethnicity, that’s a really good mix”, is that meant to be taken seriously? Is there such a thing as a bad ethnic mix? Are they expecting people in MRR’s to be grateful for their approval?

3)Whether you approve of them or not

Yes, everyone’s entitled to their opinion but consider the wisdom of sharing that opinion, and whether the person you’re talking to wants that opinion. If the reason you don’t approve is “It’s not fair on the children”, then the 1960’s are calling and they want their prejudice back.

4) Speculate as to why they are having a Mixed Race relationship.

Unless you are dating that person, then it’s really none of your business. Even if you think it’s just a big fetish, so what? Are you the love police, ready to bust up any relationship that doesn’t fit your criteria?

Again, people in MRR’s, are probably with each other for the same reasons as any other relationship – because they like each other and being together.

5)Any stereotypes (positive or negative) or your general opinion of their partner’s ethinic group.

Aside from having heard all the stereotypes already, do you think the person you are talking to will say “Oh you’re right, all “n” men are domineering/romantic/generous/mean (delete as appropriate). I should leave him/stay with him forever.”?

Anyone got anymore to add?


41 Responses

  1. Good post, Sometimes, especially with the first two, people mean well, but should think of what they are saying.

  2. #1 and #2 i’ve heard the most often. And the really odd thing about it is that I’ve only ever heard #1 come from people who are actually in the interracial relationships. Kind of amuses me, but whatever

  3. Oh, forgot to add kind of in the same note as #1… “mixed children are more attractive than others” (coming rather ironically from a woman i know in an interracial relationship)

  4. ok

    1) “then the 1960’s are calling and they want their prejudice back” you crack me up. Love the pic as well.

    2) I have, myself, seen more MRR’s with children than anyone could shake a stick at and I have to say that in 99.9% of the cases their children are above average in good looks. I believe racially mixed children are more beautiful. There are two cases that I have seen where it didn’t turn out that way and both were weird situations of normal looking parents having some wonky children. Don’t ask me why, but thats how it turned out in those cases. Otherwise I have seen nothing but beautiful mixed race children.

    One could argue as to whether Obama is good looking. My personal jury is still out. He’s better looking than the presidents of the last two decades, but one would not necessarily call him above average.

  5. Great post.

    Here is one, usually said by well-meaning close relatives or friends as they reveal their prejudices: Your kids are going to be so confused, not fit in here nor there, have no identity.

    Identity issues do arise with being bicultural or biracial, and it is hard especially as a teen I suppose…but it isn’t like some huge thing that negates one’s existance, making it better off if one had never been born.

    Another annoying one: You are practically like (fill in the blank with ethnic background/race of spouse) now. We consider you one of us/them (depending on who is talking).

    No you are not. Ever. And whether the speaker said that to you as a jab (as in you are acting weird like “them”) or as a compliment (as in, wow, you are now like “us” since you have conformed to our culture), you should just laugh, but never believe it, and never speak on behalf of your spouse’s community.

  6. salam alaikoum The one I HATE is when they are like, “You know, one side always has to cater to the other, and you wind up just being one culture in the end”- I get this a lot because of the whole Islam thing. And of course because Obama now and people perceiving him to be more in touch with one half than the other (I am not saying it just repeating it).
    Mixed is mixed.

  7. Salaam Alaikum,

    Mona – Exactly! I just don’t think they realise.

    Tulip – Welcome to my blog! It’s true, people often perpetuate stereotypes about themselves.

    Molly – Not to denigrate your personal experience, but I do find your statement “I believe racially mixed children are more beautiful”, to be problematic, because there are lots of connotations as to why people find certain racial mixes more attractive and a lot of that has to do with colourism and holding up certain looks as an ideal. Not saying that’s why you think that, but it is the reason why lots of people do, whether they are aware of it or not.

    Luckyfatima – I agree. I was pondering your point on “We consider you one of us/them (depending on who is talking)” and how this could never be the case. I think you’re talking from the point of view of ethnicity, in which case, I agree wholeheartedly.

    However, national identity might be slightly different. For example, if Mr Outlines and I end up staying in the U.K until we turn our toes up, then during the course of 50+ years (insha Allah, ideally I’d like us both to live long and healthy lives and get a telegram from the Queen) would he not be able to consider himself British and talk about Britain? Likewise, if we were to move to Syria for a similar length of time, would I not start to identify in some way as Syrian? Hmm.

    DP – This is because people think culture exists in a neat little box, usually marked by clothes and food. So if you wear a shalwar kalmeez and cook curry, then you’re desified. Really culture and how people relate to their culture is more complex than that and it’s all mixed in with race, class, upbringing, personal experience.

    But yeah – I HATE it when people say that too.

  8. Salaam Safiya, yes good point about the ethnicity thing. But I think the English identity is more open to others (though just like in the US, Australia, etc, the white identity is seen as the most legitamately English one), but for example in the UAE this is not at all the case. Non-nationals are born here to parents who were born here but can never be Emirati, and would never think of themselves as such. Of course Syria is different than the UAE, but I think like most places, because national identity is constructed differently than in the UK, as is immigration, while your husband can be a Brit AND a Syrian on many levels, but you really won’t be a Syrian even if you get the passport. Not to say that if you lived in Syria for a significant amount of time, it wouldn’t affect your personally constructed identity—you would surely change and be influenced and adapt and evolve into a new self, but still you would never be a Syrian. Anyway, just in my humble opinion.

  9. Oh and ditto to your response to Molly’s assertion that mixed people are more beautiful…you put it very well.

  10. Salaam Alaikum,

    Luckyfatima – Yes, I did ponder that point about certain countries having more open ideas about nationality. If you move to the U.K and U.S permanently and gain citizenship, you are expected to identify with that country, whereas in some Arab countries, you’re almost never going to be a citizen anyway and their ideas of nationality are very closely linked to ethnicity and blood ties.

    Syria is an interesting example, because it’s not a mono-ethnic or mono-religious country. It has sizeable Kurdish, Circassian, Syrian Turkmen and Assyrian populations and a very strong concept of national unity, with any type of sectarianism being strongly discouraged. Therefore I wonder if Syrian identity is something that can be attained, in a similar manner to some Western nations or not.

    As for your other point, I think we as, women have to be very conscious of the constructs surrounding what society deems attractive. It’s rarely as straightforward as people think.

  11. Those are some very good points. I have one, though, from personal experience. Do NOT predict their success or quote biblical/quranic verses to support your idea that MRRs never work out. Not your place to do so, and it’s all a load of bull anyways! In Islam it’s ‘Marry to those whose religion you approve of.’ So there.

    Btw. Have you ever listened to Russel Petters, an Indian-Canadian comedian? He figured we’re all going to end up yellow sometime soon because of interracial marriages, with everyone (dark and light) gravitating towards the middle yellow-ground =P
    I think it’d effectively put an end to racism. I mean who’d you insult? We’d all be one and the same!!

  12. Salaam Alaikum,

    Souvenir and scars -I’m a bit baffled that someone can try and twist the Qur’an to make it anti MRR.

    Btw, as a Syrian, is what I’ve written about Syrian nationality accurate?

  13. The nationality thing can go both ways in the West. The UK and US are pretty open in their concepts of the subject. In a place like Germany, until recently, you had 2nd or 3rd generation Turks, born and raised in Germany, who had to head to their Turkish Embassy or consulate to get their passports and citizenship paperwork because they were not entitled to German citizenship. Never mind these people were and are much more German than they are Turkish, for all intents and purposes.

    As to looks and bi-racial children, I agree with you. Ugly bi-racial families have children who are not attractive. The race of either respective parent doesnt make a difference.

    Good looking children owe their looks to their parents looks, not to their race.

    One things that bugs with with some inter-racial families is that they tend to allow one heritage or background to dominate when it comes to language, education on heritage issues and the like.

    Now a child might make the choice to gravitate more to one part of their background or another, for whatever reason, but the parents have a duty to give their children equal access to both.

    We have strived to do that in our house. Arabic gets equal play with American things, and the kids are even exposed to some German language music, TV and other items that I enjoy. When they get old enough we plan to travel to the Middle East and Europe to let them learn about their background.

    Whatever choice they make as adults is up to them. I would hope they would reject or choose one side over another. Even if they do, it wont be because for lack of exposure to either Mohammed Sabban or Goethe.

  14. Opps, should be “wouldnt reject one side”.

  15. You made a point I didn’t consider: the idea of beauty differs. Both my husband and I have a different idea of what beauty is defined as.

    To ME, in MY perception, I believe…

    For myself I’m strongly rejecting becoming “Egyptified.” I think its a knee-jerk reaction to living in Egypt and being bombarded from every angle. And it does annoy me when people say “wow, you’re becoming Egyptian” because I DON’T WANT TO.

    Unfortunately its a fact of life for us in MRRs. And I’m sure that my husband will get it once we return to the US.


    So whats the solution?

  16. Molly,

    Part of the solution is to have self esteem and respect in your own background. I am married to an Arab lady, and sure I speak Arabic and am pretty comfortable in Arab circles, but at heart and soul I am still completely American. Being raised for years in Germany in a second generation German-American household, I am still firmly into my own background.

    One of the things that bugs me the most are those who marry people from different countries and cultures and then seem to completely loose their own identity. Because you marry a Pakistani, Arab or African doesnt mean you can, or should, loose your own identity.

    It isnt healthy, in my opinion, for the person, the relationship, and certainly not for the children that come from these relationships.

    There is no need to change the way you dress, no need to completely change the way you talk, no need to become a different person. If your spouse had wanted someone from their own culture they would have married them.

    One thing you will notice is that spouses who completely adopt the culture of the other often become objects of jest and fun for others. I cannot say I dont feel the same way. There is something a bit funny about a person who completely rejects who they are to try and be something they never can be.

    It is important to learn about your spouses culture, maybe learn their language, but all too often spouses go over the top and make fools of themselves.

    It often seems as the learning about culture, language and the like seems to be only own sided. How many Arab/Pakistani ect spouses go out of their way to learn the language, culture and traditions of their spouse? 99% of the time the effort to blend in and to learn about cultures comes from the Western spouse, not the other way around, and that is wrong.

    These people need to wake up and realise that their own culture has benefit. A lot of the feelings from the non Western spouses is based on the idea that Western/American culture is not important or even not of value. Spouses who come from this direction are going to be problematic because by extension the value of the person who is raised in such a culture is of lesser value as well.

    -Abu Sinan………….who is not sitting here wearing thob! lol

  17. I always find it funny when people mention that Rico and I are in a mixed-race relationship (usually coming from Americans, go figure). We don’t think of ourselves as mixed-race, and technically – at least according to the US Government’s definition of race and ethnicity – we are in a mixed-ethnicity relationship, not a mixed-race relationship.

    Anyhow, for us it is something we consider much more in terms of a mixed-culture relationship. We will definitely make an effort to bring up our children with equal exposure to and appreciation for our heritages: his being Brazil/Portugal, and mine being US/Italy.

  18. […] Safiya Outlines posts on what not to say about mixed race relationships. […]

  19. “You’re darker so you look more like your dad than your mom”

  20. Great post. I wrote about something similar on my blog a while back. Someone said to me, Black and White people make cute babies. *dead*

  21. 4) Speculate as to why they are having a Mixed Race relationship.

    Unless you are dating that person, then it’s really none of your business. Even if you think it’s just a big fetish, so what? Are you the love police, ready to bust up any relationship that doesn’t fit your criteria?

    This is a tough one. A lot of people do try to be the love police for their friends, and sometimes it is nice to have your friends watching out for you, because it can be hard to see negative traits during the first, lust-filled stages of dating.

    If I was dating someone who had a history of fetishizing people of certain races, I would want to know, just like if I were dating someone who was anti-feminist, or any other ideological values that I don’t share.

    Usually, when someone warns that “so and so has a fetish”, it’s not because we’re anti-mixed race relationships. It’s because fetishes have a way of objectifying and dehumanizing, and we don’t want our friends being in a relationship that does either to them. In essence, an argument like “Brian’s race is NOT the issue. BRIAN is not a good person to date.”

  22. i don’t know if this fits with your list but is something that bugs the heck out of me. people seem to think that if they mix with certain races mix they will be guaranteed a child with a specific complexion and hair type. they seem to have this dream of the perfect Mariah Carey or Wentworth Miller child. truly frustrating.

  23. Great list! I’d like to add an item to your list. Don’t congratulate interracial couples on “diversifying the gene pool.” A few folks told me that as a kind of joke. I’m not a genetic expert but race and genetics don’t work that way. See http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-01-04.htm or http://raceandgenomics.ssrc.org/Lewontin/ for a scientific discussion.

  24. Brilliant post. I had a similar discussion with a friend last week, and she was telling me on how she foresees me in a mixed race relationship. She’s in one herself. Curiously, I asked her what was her reasoning on that to which her answer fits perfectly under point no. 5.

    Honestly, what difference does it make whether you have mixed race / same race relationship? Bottom line is, it’s the person inside.

  25. The most disturbing thing for me, is what happens to the kids with all this well meaning idiocy. My best friend is Maori and his wife is white Australian – the kids are gorgeous, but it nearly broke my heart when JD, the six year old daughter, said she wished she was a ‘white girl’ like mummy. Not ‘black’ like daddy, which she then corrected to brown.

    What do you say to that? She had her arm up to mine, and I’m whiter than white (I’m so pale I have a vitamin D deficiency and got prescribed sunlight…) – but so many well-meaning people tell her she’s gorgeous because mummy’s white and daddy’s brown/black. Or ask about how daddy handles it/mummy handles it/what Maori things she does/is she Aussie or Maori or Kiwi. I ended up telling her she was wonderful the way she was and she looked lots like mum and dad and looked like her (Maori) aunt. But how much of that sinks in when even grandma gushes about how pretty her mixed race grand-daughter is and how she’s becoming so Maori?

  26. I find that the background thinking behind #1 is often more problematic than people are willing to admit. These are the assumptions that I have encountered:

    – Being a mixed child mean, ALWAYS, for the purposes of the person’s assumption, that the child is a product of a light and dark parent. A mixed child is almost never called mixed if that person is the product of two white or two similarly brown parents.

    – Mixed children are only complimented if their mixture is lighter than the darker parent.

    This seems to me to mask the deeper (often internalized) racism at work, that people of “full” Asian/African/Latin@ heritage (and so on and so on – and I do realize that these are silly, inexact terms) are not attractive until they are lightened up a little.

  27. Great discussion.

  28. Living in Laos, as a white american gal married to a Lao man means that the popular culture response about being MMR we experience is non-western. Apparently that makes no difference though because, hands down, the most common comment is #1- the ‘cute kids’ comment. ! Here its perpetuated by Thai media, where about half of the beautiful people on the screen are mixed Thai/White. Scary to think but it really feels here that it’s becoming a beauty standard to have a little white in ya…

    My husband gets a lot of “how did you do it?” comments from men wanting to know how to ‘get a white girl’ too. He never misses the opportunity to mercilessly mock whoever is asking but we generally can just get a good laugh out of it.

    I wonder how much adjusting we’ll have to do on moving to the US…

  29. Oh, how about the notion that if the world population eventually became mostly multiracial, like in the aforementioned Russell Peters sketch, all racist mentality and socioeconomic effects would somehow magically vanish from our social fabric? That all we have to do is wait around for the “Mixed Messiahs” to come and fix it by their mere existence and prevalence, or further irritating, that it’s their duty to serve as racial bridges or ambassadors, instead of the fact that it will take work on EVERYONE’S part to eradicate racism.

  30. Safiyya, yes I am aware that Syria is multi-ethnic…, you could add Chechens, Armenians, Druze, Palestinians, Nawaar (Gyspsies), etc. to your list. But these ethnicities are still part of the framework of who is perceived as Syrian (though these people are sometimes also caste outside of Syrianness or remain on the margins of it to a certain extent), while a British white woman who moves to Syria with her husband is not part of that framework. Those groups have well established communities and histories within Syria. Same thing for most countries. Anyway, I don’t know why I am pressing the point…I am not trying to argue, I just feel that we should not ever feel like token Pakistanis or Egyptians or Syrians whatever, but I know some women in IRM who do (you are not one of these women, I mean outside of blogland) and I feel they use white privilege to misappropriate an identity that is not theirs.

  31. Salaam Alaikum and welcome to everyone who’s come via Racialicious.

    Thank you so much for sharing your points and discussions. It’s been really interesting reading.

  32. Abu Sinan & Molly – I’ve been confronted with similar opinions from American converts who were married to Syrians, but adamantly refused to lose certain aspects of their own identities in favor of adopting the dominant Syrian identity. Not saying I disagree, quite the opposite, I wholeheartedly believe that, as you said, forgoing your culture or background in favor for meshing with your partners isn’t particularly healthy. I think it’s interesting, though, how it’s very much the opposite for immigrant groups leaving the east and going to the west. It’s quite the opposite in fact. They are asked to either assimilate or ‘go back home because no one is forcing them to be here.’

    M – Wow. That was very well said!

    Safiya – great discussion!!
    And yes, yes, yes! I do think all the points you made were accurate in regards to Syrians and their perception of MRRs.
    However, as there always is with Syrians, there are a variety of subtle undercurrents dictating MRRs and when they are acceptable and when they aren’t that aren’t readily perceptible to the untrained (lol) eye. I’m still an amateur, but going on 3 years I’ve managed to pick up on a few things! (I hate to always have to add this disclaimer, but I talk from experience, and I’m trying very, very hard not to stereotype! As a Syrian who doesn’t condone this, I am a living, breathing testament that not all Syrians are like this!)

    Syrians seem to have a profound fear of the unknown, or the different. And they have a very real fear that if a woman marries into another culture, her husband’s dominant nature’ll guarantee that she effectively loses her culture and all her children will be raised according to her husband’s culture. And you know, Syrian culture being the great culture it is, it goes without saying how great a loss that would be! *cough* yeah right *cough* So MRRs are frowned upon for women, more so than they are for men. Even marrying Lebanese, Egyptians, or Palestinians is looked at with disapproval. Actually, it’s to the extent that marrying outside one’s village or city is frowned upon! A shami should marry a shamiyeh etc. Some even take it to the level where it should be within the family, but that, thankfully, is becoming a very small minority. So you can imagine what sort of reaction marrying into a completely foreign culture would cause. Btw, I have yet to figure out the real reason behind this closer to home is safer mentality, but I’ll share if I do. Do you or your husband happen to know why?

    From personal experience, I’ve been actively rejecting all proposals, and have had it handed to me on more than one occasion. My extended family is afraid that I may marry outside our city, or worse country, or *gasp! shock! heart attack! shame!* the Middle East. Women, who have married outside their culture, have been faced with endless predictions of gloom, doom, and despair. And a ‘We told you so’ when the relationship happens the fail (which in their eyes has nothing to do with their endless nagging and predictions)

    For men, on the other hand, it’s okay in situations such as yours. If a women converts, it’s okay for a man to marry her to ‘protect’ her religion (I’m really sorry, I do NOT mean to offend!!!!). Or if a man insists on marrying a non-Muslim woman, who also happens to be non-Syrian, then the parents and other protesting individuals will generally throw their hands in the air in exasperation and say “Well, we tried!! But he insisted!”

    Men who marry outside their culture often use the fact that it’s okay for men to marry women of the book while it isn’t for women (Islamically), because their dominant nature (hah!) will ensure that their precious culture be passed onto the children. It’s ideas like these that make me say thank the God lord I knew Islam before I came across people who twist it to suit their own ends.

    S&S …. who is sitting here in a Canadian Olympic Team sweater and Everlast sweats whilst drinking her mug of American coffee!! lol =P

  33. umm up there that should be good Lord* not God lord :/

    Oh, and I completely forgot to address #4. God I’m so sorry for the long and endless comments!! But I have to say this. You’re right when you say that people shouldn’t speculate as to the reasons why. But I think you should read the post Trophy Husband on Unique Muslimahs page (as I’m technologically challenged I don’t know how to link you can find her page on my blogroll!).

    Very disturbing? Yes. It’s also unfortunately very true. I’ve met a few girls who think that marrying a foreign man will, I dunno, make them more accepted in the Expat circles found in Syria or something. Whatever their reasons may be, I’ve seen women, who managed to slip under the cultural restrictions and marry a convert or westerner, congratulate themselves endlessly. And pointedly.

  34. It’s weird that the title of this piece refers to “mixed race relationships” and then questions referring to people as “mixed race” because “people can’t actually mix.” And then you go on to say how it’s not ok to say how x and z is a good mix but you’re referring to the relationships as mixed. Slightly confusing, and sounds more like race-studies 101 than actually living it.

    There’s a reason why my so-called mixed race family friends refer to their children as more beautiful. Because they are! Goodness me, have you ever looked at a white baby? You should look at my baby pictures. Good lord! There’s a reason we head to the beach every summer, and use an SPF that lets in juuuuuuust enough rays. Not too much, but we certainly ain’t blockin’ it all.

  35. Assalamu alaikum,

    Great and humourous post Mash’Allah! I especially agree with #1 as it’s a commonly held stereotype. Talk about placing pressure on the poor child!When most people say mixed babies are more beautiful they either mean the baby has features from both parents with those of the lighter parent predominating, or if the child turns out to look more like one of the parents, people actually believe it would be better for the child to look like their lighter parent!

    In relation to this I was thinking of another thing parents might inevitably say which is that ” Your kids won’t resemble you or us then… do you really want that?”

  36. bdasa – Mixed race is the term used in the U.K and I’m uncomfortable about the colourism in your latest comment, so I’ve not passed it. The idea that any shade of skin is more attractive then another is extremely troubling.

    RChoudh – Good points, hence why I’m anti-colourism.

  37. as a mixed child, dark maori mother and pink kiwi father, I lived mostly with my mother and never really thought too much about the way I looked more than any other child or teenage girl- I’m just feel thankful when I see beautiful but painfully aneorexic girls to realize how lucky I was with my self image- but definitly I was able to reflect about the differences and quirks weather good or bad from each side as I got older. And I completely understand what went on now as an adult.

    I think the maturity level of the adults surrounding and raising the child in general is the most important thing and thats just good old fashioned common sense. this applies yes- no matter what colour you are.

  38. […] I found this article on Feministe on mixed race relationships. I must admit I think I have found myself saying some of these before, more than […]

  39. Great topic. This is a well written post. Compelling message. Cool graphic.

  40. LOL Look at all the comments! VAY!

    Great post. As a biracial woman, I get SO TIRED of this crap.

  41. this post should be posted all over the world in grocery stores, malls and libraries so people will stop with those annoying comments.

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