Relationship Tips

What Not to Say or Do Around Interracial Couples

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When you’re in an interracial relationship you get the best of two worlds. I devour my sancocho con aguacate on the side, and also enjoy eating my boyfriend’s mother’s delicious baked macaroni and cheese and perfectly moist collard greens. Not everyone, however, embraces our differences. In fact, every time we ride the subway eyeballs pierce our skin. Some people stare and don’t look away when we stare back. You’d think we were two aliens that just landed on Earth. Good news, we come in peace, guys!

Our relationship is also constantly questioned. One time my boyfriend had to prove that I was his girlfriend. While at work he overheard two Dominican co-workers talking about their significant others. He joined their conversation and mentioned that his lady was Dominican (that’s me!). They looked at him with a blank stare and said, “Yeah right, your girlfriend can’t be Dominican.” He pulled out his phone, showed them a picture of us and they were still in disbelief. Another time his friend wouldn’t stop asking,“Is that really your girl?”

Why is it so hard to believe that a Dominicana – a Latina – would date a black man? PORQUE! (loud telenovela cry).

Merging our families has also been a bit awkward. Since he doesn’t speak Spanish (although he’s trying his best to learn) things can get uncomfortable at my family functions. All Stephen hears is Spanish spoken at a mile a minute. I try to translate every single word but it’s impossible! My family jokingly puts pressure on him. “You better learn Spanish soon,” they say. That doesn’t make the situation any easier as now he feels forced to learn Spanish.

PLUS: Sorry Family! I’m a Persian Peruvian Who Dates White Guys

And…there are racial jokes from both sides. Although not intended to hurt us, the jokes can be offensive and annoying. I remember taking a trip to BJ’s with my boyfriend and his uncle. His uncle just happened to mention that most Dominican women throw themselves at men – even when their wives are standing right beside them. Another time my family mentioned that Stephen must love fried chicken. Um, doesn’t everyone?

We also get jokes from outsiders and friends. When we were outside holding hands a guy shouted, “Jungle fever, huh?!” And my friends tell me, “You know, once you go black….” (you all know the rest). It just gets old.

So, let’s start the public service announcement of this piece. If you’ve stuck your foot in your mouth when around an interracial couple, or just don’t know what to do or say, here is some advice:

  1. Don’t stare at them like they are out of this world (literally!).
  2. Think about how you would feel if it was being done to you.
  3. Common courtesy, mi gente.
  4. Please don’t ask if they’re really a couple, they might just send you to hell.
  5. Don’t ask if they have a racial preference. So what if they do?
  6. If you happen to ask their preference and they tell you, don’t make them ashamed for having one.
  7. Don’t mention any stereotypes, it’s really offensive.
  8. Racial jokes are a no no.

When in doubt just don’t go there. And keep your eyes (and judgements) to yourself!

Alanna is an aspiring writer and editor. Currently a student at Lehman College pursuing her degree in Media Communication Studies, she spends her leisure time hopping from beauty shop to beauty shop, comparing natural hair products for curly gals. The proud Afro Latina was often told she had “pelo malo” (bad hair) and she wants to put a stop to the damaging idea that straight hair is the only hair that will land you a dream job or man. A promoter of self-love, Alanna also encourages women of all backgrounds to love themselves and to not conform to patriarchal norms.