Are interracial couples beyond race?

Posted by Sidney, 18 Feb 15

Does being in an interracial relationship automatically make the couple colorblind?

Amy Steinbugler has a book called Beyond Loving which is about how interracial couples deal with racial differences in their relationships. In her book, she looks at both straight and LGBT interracial relationships.

In a recent interview on the Campbell Conversations, she argues that interracial couples still have to navigate the harsh racial terrain and its even harder for LGBT interracial couples.

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Amy sought to understand what race means to the interracial couples themselves. "Is it a source of friction? How often do they talk about it?"

Take the example of a couple that lives in a racially segregated City, say a Black-White couple for instance. Its expected that one of them will kind of end up feeling like they don’t quite belong. However, one thing that surprised Amy when carrying out interviews for her book is the assumption held by most interracial couples that things about race didn't matter. She kind of expected to find out that race mattered. Amy tries to explains the reason behind her surprising findings:

"There really is a language around people would say, 'He could be red, yellow, green, or brown. I don’t see race. He happens to be black. She happens to be white.' Things like that. So I think that’s interesting. I think that reflects the kind of moment that we’re in in a broader sense around race in the United States. And, maybe if I just push it a little farther, maybe I can also look at those couples and think that they’re trying to do a particular thing which is to dispel the notion that they are a disreputable couple. That they are just eroticizing each other, that their relationship isn’t solid, that it’s not built on the same kinds of emotions and trusts as everyone else’s, you know, as same-race couples are. So, maybe part of that is a reflection of the kind of discourse of the way that we talk about race, but maybe part of it is being in a kind of relationship that has been marginalized. So, we would say I might call it work. You do this kind of work, you have this way of talking to kind of ensure everyone else that you’re not like that."

Well, she at least met a couple who thought race was important but felt that it wasn't something they had to get into with their partners. The wife was Black and she could talk about race with pretty much everyone - her family, co-workers. She saw race, thought about it. This woman however had accepted her white husband and how he didn't kind of see nor understand race. And for her, much as race was important to her, it was something that she probably felt didn't have to be dragged into her marriage. Amy called it "Strategic avoidance".

The thing is, if you are a minority, you tend to see race and racism everywhere while growing up. Going by history, Whites for instance have always been seen as the superior race. So chances are they have never had to go through some of the race related experiences that minorities go through. So in such a relationship, you might find that what the minority partner might see as racism against them, the white partner might downplay it as a mere joke for instance.

She speaks of "strategic avoidance". Given the above example, does this really make an interracial couple beyond race? Does choosing not to talk about race or sing about "not seeing color" make someone colorblind? Does being in an interracial relationship automatically make you beyond race. And do you think interracial couples need to talk about matters of race if they affect one or both of them?

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