So you find yourself dating a white man or a black woman for the first time, and are wondering what to expect. At least in the United States, statistics show that interracial relationships are still a small (but growing) minority. In other words, you’re special! As a rule it seems, most people prefer to date someone of the same skin color as theirs.
In the past, interracial relationships were (even legally) frowned upon, but attitudes have changed considerably for the better in the past few decades. Even glass-half-empty people will be pleasantly surprised to discover just how easily accepted their new relationship will be. This really is 2020 and not 1950.
Most of the issues you will encounter will be minor and only a nuisance. In the worst case scenarios however you may experience outright racism.
Most couples won’t encounter any problems
Many black white couples haven’t suffered through any major issues. Ultimately, attitudes have changed for the better these past few decades and black-white relationships have become much more socially accepted, especially in the bigger cities.
White male married to black woman. We have been together since 1988 and have a 19 year-old daughter.
I am not sure there were any real cultural adjustments. I have read about people in interracial relationships getting all kinds of blowback/disapproval but we’ve not experienced anything significant.
My mother-in-law finds fault with virtually anything but that does not seem cultural though.will
I dated a black girl for a little while (I am a white guy) and black dudes would always walk by and give me high fives and stuff, I thought it was hilarious. Never really noticed other white guys giving me any weird looks but I live in a super progressive city.john
My girlfriend is black, and we both live in Denver. All we ever get is positive comments from other people: girls say we look cute together, older gentlemen hope we would stay together for 40 years, etc..ANONYMOUS
People might believe you are friends or strangers, not a couple
Cashiers, bank tellers, waiters and other service people will sometimes assume that the two of you are friends or acquaintances, instead of a couple.
Expect some of these people to treat you like you’re separate, meaning individual checks when going out, cashiers asking you not to mix up your products with your white boyfriend etc.
In the worst case situations, you might go through experiences similar to comedian W. Kumau Bell, who was kicked out of a café for “soliciting”. In fact, he just wanted to join his wife and her friends for breakfast.
It’s not an outright attack, but I’m so sick of people asking “are you two together?” at the grocery store, restaurants, shopping. Anywhere really.
“Oh, not at all, I’m just standing uncomfortably close to this random white guy.”chloe
We can physically be touching while talking about what to order, what to cook and so on, and we are still asked if we are together, after 3 years of marriage.James
Others will flirt with your SO like you’re not even there
Just as service people will often assume you’re not a couple, you’ll find that some flirty people of your own skin color will believe your white man or black woman is “just a friend” and consider you fair game.
If you’re a black woman, black men will straight up flirt with you in front of your white man because they think you’re not together. The reverse is also possible, with white girls flirting with your white boyfriend even if you’re next to him.
Obviously, this can be annoying at times so consider having a go-to tactic to make it clear to the soon-to-be-disappointed flirty person that you’re not willing to share.
Dated a black girl on and off for a few years. Most problems we had were from black guys. They really didn’t like it. They always tried talking directly to her, as if I wasn’t there.
‘What’s he got I ain’t’ kind of shit. She always hit back with ‘a job’ or ‘good credit’ or something snappy like that. Some would come right up and try to pick her up right in front of me. It always happened when there were more then one of them, of course. No solo guys ever did anything.
Never had a problem with women. No woman back or white ever had anything bad to say. Old white women were always the nicest, tell us what a nice couple we were. Older black women were a close second with the compliments.
Awkward, but well-meaning race comments
An uncomfortable situation you might have to deal with are comments from genuinely kind folk, but who don’t know how to approach the race issue.
Examples are comments such as: “was it hard growing up in black America?” or acquaintances trying to be exceedingly polite and coming across as artificial.
As far as problems go, at least it’s a nice one to have compared to the alternative.
I’m white, my wife is black, and in about 8.5 years together no one, friend, family, acquaintance, coworker or total stranger, has ever made any kind of insulting or derogatory comment about it. Like, maybe once a year we’ll see someone do a double take at us. So I guess by default that’s the “worst racist attack” we’ve ever been subjected to.
There has been the opposite though, awkwardly over-the-top well-meaning attempts to make sure we know they accept us. Like one of my mom’s friends asking me in a serious tone if it was hard for my wife to grow up black in America. Like no ma’am I’m pretty sure her upbringing was pretty normal but this now is an awkward conversation I would like out of please.dave
People of your own race may not like you for dating “outside”
There’s a chance you’ll encounter people from your own race that will needle you for “not sticking with your own”.
Others might also take expressions designed for empowerment such as “black love” way too literally, and be dismissive of your relationship.
I’m a black woman going out with a white man, and I get more pushback from black people than anyone else. My dad’s side of the family were welcoming, but made him feel more uncomfortable than anything else. My mom’s family, who live in the south, were much more sincere; my aunt gave him a hug as soon as we got off the plane.
One time specifically, a black woman basically called me a race traitor for having a white boyfriend.janet
My ex boyfriend was white and I am a black female. He was also 8 years older than me. We didn’t encounter any culture shocks but these are some things that got old fast:
1. Random black men coming up to us at bars to try to provoke an altercation because they want to see if I’ll react in a way that convinces them that I hate black men(I don’t).
2. People assuming I was only with him for the money when he didn’t make that much money. I notice a lot of people assume any white man over 30 that is well groomed and fit is loaded. It is hilarious.
3. White women hitting on him in front of my face when it was clear by our body language that we were together. They would pretend like they somehow did not notice him hugging me or us dancing or something. It was almost like they were testing me, or trying to show some sort of superiority over me in an open social setting. It was very strange.
4. Other white men giving him the “what are you doing with her?” look.
5. Random people coming up to us to tell us our kids would be beautiful or “you two are so adorable!” Its cringy.
I could go on and on.hannah
Seeing discrimination first hand
Discrimination against black people can take many different shapes, at varying levels of intensity. There are the obvious ones like slurs and insults.
There’s the also the very subtle forms of discrimination. The constant monitoring while in a store. Nervous glances. “Compliments” such as “you’re not like other black girls”.
Depending on their life experiences, some whites may not have witnessed any real-life racism at all. At the same time, other whites with strong connections to the black community can catch both the subtle and the not-so-subtle forms of discrimination because they’ve seen it first-hand.
Because of this, a white guy that dates a black woman will likely experience a learning process when it comes to racial discrimination and the many forms it takes.
I am a black woman married to a Korean man. Here’s just a few of the dumb things we endure:
1. When we go out to eat we get our leftover food in separate bags and they try to give us separate checks.
2. We run a business and are 50/50 partners together and are successful. It is always my husband’s “business” and “his” money. Because you know, whites are always rich. Not sure if prejudiced or sexiest.
3. People assume we are never together in lines, at bars, or social events (can’t tell you the amount of times men openly hit on me right next to my husband). Usually only happens if we are just standing next to each other, and not really talking. If we are talking they assume we work together.
4. The stares. We might as well be martians. We don’t even need to be doing anything special, just walking in the mall, or down the street. People openly gawk.
5. One time when I went to go test drive a Cadillac, I told the salesperson what I was looking for and he went off to find the car. It took him a really long time for him to locate the model of vehicle I wanted (over half an hour), so I popped my head in the office to tell him, never mind. He then asked me for my social security number. What? I’ve been buying cars for over 20 years. Never had I had someone ask me for my SSN when trying to test drive a car. Also, I was currently driving a Lexus, so I have been used to dealing with “premium” dealerships. At that point my husband stands up and tells the salesman that we were leaving, since he was obviously trying to “prequalify” before even showing me the car. Ah..the looks and stares we got, plus an apology.
Living through all these situations has really hurt my husband’s feelings. To each other, I am just his wife, and he is just my husband. Nothing more, nothing lessalicia
Side eyes, stares, nasty glances
The vast majority of people (or strangers at least) won’t really care much who you’re dating. However, as a black girl – white guy couple, you will find some strangers throwing side eyes, glances and stares in your general direction.
Many will be out of curiosity. While interracial relationships have become a lot more frequent, black women – white men relationships are still quite rare and out of the ordinary. Rather than being critical, these people are more likely fascinated by the concept so they can’t help themselves but look (even if it can be annoying at times).
Unfortunately, there will also be times when unfriendly individuals will throw eye-arrows instead of curious glances and stares. Some people might sneer and gossip when out of earshot.
This isn’t something same-race couples have to deal with. But it will likely be part of your reality, even if it happens rarely. Be prepared for it.
Statistics and other useful data for interracial couples
Interracial relationships are becoming more and more common
Back in 1967 only 3% of newlywedded couples were of mixed race. In the 50 years since then, this percentage has increased almost 6 times to 17% and shows no sign of stopping. At this rate, it is almost certain that in a few years 1 in 5 newlywedded couples will be mixed race.
In other words, interracial relationships are becoming the new normal.
However, while interracial marriages are becoming more common, more than 40% of interracial marriages involve a white person and a Hispanic one. Black women and white men form only 3% of mixed race marriages.
While this graph counts marriages instead of dating couples, it does show that even now black women – white man couples can be pretty rare and not something most people are used to seeing.
Black wife – white husband relationships have low rates of divorce
One of the most highly cited studies in interracial marriage and divorce rates has discovered that White husband – Black wife couples have a 44% lower divorce rate at the 10 year mark compared to White husband – White wife marriages.
In fact, according to the same study, Black wife – White husband is the second least likely racial pairing to divorce at the 10 year mark. The top spot for most solid marriages goes to Asian wife – Asian husband couples that are 55% less likely to divorce than white only couples.
Below is the table that shows the data. The “Full Model” column from the right is the relevant one.
HOW TO READ THE TABLE: The letter “H” stands for “Hispanic”, so H White means Hispanic White.
Next, the right most column on the “Full Model” shows how likely a couple is to divorce compared to a White-only couple. The research uses White only couple’s likelihood of divorce as a baseline and give it a value of 1.
Numbers above 1 means that an interracial couple has a higher chance of divorce compared to White only couples. For instance, a marriage of Asian husband – White wife has a 1.6 likelihood of divorce compared to White only couples. This means Asian husband – White wife marriages have a 60% higher chance of divorce compared to White only couples at the 10 year mark.
Numbers below 1 means that a couple has a smaller likelihood of divorce compared to White only couples. H(ispanic) White only couples have a 0.65 likelihood of divorce, meaning they are 35% less likely to divorce compared to White only couples.
Code switching is the practice of changing your speech patterns depending on who you’re talking to. To a certain degree almost everybody does it. It’s something so normal it just fades into the background of our daily lives.
However, many black people can speak a distinctive dialect with names ranging from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Black English, ebonics etc. Haters prefer to call it “bad English”, even though it meets all the linguistic conditions for it to be labeled a distinctive dialect of English, just like British English.
Because AAVE is looked down upon, blacks in particular code-switch heavily to protect their professional lives or blend into social groups.
This code-switching trend is especially more pronounced among younger black folk.
A white person who isn’t used to the dialect can be taken aback a bit, especially if the speech is heavy on slang terms.
Depending on your circumstances, code switching can range from a non-existent problem to a big relationship issue. As such, it deserves a mention and is something to at least think about.
Just in case you’re thinking about kids…
It’s likely you’re at the beginning of the relationship so it’s probably a bit to early to think about kids.
Nevertheless, it’s best to know that if kids do come, they won’t necessarily have a mix of white and black features. Because of how skin color genetics work, it’s entirely possible that a child will strongly resemble only one parent and look nothing like the other.
This particular family is a case in point. Some children strongly resemble the father, while the others favor the mother.
Raising a multiracial child can have some challenges of its own, regarding their identity, heritage and how to navigate the world as multiracial individuals.
However, one problem you may not expect to have is explaining to people that yes, you are the parent of your own child. This can happen because your child doesn’t resemble you at all, so people will think you’re either the babysitter, a friend of the parents, or even the child’s kidnapper.
Again, while kids are likely to be sometime away, their appearance, upbringing and other similar issues should be something to take into account.
As a certified psychologist and relationship therapist, I’ve counseled numerous couples and helped them navigate their relationship issues, including black – white couples.
From my professional experience, skin color has almost no relevance to the quality of a relationship. In the end, the ingredients for a healthy relationships are the same regardless of race: trust, respect, making an effort for one another, kindness, loyalty, teamwork.
This article is a guest article by Shawna Jackson, a certified psychologist and relationship with years of experience in relationship counseling.
Stories were provided by followers of the Hasty Reader blog.