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.
Below is a list of some of the most frequent problems you’re likely to face while dating, from the small and forgettable to the downright aggravating.
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. This belief can be so persistent, some will still think you’re friends even when the two of you are uncomfortably close to one another to be just buddies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
People of your own race may not like you’re dating “outside”
There’s a chance you’ll encounter people from your own race that will needle you for “not sticking with your own”. Many times, the comments will be dressed as jokes or loaded questions such as “what does he have that I don’t”.
Others might also take expressions designed for empowerment such as “black love” way too literally, and be dismissive of your relationship.
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 white people 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.
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.