“everything changed when they met her boyfriend”
Walking through any of the popular areas in Central London these days, you wouldn’t bat an eye-lid if you saw families or couples with mixed ethnic backgrounds. Although these relationships are widely accepted by our society a quick Google search brings up advice on how to make interracial marriages work, interracial dating sites and forums discussing the pros and cons of these relationships.
There are many articles accessible online with tips on how to get along best if your partner is from another culture. The advice is very similar to general marriage advice, namely respect each other and each other’s right to be different. Sharing similar values is more important than being from the same ethnic group.
The difficulties appear when older generations and family members are entered into the equation. Every parent has expectations of their children, and some fear that marrying someone from a different racial community will take their children away from their own culture.
Anil Patel, 34, of London believes that a lot of the older generation’s negative attitudes are due to a fear that these relationships will cause dilution of their faith, values and religion. Born in the UK to Indian parents, he has had several relationships with women from other cultures. After finishing university his sister decided to move in with her white boyfriend, who her parents knew nothing about at the time.
Anil helped his sister break the news to her parents. “It was really tense in the house. She went upstairs to tell my dad, and was gone ages. I went up to see everything was ok, she was crying and my dad was hugging her.”
His mother had concerns about the relationship, but “everything changed when they met her boyfriend” and the family now get on very well together.
Alex Marsh, 27, of Tunbridge Wells had a similarly positive experience with the family of his British-born Indian wife Jayna. The couple met at university in Manchester and had their first child in March 2011.
Although Alex refused to let Jayna’s parents shave Sophia’s head, which according to Hindu tradition removes undesirable elements from the child’s past lives, he is happy for his child to take part in other aspects of Indian culture. Jayna wants her daughter to grow up knowing some Gujarati, particularly family words such as “Aunty”, and to celebrate Diwali and Holi.
In general, there is a rise in interracial relationships and marriages amongst the British South Asian community. You are seeing such relationships practiced much more openly than the past. Especially, by Brit-Asian women dating non-Asian men. It is now common to see them dating white British men or other nationalities. Also, Brit-Asian men with Afro-Caribbean is also a trend.
Some people are not so accepting of interracial relationships as these examples.
Traditional and orthodox British Asian families would see interracial relationships as something completely unacceptable or a phase, especially, for men dating non-Asian women. Parents in this situation would not expect the relationship to last, and therefore, eventually would expect the man to marry someone from within his own community.
There have been cases where some of British Asian men have even lived away from home, had children with the non-Asian woman, and then some years later decided to leave the relationship and revert back to marrying a woman from their own culture; frequently from abroad, such as India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. A practice not so common in women from the British Asian community.
The rise of extreme right wing political groups, in recent years is a clear indication of extreme attitudes about race and national identity becoming more mainstream.
Online you can find a wide array of forums and discussion groups that support these ideas.
On such a site there is a thread with the title: “Interracial marriage should be banned – reasons for and against.” The user listed three reasons against, namely “Whites are a world minority”, “Race mixing is against Nature”, and “For Christians, race mixing is outlawed in the 10 commandments.” They didn’t make any positive comments about interracial marriage and ended their post with the statement:
“All race mixers are condemned by natural law to be trapped in the body of a mongrel in the ‘afterlife.”
“It is against nature, it is against God, it is against good sense and instinct. That’s why interracial sex is wrong.”
Thankfully other users of the forum unanimously disagreed with the reasons put forward. However, these attitudes are certainly out there, and should not be swept under the carpet.
The only way to change people’s opinions is for them to get to know people from the group they are prejudiced against. Obviously this isn’t easy, especially as many people hold stereotypes and prejudices without realising it.
Older generations may be frightened of their children moving away from the traditions of their homeland, but surely this is a natural part of migration and living in a foreign culture. Is it either fair or realistic to expect people who have grown up in the UK to follow rules dictated by a culture that they haven’t experienced in the same way?