The United States has become an assorted fun-pack,stuffed with cultures from around the world. We see cultural diversity on TV fromColombian singer Shakira shaking her hips trying to sell you Pepsi to that box ofLucky Charms on your kitchen counter sporting an Irish leprechaun.
Nodoubt about it, America is a melting pot of cultures where the young are educatedto be politically correct. America is a place where prejudice is being combatted,supposedly. Here "a man can be judged on the content of his character andnot by the color of his skin." And here among the red rocks of Sedona, somehave even found love.
"I never really thought I would date someoneoutside my race," says Isabella, a native of Hong Kong. "I was alwayssurrounded by other Chinese people so the thought never crossed my mind."Isabella is just one of many American teens in an interracial relationship. Shemet her white boyfriend at boarding school. "I haven't told my parents aboutus, but if I do, I will break it to them slowly. They'll be shocked, but if theydon't support the idea of us going out, they won't force their opinion onme."
Isabella is facing a common reality for many teens today.Especially in America, children are taught about equality and people'spersonality, not physical appearance. As they grow into young adults, many findthemselves less concerned with someone's color and more with if they shareinterests. As kids mature in diverse school communities, it seems inevitable thatlove and romance will emerge. According to the Seattle Times, in 1996 the numberof interracial couples in the U.S. had jumped 275% since1970.
"Everyone in my family is in an interracial couple," saidhigh-school student Emma. "My grandmother is a Catholic of Mexican descent,my mom is Jewish, my dad is Navajo and my grandpa is German-Polish." Havingbeen raised in such a diverse background, Emma explains that she neverjudged members of the opposite sex by their race. "If a guy is cute and hasa good personality, I'll go out with him. Race has never been an issue since I ammixed myself."
According to a recent Gallup poll, 57% of teens whodate have gone out with someone outside their race or ethnic group. Despite thenew liberal perspective, many parents, especially those who lived through thedays of segregation, still have hang-ups about interracial dating. According toteenager Emily, "My parents don't have a problem with me dating outside myrace but the idea of me marrying someone who isn't white bothers them. It isn'tthat they're racist, but they worry about the circumstances my children mightface by not having a clear cultural identity."
For a majority ofAmericans, there has been a great swing in attitude toward interracial dating. In1958 less than 4% viewed it favorably. According to a 1994 Gallup poll, more than61% approve of these "unconventional" partnerships. America isever-changing; Alabama finally removed its last anti-interracial marriage law in2000. Despite the progress in tolerance and acceptance of interracial dating andmarriage, hate crimes and racially motivated violence had a sharp increase in the1990s.
Despite the statistics and "danger" of dating outsideone's race, a majority of interviewees did not fear repercussions. One felt thatthe only thing she feared was being seen as making a statement by dating someonenot white. For most, interracial dating wasn't construed as a statement. Love islove, no matter what the ethnicity. Despite some ill feelings from families,possible threats and comments made by peers and strangers alike, interracialdating and marriage are thriving. Love is becoming color blind, whether peoplewant it to or not. As one boy told me, "I think that someday there will beno race. We'll all be one color!
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.