Last year a Pew Research Center Study revealed that interracial marriages in the U.S. climbed to 4.8 million, with the influx of Asian and Hispanic immigrants adding to the already mixed pool of potential spouses.
Another study by British Future last year revealed that mixed marriages were more accepted in the UK. Even with the growing acceptance of mixed marriages, there is still a reluctance within the Asian community to support and embrace intercultural relationships.
Growing up in a Muslim Guyanese household, I expected a long list of qualities and traits my Mum and Dad had mentally stored away just waiting to throw at me when I uttered the word ‘boyfriend.’
Muslim. Guyanese. Perhaps Trinidadian. Lives in London. Educated. Good job. Comes from a respectful family. Non-smoker. The list could go on. How wrong was I?
So wrong that when I introduced my former boyfriend to my Mum thinking she would instantly condemn me, she did the complete opposite. Though he met the majority of the above traits, he wasn’t Guyanese, which I thought would be a deal breaker. It wasn’t. In fact, neither of my parents brought his Pakistani background into question.
But there are a lot of families that would have an issue with this and it is this lack of tolerance I cannot wrap my head around. Yes, there are differences in intercultural relationships, but should this stop a family from getting to know an individual invested in their son or daughter, or hinder two people from sharing and building a life together? Absolutely not.
NPR News interviewed New York psychologist, Lubna Somjee and Anita Malik, Editor of East West Magazine on the very subject where they gave some more insight into why Asians find it difficult to embrace this social change.
“Asian immigrant parents typically have a very set view of who their children should marry. It’s a different type of relationship, but every family has their own traditions, and sometimes a lot of that becomes very, very specific to what the parents want. And it’s just a very different child-parent relationship, and so it gets a little bit more tricky. And so it can be difficult,” Malik explains.
The wider ethnic community that a number of Asians are apart of can also be quite rigid in their traditional norms and the consequences for those who do not conform within those boundaries can be psychologically detrimental.
A Muslim father’s view quoted within a 2012 thesis by Sangeeta Soni discussed the prospect of his daughter marrying someone outside of their ethnic and religious background.
It might be accepted for the boy to marry (though not liked). But it would never
be acceptable for our girls. It’s a delicate relationship we have with a daughter.
We would feel dishonoured, the family would be dishonoured if this happened.
In some cases, cultural background is the issue at hand rather than religion and gender doesn’t come into question as males are just as forbidden as females.
There is a buzzing Guyanese community in London, but similarly to other Asian communities, it just seems that you’re more at risk of being scrutinised than empowered within these groups. Conforming to a way of life that other people collectively deem permissible somehow forces certain qualities and mindsets that an individual may not agree with.
Nevertheless, this ideology has travelled through several decades into the new millennium and can cause somewhat of a clash given the freedom younger generations have. With more mixed marriages, families are showing more of an acceptance and are finding ways to preserve their traditions as well as create new ones by opening their hearts and homes to individuals outside of their culture.
While this is reassuring, the idea of intercultural relationships still remains forbidden to some families. Somjee explains: “Unfortunately, there may be some families who ultimately say, you know what? We cannot do this. No matter how nice you may be, no matter how much we like you in general, this is not something we can accept in our family. And at this point, you as a couple have to decide whether you’re willing to take the risk, and those are hard questions you will have to ask yourself before you even start this process.”