Hard to believe that just 50 years ago, interracial marriage was illegal in Texas. Yikes. One of the most popular topics I’m asked about is interracial relationships. These questions range from, “How did your parents react to you dating a white boy?” to “What differences have been hard to overcome in an interracial relationship?”. I’m writing this post to answer your questions and because I would have loved to read something like this because no one in my friend circle had any experience.
What is an interracial relationship?
An interracial relationship is when both parties in the relationship belong to different socially-defined races or racialized ethnicities. My husband is white, and I am Asian! Our kiddo is going to have to have a ball picking a category on government papers, haha. But more on her later.
There’s a massive difference between casual interracial relationships and ones with the intent for marriage. If you’re someone who isn’t looking for a casual fling and are thinking about dating someone of a different race or culture, I hope this post answers some questions you have!
How did your parents react to you dating a white boy?
My dad always told me that the integrity and character of a person mattered most to him. So, when I started dating Hank, I knew what to look for. Besides integrity and character, I also looked for a deep love for God, and obviously, someone I found attractive. He fit all of those boxes and more. I was beyond excited to introduce him to my dad. My mom was a bit more traditional. In my school years, she told me that she was hoping I’d find an excellent Telugu, Brahmin, Hindu boy. Hahahaha. So far off. But after she met Hank, she knew there was something extraordinary about him. Even though she made comments about cultural compatibility at first, she grew to understand that it’s better to be with someone who respects and loves my culture than someone who looks like they fit in from the outside.
I’m proud to say that my super southern, white husband can make a kickass biryani, has watched countless Bollywood and Tollywood movies, and speaks more Telugu than the average American Telugu guy. Find a guy who respects your culture and wants to be a part of it. Even the other day, my mom said to me, you couldn’t have found someone better to join our family.
How did you introduce him to your family, and how did he introduce you to his?
Three months after we started dating, my parents took us along with four of my friends out for dinner at an Indian restaurant. He and my dad really hit it off and talked the whole time. My mom watched their interaction, interjected here and there, and smiled at me. To see my daddio genuinely get along with my then-boyfriend meant a lot to her and me.
One week after we started dating, he took me to meet and stay with his parents. They were so warm and welcoming! Their mannerisms may have been different to me, like when it came to the formality of dinner or polite conversation where everyone was heard (my family won’t let you get a word in, lol), but all I felt from them was love. Sure, they asked me several questions about my family, culture, and background but all in a genuinely curious way and not in a way that ever made me feel uncomfortable. When people are eager to learn, I am happy to share.
Did people throw objectional thoughts at you and your relationship?
My husband will tell you how much more he notices injustice to minorities since we’ve been together. I’ll never forget when we drove to Atlanta from Austin.
On a road trip, we stopped by Panera Bread on the outskirts of Alabama. The second we walked into the crowded eatery, the restaurant went silent. I nervously tried to tug my hand out of his in the hopes that maybe that would stop the staring, but he just held on tighter, put on a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and led us to the cashier. It felt like an eternity before people started chatting again.⠀
At an Indian restaurant in Dallas, this couple sitting next to us stopped eating mid-way and stared at my hubs as he started eating. I’m talking open-mouthed, staring for several minutes. My whole family noticed it, but it was my mom (total mama bear) who went over to their table and said, “Look at your own food.”⠀
On the same road trip, we stopped by a pharmacy to pick up snacks in Georgia. Hubs was in line in front of me, and the cashier made pleasant conversation with him. When I walked up, she stopped talking. She scanned my items, threw them in a bag, ripped my receipt out, and shouted, “next!”. Hubby was standing by the door, livid. I grabbed his hand and walked out. He wanted to give her a piece of his mind, but I just wanted to get on the road.⠀
It’s been a two-sided experience, but with supportive partners and families, we are stronger than we would have been alone. He calls our diversity our superpower.
Was dating in general ever an issue with your family?
Y’all. My parents never talked to me about dating in my life. They didn’t give me the dating talk, but I do remember once in high school when my Facebook profile picture was with a boy, and my dad said, “What is this? Put a nice picture of yourself instead.” That was the extent of our dating talk. They also didn’t give me the sex talk. One time my mom said to me, “There are some things in life that you should wait for.” LOL, that’s it.
If there was a “talk” about something, it’s safe to say they didn’t give it to me. In fact, they called Hank my “special friend” up until he put a ring on it. That was THREE years into dating. It’s probably a more cultural thing not to open up about these things.
Was the difference in race ever an issue between the two of you?
The only time it has been an issue is when either of us has felt like we didn’t fit in and the other person wasn’t empathetic in the moment of discomfort. This has obviously happened to me more than him, but Hank felt this way when we went to India for the first time. He didn’t mind people coming up to him and shaking his hand because that wasn’t creepy, but he was SO OVER the secret selfies, constant stares, and very loud whispers.
I’ve had more than one breakdown about never feeling like I fit in because people automatically put me in a box when they see me because of my skin color, or they don’t acknowledge that massive side of me. But he has been there through those moments, holding me close and reminding me that the kingdom of heaven will be as colorful as they come and that Jesus acknowledges me as Indian because he designed me that way.
When was the right time to bring up the topic of marriage?
So, we brought up the topic of marriage on our first date. WHAT. Haha, keep reading. My husband and I did not want to date each other just for the sake of dating. On the first date, we told each other that if one of us didn’t see this potentially ending in marriage one day, then to let the other know. We dated for four years y’all, but we didn’t want to waste our heart or time if our goal wasn’t the same.
After we dated for a couple of years, we chatted through realistically a good time for marriage. The way he respected my family by asking for their permission is something I am so thankful for. It’s not this archaic notion of asking to marry the girl like she’s property. It was asking two of the most influential people in my life, my parents, if he could join our family and if I could join his: different races and cultures, the same incredible value on family.
How do you react to people who say the reason you married a white guy is that you don’t like your own race?
This only happened once to me. Do you know what I did? I paid them no attention because it was such a foolish thing to say. I love being Indian. I love being brown. I love being Shruthi. My culture is so important to me, and my husband embraces it with open arms like he’s dancing to bhangra. If I didn’t like my own race, why the actual heck would my husband embrace it then? Byeee Felicia.
Did you have any Hindu rituals at the wedding?
The thing about Hinduism is that culture and religion are so intertwined. I don’t eat meat, step on books, wear shoes in the house, and I always fall at the feet of my elders, etc — all part of my cultural upbringing. Because of my background and respect for my parents, I included a few meaningful Hindu cultural wedding rituals that were not directly tied to a Hindu God. We worked with our Hindu Priest and Christian Priest to create a custom wedding since we are a custom couple. For example: Like how most couples have wedding rings, we incorporated the mangal sutra (necklace for the bride). We also included the seven rounds around the fire (each one a sacred promise between the couple), placed garlands on each other (to display that we have agreed to be together for our whole lives), received blessings from our elders, and prayed to remove obstacles except instead of praying to Ganesha, we prayed to Jesus.
We discerned to the best of our ability with guidance from our elders and other couples what was religious vs cultural. And even with the Christian part of the wedding, we did not include every Christian ritual. My two cents? Wedding ceremonies should be tailored to the couple getting married. I mean, they’re the ones who are promising each other they’ll be faithful for their whole lives!
What are some things you guys have changed because of each other’s backgrounds?
Well, for starters, I could not do PDA (public displays of affection) if there were Indian people around. Sometimes we will be walking holding hands, and he goes, “Oh, look at that Indian family!” and I’ll instinctively pull my hand away, and he will laugh hysterically. I think I do this because I feel like all Indian people are related (?!), and I didn’t grow up seeing many public displays of affection. I’m so weird!!! He used to get irritated with me, but now he makes fun of me. I prefer the irritation :D.
Also, I now own and use china, can skeet shoot pretty dang well, write thank you notes often, eat…salad….LOL, and celebrate Thanksgiving! On his end, he doesn’t wear shoes in the house, pronounces Indian words correctly, unlike 99% of the population, makes a mean chai, gives people money that ends with the increment of $1 (like $101), and always checks the vegetarian menu at any restaurant we go to before sitting down.
RAISING INTERRACIAL KIDS
How do you plan to honor/incorporate both cultures in raising kids?
Our goal is to incorporate the cultural pieces that are most important to us in their childhood. On my end, that looks like Indian food, Telugu, Indian fashion, and visiting India. On his end, that looks like BBQ, hunting, celebrating Thanksgiving, and trips out to the ranch. We both also have mutual cultural goals like a focus on education, a deep love for family, and above all, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When it comes to holidays, we will celebrate Diwali with my family and Thanksgiving with his. We will let them choose whether they want to be vegetarian like me or omnivorous like him. Maybe we will enroll them in cotillion, and we might sign them up for Bollywood dancing. We really don’t know for sure about so many things, but we know that it is vital for our kiddos to feel a tie to both sides of who they are, and we want to supply them with options.
How do you make it work when you both grew up with different family cultures?
This has been a learning process for both of us. Sure there’s a cultural difference, but every couple will go through this to some extent because every family does things differently. The way you grew up with your family isn’t necessarily the ONLY way to do things with your family. The white way wasn’t always the right way. We weren’t always down to do it brown. My husband and I learned that we are both stubborn people that thought our upbringing was “more correct.” We quickly realized that wasn’t true at all. Talk it out. Pick and choose what is really important to you. Otherwise, adjust with everything else and understand the end goal here is harmony, not a need to be right.
People often think that interracial dating is just the craziest thing. But in my opinion, if you’re the same in your core with your values, then everything else is secondary. If I could give you advice, it would be this: don’t think that just because someone is the same as you on paper, they will make a great life partner. A great life partner is someone who supports you, celebrates you, acknowledges you, respects you, and complements you.
If your family is the one preventing you from being with someone because of something as shallow as the color of their skin, I hope you will be able to help them see the light. My husband and I bring two completely different sets of everything to the table, and sure, it takes some time to sort through all of that, but our different upbringings and cultures are less important to us than our mutual pursuit of Christ. Our cultural differences are a strength for us because our foundation is the same. That’s what interracial relationships are actually like.