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It's Not The Color That Matters

Dear Dating Doctor:

I have entered into a relationship that looks very promising. The only problem that concerns me is that we are not of the same race (I am Caucasian, he is African-American). We are both 21 and have gone out four times. I believe that we would make an excellent couple but I am worried about what my parents will say (they are very conservative) and how society will react to us and to our children if we should ever get married and have any. Do you think that this relationship is worth pursuing or am I just kidding myself?

Color Sensitive

Dear Color Sensitive:

Your question leads me to believe that along with the dilemma you face regarding inter-racial dating, you also face a challenge of maturity. A quality relationship doesn't begin with finding the right person, it begins with being the right person. It should make absolutely no difference who you choose to date from a racial perspective. It is more important to focus on who the individual is in terms of the qualities that define them as a person. There are issues of infinitely greater importance to focus on than race.

I won't mislead you and tell you that every day will be "a carefree bed of roses." You will face all of the challenges that mono-racial couples encounter and you will undoubtedly experience varying degrees of prejudice and bigotry (from society and even your families). But the situation has the potential to draw you closer together. You want to keep from developing an "us versus them" mentality. It's a relationship --not a war.

In some aspects, our society has grown in acceptance of inter-racial relationships. However, it sometimes feels as if we have regressed to the 1960's. Expect some of your friends and family to deal with your situation by not dealing with it. They may inconspicuously avoid you or pretend that the relationship doesn't exist. To your face, they may be pleasant and at least neutral, but when you're absent, they may react in an entirely different manner.

I realize that I am unfamiliar with your family situation, but if you truly care for this person, give your relationship a chance. In terms of worrying about what others think, take the concerns of your family and friends into consideration, discuss them, and then move on. It is simply none of their (or societies) business.

You are feeling pressure now because the issue is at the forefront and a decision eminent. But I compare your situation to the "hoopla" surrounding a wedding or funeral (which have similarities). During such times, an enormous amount of energy is expended. Friends and family all try to make a positive impact. However, once the event is over, people return to their own lives and you are left alone with the life you have established.

Parents ultimately want what is best for their children and for their children to be happy. They often set their own personal interests aside for the happiness and well-being of their children. Your friends will learn to accept and support your relationship or will cease to be an integral part of your life. If they choose the latter, were they truly friends in the first place?

We sometimes give the impression that acts of bigotry and vicious words don't bother us. But the truth is that we do care, and they do hurt. In terms of your children, you're still a long way off. Kids are often more resilient, understanding and loving than the adults that rear them. They are living legacies to their parents. As your relationship grows, you should make an effort to understand and appreciate each other's cultural background. How you treat each other in this relationship will serve as an example to others. You may be influential in changing the perspectives of others through the behaviors you exhibit and affect the lives of others you may never know.

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