Interracial relationships for a post-race future? My ass.

I’ve not written on the subject of interracial relationship in a while but something came across my Twitter feed recently.

“1 in 15 marriages now interracial!” cited a new American study which purports that 8.4 percent of all current U.S. marriages are interracial.

So I did some research to the places I feel connected to and here’s the sitch –

As of 2006 in Canada, ‘mixed unions’ make up 4% .  As of 2007 in Singapore, interracial marriages make up 16.4%.

I always get mixed feelings when I read studies like these. On the one hand, yes it is awesome, it is amazing that interracial unions occur. But wait a minute. ‘Interracial unions’ have been happening since pre-colonial times. Heck, at one time, my mom being Bugis and my dad being Boyanese was probably considered an ‘interracial marriage’. Today, both my parents are known as Malays. Do I go around boasting that I’m a biracial kid? No, I don’t because I’m not deluded to think that my existence can bring about a post-race future. I am not deluded enough to think that race is ‘something personal’ to me. It is not something ‘personal’, it is very much public. Race is a social construct. Race is determined by power relations between people of different skin colors.Which is why my mom and dad are not considered ‘interracial’. Growing up, it was such a big deal (and arguably it still is for the Malay community back home). I’m half Bugis, half Boyanese or half Javanese, half Acehnese…if only someone had told me that most of the world wouldn’t give a flying frack what I was and just see me as another brown person.

What I really wanted to highlight was my mixed feelings towards people exclaiming how interracial relationships herald a post-race, utopic future filled with ‘Kumbaya’ love. They don’t.

‎An author writes (and I wholeheartedly agree): “I hate to admit that I share the pessimism of others — the supposed blurring of racial and ethnic lines will probably not translate into the end of race and ethnicity, rather simply a reformulation of racial and ethnic boundaries and hierarchies.”
Yes. As fracked up as it seems, even children (yes, can you believe it) of interracial unions are subjected to the racial hierarchy.
I see it happening in Singapore right now. If you’re half-White and half-Chinese, you are viewed as potentially more beautiful, more desirable than someone who is let’s say…half-Malay and half-Indian. Half-White, Half-Chinese faces dominate the local media as actors in TV shows, game show hosts, radio deejays… how many half-Malay and half-Indian faces can claim ‘local celebrity status’? Being half-White, half-Chinese  gives you self- identification with two racial groups who currently have huge political, economic and cultural influence on Singapore. This puts you near the top of the currently reformulating racial/ethnic hierarchies.
Mixed-race children in Canada are placed in a similar position where they are seen as ‘quintessentially Canadian’. I recently read an article on Kristin Kreuk, the Canadian actress on Smallville, and the first line of the article emphasized her ‘mixed heritage’ (her mother is Chinese-Indonesian and her father is Dutch) and how ‘quintessentially Canadian’ it was. I wonder if the same thing would have been written if the piece highlighted someone who was half-Tamil and half-Black? Or half-Pakistani and half-Filipino? Are only half-White Canadians seen as ‘quintessentially Canadian’? If I was to marry and have children with a Fillippino-Canadian, would my biracial kids be considered less quintessentially Canadian than if they were half-White Canadian? Again, as a half-White Canadian, you can claim self-identification with a group that has huge political, economic and cultural influence in Canada which again, as in the Singaporean case, puts you near the very top of the reformulating racial hierarchies.
Is any of this making any sense to any of you?
What I’m trying to say is that this belief that biracial children and interracial relationships will bring forth a utopic future is very very flawed. Just because we want to think that everyone is on an equal playing field now doesn’t mean that this is actually so. Just because we want to believe that everyone should just be colorblind now doesn’t mean that this is actually so. It is not enough to be colorblind and kid yourself into thinking that insitutional racism doesn’t exist anymore because you know someone or lots of people who are in interracial relationships. It is so veyr easy to deny that institutional racism still exists in all our national systems. In our justice system, our schools, our workplaces. How can we claim to be post-race when racism still thrives in our institutions?
And don’t for a second kid yourself into thinking that interracial relationships are free from racism. I’ve written about my personal experiences witnessing friends in interracial relationships who do, say and think really racist things while dating someone ‘outside their race’. And here is more evidence that despite people thinking they are the most progressive people on Earth by dating someone ‘outside their race’, they are actually just exposing how horribly racist they are. Again, I emphasize: Just because you’re in an interracial relationship, it doesn’t mean you are free from racism. People can be dating, kissing and banging the person they think they love and still be thinking really racist things about that person’s ‘culture’.
I’ve been in an interracial relationship for 4 years this year and let me tell you – it’s not easy. I know many people who have been involved with ‘someone outside their race’ for far longer than I have and their stories are the same. Both parties have to be able to confront racial privilege and racial oppression individually and as a couple….not once, not twice but continuously for as long as they remain together. Talking about race openly and honestly is fundamental. C has had to confront his racial privilege many, many times and he continues to do so. Conversely, I have had to confront my racial oppression. It has been a long and difficult process for us to talk openly and honestly about race…along with religion, nationality, citizenship and immigration.
I don’t kid myself into thinking that we’re first Malay-White union to exist in the history of the world because I know we are not. I don’t kid myself into thinking we’re solving racism through our relationship. Most importantly, I don’t kid myself into thinking that if we had kids one day that our kids would be harbingers of a post-race future. They won’t be and I don’t expect them to be. In some ways, they will probably be privileged seeing that they will be half-White but just like everyone else, they will be constrained by the racist histories that hold me, their father, their grandparents and their ancestors in place.
I get really sick of talking about interracial relationships and arguing with people who think that it will bring a utopic, post-racial future. Which is probably why this blog post has been longer and more rant-y than others I’ve written. If you are conscious in our world today, and by that I mean awake, alive, involved with what is going on around you, you will realize  that nothing can be further from the truth.
There’s STILL a lot of work to be done.
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