Candid Conversations: Mixed Race Relationships

interracial-hands

I can’t believe I’m even talking about this. Never once did I think this would ever be a cause to point out or make a big deal about it…

This is by no means meant to be preachy, I don’t actually know what my overall intention with this is, I hope it becomes apparent the more I write.

The truth is this blog post is going to be all talk/write, lots of explanations and babbles of me, it may say a whole lot and mean nothing to you, it is dependent on your life experience and the way you perceive life. If you share similarities in your journey then you may be able to relate, or reject what I have to say…if I even have anything to say at all.

I’m going to touch on several subjects but I may not even delve deep into one particular topic…this is free thinking at its finest. All I know is when I got my laptop out, I knew I needed to get this out of my chest and I wanted to give you the raw emotion that I so badly want to use to emphasize my point which to recap I still don’t know what that is yet.

I have lived a sheltered life. I never knew this until much later on, I took everything for granted because I never knew just how lucky and privileged I actually was.

The truth is I can only recall experiencing racism 4 times in my 14 years of living in this country. 4 times! In 14 years that’s not bad.

I am mixed race. My mother is Filipino and my dad is English/Welsh. I was born and raised in the Philippines then my family immigrated to the UK when I was 7 years old. My experience with racism differs.

  1. The first time was at the hands of family members. I won’t name names, I wont even say which side of my family, but all I can say is because this was my first experience I never really understood it and thankfully my ignorance about the situation allowed me to be cushioned from the true hatred and pain that could have filled me due to what I experienced. There’s no use to going through the details because honestly, it did not impact my life as a kid, as an adult I look back on those times and I get really angry, but more because I wish someone had protected young me, but no harm, no foul I guess? I haven’t forgiven, but at the same time I’m not actively seeking an apology or trying to fight with them, they’re not part of my life and I’m not part of theirs, as far as I’m concerned they don’t exist.
  1. A girl once called me a ‘Paki’ which is weird because 1. I don’t get how this is an insult when the country is beautiful and all the people I have met and gotten to know from Pakistan are very friendly, hospitable and kind, so thank you for calling me a ‘Paki’. 2. I do not resemble someone who is from Pakistan, if you’re going to try and insult me then at least try to be a little more smart, I look wayyyy Chinese, maybe call me that? But to say I look Pakistani when I don’t even look like I’m half Pakistani seems a little foolish on your part. People are ignorant because if you have slightly slanted eyes, you can only be Korean, Chinese etc when there are lots of Filipino’s who look like me, I have a friend from Hong Kong who looks very English and yet she isn’t…does that make her English? No…
  1. I was once targeted by a group of Asian boys when I was in my teens. I was with an English boyfriend and they circled us and told me how I brought shame to Asians for abandoning my culture and taking up with a ‘white boy’ the ‘white boy’ out of anger towards ME, left me to be harassed by this old school idiots.
  1. Long story short, I’ve been made to feel like I’m not good enough for a particular man because I am Asian.

All those terrible examples happened a long time ago. Despite those experiences, I lived pretty blissfully that I genuinely FORGOT racism existed.

In my neighborhood growing up, there was 1 mixed race (black and white) family and only 1 other Asian family (again mixed, white and Asian) then there was ours. My primary school there was only our 3 families who counted towards ‘diversifying’ our primary school. When I went to High school and College again there were only a handful of mixed race (can I say foreign?) or at least non ENGLISH WHITE WHITE WHITEEEEEEE, kids, but still I never grew up feeling ashamed, alone, nor’ was I made to feel like I was different just because my skin color was different, just because I had a harsh accent to begin with or that I looked far different to everyone else. I was embraced, loved, nurtured.

An example of how small town my life was up until 19 years old.

I had only met 1 Indian person in my 19 years. Which is weird because my best friend now is Indian, it’s not that I had anything against Indian people but it’s just we didn’t have a huge population of them in my town and because I never ventured far from home, I never really had the opportunity to meet an Indian person.

I grew up believing I could love anyone and that anyone could love me.

My dating history is quite colorful. Because I am a firm believer that attraction is heavily influenced in personality, I never felt myself being lead by looks, I didn’t have a particular interest in a type of man/woman. I count myself as being fairly liberal. I wouldn’t say I was strictly heterosexual because I have liked woman in the past because as I said I am more interested in personality and heart than peoples body parts. I will not rule out the potential of me marrying a woman, and I have made that clear to my parents. As it so happens I am in a happy committed long-term relationship with a man. Despite my overall dating life being open to all cultures, genders and colors, my long-term relationships have mainly been with other Filipino’s.

Here is my truth as to how/why this was.

My family and how we ‘operate’ is not how you may consider as ‘normal’ then again what is normal nowadays. My parent’s income would basically go towards supporting my family in the Philippines, that meant that sometimes our food cupboard would run at bare minimum, but everyday we were grateful for the opportunities we had in life. My parents worked hard for us and tried to give us what they could, I admire and love them for the hard work and love they gave my sisters and I. Growing up, I found it hard to be able to confide in friends when times were particularly trying. Nobody ever really understood why we never went on holiday or why I couldn’t come to yet another shopping spree. At Christmas and on Birthday’s we were never showered with incredibly extravagant gifts, but we were by no means resentful nor did we feel like we were less than anyone else. I recall so many conversations with friends who would discuss how they ‘felt sorry’ for a particular person because they had been given socks or some other small gift as a birthday present, and I would just nod or stay silent when secretly I would recall receiving a similar item myself. I felt embarrassed but also a little angry at myself for feeling that way, and I just knew that no matter how much I loved my friends or how close I got with them, they would never be able to fully understand why 99.9% of my Mums pay cheque was being sent back to the Philippines to help support her family.

I had this genuine fear that I would end up alone because I would never be able to find someone who understood and didn’t judge.

Whilst I never fully agreed with what my parents were doing (sometimes putting our family in the Philippines before our family here) I didn’t like the idea of someone judging them for it. I wanted someone to understand, but I didn’t think anyone would and this made me feel so helpless and I almost hated LOVE, I tried to escape from this potential threat and I was afraid to fall in love because inevitably I would become vulnerable and I would have to reveal this secret. I can’t even begin to try and explain how badly this affected me. I felt physically sick at the thought that I would fall in love with someone who would tell me how selfish my parents were being by trying to be selfless.

The sad truth is that that is the reality for a lot of overseas Filipino families. They feel a pressure and responsibility to help their families back home all because people perceive working abroad as an automatic sign that someone is wealthy when behind closed doors my Mother is working 80+ hours a week to be able to put her relatives through University and to put food on the table every night.

I dated mainly Filipino boys because I felt like they would have the closest chance to understanding the burden I felt growing up, and really my close guy friends understand and live the same reality as me. I hoped that one day I could help a relative go to University like my Mum and Sister has done, I hoped to help make a difference to a family members life without having to explain it over and over to my partner.

Another side is because of how different the Filipino culture is. I get that I am half Filipino, but I am very proud of my heritage, Pinoy ako, and I will never be told otherwise. My Sister’s ex long term partner hated the smell of Filipino food and wouldn’t let her cook any dish and this meant she was basically psychologically incapable of cooking anything but English food, she couldn’t even boil rice without there being an argument so she simply stopped. I didn’t want this to happen to me, so I thought, how could I stop this potential problem? Well I’ll have to date someone who eats Filipino food, I wouldn’t say Filipino food is universal, I think it is for an acquired taste so I assumed I’d only be able to marry a Filipino.

That was all until I met Scott.

Scott was my Asian dreamboat in an English disguise. He is the Asianist white boy; whitest Asian I have ever met and I love him so much.

We met in a really weird way, if you want to hear our love story I wrote about it last month… go look for it 😉

But long story short, because I genuinely believed I would never meet him again, I told him my whole life story, warts and all…including my greatest fear, that I would never meet someone who wasn’t Filipino who would understand.

But Scott did. He understood. I didn’t even ask him to but he did. I remember when he said ‘I think your Mum is really brave…she’s making a difference, she’s a really good person’ and I think as much as I don’t want to admit it, I fell in love with him for the first time that very first night…because he got it, and he didn’t even have to. He said what I wanted someone who was not part of the situation to say…that she was a good person, because she is.

Scott let me live my Asian life, whilst also reminding me to honor my Father’s heritage and to embrace my English side. He tried Asian cuisines, he watched Filipino movies, Filipino parties and embraced my Asian lifestyle, as long as I dabbled in his traditions too.

I fell head over heels over this guy who just a few years ago I believed I did not have a chance at having a long term relationship with. Scott taught me that I could be proud of being Filipino whilst also being proud to be English. He opened up a whole new world of love, caring and adventure and for the first time ever I felt romantically liberated.

I no longer felt limited to being able to only pursue relationships with Filipino men just because I only had them as an option (not that that is a problem).

Scott is a good man, but he is extra special because he never feels the need to judge, and he understands not everything requires his personal input. Whilst I can see in his face he doesn’t always understand the way my family works, he knows when his opinion is not welcome. He doesn’t judge us and he applauds us when we try to help our family.

Because I am half English and because Scott encourages me to love that aspect of my life, I sometimes forget that we do have a lot of differences in our culture. I’ve never really focused on those differences because he makes me feel so safe and at home.

I remember 3 years into our relationship, during a discussion about how I realized (stupidly!) that I would be classed as mixed race, I up until then believed mixed race meant, half black, half white…but really when it comes to races, there are blurred lines. I pondered over the realization that we were a mixed race couple and had a good laugh about how it was a ‘duh’ moment for me. I kept repeating how normal it was, then a hushed silence washed over both of us. I told him how I understood, once upon a time, black and white people couldn’t be in a relationship as it was frowned upon and mixed race children would probably end up abandoned due to shame. He confirmed this (again please remember I lived a ignorance is bliss lifestyle until much later on in life) and I felt quite sick at this horrific thought, then I said, this must be what homosexual couples feel like now, again he agreed, then it hit me, we were a mixed race couple and we were also once forbidden, with a somber look on his face he told me yes.

Horrified I asked him, almost innocently whether people looked at us differently and he told me yes. I never noticed this. Like I said I never saw us as being different, not any different as his parents were and they are both English. It could be because my Mum is Asian and my Father is English that I never saw our relationship as being different but on pressing him further Scott admitted he had caught a few people look at us when we were together.

Now there’s a difference between looking and staring. Those two very different things can have very different outcomes.

After that conversation, I pretty much forgot we ever discussed how some people looked at us differently if we’re walking down the street holding hands.

I forgot, partially because this reality hurt me much more than I could have ever imagined, but also because it was far easier for me to ignore those stares because I was in love and no one could take that away from us.

Until this weekend.

I spent my weekend crying over a really stupid thing that happened.

I experienced yet another memorable racist event that shook my very belief in the good of people. I questioned myself, my relationship and what people were teaching their kids, because honestly, after my 1 experience, I have become very fearful of the future generations.

I know I share a lot with you, some things are cringe, and others are deeply personal that I wouldn’t even share it out loud with close friends that I’ve known for years.

This next story, it may not be a big deal for you, but it is for me…me sharing this kind of vulnerability with you is a big deal, and I want to share it with you because I hope that if you’re reading this and you’ve experienced it to, then maybe you can get some kind of hope from it, or even share with me your wisdom with how you overcame it.

This weekend my partner and I both agreed we had had a very difficult week, we were spending the first weekend in ages where we could both relax with each other so to celebrate getting over a particularly trying week we decided to go to a restaurant for breakfast.

Our favorite meal of the day is Breakfast, so you can imagine how excited we were to be able to go out and enjoy each other’s company over an English fry up.

We arrived, we picked a nice secluded table, the restaurant was fairly quiet, but we happened to be sat near another couple seated on the table next to ours. We were far enough to have private conversations but close enough to catch bits of words they would say.

Instantly I felt something was off, a few times I caught the female’s eyes linger a little too long on Scott and I but I took no notice of it because Scott tells me I can be overly paranoid.

Holding hands we walked to get drinks and I felt the female’s gaze follow us to the other side of the room, I turned to look at her and when she saw me watching her she pulled her boyfriend closer and whisper something, he turned and our eyes met, I don’t know what made me do it but I instantly turned away and I felt guilty at having been caught, as if I was the instigator of the staring match.

When we sat back down, Scott and I discussed random things and would occasionally erupt into laughter, we weren’t being loud or rowdy, we were just enjoying the atmosphere, but I could hear her sigh loudly as if we were disturbing her breakfast.

At one point Scott walked away from our table, and I got up to. When walking back to our table, I overheard the female say to her partner ‘it’s just disgusting, they’re putting me off my breakfast, I can’t eat, she’s Asian, she doesn’t belong with him.’

With a disgusted look, she flashed me a glare, she caught me looking at her and I felt myself blush. Again I felt ashamed to have gotten caught.

‘They’re disgusting together, I can’t believe they’d come out together…what’s he doing with her?’

She’d mumble various things, and I couldn’t catch full sentences but a few grumbles about him being white, and me being Asian and that we were being disrespectful by coming out in public together, holding hands and how we’d put her off her food. Well it was enough to dampen my mood and I couldn’t even say anything to my Partner because he was having a good time.

On the way back to the car I was quiet. I couldn’t help think about how I wish I had said something but I couldn’t muster the energy to do it because I was shocked, hurt and upset.

I am a usually outspoken person when it comes to things like this, but because it happened to me personally well…I just felt so rejected and defeated. I can’t even begin to tell you how badly I wanted to hide my face from the world at that point.

I remembered the conversation my partner and I had, I asked him again:

Me: do you notice people looking differently at us?

Him: Yes…but I don’t care

Me: why not?

Him: because if it makes people uncomfortable then I’m glad.

Me: but why?

Him: because we’re a normal couple and if people are uncomfortable with our relationship then they deserve to be made to feel uncomfortable.

And for the sake of being completely candid, this conversation lead to me accusing my boyfriend, who I love very much, of answering with a very ‘white entitled’ agenda. I told him that his answer was the typical answer of a white person who hadn’t experienced being solely target for racism.

I made the original problem a problem between him and I when in such a delicate subject we should have been holding on to each other and not fighting amongst ourselves.

At that point I was so upset that he didn’t understand how knocked down I felt.

Granted at that point I hadn’t told him what happened.

The thing is in the past I’ve begged Scott to plan a dinner date between us and his work partner and his wife. For ages he skirted around the topic and would often come up with an excuse as to why they couldn’t come or he hadn’t asked. It took many months of nagging before my partner eventually admitted his work partner was racist and did not like Asian people.

It’s not like racism has never come up in our relationship but it’s been such a small and almost insignificant part that when things like that happen, it knocks my confidence and makes me feel uncomfortable in my own relationship.

This weekend, I cried hard about what we had experienced. I realized that though I felt victimized, it wasn’t a battle I was fighting on my own. I also realized that though my partner was choosing to be upbeat and optimistic, we needed to stop sugar coating a very big problem that is still occurring in this society.

Interracial, mixed race coupling is normal, it is. In fact I would go as far to say that ‘pure’ families are becoming more and more rare till one day I honestly believe we will all have a bit of a mix in some way or another.

I still feel very new to the situation, but since then I have opened my eyes a lot more to people’s looks and stares. The thing is with the stares it’s much more uncomfortable because it feels like people are gawking at you and your partner as if you’re caged animals, we’re not putting on a show for you, we’re trying to be a normal couple like we are.

His skin may be white and my skin may be brown but we both have red beating hearts, we are both part of one race, the human race and we are capable of being hurt. People seem to forget how normal interracial dating is but actually just take a look around you and you’ll spot a lot more than you realized before, your neighbor Sharon probably has an Indian boyfriend called Dave and a Mexican ex Husband called Miguel…you just don’t know.

I’m still learning how to be a normal couple after that difficult experience, trying to stomach the realization that there are still some messed up, backwards thinking individuals that feel their views and ideologies over relationship is far more important than allowing people to be in happy consenting relationships no matter their race, gender or culture. It’s a sad day when you feel like you have to justify your relationship to perfect strangers but sometimes people have to do that.

I want to make it clear that Scott and I love each other and we do not need validation from others to make our relationship feel legitimate. You should never make anyone feel like they need to seek approval to love someone a little different from them, and you need to keep that in mind when you’re looking to love someone either.

We are the generation to teach the new generation and when you have grandkids, what lesson do you want to impart on them? I’ll be damned if my grandchildren feel like they can’t be free to love whomever they want because of idiotic things like the color of someone’s skin. The way the economy is, the only real free thing universally is Love and it shouldn’t be such a fight and struggle to obtain.

No one should dictate whom you love because the world is such a big and scary place and the majority of us just want to find someone to share on this journey with. We all deserve to love and be loved and we all have our soul mate, if you limit yourself to only dating one particular person then you’re making the search for your true love a lot harder.

Love is a wonderful, life changing journey, you can find it anywhere, with anyone so open your eyes, think outside the box and wipe away your pre-judgment, your soul mate is waiting for you and they’re not wasting their time with all those criteria’s that don’t even affect their ability to complete your heart.

Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday, and you proud everyday!

Peace and Love,

Jessy x

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