Interracial couples in the Bay are largely accepted by the younger generation

January 29, 2018 — by Katherine Zhou and Sophia Zivanic

Despite the younger generation's acceptance of interracial relationships, older generations experience some uneasiness.

“Imagine you could choose among the most beautiful women in the world to marry, and you choose to marry a 36 [year old] divorced mulatto,” user @skip_taco wrote on Twitter in response to Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry last year.

Another user, @westland_will wrote, “the tribe is already trying to use Prince Harry's engagement to erase British identity.”

These tweets were just two of the thousands criticizing the royal engagement between American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Words like “mulatto” and “tribe” are used to degrade Markle’s African-American heritage. The royal family’s background, of course, has been 100 percent European for generations.

Although interracial relationships have become more and more common in recent years, with interracial marriage becoming legal in the U.S. in 1967, many interracial and intercultural couples such as Markle and Prince Harry still face racism today. Despite these backward perspectives, interracial relationships in diverse areas such as the Bay Area raise few eyebrows, especially among younger people.

For example, Saratoga students Sarah Meng and Dermot Gleeson have faced generally little racism throughout their six-month long relationship.

A big part of the acceptance of their relationship is the commonality of interracial relationships at the school. Because of the high percentage of Asians here, interracial relationships are common.

But this doesn’t mean their relationship hasn’t had its ups and downs. Meng does admit that she had preconceived notions of Gleeson based on his race.

“I kind of believed that stereotype about white people in Saratoga, that white people aren’t as into academics as they are into sports, but he wasn’t like that,” Meng said. “He’s in orchestra. I was surprised because he’s the only white person in [the Saratoga Strings Orchestra].”

Although both of their parents and immediate family members approve of their relationship, Meng and Gleeson have already faced some unwanted opinions on their relationship from extended family.

“No one in my family is interracial so my grandparents are a little iffy on the whole thing,” Meng said. “They’re really fiercely Chinese, and they are a little bit ‘purist.’ They prefer the keep the family a little bit the same, because we’re 100 percent Chinese and we have been forever.”

Unlike Meng and Gleeson, sophomores Aashna Belenje and Richard Wolf have not faced any form of racial biases during their three and a half month long relationship. Prior to dating, Belenje and Wolf had been close friends for a long time.

When it comes to false preconceptions, Belenje admitted to thinking that Wolf’s parents would be generally less strict about his academics and social life because he is white.

“I thought he had easier, less strict parents for sure, and he felt the opposite way,” Belenje said.

Belenje said that her parents are not strict, and in fact are very open-minded about her relationship. This is largely due to the large number of interracial relationships in her extended family.

“My aunt, who is Indian, is married to a white guy, and my other aunt is married to a black guy,” Belenje said. “Then I have adopted extended family who are black and they’re married to white and Indian people.”

Despite this diversity, Belenje admits that older generations in her extended family are still adjusting to the idea of interracial relationships. Elderly family members have not disowned or cut off any members due to interracial relationships, she said, but rather chosen not to talk about those relationships.

Despite the fears of older generations, both couples said they have never face racism in public or at school.

“I think just where we live, interracial couples are more accepted,” Meng said. “I just think it’s because in America, only [5.6 percent] of the population is Asian, so it’s probably seen as weirder in other places than it is here.”

In the Bay Area, both couples feel that the racist reaction to the royal engagement is abnormal and not reflective of the broader culture they live in.

“It’s surprising because there have been so many more interracial couples, especially in the past decade,” Belenje said. “It just surprises me because it is 2018.”

Meng adds: “I definitely feel like Meghan Markle’s engagement is a good thing because it’s representing our country’s diversity in another Western country that’s commonly white. There will be more interracial couples in the future, and [the royal engagement] is representative of that.”


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