Congratulations! You’ve found someone you want to date who wants to date you back! They’re cute, funny, and sincere with similar interests and values. They’re the whole package—and then, bonus points! They’re a different skin color from you!
Actually, you don’t get bonus points for being in an interracial relationship (IRR). But for all the praise and comments my husband Vaughan and I have received throughout our relationship (he’s Black, and I’m a Korean American adoptee) about our future adorable biracial babies and how cool and progressive our relationship is, you would think we had achieved ultra-super-special dating status.
I get it. Race is certainly a hot topic today, and it seems especially paramount to Millennials to prove how not racist we are. And what better way to do that than to actually date someone who is a different race? I mean, way to show the world how woke you are!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I fully believe we are called to initiate, grow, and maintain healthy cross-cultural relationships, and that being part of the kingdom of God means experiencing more than just your little corner of it. If heaven is going to be a great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language worshiping together (Revelation 7:9), and if we are to be praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), then there should be some element of being with people different than us here in this lifetime. There is a lot to be learned and gained from having deep cross-cultural relationships.
But from my experience and from stories of my peers, there is as much desire for racial justice and reconciliation as there is unhelpful idolizing and fetishizing of interracial relationships and biracial friends. Below are four truths we need to understand about IRRs.
Truth #1: Just because you’re dating someone who is a different race, culture, or ethnicity than you doesn’t mean you’re not racist.
Deciding to enter an IRR doesn’t change prejudice in your heart. You will definitely bump up against and wrestle with your own stereotypes and racist mentalities throughout your relationship, but it takes more than a change in your relationship status to change your misperceptions and biases. And if you are intentionally seeking out an IRR, you could be contributing to racism by using your significant other as an object to exploit for your own purposes. How ironic that the thing we do to show the world we aren’t racist actually ends up perpetuating racism.
Truth #2: An IRR also doesn’t mean you are contributing to anti-racism or reconciliation.
Posting a picture of your differently hued boo might get you a lot of likes on Facebook, and walking hand-in-hand down the street flaunting your IRR to the world might seem like a contribution to change, but your relationship in and of itself does nothing to dismantle racist structures and systems. Actually seeing reconciliation and change in broken spaces takes an active pursuit of justice, truth, and righteousness in areas of discrimination, racism, and inequality.
Truth #3: Mixed race couples aren’t more godly than couples who are the same race.
I’ve heard lots of Christian responses about IRRs being a “greater picture of God’s kingdom” because they demonstrate reconciliation and unity. But does that mean everyone should marry interracially, since we can more accurately portray the image of God? Do my friends whose spouses are the same ethnicity not have as biblical of a marriage as those who are interracial? We would obviously answer these questions with a big fat no. God isn’t more pleased with me than others because I’m in an IRR. He is pleased by my pursuit of the kingdom, not by the color of my husband.
Truth #4: Mixed race couples aren’t together to produce biracial babies.
It was barely a week into our relationship before Vaughan and I started getting comments about how adorable our children would be. First of all, could we date a bit first? Can I get a ring? Chill as a wife for a bit before becoming a mother to what I presume will be the most adorable, beautiful, precious children ever because they are Black and Korean? I didn’t really know how to respond to those comments. Besides the fact that at that point, we were not even close to considering a future together, was I supposed to feel special that I was dating someone who was a different race than me? Do I get a gold star for creating the possibility of bringing biracial children into the world?
I believe with my whole heart that race and ethnicity are a good gift from our generous God—and that includes all races, not just those that are the minority. But I also know that sin has twisted all good things, and that even our good and godly intentions when dialoguing about race have a habit of missing the mark.
We tend to either reduce IRR stories, whether they are our own or others’, to a party trick (something to show off and exploit rather than understand and love), or we elevate them to a pedestal where we can worship and idolize them. This is tremendously dishonoring and harmful to relationships that are already difficult—as all relationships are!
What if, instead of either reducing or elevating, we enter in and listen? In listening, we can understand more fully, lament more deeply, and celebrate more joyously with our friends. And in understanding, lamenting, and celebrating, we grow closer to and become more like Jesus.