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December 07, 2009



Let's get this conversation started.
I'm the product of an interracial marriage (my mother is from Hong Kong, and my father is from southern Italy), and I feel so lucky to have such a rich, diverse, cultural background. I love eating the cuisines (my parents are great cooks), I picked up some Cantonese all those times I visited my relatives in China, and I learned Italian in high school. Sometimes, I admit that I feel like I need to know more about these cultures to be true to them. Other times, I feel like I'm in a liminal state, not fully belonging to either but being somewhere in between. Ultimately, though, I'm proud to be Chinese-Italian-American, and I'm still figuring out what that means.


I, as a Black man, have always been told to stay away from interracial relationships. Like the rebellious child I am, of course, I didn't listen. In college I dated a Dominican woman. The relationship was great! although coming from completely different cultures (she was a NYC born Dominican, whose parents were very traditional and I am a West-Indian born, Southern raised, black man) we found a lot of common ground. Winning over her parents proved to be very hard. Once they began to see me as a good person, who happened to be black, and not as a black person (for some reason, they viewed black as bad) the relationship between me and her parents blossomed. To this day, I still speak to her parents, although the relationship between me and my ex is over.


Oddly enough, one of my earliest childhood memories dealt with the subject of interracial relationships. When I was six years old, I was paging through a magazine and suddenly came across a picture of an interracial couple entwined in embrace. Intrigued by the image, I asked my grandmother what she would think if I married someone who was "not Indian" I'll never forget her disapproving answer: "I would forbid it."

Sixteen years later, I found myself contemplating my grandmother's response as I confronted a relationship outside from the comfortable pages of a magazine. I was dating Mike, a Caucasian boy at the University of Arizona who I could talk to for hours and share my deepest fears and most intimate secrets. He could have been black, brown, green, purple, or any other color and it would not have made a difference to me. My parents accepted him automatically, relieving my fears temporarily, but I had yet to introduce him to my grandmother. Then, in July of 2007, Mike proposed and I couldn't hide my relationship with him from my grandmother any longer. Eager to metaphorically rip off the band aid as fast as possible, I arranged a meeting between them a month later. From the moment they met, my grandmother admired Mike's intelligence and gushed about how much he enjoyed her Indian cooking. Since then, Mike and I have been happily married for a year and a half, and my grandmother constantly invites us over to her house. She used her heart, not her eyes, to realize that Mike is the perfect grandson-in-law. In the long run, what's race got to do with it?

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