"Couples Share the Happiness and Heartache of Interracial Marriage" By 'National Geographic' Shows What It Means To Be An Interracial Couple 2018
Chances are, you know interracial couples or are part of one yourself. While you don’t think it is a big deal — it’s 2018, after all — sadly, some people still look twice and react when they see an interracial couple. On Tuesday, National Geographic released a video, “Couples Share the Happiness and Heartache of Interracial Marriage”. In it, interracial couples talk about what it means to be an interracial couple today. National Geographic also published an article, “The Many Colors of Matrimony,” which portrays two days’ worth of interracial couples getting married at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. It appears in “The Race Issue,” the April issue of National Geographic magazine, a single topic issue on the subject of race.
For decades, interracial marriage was against the law — in 1967, 17 of 50 states still enforced this. However, 1967 also marked a revolutionary time for interracial couples: The U.S. Supreme Court case “Loving v. Virginia” decided that interracial marriages were no longer illegal. The case came about when Mildred Loving (an African-American and Native American woman) and Richard Loving (a Caucasian man) got married — and they were sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia. According to National Geographic, per a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, from 1967 until 2015, interracial marriages went from one in 33 to one in six, and they account for one in 10 marriages. Furthermore, in 2015, 17 percent of U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity.
It seems like society has come a long way in accepting intermarried couples. However, as you’ll see in the video, and according to Syracuse University law professor Kevin Noble Maillard, who writes frequently about intermarriage, society still has a way to go.
“Interracial [couples] and families have always existed, but haven’t necessarily been ‘out’ about it in a way that feels safe and nonconsequential,” Maillard tells Bustle. “Now that society is getting around to legalizing the possibility of mixed families and relationships, it must advance to a point of accepting them, which is a completely different thing.”
In National Geographic’s video and article, they speak to several couples about their life as an interracial couple. Take a look below at the "Couples Share the Happiness and Heartache of Interracial Marriage" video.
Below, couples featured in the article and video highlight what it means to be an interracial couple today, from the resistance they face to what they'd tell anyone who's struggling with disapproving family members.
What It Means To Be An Interracial Couple Today
Halil Binici kisses the hand of his bride, Jade Calliste-Edgar, after their wedding on October 6, 2017. The newlyweds “went right back to work” that day, Jade says, but planned to combine honeymoon trips with visits to her family in Florida and his in Turkey.
Jade Calliste-Edgar, a black woman from Florida, and Halil Binici, a Turkish man raised in Istanbul, were one of the couples who were featured in National Geographic’s article. “For us, being an interracial couple means a meeting and blending of cultures and viewpoints,” Calliste-Edgar tells Bustle. “Halil and I grew up in very different environments and cultures. So, we end up learning a lot about each other and our families, and our awareness and knowledge is expanded. It’s important for us to know the things the other experiences and goes through, because we each experience our immediate surroundings differently.”
Meanwhile, intermarried couples in the video, too, see each other for the person they are, not based on skin color. “I don’t wake up in the morning and think, like, ‘Oh here’s my black husband and I’m half-Indian, and we’re about to start our interracial day!’” Sheila Davis said in the video. Erica Derpinghaus, also featured in the video, agrees. “Why do we have to put the tag on as interracial marriage? Shouldn’t it just be a marriage?”
Obstacles Interracial Couples May Still Face Today
New York City residents Stephanie Mansfield and Shiva Nahappan have been together seven years, including time spent living in Europe and Asia. At home they celebrate both Christmas and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
Some people are very open to the idea of interracial couples, yet others may not be as welcoming. Calliste-Edgar says. “I don’t know that we really face a lot of obstacles in this regard,” she says. “Halil and I live in New York City, so we feel that people are a lot more accepting here about our relationship. This may not be the same if we were living in, say, Florida, where I grew up. Granted, my hometown can be pretty accepting, but it also would depend on what part of town I lived in.”
Though Calliste-Edgar says she and her husband have not experienced any resistance from friends, family, or people on the street, they have received some offhanded comments. “We haven’t experienced any blatant forms of resistance,” Calliste-Edgar says. “I’ve had people ask me if I’m worried about my husband trying to convert me to Islam or about him trying to make me cover my head. And my response always involves the fact that Halil and I have talked about our expectations of each other and we try not to make assumptions. And I’m sure he’s had people ask what it’s like dating an American Black woman. But he speaks to what it’s like dating me, and that I’m not a typical American, because my family is from the Caribbean. But no one has told us no.”
However, some intermarried couples do get resistance and comments from people. “You’d think a group as marginalized as the gay community would be completely comfortable with an interracial couple,” Matt Burton, Caucasian, said in the video while sitting next to his African-American husband, Bryan Fox. “But privately, they’ll say things to me that are a little inappropriate. ‘You know Matt — he likes the brothers,’ or ‘Once you go black, you’ll never go back.’”
What Can Be Done To Change How Interracial Couples Are Viewed
Nathan Reese is from California; his bride, Connie Wang, is from “Minnesota via Jinan, China,” he says. Though they had a larger wedding later with family and friends, Nathan reports that getting married first at city hall was “surprisingly delightful ... like an extremely joyful DMV experience.”
A recent Tinder survey of more than 4,000 people from across the globe found that 52 percent of people felt that interracial couples were not well-represented — or only represented somewhat — in emojis, GIFs, and memes. For context, meanwhile, same-sex couple emojis have been around since 2015, yet interracial couple ones are lacking. So Tinder has launched a campaign, #RepresentLove, to help make interracial emojis a thing. "It’s certainly a fair point to bring to light," Calliste-Edgar says. "I think if the option is there, there’s exposure, people will (hopefully) use them, and it will, hopefully, subconsciously make the push in the right direction. But emojis certainly aren’t enough. We need more exposure to interracial couples in TV shows, movies, and other media platforms.”
Maillard also believes interracial emojis could be beneficial. “Having interracial emojis would disrupt typical expectations that couples are two people of the same race, or the same skin color,” Maillard says. “It would also articulate a necessary complication that same-sex couples are categorically monoracial, when in fact, they are more likely than heterosexual couples to be interracial. The ability to have a choice, when the technology costs are so low, is something that should be mandatory.”
Maillard also says that the media’s portrayal of couples can effect how interracial couples are viewed. “All families are regular — but they just don’t know it because art and media makes some forms more visible than others,” Maillard says. “Art plays a part in changing minds in a way that law and government cannot. It’s often said that film and televisions are windows into the world around us, but they are more like fun house mirrors that confirm what we think we already know. Having different representations of families and relationships doesn’t just create ‘visibility,’ but it transforms the normal.”
What Interracial Couples Would Tell Friends About Dating Outside Of Their Race
Robin Kennedy (left) and Carl Sylvestre were a couple for nearly 23 years before they wed. They honeymooned in Montréal.
You never know who you will fall in love with, right? Yet you’ve probably seen the same movies and real-life situations where someone falls in love with a person outside of their race or culture and their families don’t approve. Calliste-Edgar shares what she’d tell someone who was afraid of what others may think. “I tailor my response knowing that some families, ethnicities, cultures, etc., strongly prefer that their children marry someone from the same or similar background,” she says. “But, it’s important for you to consider your happiness and what you want out of life. As long as the other person is open and willing to respect who you are and the background and experiences you bring, then there’s no harm in trying.”
How To Deal With Family & Friends Who Disapprove
Chantal Thomson says she and Orlando Easterling, Jr., “are proud to help pave the way for other people to follow their hearts.”
“I personally feel that interracial couples should no longer be taboo — I mean, it’s 2018,” Calliste-Edgar says. “No, not everyone has reached a place of equity. But, if we are going to progress as a society, it seems counterintuitive that we still cannot understand that no one is better than another based on race. For anyone resisting, I would probably ask them what exactly about interracial couples is so problematic for them and challenge their opinions.”
Similarly, Maillard suggests thinking about your best interests, not someone else’s. “If your friends and family are really thinking about your best interest, they should eventually support you — following their wishes and expectations just adds to the problem and lets their narrow focus become yours,” Maillard says. “If you are banished from your present contacts because you choose to be with someone you love, would you want to be around those people afterward, and would you be as happy?” Poignant question, right?
In the video, too, couples addressed why interracial coupling up should not mean anything more than two people coupling up. “According to science, race is barely even a thing,” Victoria Jaggard, National Geographic’s Sr. Science Editor said in the video. “I mean, we’re all just humans. If you meet somebody and you do get along and have a ton in common, why should race matter?”
At the end of their video, National Geographic encourages people to share their stories, too, using #idefineme. After all, like Maillard says, only you and your significant other should define you as a couple, nobody else.