The following are some reflections on our 50 years of an interracial marriage. We are a Caucasian Pacific Islander couple with two daughters now in their 40s. During these many years we have all experienced the “looks and epithets” that come with looking different to the passersby we encounter in the restaurant, at church, in the grocery store, all the time, every day.
My girls remember that people would call us names as we walked on the streets of San Francisco, ready to have dinner with our entire family of mixed race. We are Black, Caucasian, Filipino, and Jewish. We chose to remind our girls that when people stared at us, or made remarks, it was because we were such a stunning looking group. That was easy when they were little.
A real estate agent came to our home to ask if he could list it for sale, and when my two-year-old daughter came down the hall, he smiled and exclaimed, “Oh she’s darling, where did you get her.” In an elevator in Philadelphia a woman saw the girls and told me that she was in Mexico and almost brought home a couple herself. That was over 43 years ago! Over the years, comments continued to be abrasive, curious (what is it like to be married to someone not white?) very surprised, “I didn’t know your mother was white,” painful, “what were you thinking,” but no one acted overtly violent toward us. In college, one daughter who spoke up against Asian bashing was told not to worry because she was pretty and they didn’t mean her.
Racism, hate, ignorance, and abuse all look very similar. They all hurt and they can’t be withdrawn once vocalized. Our grandchildren identify as multiracial and are proud of their AAPI roots. They are young and have been shielded from too many comments. However, they know what racism is and they see families like ours being set apart and wonder why, and perhaps they wonder if it will be them next.
We entered into this marriage 50 years ago with a sense of security that our once-unique family would become the norm in California. Blended racial and cultural families have increased many fold, however, we witness AAPI grandmothers and grandfathers being beaten and attacked as they go about their daily lives in our cities. Such a tragic picture of life in America, land of the free, home of the brave!
If we are to become a more ethical culture, we must consider how our actions, even as brief as a passing comment, can impact those around us.