Interracial relationships date to the 1600s, but until June 12, 1967, interracial marriages were illegal. On that date, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case of Loving vs. Virginia that it was unconstitutional to prevent interracial couples from getting married. Prior to that, interracial couples could be separated and imprisoned for violation of state antimiscegenation laws.
Though interracial relationships are more widely accepted now, they still cause silent unease for many. Those directly affected are interracial couples who not only have everyday relationship troubles, but also have to cope with pressures not exerted on couples of the same race.
One glance might become two if you pass students Dara Brenker and Aris Williams while they’re together. She’s Jewish, white and petite; he’s black and a looming 6-foot-9.
“We’ll get stares (when we’re together),” said Brenker, a freshman majoring in mass communications.
“Sometimes people give dirty looks, but besides that I don’t notice anything,” said Williams, a political science major.
The two met on campus last summer and have been together for five months. Brenker said she had trouble at first.
“I wasn’t hesitant about the relationship, but it was just hard for me to think that I would have trouble with others accepting it,” she said.
According to Brenker, it’s harder to have an interracial relationship in today’s society because of the ignorance of others.
“(Interracial relationships) are hard for society to accept, (but) easy for me because I am not dating a race, I am dating a person,” said Williams, who plays for USF’s basketball team.
Williams said he didn’t feel hesitant to go out with Brenker because he liked her for a long time.
“I liked her personality; she reminded me of myself in a lot of ways,” Williams said.
Brenker advises other interracial couples to take it day by day and to know that it’s going to be more difficult. But not all interracial couples have had the difficulties Williams and Brenker have.Aisha Rivera and Allan Smith have been together for nearly two years and have not dealt with many negative reactions.
“I think (interracial dating) is easier because it’s a lot more accepted,” said Rivera, who is of Puerto-Rican and Dominican descent.
Smith, who is white, said if a person has any doubts about going out with someone, he or she should consider character, not race.
Chris Estel, a black accounting major, has dated outside his race more than once. He said his family is fine with it.
“As long as I’m happy, they don’t really care,” Estel said.
He and his girlfriend, psychology major Megan Nelson, who is white, met through a mutual friend and have been together for nine months.
“She was cool to hang out with and can deal with my craziness,” Estel said.
The relationship is Nelson’s first interracial romance, and she finds nothing wrong with it.
“If two people have feelings for each other, then I think that they should do what they want,” she said, adding that those against interracial relationships don’t affect her. “I can’t control the way others think and if people have problems with someone else due to their race then they probably have deeper issues and lead a very bitter life,” she said.
When asked if people would react differently to him and Nelson if he was of another racial background, Estel said yes.
“I guess sometimes people tend to look at your complexions and the differences between them and look at that to judge,” he said. He added that if he and Nelson were both of similar complexions, people likely wouldn’t notice as much.
Estel said he could see people being more discriminating toward black and white couples versus other mixed-race couples.
“If you’re looking at a person for who they are rather than their complexion, nothing of that nature would cross your mind,” he said.
While interracial relationships seem to be increasingly more accepted in today’s society than they were 50 years ago, the apprehension surrounding the issue remains.
Of the 15 people interviewed for this article, only one student, who wished to remain anonymous, said he would not want to be in one.
“There are too many stereotypes to deal with; you have to appeal to multiple crowds,” he said. He also questioned the legitimacy of interracial relationships, stating that interracial couples are very different because of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
“How close can someone be if they’re the complete opposite?” he said.
Films have been made that deal with interracial love, such as the 1967 controversial comedy Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was about a white woman who brought home to her parents a black fiancee. The film ends on a postive note: It displays the idea that love conquers all. The film brought great controversy because it was released during a time in the United States torn by racial riots.
Unlike the original, the re-adapted 2005 version, titled Guess Who, starring comedians Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac, was a significantly lighter film, focusing primarily on comedy and less on racial differences, which were minimal in comparison to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
The list doesn’t end there. A new romance comedy, set for release in February, deals with the hesitation that comes with interracial love. The film, called Something New, focuses on a successful black woman in search for her ideal mate, whom she has already predetermined to be a black male. When she meets a white landscaper named Brian on a blind date, her mind and heart start to feel conflicted.
For the students interviewed, it all comes down to the connection one has with his or her significant other. According to Williams, if a person truly likes someone, then they shouldn’t hesitate no matter the person’s race.
“It is hard in today’s society to find someone who you truly care for and (who) feels the same,” Williams said.
Estel had similar thoughts.
“Go with your feelings and take a chance,” he said, “because if you don’t, you could miss out on the love of your life.”