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Inter-racial dating woes

Love beyond borders is still at its infancy.

Aisyah Lyana
Aisyah Lyana

Published: 22 March 2016, 10:52 PM

The strong inter-racial setting today seems to have changed the premise of romantic conventions being confined to one’s own race. However, it is naïve to assume so because love beyond racial borders is still at its premature stage.

Committed to an inter-racial relationship myself, I found that our communities have not yet fully embraced inter-racial relationships. Here are some of the challenges with inter-racial love:

1. Cultural differences

Adapting to an entirely different culture is not easy. When I was invited over to my Hindu boyfriend’s place for dinner, I subconsciously stood in front of the door to greet Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you) and stuck out my hands to salam his parents as a gesture of respect. At my house, I panicked when my boyfriend placed his arm around me in front of my conservative Muslim family.

While these practices are just the surface, culture affects how conservative or liberal we are. One may feel uncomfortable talking about taboo topics like nightlife and sex, but another can openly share their thoughts. As couples tend to spend a lot of time together, parents fear that their children will be influenced by their partner’s foreign culture.

KRISTEN IS FILIPINO-PERANAKAN WHILE HER BOYFRIEND IS CHINDIAN, BRINGING INTER-RACIAL TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL. THEY MET WHEN CLUBBING, AND HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR TWO YEARS ALREADY.

2. Racial discrimination

Subtle and unspoken, racial discrimination still exists among families who disapprove of such romance.

I was exasperated when my Chinese friend shared how her parents warned that she would “face poverty and many family problems” if she got hitched to her Malay boyfriend. Ah, stereotypes again.

Racial integration goes beyond mere tolerance or acceptance of another race. Like the late director Yasmin Ahmad once said, let us be colour blind (to skin colour) and do away with the negative generalisations.

MALAY BOYS DATING CHINESE GIRLS HAVE BECOME MORE COMMON IN SINGAPORE. MEGAN AND HER BOYFRIEND WERE FRIENDS IN ACSI BEFORE THEY STARTED DATING.

3. Diet

Compromising and forgoing your cravings to meet your love’s dietary restrictions will become a daily affair. It may seem like no big deal at first, but these little things will eventually become big.

Imagine every Chinese New Year, your ah ma has to specially order a Halal meal for your Muslim girlfriend on top of the bak kut teh she has prepared. Or maybe every Hari Raya, your nenek will raise eyebrows at your vegetarian boyfriend who cringes at the beef rendang. Sounds troublesome?

CHINDIAN COUPLES HAVE BECOME POPULAR TOO! AZEEM AND HIS GIRLFRIEND HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR ABOUT A YEAR ALREADY.

4. Family dynamics 

Be it your thick accent or your slit-like eyes, relatives will speculate about you as if you are a foreign creature.

Traditional parents are concerned if their children will adopt a foreign name if their relationship results in marriage. They also fear that their grandchildren will not adopt their family name or stay rooted to their culture.

5. Religion

Having an interfaith understanding is the first challenge, but the next stage is sharing a common faith. The biggest question then is: which religion?

Converting to another religion means devoting your life to a different set of spiritual beliefs, worshipping different god(s) and revamping your lifestyle. Of course, one can simply decide not to conform to the religion after converting, or even register their marriage through the civil union.
However, religious parents may disapprove and some couples may feel ostracised by their families.

RANDALL IS A FOOTBALL PLAYER FROM THE SINGAPORE SPORTS SCHOOL, WHILE TANIA IS A REMARKABLE ARTIST FROM SOTA. AFTER TWO YEARS TOGETHER, RANDALL CAN MEMORISE SOME MUSLIM PRAYERS NOW.

In a nutshell, inter-racial relationships demand dedication and compromise from both parties. While there are indeed many obstacles to overcome, I feel that it is not wrong to love an individual who differs by a few shades of skin tone, and one should not be pressured to separate just because of race.

 


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