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THE CHALLENGES OF INTERRACIAL MARRIAGES IN MODERN DAYS

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Introduction:

“Love is blind despite the world’s attempt to give it eyes”- Matshona Dhliwayo.

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Mankind has always drawn boundaries among themselves since their emergence and revolution, based on their clans, regions, appearances, religions and most importantly, the differences in the color of their skins. Even though we are civilized now, through revolutions, innovations and education and modern science, we still seem to ignore the fact that under the skin, everyone has the same red blood. But the good thing is, there are people in this world who do not think that the percentage of Melanin should decide whom they should love or hate. So, even though the human population is divided into several races with five prominent races, and love and union between two individuals from two different races has always been considered a taboo, some people actually had the courage to go beyond their race and fall in love.

Interracial marriage refers to a marriage or legal alliance between two individuals belonging from two (or more) different races. If we take a look at Indian history and origins, we can clearly see the mix of different races. In the ancient Indus Valley civilization, there were records of marriages with people from other regions. In fact a recent study on the genes of Indians has proved that “Nearly all of the Indian subcontinent’s ethnic and linguistic groups are the product of three ancient Eurasian populations who met and mixed: local hunter-gatherers, Middle Eastern farmers, and Central Asian herders. Three similar groups also mingled in ancient Europe, giving the two subcontinents surprisingly parallel histories” (Wade, 2018). This study, conducted by Priya Moorjani, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, has also proved that “…almost all people living in India today carry ancestry from two ancient populations: Ancestral North Indians, who were more related to people from Central Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Europe; and Ancestral South Indians, who were more related to indigenous groups living in the subcontinent today” (Wade, 2018). So, the question is, if those ancient civilization did not have any problem to have interracial marriages, then why in the world are people in these modern times are so much against it.

Objectives of the Research:

I have always been interested in this topic because I think it is a really wonderful thing to attach oneself to someone who is outside their community, race or caste or even nation. There should not be any boundaries for falling in love. Due to the negative way most people think about this, it takes a lot of courage and determination to accept and embrace a person from another race and spend their lives with them. I admire people who take up this challenge. I admire the fact that they do not see any boundaries for love.

Research Methodology:

For this research, I have gone through articles that would support my research. I have also interviewed two interracial couples and asked them a few questions. They were helpful enough to answer what they felt about it.

Findings from Articles:

I want to mention the stories about some interracial couple who changed the history by their courage and undying love and overcame the challenges of racial barriers. Among them, first come Gonzalo Guerrero and Zazil Ha. Guerrero was a Spaniard who was a shipwreck survivor found by Mayans. To avoid getting killed, he learned the Mayan language and culture and made a place among those people. He later married a Mayan princess named Zazil Ha and had three children. When the Spaniards came to rescue Guerrero, he refused to leave his family and stayed as a Mayan for the rest of his life.

During 18th century, Europeans developed a good understanding in Chinese language and culture and a lot of Chinese people embraced Christianity. Arcadio Huang, a Chinese Catholic boy was sent to France to become a priest. In 1713, he married a middle class Parisian girl, Marie-Claude Regnier. This union, even though unthinkable at that era, was blessed by the girl’s parents. Regnier died in childbirth a year later and out of despair, Huang passed away in the following year.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick was a high ranking official of British India who was very much interested in Indo-Persian culture and language. Soon he developed Indian habits and gave up his English wardrobe for Mughal style attire and embraced Islam. He fell in love with the teen age granddaughter, Khair-un-Nisa of the president of Hydrabad and married her in 1801. This marriage was considered a taboo and people were furious on both sides, especially because Kirkpatrick was a British diplomat. Soon after, he was dismissed from his position. He had two children with his wife and they were sent for schooling in England. But right after they left in 1807, Kirkpatrick died of fever and Khair-un-Nisa followed him a few years later.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair-un-Nisa

Louis Gregory was an African man who married a British woman named Louisa Mathews in 1912. They both were of Baha’I faith and met on a pilgrimage in Egypt. They were the first interracial couple in New York and despite racism being prevalent in the US at that time, they stayed married for 40 years until Gregory’s death in 1951.

“While attending law school in England, Ruth met Sir Seretse Khama (then Prince Seretse Khama), the chief of the Bamangwato tribe, who became Botswana’s first president in 1966. Under his leadership, the country underwent significant economic and social progress, while Ruth was a politically active and influential First Lady. But first they had to overcome the wave of bigotry brought about by their controversial marriage. When they announced the news in 1948, Ruth’s father threw her out of the house, while Seretse’s uncle declared “if he brings his white wife here, I will fight him to the death.” Bowing to pressure from apartheid South Africa, the British government attempted to stop the marriage and then prevented the couple from returning to Botswana. For eight years they lived as exiles in England, until the Bamangwato sent a personal cable to the Queen in protest. Their sons Ian and Tshekedi later became significant political figures as well. The marriage is said to have inspired the film ‘A Marriage of Inconvenience’ and the book ‘Colour Bar’.” (“Interracial Relationships that changed history”, n.d.).

Louis Gregory and Louisa Mathews Ruth and Sir Seretse Khama with their children

In the United States, there were laws against interracial marriages till the early 60’s. On July 11, 1958, a Caucasian man Richard Loving and his part Black, part Native American wife Mildred Loving were thrown into prison for getting married against the state of Virginia’s laws. They spent one year in jail. But in 1963, “…they approached the American Civil Liberties Union to fight their case in court. After an extensive legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional in June of 1967” (“Interracial Relationship that changed history”, n.d.). This revolutionary couple paved the way for other interracial couples and biracial people to marry the person they love on their own will. This ban on June 2, 1967, on interracial marriage ensured that no one else would have to go through the same things ever again.

Mildred and Richard Loving

There are various reasons why interracial couples have to face so many challenges. The most prominent ones would be 1. Racism, 2. Religion, 3.Cultural barriers and norms. Racism refers to the discrimination that is done by someone with the belief that their own race is superior to the person’s race who is the victim of that discrimination. This curse exist worldwide but mostly in the west. The Africans and the South- Asians, in fact most of the Asians face racial bigotry to some extent when they travel to the west. Religious people often take interracial marriage as something against the God’s will, especially when one of the partners is of a different belief. Religious conflicts have always influenced wars and politics, creating barriers among people, dividing lands and destroying friendships among nations. It is only natural that religious extremists consider both interracial and interreligious marriage as unacceptable. When it comes to culture, it is a bit more flexible than religion. Cultures vary a lot, but also can change, revive or adapt. Therefore, even though in some cultures, it is acceptable to marry outside race, in others, it is somewhat a punishable crime.

These three parameters lead to one big thing-violence. Violence comes in the form of verbals, disapproving looks or stares, offensive gestures, mental and physical tortures, murders and assassinations and even legal punishment. Most of the time it is carried by community and even a whole nation. But it is even worse when the violence is from family and relatives. In modern days, most families claim that they’re not racists, until someone in a family wants to marry outside the race.

We know the story of Maitreyi Devi, an Indian Bengali author who is, by many, considered as the successor of poet Rabindranath Tagore, being his dearest student. Maitreyi Devi fell in love with a Romanian Engineer, Mircea Eliade who worked with her father and later became one of Romania’s most famous authors. He was staying as a guest in Maitreyi’s father’s house. It was the time before the partition of India and Pakistan and of course, at that time, interracial marriage was unthinkable. When Maitreyi’s father came to know about her relationship with Mircea, he was furious. He threw Mircea out and told him never to come back. He had beaten his daughter to the point that she fell ill. Heartbroken, Mircea went back to Europe and later Maitreyi had to marry someone else. Long after the partition, Maitreyi went to visit him and that was the last time they met. Mircea wrote a book named ‘Maitreyi’ (also known as ‘La Nuit Bengali’) based on their relationship. In response Maitreyi Devi wrote her version of the story-‘Na Hanyate’ (also known as ‘It Does not Die’).

However, there are still some ‘not so narrow minded’ people in this world and they have accepted interracial marriage as any other marriage. There has been a remarkable increase in the number of people who have spouses from different races, religions and ethnicities. In the U.S, it started happening after the victory of the Loving couple against Virginia.

Findings from the Field Research:

Chizuru Tsukishima married Hassan Mahmud and they live together in Bangladesh. Miss Tsukishima is Japanese and Mr. Mahmud is Bangladeshi. They have a 21 year old daughter named Tomoyo studying in a reputed private university in Dhaka. The questions and answers of the interview are mentioned below.

1. What are the challenges to marry outside one’s own race? How did you overcome them?

A: That is up to where you live. If you live in your own country after marriage to a foreigner (if different race means a foreigner), I think the language will be the most difficult one. One of you has to speak in a language which is not your own tongue. This causes misunderstanding. And if you live in your partner’s country, in-laws will be the biggest challenge! Just live your own life as much as possible, trusting your partner.

2. What are the good and bad things about mixing into a different culture?

A. You can learn a different world (culture) in your daily life, which is a good thing and if you are not understood, which is a struggling. But don’t think too much. This is how I (Tsukishima) live…But difficult.

Maria Ivanova, a Bulgarian woman met Mohammad Saiful Islam, a Bangladeshi man in Belgium where they both worked. They met through friends. For Maria, it was love at first sight. Eventually, their friendship grew and they started going out. They did not have any problems in getting blessings from their families as they were both very welcoming. Maria and Saif have two little girls now, named Luna and Joanna. I asked the same questions to this couple as well and the answers are below.

1. What are the challenges to marry outside one’s own race? How did you overcome them?

A. It was not easy for us as we were foreigners. To get married in Belgium, we had to submit a lot of papers such as birth certificates, national ID’s etc to prove our authenticity. It took quite a few months to arrange everything. We also struggled after the kids were born as there wasn’t any family member or relative to look after them. We had to raise them alone while working.

2. What are the good and bad things about mixing into a different culture?

A. There cannot be a bad thing about mixing into another culture. My mother in law adores me (Maria) a lot. We (Maria and her kids) love Bangladeshi food such as Biryani, Khichuri, Beef Bhuna etc. and everything. In two cultures, people express themselves in different ways. For example, Bangladeshi people like to coddle more. So, sometimes it can take a little more effort to communicate better.

From these interviews we can infer that violence, family issues and lack of support are not the only things that make interracial couples’ lives harder. Sometimes, it can be the language, the difference in cultures or may be even adapting to an unsuitable weather and somehow these people are prioritizing their relationships over these drawbacks which proves their loyalty and dedication for their partners.

Conclusion:

Despite every obstacle trying to slow them down, interracial couples all over the world survive through love, patience and courage which is truly worthy of admiration. Love knows no race, no religion, no caste and no geographical boundaries. When two people are meant to be with each other, there should not be anything stopping them to unite. Therefore, people should broaden their mind, change their outlook and put humanity first instead of blabbering about religions, norms and meaningless rules of the society and accept and embrace these kinds of changes for a better world.

“When you are dealing with humanity as a family, there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.” —Malcom X

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