Can interracial relationships survive the generation gap?
I have a friend, we’ll call her Sadie, but that’s not her real name. She doesn’t go to Northwood, but we still get together every now and then to catch up. The last time we saw each other, an interesting topic came up. Sadie told me about taking her African-American boyfriend to meet her grandparents. During the visit, her boyfriend came up to her in private and said, “Your grandpa hates me.”
She thought he was crazy. Of course her grandpa didn’t hate him, they’d just met. But then she realized that her grandfather hadn’t even acknowledged her boyfriend. He stayed on the couch or hid away in his room; her grandfather didn’t speak a word to him, not a single word.
When I got to thinking, I realized that I had never introduced an African-American boy to anyone outside of my immediate family. I’ve never seriously dated a boy of a different race, and the topic had never come up with my grandparents or aunts. In eighth grade, my best friend was African-American, and he went on a trip to DC with my family. My parents, my brother, our family friends all accepted him, but I had never introduced him to my grandparents.
I don’t really know how all of my extended family would feel about me being in an inter-racial relationship. I know how my parents, and my aunts and mixed-race cousins in Florida would feel. But it’s never really come up with anyone else in my family. And when I thought about it, I’d never talked about it with my friends either. For the most part, I have an understanding of how their parents or sisters would feel, but not their grandparents or uncles.
Change is hard. If you’ve grown up your entire life with a certain belief, it’s asking a lot to change it. People our grandparents’ ages grew up in a difficult time, where all beliefs were being challenged, and while rules were changing, people’s values remained the same.
So although I grew up in Chatham County, with African-American and Hispanic students in almost every class, my grandparents didn’t have that. If there were students in their classes of a different race, that was brand new for them, and in that age, it was probably difficult to accept.
But it’s a different time now. When looking at the changes in generations, it’s so easy to see how much has been accomplished since the Civil Rights movement. The university I’m attending in the fall is one of the most diverse in the country, with about 40 percent of students being a minority. According to News One, 1 in 12 marriages today is interracial. Fifty years ago that would have been impossible to find in the U.S.
So, yes, new times mean new acceptance; and from my observations, the majority of our generation is incredibly accepting, whether it’s of race or religion. My best friends or I could bring home significant others of a different race, and most of our parents and siblings would be accepting, but our grandparents?
These are tough years. With our accepting generation paired with the conservative generation that our grandparents are from, there is bound to be some clash in beliefs. But girls want to be able to introduce their boyfriends to their entire family, and they want them to be accepted.
Sadie’s grandfather told her that he didn’t want her to make a “mistake” by staying with her boyfriend. He saw her dating an African-American boy as a “mistake.” And I’m sure that hers aren’t the only extended family members who think that way.
Our grandparents don’t have to date anyone they don’t want to, they don’t have to be best friends with or go to church with people of a different race if they’re not happy doing so, but they do need to understand how times have changed. If our generation can accept interracial relationships, to maintain close family relationships, their generation needs to be respectful of our decisions. Sadie doesn’t want to disappoint her grandfather, and he doesn’t want to lose his relationship with his granddaughter, so he needs to come to terms with the fact that in this new time, people will do new things, and although it’s not exactly “his time,” he still needs to be accepting of it.
— By Caroline Schneider