The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 14, 1992- Page 5,'
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Today is Valentine's Day. For
some people, this means a time to
remember their significant other. For
others, this means a time to try to
find a significant other.
But for some people, Valentine's
Day is just another reminder that
society does not acknowledge
their back- f
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by Henry Goldblatt
and Bethany Robertson
Daily News Editors
The controversy surrounding interracial
dating did not start when Spike Lee's Jungle
Fever hit movie houses - nor did it die after
the film's last showing at local multiplex
The issue cannot be confined to the big
Many University students said they cur-
rently are or once were involved in interracial
or intercultural relationships. Several of these
students described these relationships as
"learning experiences," and said the relation-
ships helped them to appreciate each other's
t Contrary to this view, others said they are
vehemently opposed to interracial dating be-
cause they feel there is no common ground on
which to build a relationship. They added that
they are afraid of losing their own cultural
identity if they were to become involved with
someone unfamiliar with their heritage.
However, these opinions often vary along eth-
nic and racial lines.
Many students interviewed said that people's
attitudes about interracial dating depend on
their ethnic background.
"African Americans feel strongly about in-
terracial dating. The community puts a lot of
pressure on people not to," said West Quad
Minority Peer Advisor Helena Wang, a sec-
ond-year graduate student in the School of
Ximena Zuniga, the project director for In-
tergroup Relations and Conflict Program,
added that many African American and
Jewish students are concerned about uphold-
ing their cultural heritage. "They feel the need
to protect their ethnic groups, and that mixing
may work against their identity," Zuniga said.
Representatives of other ethnic groups
Although this has held true for European
groups, Allen said, "It is not clear that there
will ever be the same kind of acceptance
along racial lines."
Zuniga said that geographic location and
racial composition can affect the frequency of
these relationships. For example, she said,
Puerto Ricans in New York City are more
likely to date interracially than Chicanos of
the Southwest because of more interaction
with Asian Americans and African
But some minorities cite more than just sur-
face-level reasons for dating exclusively
within their own race. Several students said
that by dating a white person, a person risks
losing his or her ethnic identity.
Wang said she is willing to date most men
outside of her own Asian American
"My attitude has gotten to the point where
I still believe in dating interracially - just
not dating white men. I don't think they can
understand what the issues are that I'm con-
stantly struggling with," Wang said.
"Unless you are a person of color, you
can't understand what I am struggling with,"
she added. She said she feels more at ease
with Asian Americans because there is a
common understanding and heritage upon
which to build friendships.
LSA sophomore Romel Williams said his
white girlfriend did not understand many cul-
tural concerns that were important to him.
"I found I just really had nothing to share
with her," Williams said.
Even if a person is sympathetic to cultural
and ethnic issues, LSA sophomore Latinisha
Boston said she has a hard time dating white
men because of their history of oppressing
"I think in today's society, with all the
been through, you
date," Boston said.
"I think it's very
hard for me to even
think about dating
because of things
that are going on in
this university -
not even in this
Crosby said he
believes his girl-
*. , friend feels the
... same way.
} a"She gets upset
kwith me) because no matter what happens,
I'll be in the majority and I'll have the
However, some University students said
thar- ve ,ictaA A ndirn-erAa n. nl ala_
Alison Glendening, a sophomore in the
School of Kinesiology, said her friends are
curious about her relationship with her
"They just ask me how I feel all the time,"
Glendening said. "But they don't treat me any
differently or Matt any differently."
But her boyfriend Matt Dyson - also a
sophomore in the School of Kinesiology -
tells a different story.
"Since my freshman year I've gotten a lot
of slack from some Black students on campus
for dating white women," Dyson said. Since
the proportion of
Black students at the
University is small,
Dyson said some
Blacks act as if he
must date within the
"I look at it a dif-
ferent way - I like
to keep my options
open," he said.
said the supposed
shortage of Black
men does not make
him feel that he must
date within his own;
there are available
women, but that doesn't mean I have to
choose one of those women," Williams said.
Allen said minorities, especially African
Americans, may feel threatened when people
of their community have personal
"(Interracial dating) is a symbolic issue to
Blacks. It represents a threat to the cohesion
of the group," Allen said. "It means that this
is literally a loss to the group."
While many people said their relationships
were not problematic in the University setting
- returning home was a different story.
Amy Ringler, a graduate student in the
School of Social Work, dated an African
American man while in high school. Ringler
said her mother denied she had a problem
with the relationship because of her
"I still think it was racially motivated,"
Ringler said. "She would always say, 'I know
that he comes from a good family, but the
neighbors don't know that."'
Crosby said, "(My girlfriend's) cultural
background and attitude is conditioned by her
parents who grew up in India. Their attitude
is much different than how my parents
brought me up.
"Differences between her parents' back-
ground and mine have led to slight squabbles
between us ... Her parents are more into the
unconditional love of family than I would
be," he said.
While Tumaneng said her parents do not
rni.n A 1 har int farn ilal ndatinein.. ohP ar
terracial children," Ringler said.
LSA senior Hans Greimel said he and his
Indian girlfriend of three years discussed how
they could raise their children with an appre-
ciation of both cultures.
"We always thought we could find a mid-
dle ground of cultural influences ... I think
most of the difficulties for the child would be
social confusion - and being pegged into a
category," Greimel said.
Despite the challenges of interracial dating,
couples agree they gain new perspectives
relationships, which are inevitably
portrayed as heterosexual.
This further perpetuates the
social stigma with which gay people
Valentine's Day advertisers, and
advertisers in general, routinely
appeal to the public's sexual desires.
Men's products are marketed as
things which will appeal to women.
Women are told to buy products
which will help them attract men.
But what if you're a man and
you're.not interested in appealing to
women? Then you're made to feel
like someone who doesn't have a
place in society.
"If you're in a (homosexual)
relationship, it's tough to find a card
that's appropriate," said Chris Feick,
a co-coordinator for the East Quad
Social Group for Lesbians, Gays and
Bisexuals. "It's really frustrating. I
think around Valentine's Day, it°y
sticks out a bit more."
Not that these feelings of
alienation are exclusive to this time
of year. This is something with
which gay people have to live every
y of their lives. That many people
are unwilling even to discuss the
issue only heightens the pain.
Because sex is still a taboo
subject in our culture, the homo-
sexual movement is restricted to the
underground. Even many civil rights
activists, who speak out vehemently
against racial or gender discrimina-
tion, tend to shy away from the isse
of sexual orientation.
"Americans still have trouble
dealing openly with sexuality," said
Associate English Prof. Marlon
Ross, who teaches "The Queer
Theory Reading Group." "In
America, homosexuality raises
anxieties that are in the culture in
Many gays choose to bury their
feelings and conform to a society
which they know will otherwise
ostracize them. They are able to do
this because sexual orientation is not
a visible characteristic, a fact which
contributes to other problems. _
White people can protest for the
civil rights of Blacks. Men can
lobby for the advancement of
women. But many heterosexuals
fear that their support of the gay
movement will cause their own
sexuality to be questioned.
"In issues of race or gender or
ethnicity, there's no chance of being
characterized with the group in
question," Ross said. "Because gays
are not visually marked, there's a
fear of being so closely associated
with the cause."
I wonder about people who
champion certain causes only if
they're sure they'll neverbe
associated with the people they
claim to support.
I applaud those who have been .
brave enough to declare openly their
homosexuality despite the social
pressures. I only wish this wasn't an
act which required bravery.
This country prides itself on its
tolerance of the free expression of
different perspectives. That a
significant part of our society feels
they have to live a life of secrecy is
through their relationships.
Glendening said dating Dyson has helped
her to understand some of the issues African
Americans face today.
"It helps me to see the other side," she
said. "Before I couldn't even put myself in
her shoes - now I can do that."
Dyson said he enjoys the mixing of the
two cultures. "I want to know how people of
a different culture live ... Another positive
thing is that you don't have to stereotype
"I've learned all sorts of things about how
Indian families operate. I have gained an ap-
preciation for India as a country as well,"
In addition, many white students said they
were able to learn from the often-new experi-
ence of being a minority.
"It is sort of analienation in a way. You
are on the outside and there is nothing you
can do about it," said Eastern Michigan
University student Larry Rose. "But it is a
pleasant shock. There is something to be
learned from that experience."
I n the end, interracial dating comes down
to a matter of personal choice. Even though
Boston said she would not want to date a
white man, if a person is in touch with their
background, she said she believes interracial
relationships can work.
"If you know your culture and if you de-
cide to look beyond (your boyfriend's or girl-
friend's) color, then I think it's all right,"
an cir _
have a different view of interracial dating.
Zuniga said many Latinos support those who
date outside the fold.
"The notion of mixed races is inherent to