It is quite interesting to see mixed race marriage couples in Seattle when I landed here three weeks ago. That made me compare the situation here and back home.
Mixed race couples are increasingly common in the USA. In 2010, The New York Times reported that an estimated 8% of the entire American population was mixed-race. Seattle is no exception. Recently named one of the the most diverse regions in the country, mixed race relationships are more and more common.
“In the Pacific Northwest, it is common to be mixed race” says Era Schrepfer, 44, who grew up in Minnesota and whose husband is from Mexico. She stated that the biggest advantage is that the children grow up aware of cultural differences and very good at navigating and being open about other people’s differences as well.
South Asia is also a very diverse society. I am from Sri Lanka, and all over South Asia we say that you can find a different language or a different culture every 100 miles you cross. In least case there will be at least a different dialect of the same language with noticeable differences.
But with the race and caste system, the culture has created strict boundaries which can be tough to cross. Race can be a subset of a language or an ethnic group and caste is a subset of a religion. One of the main reasons why people cross this tough line is by marrying people from different races. This is considered as a severe punishable offense in most places of the region where the punishment even can be death.
In July 2013, a town called Dharmapuri in South India faced a horrible incident with a mixed race marriage where the husband was killed by the wife’s family.
In most cases the mixed race couple will be forcefully isolated from their parents’ families. The prevailing situation ultimately affects the future relationships when the couple have kids.
“It is strictly not accepted in our countries, we have seen many murders and assaults when people engage in mixed race marriages,” says Samira Jannat, 24, a law student from Bangladesh.
Haritha Thilakarathne, 23, a youth movement leader from Sri Lanka added that ” We still believe and value arranged marriages rather a mixed race marriage.”
Coming back to Seattle, I found an interesting quote by Era. She mentioned “My husband who is not used to helping around the house when here husbands are expected to do housework.” Other differences she mentioned were that her husband does not like to plan things far in advance where most Americans do as well as the language differences.
“My parents taught me to learn everything I could then choose myself” says Catherine Cheng, 24, daughter of a mixed-race couple living in Seattle working for FIUTS. Her mum is German-Irish and her dad is Chinese. Catherine also explained how she spent her childhood where she learnt to balance while enjoying the traditions of both of the cultures.
Both Era’s spouse and Catherine’s parents were following the same religion, so religion did not impact much in the marriage or raising up kids.
In Sri Lanka or in any other South Asian nation, this topic will be so sensitive. People feel reluctant to share their opinions about religion and mixed marriages where they are not welcomed or a story ending with blood.
This happened three years ago. A close friend of mine who is a Hindu but low in caste was in a relationship with a girl who is a Hindu but her caste is high. That was a beautiful love story between them before this thunder hit them. The race. The girl’s dad is so keen on races and that he doesn’t want his daughter to engage in a relationship with a low caste guy. The unrest lasted for a couple of months, and the girl’s father almost poisoned himself. The peer pressure led the girl’s father to attempt to kill himself because of his race. This led the couple to split up.
Though some mixed race marriages are accepted with open mind in Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries, it is hard to generalize it. The stereotypes characters whom I mentioned still remain as the majority in our countries and this is quite challenging to overcome.
Personally it makes me sad to undergo these situations in our countries and it frustrates the younger generation to make their own decisions. But I am pretty excited to see a change in our societies.
But in the other hand, I read a beautiful love story of two professors later they married, groom is from Sri Lanka and the bride is from Midwest, USA.
“I love the way it broadens my perspective and helps me live as a global person. The world deeply needs people who know how to live ‘between worlds’ in a peaceful, respectful way” says Jody Fernando, the groom. The couple is happily married and blessed with two kids and a dog.
Someday I hope to say the same.