Meeting the parents. It can be an intimidating experience, even when meeting the most accepting of families. In an interracial relationship, meeting the parents can be even scarier as you anticipate potential objections, disapproval or awkward questions.
Here are some things to consider before you meet — or introduce — the parents.
Meeting the Parents: Talk First
Before you meet your date’s parents — and/or before you introduce your parents to your date — talk about your families. Don’t let your date enter the situation blind. Discuss your parents’ attitudes on interracial relationships, their individual roles within the family, and to what degree you value their opinions. If you know of any outright opposition to the relationship, try to prep your date with any background information — understanding perspectives can help soften attitudes — that might explain why your parents feel the way they do.
If your date doesn’t freely offer this information, ask specific questions that will best help prep you for your first encounter.
Meeting the Parents: Be Patient
Don’t expect to win over families at your first meeting. Long-standing attitudes and prejudices won’t be cast aside immediately just because you’re a great person. Likewise, their dreams for their child to marry someone within their race aren’t going to disappear overnight.
You may discover that your date’s parents immediately embrace you, thrilled that their child has found someone so wonderful — obviously — as you. Still, hesitations may arise later on as the relationship gets more serious. Some parents might welcome you as a date, not a future family member. Be patient as they adjust to a change in (their) plans for their child.
When parents see how happy their children are in healthy relationships, race and background will become less important.
Meeting the Parents: Be Gracious
Give your parents — or your date’s parents — the benefit of the doubt. Forgive any poorly worded questions or statements. Try to understand their perspectives: in earlier generations, interracial romance wasn’t much of an option, so while it might not be a big deal to you, the generation gap will dictate a different attitude.
Some parents will feel like their child is betraying their cultural heritage. Others will make it even more personal, questioning their child’s motives in picking a potential mate who looks nothing like them. (“Why don’t you want a man like your father?”)
Try to determine what their actual objections to interracial relationships are so that you can carefully tackle the specifics head-on.
Find ways to reassure parents, eloquently explaining your perspective without any defensiveness. You might be frustrated by their expectations, but they likely feel the same about your decisions. Be gentle, quick to forgive, and generous with your conversation. Never accuse anyone of being a bigot or a racist.
Meeting the Parents: Recruit a Support Team
If your parents can’t get onboard with your interracial relationship, consider recruiting a bit of a support team. When parents see other family and friends rallying around you, rooting for your relationship success, they might be challenged to reevaluate the way they see you two together. Even if your parents don’t come around, at least you’ll have people you can lean on who aren’t concerned about the non-matching skin tones.
Meeting the Parents: Follow Your Heart
It may be cliché advice, but it always applies: follow your heart. How important is it to you that your family accepts your date? Are you comfortable dating someone whose parents wish you were a different nationality? Assess your comfort level with interracial objections and determine if the relationship is worth the stress. If it is, then pursue it with all you’ve got.
Consider yourselves the Capulets and Montagues — with a happier beat-the-odds ending.