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Why Interracial Dating Might Be A Matter of Public Health

Confused. Messed up mentally. Not natural. A crime against God. As the child of an Caribbean (Black) and a British (White) union, these were just a few of the familiarly contemptuous rebukes made against the interracial relationships and it’s progeny (i.e. me). And, try as I might to stuff my fingers in my ears and sing an endless chorus of “la la la la la, I can’t heeeeeeeeeear you,” over the years, some of that garbage still slipped through the cracks and into my cranium, not really changing how I felt about being of mixed race, so much as just really annoying the hell outta me. But, honestly, what irked my nerves more than anything was that I never really had a good comeback.

Like I said, as far as being biracial? I was mad cool with it, always. The truth of my own existence simultaneously set me free and insulated me, Teflon-coating style, from the misinformed and sometimes hurtful comments of the tolerance-challenged. You see, I had the recurring and validating gift of my own intensely enriching experiences from two vastly different cultures to make me see the “Oh no, it messes up the kids” argument was all so much hooey. Take family dinnertime, for example. Curried goat and roti on Monday, Fish n‘ Chips on Tuesday. That wasn‘t confusing, people, it was delicious.

Time and again, the cultural/racial mash-up that was my parentage proved to be nothing short of a ethnological jackpot, giving me access into varied and stimulating life experiences, nuanced understandings of the social construct we call “race”, and a deep appreciation for the essential thread of humanity that lies beyond it all. Gravy, right?

The problem, especially when I was a wee one, was that all these wonderful experiences amounted to emotional arguments in favor of race-mixing, and were very difficult to try to communicate and condense for the sake of a heated exchanged with another smart-mouthed 7-year-old who might want to start sh*t with me. So, when kids threw the obligatory, “What ARE you?” at me, the best I could come up with was “A frog. What are YOU?” and keep it movin’ in the sandbox.

Even as I matured, and there was more space and opportunity for meaningful dialogue and complex explanations of why biracial heritage was so much more a blessing than a curse, I continued to argue from an emotional and spiritual vantage point. What I never had, what I always kind of wished for, was just a short, practical rebuttal to the suggestion that interracial couples getting together and reproducing was abnormal or just plain “messed up.” Then , a few weeks ago, the perfect comeback fell right into my lap… do it “FOR THE KIDS,” y‘all.

So, I went to a PCN (Perinatal Care Network) meeting or what is commonly referred to as a total snooze-fest. I’m not a nurse, but as part of the work I do for a non-profit organization focused on health issues, I often attend meetings surrounding issues of public wellness, particularly that of babies and infants. So, I found myself at this meeting where, it just so happened that a young genetics counselor was there to drone on (and on and on) about genetic abnormalities. We’re talking nuchal translucency screenings, biochemical markers and aneuploidy risk assessments, people. Pass me a Sugar Free Red Bull and put an extra shot in my hazelnut latte, right? I sank into my metal chair and got ready to hunker down for the mind-numbing duration.

But, surprise-surprise, when dude started talking, especially about “Ethnic Based Carrier Screenings,” it was actually kind of interesting. He said that there are literally thousands of genetic tests and screenings available these days which can be done in early pregnancy. So many diseases and genetic abnormalities out there to be on the look-out for, that it’s impossible (cost and time prohibitive) to do them all. As a result, doctors have to pick and choose and use their “best guess” to narrow down which screenings and diagnostic tests to run on expectant mothers. And, the most common and useful “narrowing down” tool has proven to be testing based on the ethnicity of one or both parents. Here’s why….

So, statistically speaking, we’re are all carriers of about 6-8 recessive diseases, right? But, in order for those diseases to “come out and play” in our progeny, we need to pair up genetically with someone else who has the same recessive marker (on some, “Hey baby, I got Cystic Fibrosis, what you got?” tip.) And, diseases and their recessive carriers tend to cluster by ethnicity. That’s why you see so much Sickle Cell and other hemoglobinopathies amongst Black folk, while Jews and French Canadians are disproportionately hit by Tay Sachs. Are your synapses firing yet?

If mating within our race dramatically increases the likelihood of pairing up with another recessive “carrier” with your disease marker, then it would stand to reason that mixing it up a little (i.e. getting preggers by a partner of another ethnic/ “racial” group) dramatically decreases the odds of having a baby afflicted with any particular disease (Tay Sachs, Sickle Cell, Canavan, Dysautonomia, Thalassemia, etc.) EUR-freakin’-REKA!!! If you could have seen some of the slides I saw – babies suffering from seizures, blindness, the kind of inhuman pain you wouldn‘t wish on your worst enemy, dying in the first year of life – you’d understand why ANYTHING that could potentially alleviate this kind of suffering in the world would seem like a pretty damned good idea to me. Swirl it up!!

I’m not suggesting that everyone run out and find them a Samoan, Italian, Jewish, Asian or Caucasian boyfriend (but, if there is a run on “white boys” after this article, I have dibs on Daniel Craig). Loving is too difficult these days, period. So, if you fall in love with someone within your tribe/ethnicity? Cheers! Do you.

However, if you happen to be dating or engaged to someone “outside your race” and getting a lot of flack from friends or family or the general public about “sticking to your own kind,“ or about how “wrong” and “unnatural” it is to mix races, about how “horrible” it’s gonna be for the kids – just tell them to check the numbers. Numerical probabilities just might shut some of those haters up. Maybe it won’t cure cancer overnight, but being “down with ‘The Swirl‘” just might be helping to build us all a stronger, healthier world.

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  • i hate all these reasons of *why* to interracial date. some people just–gasp! happen to be attracted to people of another race. if you need to be persuaded into interracial dating/have some alternative motive besides love/attraction–don’t do it.

  • Whit

    This seems like it was supposed to be funny and tongue-in-cheek (as another commenter said), but the person who wrote it is still using that “best of both worlds” thing that mixed people say. It’s seems that it would sort of be impossible to truly get the best of being black and truly get the best of being white because both sets don’t really regard you as their own, but a mixture (which you are). And there’s nothing wrong with that…if you’re mixed that’s great, but why do you have to make it seem like its better than being white or better than being black? The whole idea that being mixed is a unique experience is sort of strange to me because there are so many mixed people in the world. And yeah you got picked on…so did I, so did everyone, we just got picked on for different reasons. People taunting you isn’t unique to the biracial experience, so stop being so defensive about it.

    • lexibugg

      everyone is defensive about whatever they have been teased about, and her being teased about being multi-ethnic is unique to her personal life experience. even amongst multi-ethnic individual, we each have our own unique experience, as well do non-multi-ethnic individuals!!! and as far as truly being able to enjoy the best of a dual identity, you are not living her experience you are merely speculating and generalizing the behaviors of the African- American and caucasian population to try to prove your point.

  • lexibugg

    are you people illiterate??? did you not actually read the article??? it was not meant to encourage inter-ethnic(there is only one race) dating, but as a logical, sound rebuttal for those being relentlessly taunted for being the product or a relationship between two consenting adult, who happen to be of different ethnicities. i had long ago (before the article) jokingly told my husband that this was something i would use to help my children deal if they were every teased, or made to feel inferior for being multi-ethnic. along with a few other tactic my mother employed. i also know what it is like to be tease relentlessly for being a “funny looking” “black girl”, having a different demeanor, and vernacular!!! i am now grown and women still treat me funny and give me attitude. stare at me when i am out in public and look me up and down. i am sure have a white husband and dressing the way i do doesn’t help their insecurity. which is always the root of teasing someone for being different from yourself.

    • Nne

      Hmmm, I was teased by African Americans when I was younger for being African. Yet, I don’t go around writing articles coming up with rebuttals as to why my origins are better than that of another. I wonder how some of you would take it if I wrote an article that claimed that my birth to African parents prevents X, Y, and Z as a rebuttal to tauntings I received from *mere* children (and sometimes their ignorant parents) in my youth. If the author has not gotten over her hang-ups and insecurities from her youth in regards to her mixed race identity – I don’t think this article is the best way to address such. And this is a basic principle we all should have learned as children – two wrongs don’t make a right. If people are making fun of you because of your background – retaliation with smart comebacks is not the answer. I would have much rather preferred an article that celebrated her rich background rather than score settling between the races – tongue-in-cheek or not.

    • lexibugg

      i could care less if you wrote and article about however you feel about being African and what i feel about you choosing to do such is irrelevant. as an immigrant i think a concept you should familiarize yourself with is freedom of speech. she is entitled to write about anything in her personal experience she wishes. what maybe a solution for her may not work for you, but that does not mean you get to tell her what she can, can’t ,should or shouldn’t do!!!! this article was not about “i am better because i am multi-ethnic, because of this, this and this”. it was about her receive a tidbit of info and having the thought that this info would have been useful to defend herself from ignorant individuals.

      and how is refuting ignorant, baseless comments with conclusive scientific fact wrong??? you trying to tell someone the appropriate way to deal with their personal issues, and be so condescending about that fact that she is still dealing with her issues is wrong. and this has nothing to do with score settling between the “races”, and the fact that you some how drew that conclusion from this article is quite revealing about some of your own personal issues. it always seems with SOME people the mention of being multi-ethnic, and the hardships that can often be apart of such an identity, insights such a rage and bitterness that results in self absorbed blindness that consumes all reason,logic, and cognition!!

    • lexibugg ” think a concept you should familiarize yourself with is freedom of speech”

      Your the only one that needs to familiarize yor self with it.

      Just like the writer had the right to say what she did everyone else has the right to challenge.

      Freedom of speech comes with a little know clause that says whatch what you say cause it can be held against you.

      The writer is upset about getting teased for being mixed?

      Tough titty, welcome to planet earth, were human beings screw each other over for being different, Christians tease Muslims, skinny kids tease fat kids light vs dark, tall vs short, good hair vs “bad” hair, bow legged vs pigeon toed that is life and throw it all in reverse for vice versa.

      And guess what IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOUR KIDS.

      But just like she doesnt want to be teased for being mixed I am sure their are black parents who dont want their kids being teased for not being mixed which is what this kind of BS opens the door for.

      And there is no scientific fact to this the author picked out a small theory and try to sell it off as fact why?

      Beacuse there are people like you who will eat it up.

      It’s obvious that your worried about how your family will be treated but the way you commented up here I doubt it’s your outside that has people looking at you and yours funny.

    • lexibugg

      it is not theory but fact that if two individuals are both carriers of a particular gene( those of African descent and sickle cell anemia for example)their child is more likely to dominantly express said gene, while a child with only one parent that is either a recessive or dominant carrier of said gene is only 25 to50% likely to dominantly express said gene!!! this is something that is taught in basic biology, and a fact that i was aware of long before the existence of this article!!

      teasing being a fact of life does not mean one does not have the right to express their distaste for having to experience such torment. stating facts as a means of self-defense is not teasing, nor is this article going to open the door for non-multi-ethnic children to be tease for not being multi-ethnic. this is also something already in existence.

      while all forms of speech are protected by the first amendment, there is a difference between expressing you opinion about personal life experience, and being belligerent and malicious. remember that if you ever have the misfortune to be referred to as on of the many nasty racial epithets in the English language and the perpetrator hides behind the first amendment.

      and as for you attempt to attack my character and my intellect, i think i have already wasted enough effort, and dispensed far more knowledge than you deserve. there is no point in trying to combat the illogical, irrational and ignorant, with reason, logic and solid fact!!!

    • No it’s half truth, any gene that can be bred out can be bred in including genetic diseases you and the writer however conviently left that out, leave the genetics rto those who actually have studied it.

      Save it lady, your reaching for some type of edge for your kids when there is no need fop it and then you do it in the manner of trying to step on others opinions.

      You and the writer have the right to talk out the side of your necks but people have the right to call you out for yall BS.

    • Nne

      (Sorry all for the incredibly long post…)
      At the request of lexibugg and others who found that my first reading of the article was flawed due to perhaps some temporary bout of illiteracy, I decided to skim through the article again. After doing so, I found nothing wrong with my initial reactions especially after re-reading the last paragraph which included this:

      “Maybe it won’t cure cancer overnight, but being “down with ‘The Swirl‘” just might be helping to build us all a stronger, healthier world.”

      In fact, I am quite surprised that my initial comments were so tame. The only thing that prevented me from flagging this article was the fact that it wasn’t written in German…circa early-1900s….Arguments that even smell like eugenics are not funny. If this was the author’s attempt at some type of Jonathan Swift-like sarcasm, it was pathetic, at best.

      I don’t know, maybe it was just the way I and countless number of others I know grew up – fighting fire with fire never works and it brings you down to the debased level of your tormentor. People who are proponents of keeping the races pure, such as those who verbally abused the writer, are just plain stupid. Condescending to their level to suggest that a mixing the races leads us to a “stronger, healthier world,” is, I’m sorry to say, not that far off. In the animal kingdom, females choose their mates based on who will give them a certain genetic advantage – as for us, we are far more complex than that. So when I say that the author’s arguments, were pig-headed – I mean that in the purest sense of the term….(lol…sarcasm). I know that most that are engaged in multi-ethnic relationships do so out of love and not to better the genetic lot of their offspring.

      I do not claim to possess more than a basic understanding of genetics – for I am more clinically-oriented. However, I found some of the author’s claims flawed. Assuming that she is talking about a predominantly African American/Caribbean group, then she forgot that in terms of genetic ancestry and predisposition to most diseases – African Americans, genetically, share more in common with Caucasian Americans, than some Africans, as some studies have pointed out (as for popular media, I think someone recently found out that Obama and Cheney were related somehow). For the most part, race is largely a social construct with very little scientific basis. Those who think otherwise, most likely at this point in time, have had their scientific credentials revoked. Also the idea that you could make a significant difference in your progeny’s genetic profile with merely a generation’s worth of “intermingling” is ludicrous. And let us remember, the majority of what is killing us in the US/Caribbean – black and white – is not rare genetic diseases – rather it is diseases whose etiology has a significant environmental component.

      As for lexibugg’s reply to my first reply and that of others – it is quite unfortunate that our discussion had to degenerate into well….whatever she was foaming at the mouth about. Her biases against people who are different from her are quite apparent – and like clnmike, I must call her out on such things. First, I am quite aware of the first amendment and its implications. It’s amusing that you assume that as an immigrant, I would be unaware of these things – seeing that several immigrants have to become intimately familiar with the laws of the land before they become citizens – even more so than their American counterparts. I am proudly African American, as I pointed out in my first article I wrote for CLUTCH. I was born in New England to Nigerian parents. It was my funny-sounding name and penchant for rice with goat stew (instead of PB and J like my fellow elementary school classmates) that made me the target of their jokes. I am used to comments like yours, which assume that because my name isn’t Mary, Ann or Susy, that I am a foreigner from a backwards land with no hope of adapting to the American way of life or understanding its laws. I find that most often – people in multi-ethnic relationships or those who come from mixed backgrounds are usually more tolerant towards people like me, but I guess, Lexibugg serves as a glaring exception. It’s easy to assume that because you are different (she mentioned that she is in an IR relationship and dresses unconventionally) that everyone is looking at you somehow or is against you. I know, from personal experience that most people are more interested in their own issues more so than what I wear or who I go home to. If not…oh well. I think Lexibugg is so used to being defensive about her choice in lifestyle, that she pegs her own insecurities on others through useless ranting and raving about how the entire black race cowers in fear whenever we see….omigod…a black woman with a white man.

      There is nothing new under the sun, my dear. Nothing.

  • “i hate all these reasons of *why* to interracial date. some people just–gasp! happen to be attracted to people of another race. if you need to be persuaded into interracial dating/have some alternative motive besides love/attraction–don’t do it.”

    Dido