When MIT senior Christine Yu moved from West Virginia to Boston to attend college, she found differences in more than just the size of the city — she found greater racial diversity.
On Thursday, the Pew Research Center published a report on the rise of intermarriage in the U.S.
In line with the upwards trend of interracial marriages, interracial relationships in college are also on the rise as college students encounter greater racial diversity at their schools.
College students find that commonality in culture and personal background frequently cross racial boundaries and are more important in a relationship than race.
Although Yu never thought she’d date someone Hispanic before meeting her boyfriend, she quickly found that there were many similarities between her Chinese and her boyfriend’s culture, such as their shared values and family background.
Katie Tingle, a Cauasian sophomore majoring in psychology at Wellesley College, is currently in a relationship with an African American who she met in college.
Tingle said that she and her boyfriend have many similarities, including coming from the same geographic location (southern Arizona), having a stable family, and striving to get a good education. “I feel like our cultures are more similar than different. We both value getting good grades and spending time with family when we’re home,” Tingle said.
David Zabner, a junior in biochemistry and computer science at Cornell College, said that racial differences in relationships are becoming less of an issue, but socio-economic differences in relationships are still less socially acceptable. “I think there’s a class difference now more than a race difference,” Zabner said.
The changes in attitudes towards interracial relationships are changing across all generations, although some believe that young peoples’ attitudes are changing more rapidly.
“I think [people] our age are more conscious of it than people ten years younger than us and much less conscious of it than people ten years older than us,” said Zabner. “I think that [my younger brother] doesn’t see the differences as much as I or my parents do. He learned [about racial differences] a lot later in life than I did.”
None of the people interviewed had any negative reactions from their parents to their interracial relationships. They also found differences in attitude toward interracial relationships based on geographic location.
Yu said that her family didn’t have any objections to her dating someone Hispanic.
However, she said that some of her parents’ peers were surprised. She said that they probably would not have had any reaction if she was dating someone who was Caucasian, since it was more common in West Virginia, a state that is 94% white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I feel like for people in West Virginia, there is still a lot of racial tension when you see interracial couples,” Yu said.
“It comes down for them, the Asian culture, putting a lot of emphasis on the white pigment,” Yu speculated, meaning that the Asian culture would be more accepting of a Caucasian than someone of a darker skin tone.
Jennifer Keats-Snow, a Caucasian junior from Northwestern University, said that she felt that she and her biracial (Caucasian and African American) fiancee stood out this past summer when they worked at a camp in a small town in Iowa. “But when he’s [at Northwestern], it’s not a big deal,” Keats-Snow said.
The attitudes of college students towards differences in race indicate that the world ‘interracial’ may not be a common term in the near future.
“Sometimes I forget that we’re in an interracial relationship. I don’t label it interracial. I just don’t think about it,” Tingle said.
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