The second annual panel on Interracial Dating at Cornell, sponsored by the Cornell Chapter of the NAACP, was held yesterday evening at the Robert Purcell Community Center. Moderator Justin M. Green ’06 said at the beginning of the meeting that the intent of the discussion was to “talk about the views on interracial dating on campus.”
Panel members began the discussion by introducing themselves and talking about their own personal views on the issue of interracial dating. Many of the panelists’ views on interracial dating were shaped from their own childhood and family experiences.
Chukuma Marcel O’gude ’05 recounted that the town in which he grew up was predominantly African American and Latino, and this enabled him to become exposed to many different cultures at a young age.
“It was a socialization process,” he explained. “My parents taught me to be proud of our own culture and respect others.” On the issue of dating outside his race, O’gude said that he generally supported interracial dating, but felt that the matter was mostly about “personal choice. To decide to stay within a race is fine, and you shouldn’t not date outside your race, but it’s more about personal choice and compatibility -. [you should date] somebody that you really care about.” Ariel David Perez ’08 also spoke about how, while growing up, he was “exposed to all different types of people.” Race was not the only factor he considered when dating: “who you are, your identity, is more than race, it’s socioeconomic status, gender, culture,” he explained.
Several members on the panel gave their arguments against the concept of interracial dating. Jamila McCoy ’08 felt that she “didn’t see any reason to go outside [her race]. I see beauty in my race, in my brothers.”
Justin Davis ’07 agreed with McCoy. “We should not date outside races,” he argued, while bringing up concerns of discrimination and exploitation. For example, he noted how, as evidenced in the media, some white women are attracted to wealthy and affluent African American sportsmen, judges or business executives. “Is it really love?” he asked, “or is more about exploiting your partner than really loving them?”
For Anasstassia Baichorova grad, however, the concept of race itself was puzzling. “I feel very passionate about the issue. The way race is perceived in the United States is unlike the rest of the world,” she said. Originally from Belarus, Baichorova attended high school in Belgium, and noted that in the rest of the world ethnicity is a greater issue than it is in the States, not race, or being “black” or “white”. She commented on some of the history of African Americans in America, including slavery and the rampant discrimination against African Americans in American society, and said she understood why interracial dating is met with reluctancy. However, she stated that “even though I know why people are against it, I think that I have never heard a good argument [for] why it is not okay.”
When asked whether different “degrees” of interracial dating were more acceptable, in a situation, for example, of an African American man dating a Latina woman, Davis insisted that “there are still stereotypes of the black male. Interracial dating shouldn’t be forced upon anyone.” He also noted that “interracial dating across racial lines now is a social construct. But in melting and mixing where does our racial identity go, especially for black people when it has been taken away from us [throughout history]?”
The issue of identity was central to McCoy’s argument for dating within racial lines. In particular, she felt that the concept of a melting pot was not always “a good thing. In melting a minority with a majority, you lose some of yourself.” She preferred the analogy of American society as a “mixing bowl” where “we can be proud of who we are and enjoy the same for other people, but remain who we are. Diversity doesn’t mean giving yourself up,” she explained.
But Tamara Lee ’06, herself part Spanish and part African American, felt that dating an individual of another race, or marrying and having interracial children, did not necessarily mean giving up one’s racial identity. “Why limit yourself to your color?” she asked. “Forgive but don’t forget,” she said in response to the racial discrimination historically inflicted on African Americans, “but you can move on from it.” Commenting on assimilation, Lee noted that “you assimilate in the Cornell world, and [also] when you go to the work world. You’re already assimilating, why hold on to [a] barrier which perpetuates racism?”
When asked whether family or peers influenced their choice of partners, or whether or not to date a partner outside their race, Baichorova echoed what many of the other panelists felt: “you are your own person, even if [your parents] pay your tuition or don’t.” She went on to add, “I thought my parents would have negative attitudes [about my partner] but when they met him, those feelings went away.”
More reserved, McCoy felt that interracial dating has perpetuated a “brain drain” in the African American community, noting how some individuals go on to study, get their degrees, and then leave the community in which they grew up in. She said that her parents told her that she is a “successful black woman” and urged her to “keep success in the family.” But she also said that her family believed that “even if your children come out polka dotted or striped, it’s all good.”
Archived article by Samira Chandwani
Sun Staff Writer