I grew up in a very racially homogenous country. I remember learning about other races in school but have not really seen a person of a different race up close until I went abroad when I was 14. Croatia is not homogenous only in terms of skin color of its population, but also in terms of religion. Despite that, I was always taught, both in school and at home, that humans are humans no matter the color of their skin, their origin, language, religion, education, social class…
When I went to US to study I never head a doubt in my mind that I should treat everyone with the same respect. I never chose people I hung out with by the way they look, but by their personality. And frankly, I don’t think I made any mistakes. One of my best friends is African (hello Alphonsine!), and I am married to an Asian. I am aware, though, of the fact that interracial and interfaith relationships, and even more so marriages, are a tabu in most societies. It’s easy to see a reason for something like that, ranging anywhere from different cultures, values, genes, and so on, but with the world becoming smaller by the day, and societies increasingly becoming racially heterogenous, it’s difficult to think of those reasons as valid ones any longer. I feel like the only reasons people have for not accepting those types of relationships are narrow-mindedness and ignorance.
Recently, I came across an article in The Economist discussing interracial and interfaith marriages stating that today, in the US 45% of all marriages are interfaith marriages. I wonder what that percentage would be for interracial marriages? And what it would be for European countries? What the article in The Economist states further is that the reason for such a high percentage of interfaith marriages lies in the fact that people get married later, after they have experienced an autonomous life, during which they fell out of family traditions. However, the bad news is that half of those kinds of marriages in US fall apart. It’s a worrying trend I believe. It seems like, when times get tough in a marriage, people turn to their religion for comfort, and the gap between the couple becomes even wider at that point.
At this particular moment in my marriage, I do not find race or religion to be an obstacle. I cannot claim it won’t become one in the future, but I always like to believe that with enough honesty and conversation, Mr.B. and I would be able to overcome it. I have not fooled myself into thinking that our marriage will be easy or simple, but at the same time I desperately hold on to what I have been taught my whole life – it’s what the inside that matters. I try to be respectful of his religion, culture, and traditions, and expect him to do the same in return, but would never consider trying to convert him, unless he specifically decides on that himself. I suppose problems in interfaith marriages could occur if one person would have too high expectations or would suddenly become too religious and would expect the other person to go along with it. Not agreeing to that could lead to a great abyss in values between the two, which in turn leads to decay of the relationship.
How do you feel about interfaith and interracial relationships? If you’re in one, what challenges are you faced with?