As a young South Asian woman growing up in the UK, I have struggled to balance western and Indian cultures. For someone that feels assimilated to western social culture, issues such as dating outside of my race has been something I have experienced. My family have become a lot more accepting and tolerant of dating outside of our race, however, there still is a stigma around this. As someone that is in an interracial relationship, I fear that my partner may not understand my culture or may find our cultures too difficult to mix. This is a fear many interracial relationships face and I believe the way to get around this is to break down the stigma of dating outside of your race in South Asian families.
In my experience of South Asian culture, openly dating before marriage is generally not tolerated, let alone dating outside of your race. This is derived from the culture of early marriage and no sex before marriage. However, when growing up in a society with western values, these traditions have become less appealing to young people, although there are some who do abstain from sex before marriage for a religious purpose or belief. In South Asian culture the reason to abstain is due to the shame you could bring on your family and yourself. The shame factor is extremely sexist, as if Indian women have sex before marriage she would be seen as a disappointment to her family, however, if an Indian man does the same, it is deemed natural for him to do so. This allows South Asian families to excuse their son’s behaviour but condemn their daughters' behaviour, despite it being the exact same.
These sexist notions make young women dating before marriage such a taboo, let alone dating outside of their race. Many traditional South Asian families prohibit interracial relationships, because they believe that other races do not hold the same values that they do. I held a survey with 78 young people and 9% of that group said that they would not date outside of their race, and the reasoning was that they felt that other races would not possess the same values that they do. Contrary to popular belief, I do not think this is ‘racism’, I think it is understanding that different cultures produce different values and that they can contradict each other. However, I believe that it can be beneficial to learn from other cultures, and to have that ability to adapt to cultures shows respect and reduces any elitism from one culture.
The most damaging culture in South Asian families is gossiping and shaming. Not only does this perpetuate the sexist stereotype of the gossiping housewife, it is one of the main reasons why ‘shame’ is brought on to families. In the survey I carried out, I asked the respondents what difficulties they have overcome being in an interracial relationships. The overwhelming response to this was how their relationship is perceived by others and their family. One responded with the quote, “Asians are the worst for it”. This speaks volumes and shows how normal it is in South Asian families to gossip about someone’s relationship. The gossiping that comes from these communities produces a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality, that polarises different races. The thought of accepting someone into your family from outside of your race and culture can be very difficult for South Asian families and other ethnic minorities. The reason for this can date back to the time when the older generation immigrated from India and Kenya to a hostile and racist place, for my family this was the UK. Having suffered such racial abuse from those out of their race, it is only natural for some Asians to have a fear of their families dating outside of their race. I believe a way to tackle the taboo of interracial relationships is to let go of your fear and stop being stuck in a mindset from a generation that believes the colour of your skin determines your values and morals.
The UK is racist, there is no denying that. However a way to tackle this racism is to be more accepting of interracial relationships and show that this a norm. Talk and be honest with your family, no matter how traditional they are, educate them to understand that interracial relationships does not make someone less of their race and culture, it simply amplifies and shares their culture. Small changes in Asian homes can lead to massive changes in society and how interracial relationships are perceived.
As a young South Asian woman Shreeya has struggled with the contradictions from her Indian and western culture. She has felt that she was somehow less of an Asian because she was so in touch with western culture. However, now she realises that isn’t a bad thing. She is both cultures, and that doesn’t mean she is any less of either, she is simply part of the generation that is stuck in the middle. Shreeya's blogs touch on issues women like her face such as sexism in Indian culture and dating outside our race, all in the attempt to normalise certain western values in Indian culture.