It’s time to have an honest, open discussion about interracial relationships. No, I don’t mean gabbing about the latest drama between Olivia and Fitz. I mean actual, real-life interracial relationships. Despite its higher representation on TV and in pop culture, this is still a taboo subject, and one that is often met with a range of emotions that are not always positive.

So I decided to talk to interracial relationship expert, Christelyn Karazin, Brand Ambassador for InterracialDatingCentral.com, who gave her thoughts on the subject and why she is an interracial dating advocate particularly for Black women. Unlike other dating experts, hers is a success story. She’s been happily married for 13 years. Here’s what she had to say:

Candice: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you’ve become an advocate for interracial couples?

Christelyn: As with most advocacy, my motivation comes from having my own experiences. When I started dating my husband back in 1999, there was absolutely no place, discussion or support for Black women who were dating and/or married interracially. Necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to the work I do!

I also advocate because Black women are at a unique dating disadvantage in America. Marriageable Black women outnumber marriageable Black men by the millions. Yet we’re statistically the least likely to date interracially. However, Black men do so at twice the rate. My goal is to encourage Black women to exercise all of their options. A good man is a good man. Discount no one because of melanin, or lack thereof.

Candice: Why do you think there are so many Black women who don’t consider dating outside their race?

Christelyn: Historically, it’s been taboo. Our country’s shameful history of slavery is often used as a club to beat Black women into submission about dating interracially, particularly when it comes to white men. I’ve often been called by my critics, “The Chief Bed Wench,” because I’m seen at the forefront of this issue. I’m a big girl, and I’ll deal. But many Black women are sensitive to that kind of insult and outright disapproval. Women are social and emotional creatures. We want the people in our lives to approve of the men we bring home. It kind of throws a damper on the inclination to explore interracial dating if you know your parents said they would disown you if you ever brought home a white boy. Luckily things are changing. I’m seeing more and more Black women finding their bliss with the men who love and accept them, regardless of race. It’s a beautiful thing. I just want my sisters to be happy. With choice comes power. With power comes respect.

 

 

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Candice: What advice would you offer women who don’t date interracially because of what people might think?

Christelyn: In the end, it’s an individual choice. I know a few women who would never date interracially, despite the knowledge that men of other races are interested in them. I would say that if you’re the type of person who is overly concerned with what other people think about your life, then interracial dating is not for you. It comes down to what makes you happy and what makes your heart feel like it’s found its home. If you’re lonely and sad, but your entire peer group (including family) approves of the idea of never dating a non-Black man even if he was utterly kick-ass amazing, can you really say those people in your life want the best for you? Which bills are they paying to have this much power in your life?

Candice: Despite the popularity of shows like How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal, do you think that interracial relationships still face a stigma in pop culture and society?

Christelyn: I have tremendous respect for Shonda Rhimes. She has truly changed the game in television. She’s the Aaron Spelling of our generation. However, with Scandal in particular, there’s some elements of the old stereotype of a Black woman waiting in the wings for a white man who already has his white wife and family. I think critics likes to latch on to that.  I like that in both shows the Black women are able to express a full spectrum of emotions. Neither of those characters are the caricature of a Black woman. We have layers, and like all women, we are complicated and splendid creatures.

Candice: There seems to be a stronger reaction to Black men who date outside their race than Black women who do the same. When women do it, some see it as progressive. But when men do the same, it’s often seen as a betrayal.  Has that been your experience?

Christelyn: Actually, I’ve experienced that in the reverse. Historically, Black men have been dating and marrying interracially at higher rates than Black women for the last 40 years. Since Black women have been hesitant to date interracially for so long, I do consider it “progress” that many of them are discovering that different races of men are willing to love and cherish them. Maybe not “progressive,” but it is “progress”!

Candice: Something I’ve also noticed lately is that more of my Black female friends have begun to look outside their race specifically due to their frustrations with dating Black men. I feel like this approach could be a bit problematic (because I don’t believe race determines the quality of man). But how would you respond to women who feel this way?

Christelyn: Black women have a unique set of challenges in the dating market. If she wants to be married, have children, etc., the numbers just aren’t in her favor to remain exclusive to Black men. Why is it “problematic” to open yourself up to other men who might love you? No one is suggesting Black women avoid black men altogether. Why can’t it be Black men and all men, instead of black men or no one at all? I often hear the old, tired line that black folks need to work on themselves before they can mingle romantically with other races. I call B.S. on that one. We’ve been trying to “work through our issues” for over a century. I’m not willing to keep sacrificing my sisters for the sake of the cause. You can still advocate for change and love your blackness if you have a non-black spouse. Being in an interracial relationship doesn’t make you less Black.

Candice: Another question I get a lot from Black women who are looking to date outside their race is how can they put themselves in the position to meet a man? Even in my own experience I feel like men either assume that I don’t date outside my race or they have hangups about how they’d introduce me to their friends/family (which presents another issue).

The internet has been an absolute boon for people who are open to dating interracially. Places online like InterracialDatingCentral.com allows for men and women to take all the guess work out of wondering whether or not a non-Black person is open to them. I’ll admit there’s still some hesitancy to connect offline by both genders—I know this because they write me constantly about how to overcome it. But meeting online allows for everyone to get to know one another in a low-pressure way, and build if there is a desire to do so on both ends.

Learn more about Christelyn via her blog, Beyond Black & White, and check out her book, Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed.