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You People: Interracial Relationship Fact vs. Fiction
A real-life comparison of the #1 Netflix film
Do you remember the first time you met your significant other’s family? I do - like it was yesterday. I remember holding my new boyfriend’s hand as he led me through the side door next to the garage, into the laundry room, kitchen, and finally the family room where his mom sat in her favorite purple plaid loveseat watching tv. I remember how nervous I felt as he began making introductions. My thoughts raced with questions, the biggest being the same as everyone in this situation: “Will she like me?” But a bigger question loomed in my mind. “Will she care that I’m Mixed?”
Meeting someone’s parents & family is always nerve-wracking.
Meeting someone’s parents & family when you’re in an interracial relationship comes with an additional set of potential challenges.
If you disagree, I invite you to continue reading.
You People - Netflix #1 movie
This week, I’m taking a look at the current #1 movie on Netflix, You People.
You People is a rom-com that follows Ezra, a Jewish man (Jonah Hill) who hates his job in finance and dreams of taking his pop culture-themed podcast mainstream, and Amira (Lauren London, a Black Muslim woman who’s struggling to make it as a costume designer.
Now before you tap out thinking this is a movie review, stay with me. This is going to be less movie review and more real-life comparison. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything, but if you hate spoilers…well, you’ve been warned.
1. Racism is the first assumption
Ok, where was I? Oh yeah…Ezra & Amira…
From the start, the two seem like an unlikely pair. I mean what could a White Jewish guy and a Black Muslim girl possibly have in common? Well, I think Paula Abdul said is best, opposites attract.
The two meet when Ezra gets in the back of Amira’s car, mistaking her for his Uber driver. That’s not a spoiler…it’s in the trailer. She screams thinking she’s being attacked and then turns to racial assumptions that Ezra believes all Black people look the same until she realizes it was an honest mistake. Check out the clip as seen on The Jimmy Fallon Show.
How often do we see this played out every day? Kids don’t include someone in their game at recess and it’s suddenly because of their race. Social media comments are a tidal wave of assumptions. Someone didn’t get the promotion and the immediate response is because the boss is racist.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Race could definitely be a factor in any or all of these examples. My point is our impulse reaction has become to assume someone is racist before knowing the person or all the facts.
2. We have more in common than we assume
Have you ever been on a first date that lasted for hours? You went to lunch and before you know it, you’re ordering dinner too, and then stopping for coffee at midnight because you don’t want the date to end?
During their first date, the two talk and laugh. Walls begin to come down as they discover a deeper shared connection. As their relationship grows Ezra says, “I’ve never felt so understood by someone in my entire life.”
That’s one of the beautiful things about being in an interracial relationship. It moves beyond being colorblind (not seeing someone’s color or acknowledging that color impacts their life) to seeing the other’s color and experiences as part of what makes them who they are and loving that part of them too.
3. Everyone has a bias
It’s true. Everyone has a bias towards or against another group of people. If you think you don’t, you either 1) haven’t identified it yet or 2) are in denial. Ezra and Amira discover that biases run both ways when they meet each other’s parents. While one set of parents is over-the-moon excited for all the wrong reasons, the other is less than pleased to see their child find love outside of their race.
“Your family. My family. I’m not sure how this is gonna work.” (Amira)
Seriously! It’s 2023 and we’re STILL having this conversation. I’ve been married for 23 years. I remember being scared that my in-laws wouldn’t accept me because I’m Mixed. Thankfully, they not only accepted me, but they’ve loved me unconditionally as a daughter.
But that wasn’t always the case. I dated a guy from South Asia who was studying in the US. Even after dating for a year, his parents still referred to me as “the American”. Another close childhood friend recently admitted that he never dated me because of his parents’ concerns. I could be his friend, just not his girlfriend.
If you’re wondering where your bias may be, here’s a great question to ask yourself.
Who can my child/grandchild be friends with, but not date?
4. Often, it becomes about protecting the relationship rather than growing it.
“We’ve built a pretty awesome life together. We just gotta protect it.” (Ezra)
Ezra and Amira settle into a routine. They love one another. Support each other. Have fun together. By themselves, they’re a happy couple. Include their parents and it’s a recipe for disaster. Time and again, their attempts to find common ground with either set of parents falls short. So the two go into protection mode.
Protection mode is real and exhausting.
While one person is defending or excusing their parents behavior, the other is beginning to feel undervalued, misunderstood, and judged. The couple desperately tries to protect the beautiful thing they’ve built together, but exhaustion sets in. They become resentful and eventually isolated from their families.
Nothing healthy can grow in that environment.
When the relationship withers or dies, its becomes more than a break up. It’s evidence of defeat. Parents - 1. Lovebirds - 0. Now I’m not saying Ezra & Amira break up or stay together. Remember, no spoilers.
5. Friends aren’t always on your side
For an interracial couple, family isn’t the only hurdle to get over. Often time, your friend group is just as tough. They mean well. They’re trying to protect their girl or their bro from heartache and drama while all the while adding to it.
Ezra’s best friend (Mo) is Black. You would assume Mo would be excited his buddy found love. Not so much. Mo reminds Ezra Amira’s out of his league before even meeting her. He goes on to tell Ezra he doesn’t think Blacks and Whites will never really get along on a deeper level. There’s just too much hurt and history. Dang!
That’s a pretty strong statement.
Amira’s girls try to support her, but they always have a side comment or eye to offer. They can’t believe Amira would date a White guy.
In fact, there isn’t one person in their lives who genuinely supports their relationship. Love is powerful. But it’s really hard to keep it going with no one in your corner just because those corners are on the opposite side of town.
6. Parents & family members bring their own experiences and emotions
Not only does each person carry their own bias, but we also carry our own pain, hurts, experiences, and generational trauma. Sometimes that bleeds on the ones we love the most. Well-meaning warnings and concerns may come from a place of fear, anxiety, or resentment. Or they might actually come from a much deeper place of generational trauma which is trauma that’s been passed down from generation to the next. It’s learning to fear or avoid people because someone you love told you about their own negative experience.
We see this played out by Akbar, Amira’s dad played by Eddie Murphy. While he spends time with Ezra, Akbar isn’t open to getting to know him as a person. Time and again, he sets Erza up to look inadequately prepared to be part of a Black family. It doesn’t matter if Ezra falls short or rises to the occasion, it’s never enough, not even when he shows off his basketball skills earning an invitation to play again.
Akbar, like many parents, think they’re operating out of love and protection for their love-struck child. Unfortunately, their actions accomplish the exact opposite. In the US, we have at least two generations of people who have legally been able to fall in love and marry (which is another post for another day). It’s hard for loved ones to set aside their own experiences and history to believe things could honestly be better for the younger generation.
I personally think this response is one of the most damaging because it not only affects the couple but also impacts all of our efforts towards collective racial healing and reconciliation.
7. You’re not a doll or punching bag.
Are you tired yet? Imagine navigating these shark-infested waters every. single. day. Some couples don’t make it. But those who do eventually have to come to a conclusion - as a woman, I’m not a shiny, new doll for your family to admire or show off to friends. As a man, I can never love your daughter enough to overcome your issues with my skin color or cultural differences.
Those are hard conversations. Really hard.
Conversations both Ezra & Amira have with their respective in-laws. I promised no spoilers, so I won’t tell you how these conversations go or how the movie ends. If you want to know you can DM me.
So is an Interracial Relationship worth it?
As you can see, interracial relationships come with their own unique set of challenges. It’s naive to think love alone will be enough to make it work. It’s a fabulous place to start. But it also takes communication, understanding, empathy, grace, patience, and a willingness to have hard conversations. It requires tenacity and tenderness.
And from someone who’s been in an interracial marriage for over two decades, I can firmly say - YES!!
I’m cheering for you!
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A Little Something Extra…
Each week, I like to share a little something extra, something I’ve found fun or helpful. It might be a post, book, podcast, tv show, movie, song, Bible verse…or something else I think you’ll enjoy.
This week, I’m inviting you to join me Wednesday, Feb 8 at 8a PST (11 EST) when I go live on Instagram with my girl, Dorina!
Dorina is an author, speaker, writer, wife, mom, runner and MUCH MORE! She’s also a mentor and close friend who has an amazing heart for families, diversity, Jesus & books!
We will be talking about her upcoming children’s book, Glory Chasers and growing up Mixed Race in America. Click to head over to the Gram. If you miss the live, no worries. I’ll be reposting and sharing it on my Instagram page.
Dorina is so encouraging! I’m sure you’ll be blessed by her Instagram & articles.
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