Issues of race and relationships are often sensitive topics.
Last night in Huntsman Hall, however, everything was fair game.
A group of five panelists, whose ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds varied, led a discussion sponsored by the group Check One entitled "Does Love Have Limits? Relationships Across Race, Ethnicity and Culture."
The conversation ranged broadly across topics, including cultural stereotypes, socioeconomic factors, gender issues and the importance of personal heritage.
The first topic discussed by the panel was initial attraction. Based on their own experiences, panelists said people tend to be attracted to others they feel comfortable with -- which is why people tend to date within their own cultural group.
While most of the approximately 30 attendees said that they were very supportive of interracial dating, some questioned daters' motivations.
One female audience member said, "I know some guys who are really into Bruce Lee movies, Asian food and Asian porn movies, and having an Asian girlfriend would just top it off."
"There's a fine line between dating a person for their culture and liking them for them," she said.
Gender inequality was an important theme for many.
"The response in the crowd was gender biased," said a participant who did not want to be named. "When minority women said they were opposed to interracial dating, they were attacked. But when men opposed it, the matter was treated lightly."
Another audience member commented on the socioeconomic dimension to interracial dating. "I think there is a hierarchy of race," she said.
Still, most students drew a line at their own relationships.
"Within our relationship, it's not an issue," said panelist and College junior Vanessa Friedman. "Within the world, I'm aware of it."
Friedman, who is white and Jewish, is currently dating a multiethnic Christian.
She then underscored the importance of raising her children in her religious tradition, saying that to do otherwise would be "to turn my back on the people I'm standing on."
Panelist and Engineering junior Amar Bansal agreed that origins are important, but said he would let his children marry whomever they want. "They should understand their past for sure," he said. "What the future is, is up to them."
A female student, who described herself as Latino, offered another perspective on Bansal's point. "Because you're dating someone outside your race doesn't mean you're turning your back on your origins," she said.
Student reaction to the debate was generally positive.
College senior Katrina Goyco said her only regret was that the event could not go on longer.
"The conversation was going so well, and the panelists were so articulate. If we could have talked for two more hours, I think we could have clarified a lot of issues people had."
College junior Jelani Newton echoed the concern about time, saying that "because it got heated, people who raised their hands weren't heard."
"Still, it was interesting to hear people's voices," he added.
The intensity of the debate may have been positive, though.
"I think tonight's discussion was more honest [than previous panel discussions we have had] and we touched upon a wide variety of issues," said former Check One President and College junior Heather Holmes.
Still, she noted, "the job's not done. This is a starting point for people to discuss issues they often think about but seldom discuss."
Onda Latina, Kappa Alpha Psi, Pan Asian-American Community House, Greenfield Intercultural Center and Douglas Cosmetics -- which provided a gift basket of beauty products that was raffled off -- helped organize the event.
Check One President and College junior Simeona Jacinto said that her group tries to "bring people from diverse backgrounds together so they can share their experiences."Comments powered by Disqus
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