An attitude of inclusion has been developing among young Canadian adults, as race no longer plays a large role when choosing a significant other

Mixing and matching doesn’t just apply to clothing anymore because as Canada develops its national identity interracial relationships are on the rise. Participating in a mixed union fifty years ago was not only unconventional, but it rarely ever happened. However, mixed-race marriages will become more common and the traditional image of a relationship will change as different ethnic groups move into the same communities.

 “It can be assumed that ten percent of the population will be engaged in a mixed-race union by 2016.”

Some interesting facts about mixed race unions were revealed a few years ago by Statistics Canada. Currently, a little more than three percent of the population is part of a mixed-race union and although this number seems small, it has increased more than thirty percent since 1996 when the data was first collected. Imagine what the statistics will be in another ten years? Hypothetically, it can be assumed that ten percent of the population will be engaged in a mixed-race union by 2016. People most likely to date outside their race include citizens of Japanese descent, followed by Latinos and Afro-Canadians. Moreover, Statistics Canada data shows that the largest demographic involved in interracial relationships were between the ages of 20-29.

I gathered information about the attitudes young adults hold towards mixed race unions in a small-scale independent survey titled “Ideas about interracial Dating.” Among the 25 participants of various ethnicities, the survey included male and female volunteers between the ages of 19-25. interracial dating is not a trend that only affects one specific ethnic group considering that 10 of the young adults had previously been in a mixed race relationship. Moreover, young adults are less likely to label their intimate interactions with others as “relationships,” especially if the contact is a casual hook-up or a week of dating. Information gathered shows that eighteen of the participants had been intimate or had kissed a person of a different race. So within this demographic, contact between adults of different races is a lot higher than Statistics Canada is able to reveal. 

The social stigma

“Negative attitudes older generations have towards mixed-race unions can be interpreted as prejudice; however, this is not the case.”

In some traditional ethnic groups, dating outside one’s race can cause a negative reaction from friends and family. A few years ago, I personally experienced a situation of this nature while dating a boy named Mike. A few of his friends accused Mike of deserting his blood by choosing to be with a person of a different race. However, I pointed out to them that regardless of our skin colour, Mike and I shared the same Canadian culture. Young Canadians who attribute their identity to their race are less likely to date outside their race, whereas young adults who embrace the Canadian culture are more likely to do so. In tight-knit ethnic groups, a negative reaction towards mixed-race unions is common because interracial dating means coming into contact with seemingly strange cultures.

Negative attitudes older generations have towards mixed-race unions can be interpreted as prejudice; however, this is not the case. When Danielle Dewar, a white female with Scottish roots began dating a black Jamaican male, her parents were initially unhappy about the situation. In a recent interview, she states, “the fact that my boyfriend and I were of different races was the factor of conflict between my parents and I when I was younger. It took about two years for them to get used to the idea and then they became accepting of my relationship.” The reactions Dewar’s parents had towards her first relationship were common because the family never experienced a member dating a person of a different race. However, as Dewar and her boyfriend engaged in a loving and long-term relationship, her parents were able to get to know the character of her boyfriend beyond his skin colour.

People from older generations did not have a chance to constantly interact with people of different races; therefore, negative stereotypes were easier to believe. However, this attitude is changing as a new generation enters adulthood. Dewar states, “Many older-aged people believe in the stereotypes, and they may try to ingrain this in their children. But I believe that my generation is very accepting of interracial dating, and have come to realize that the stereotypes are not true.”

Like Dewar, another survey participant, Mariama Mills was also afraid to tell her parents about her mixed-race relationship. Yet, when she did, her parents were very supportive of her decision. “My mom kind of knew it was coming, and my dad just said OK. I think they just respected the fact that I really liked him and they knew their opinion really mattered to me,” says Mills. Most of the visible minorities in Canada, including Mill’s parents are immigrants. Therefore a culture of tolerance towards other races is high because immigrants want to feel as though their own culture is accepted with the Canadian framework. As long as Canada continues to foster a national identity based on multiculturalism, mixed race unions will continue to increase.

Inclusion reigns

Canada is an extremely diverse country so people of different ethnicities are more likely to live in the same communities. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, the current director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Mr. Ayman Al-Yassini, states, “We are seeing this trend more and more and it’s becoming a prominent feature in our society, in Canadian society.” As different racial groups gather in the same area, mixed-race relationships are more likely to form.” This proves true for Mills, who is a Ghanaian woman dating a man of Iranian descent. This relationship is especially unique because Mills and her partner are both visible minorities. Although these two are only dating, marriages between two visible minorities accounts for less than four percent of people in interracial relationships. This would make one assume that race played a large factor when these two decided to get together considering that in Canada, there are less than 6,000 marriages where both the members are of a visible minority. “We have known each other for a year and half,” Mills says. “Race didn’t play a factor at all because we were close friends before. I felt like I knew him really well.” Mills is insistent that their differing ethnicities did not play a factor when they got together and this statement is supported by several of the young adults who took the “Ideas about interracial Dating” survey. Over ninety-percent of the participants stated they would date outside their race if it were with the right person. So although it is an old cheesy cliché, it seems that a person’s personality wins over external appearance when deciding to choose a mate. One participant even went so far to say, “All relationships are the same because they are all relationships.”

It is true that generation Y is more willing to engage in interracial relationships because old attitudes of separation are being replaced by new attitudes of inclusion. Miss. Dewar adds, “It is not a conscious choice to date outside of your race. It just so happened the person that I was attracted to and got along with at the time was of a different race.”  Ultimately, an attitude of inclusion has been developing because young Canadian adults are constantly exposed to other cultures and backgrounds. As people of different ethnicities move into the same neighborhoods the number of interracial relationships will increase. People in mixed-race unions in Canada are no different than people who are not in mixed race unions. interracial dating is a trend that is on the rise and although the current numbers are small, they have been increasing and will continue to increase in the future.

by Mary Ann Boateng

image: YouaremyWonderwall. (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)