In last week’s opinion piece “An interracial failure” (9/25), Claire Gordon laments what she observes as a dearth of interracial relationships at Yale. Gordon writes, “The rarity of interracial dating at Yale, and across America, is unsurprising. As a country and college, we are extremely self-segregated.”
While in certain areas of the U.S., Gordon’s impressions may be justified. But at Yale, as well as at many other liberal-arts colleges in America, students are free to become part of mixed relationships. College isn’t just about self-enrichment, acquiring skills for future careers and experimenting with new knowledge — it’s about experimenting with new people as well, and dating all sorts of those who you may not have been able to in the environment from which you came.
It seems that Gordon has set Yale’s extremely vague category of “White & Other” (which makes up 71 percent of University enrollment) as her standard. Her similarly imperceptive outlook disregards the unarticulated complexities of ethnicity here on campus.
Many students at Yale, including myself, come from parents of different races. We are neither any single race nor the other. What does it mean for us to date anyone? Is not every relationship we have interracial? Even if I were somehow able to find another person of exactly the same amalgam of ethnicities, wouldn’t it still be considered interracial considering the fact that both of us are exactly that?
For Yale to be any other environment than one that fosters interracial relationships it would have to be one that abjected us, one that cast us aside as romantic pariahs. If university culture failed to support interracial relationships it would concomitantly fail to support who we are as individuals. Yet, this description applies to none of the mixed-race students I know.
Instead, at Yale all of us has the opportunity to indulge in a relationship with somebody we never would have imagined dating before. The student body breaks down all barriers: ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic background or nationality. Some students only date within the boundaries of their own background while others branch out in ways they never would, or could have at home.
It’s easy to examine events on campus and see a great racial schism — with near-weekly panels on hate speech and Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, delivering keynote speech at freshman convocation for the class of 2011. And to deny some sort of divide would be entirely inaccurate. But I believe our romantic interactions have the ability to bring down artificial barriers.
The Chinese and Japanese girls I know who are dating white men are not in these relationships because of some preconceived, generalized idea of how Asian females conceive of themselves, as Gordon intimates, but because they want to be treated as well as they are. When talking to two female friends of mine, one black and the other white, it wasn’t until 10 minutes into a conversation about their current relationships did we realize that both of their boyfriends were Indian. At lines, the lines of race and romance are blurry. Here, we often do not even realize when our friends are involved in interracial relationships.
Does this inattention to racial difference that happens between couples here translate into universal acceptance of similar relationships or an end to stereotyped thinking worldwide? Of course not. When some of us call home, we may find that our parents are not thrilled to find out that we’ve been dating outside our own race. But the environment here at Yale allows us for greater freedom. Our romances engender opportunities to destroy those prejudices that may divide the communities we come from.
I am a product of the liberal-minded, experimental, free-loving atmosphere that a college campus is capable of producing here in America. My parents met at college and when they left campus they faced many challenges because of their racial difference.
Like all those here who do not consider ethnicity when picking romantic partners, I am proud to contribute to a campus environment that allows individuals to date the people that are right for them, regardless of their race.
Colin adamo is a junior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.