Sarah Owens makes her way out of the FIU gym wearing a pair of mini shorts, some running shoes and a sweaty tank top, which is pasted to her Caucasian skin. She strides over to a young Dominican man, Johnny Zanders, who is sitting on a nearby bench waiting for her, and plants a kiss on his lips. He looks up at her standing over him and smiles as she then rubs him on his shiny bald head.
“He’s my Oreo.”
Owens, 22, and Zanders, 24, are just one of many interracial couples in South Florida who aren’t ashamed of letting the world know that they are in love.
Owens is not foreign to being around interracial couples. She has a few in her family.
“My family is white, but I’m dating someone with a Dominican background and my brother goes out with a Haitian woman,” Owens said. “My parents are very nice and receptive about us dating outside of our own ethnicity, but my grandma is the one who is racist and doesn’t approve of it.”
“People should be with whomever they want to be with,” Zanders said.
The young couple met each other on campus at FIU last year, where Zanders approached Owens head-on, but she wasn’t interested in him because he was a stranger and came off as too friendly. But one year later, he approached her again, and this time she finally decided to give him a chance.
“I’ve dated other girls before, but never from my own race or ethnicity. She’s dated a white guy before, but from what she told me, it didn’t work out too well,” Zanders said. “I’m her first black boyfriend. And as they say: ‘Once you go black, you don’t go back.’”
While Zanders thinks of himself as being racially black, Owens calls him her Oreo because she sees him as being black only on the outside but white on the inside.
“He’s from California, and he loves country and rock music,” Owens said.
Owens, on the other hand, is big on urban rap music, which Zanders isn’t very fond of.
“I don’t like the whole rap culture with all the cursing and the vulgar lyrics. Sarah knows that.”
However, they made it clear that their apparent differences in style and culture won’t stop them from being together; And merging two different ethnicities into one won’t affect how they see their children either–if they decide to have some in the future.
“I can see myself being with her for the rest of my life. We didn’t initially get together because we were thinking about how our kids were going to come out,” Zanders said. “We got together because we were interested in each other. But I think mixed kids are cool, though.”
At one point in time in the U.S., it was illegal to be in an interracial relationship, especially between whites and blacks. Punishment for getting into an interracial marriage could be as severe as imprisonment. And although the 1967 landmark civil rights case of Loving v. Virginia declared anti-miscegenation rules to be unconstitutional, some onlookers in the 21st century still seem to find it inappropriate.
“Once, we were holding hands at the mall and this black girl looked at me like she wanted to fight me because I was with a black guy,” Owens said.
“I don’t get stared at that often, “said Zanders. “But when other people do look at me strange, I don’t know why. At least I’m with a woman. It’s not like I’m homosexual and dating another man.”
While some interracial couples like Zanders and Owens are only in the early stages of dating, other interracial couples have even dared to get marriage.
Omar Tolbert, 24, who has a Jamaican background, and Jessica Senorin, 24, with a Filipino background, met each other at work in the Campus Life department at FIU-BBC. He was the Fiscal Assistant and she was the Vice-President for Student Organizational Council. They got to know each other through the student Christian clubs of Intervarsity & Impact. Having known each other for years, a spark suddenly ignited in them, and they made a decision to get married.
“This was my first & only relationship as long as we both shall live,” Mr. Tolbert said. “My cultural traditions had nothing to do with picking my wife. That is all attributed to my spiritual background & identity as a Christian. I wanted to make sure I married another Christian as it would be most beneficial for both of us in our relationship with God through Christ.”
In Christianity, race, culture and ethnicity are not the determining factors as regards to who you should marry. The only requirement is to be “yoked,” or joined with others who are like-minded in the faith, as they will have an influence over you.
“When it comes to choosing a partner that I will be sharing the rest of my life with, I want her to have the best influence possible as it is beneficial & edifying to us,” Mr. Tolbert said.
Mr. Tolbert’s family was in full support of his interracial marriage, but Mrs. Tolbert’s parents were not in support of their daughter marrying a black man. They wanted her to marry a man with a more Asian background, like herself.
“My parents were not happy about it,” Mrs. Tolbert said. “They did not support it. They weren’t even present the day of the wedding.”
Mrs. Tolbert’s grandmother had to take the honor of giving her away to her husband during the wedding ceremony.
While Mr. and Mrs. Tolbert willfully chose to have an interracial relationship, others like Jacob Younger, will never have such an option.
“No matter who I choose to date, all of my relationships will be interracial,” said Younger, 22, who is mixed. “I don’t think my parents will have an issue with me dating someone of another race. I mean, how could they? My mother is white and my father is black.”
Younger is from Titusville, Fla., and his previous girlfriends have mostly been black because that was the main race in his city. He’s dated a white girl once, but his new girlfriend, Amanda Vieira, 22, is from Trinidad. And Younger knows that her parents won’t mind her dating someone who is half-black.
“Her parents are cool,” Younger said. “Besides, in Trinidad, there are a lot of black people.”
He didn’t date her because of her culture, race or her traditions, he said.
“I dated her because of her characteristics. I like her because she’s not wild, she doesn’t go partying, and she’s not all out there like the other girls.”
Though supporters of multiculturalism believe that it’s important to preserve the different cultures and ways of life, it seems like this new generation is more concerned about finding love than finding a cultural connection. While the older generation may still have some prejudice and racism in them from slavery days, the newer generation is breaking barriers, mixing cultures and creating new ones.
“I don’t think its taboo to see interracial couples nowadays,” Younger said. “It’s more common now.”