Interracial dating on campus

Inside the Williams “Purple Bubble,” the scope of conversation can be somewhat limited, but two hot topics – dating and diversity at Williams – appear to be insatiable. The common Sunday brunch ritual often centers on chattering about the Williams dating scene (or lack thereof) and the events occurring on the previous Saturday night. Appealing to the frustrated, the overeager, the content and even to the asexual, the popularity of the topic makes me wonder how other colleges make do without a facebook.

On the other hand, diversity issues always seem to spark heated debates. From admissions preview weekends to the implementation of a U.S. Latino Studies program, talk of diversity at Williams gathers a spectrum of passionate, disillusioned, confused and optimistic students. Yet, diversity and dating issues rarely come up in the same frame of conversation. This issue raises more questions than assertions. Does interracial dating exist at Williams? Does it matter? Is it a good occurrence or does it just break down community structures?

While the majority might say that integration and racial harmony have a positive presence in society, that attitude can change when it comes to interracial dating, interracial marriage, and the presence of interracial children. Though many people consider themselves free of racial prejudice, the idea of dating outside their race often provokes squirming and a certain muttering of politically correct garble. The issue seems to get underneath people’s skin more than other racial issues.

Even though interracial dating may be thought to be tolerated or promoted on this campus, it is a rare occurrence. Why is this? Perhaps it is frowned upon in certain communities, or maybe it is just too hard to step out of one’s own social circle. Some groups offer a limited view of racial solidarity by proposing that “keeping it real” means keeping relationships inside one’s own race.

Does the idea that certain minorities cannot be “authentic” if they choose to date outside their race create intra-racial tension and then further promote insulation and segregation? Is racial solidarity weakened by interracial dating or does it help remove stratification barriers?

Interracial dating on this campus most often happens between minority students that can be said to be “unaffiliated” with any campus minority organization. These “unaffiliated” students are usually not closely associated with that particular minority group and thus are not necessarily looked upon as minorities.

Does this “non-affiliation” better integrate students and make it easier for them to date interracially? And if minority students are blamed for sticking together, why hasn’t anyone noticed that white students seem to do the same thing? So is this non-affiliation merely a facade masking the real factors at hand?

In general, the fact that there are very few minority students on campus limits the potential pool of dating candidates. But if there are so few, wouldn’t minorities be forced to date interracially? One significant factor might be a gender component. The perception on campus might be that it is easier for black male students to date outside the race. Then additional questions ensue; for example, is it more acceptable to date Asian women as opposed to other minorities?

If these patterns hold true, what happens to the so-called leftovers? Race appears to become gendered and allows for one sex to integrate and the other to compete over the slim pickings or remain dateless.

Other factors are parental considerations. For the sake of not displeasing conservative parents, many students might choose to stick with dating within their own race. Yet, even students with liberal parents are not interracially dating. If you have parents of different races, does this change your dating possibilities? Where do mixed students come into play in this? Do mixed students act as a buffer group? And when mixed students date, are they by their racial makeup always dating inter-racially?

One obvious factor is the social groups to which we belong. The opportunity to get to know people outside of one’s own social circle may be very limited. The exclusivity of some groups also might make certain students appear inaccessible or intimidating. Is this anxiety internalized or is there a real color factor in someone’s approachability? I’ve often been told by black female students that they are surprised if a white male student even talks to them. Are these students made invisible by their color or by other factors?

And when there are interracial hookups, does it not progress into dating because of race issues and was it merely just a slip into the exotic “Other?” Or is a hookup just a hookup and race has nothing to do with it?

On a campus where dating and diversity are prominent topics, interracial dating should be of greater concern. The issue allows for questioning of oneself and the Williams environment. If these seem like interesting issues and you would like to hear a range of opinions, Students of Mixed Heritage (SOMH) is sponsoring a discussion on Inter-Racial Dating this Wednesday. And to see some of these issues in action, SOMH is also hosting the greatly anticipated Inter-Racial Dating Game this Friday. If you haven’t interracially dated, isn’t it worth a try?