Where is the love: How tolerant is Canada of its interracial couples?

Minelle Mahtani’s study of mixed couples:

Is love the last frontier of racial bigotry in Canada?

It’s a question that intrigues Minelle Mahtani, who has dared to ask whether interracial couples and their families still test the limits of tolerance in this country.In her recent book Mixed Race Amnesia: Resisting the Romanticization of Multiraciality in Canada, Mahtani, an associate professor in human geography and journalism at the University of Toronto Scarborough, questions whether we’ve not just put rose-coloured glasses on our multiculturalism, especially where mixed-race families are concerned.

While interracial relationships are on the rise in Canada (we had 360,000 mixed-race couples in 2011, more than double the total from 20 years earlier), the numbers remain slim. Just 5 per cent of all unions in Canada were between people of different ethnic origins, religions, languages and birthplaces in 2011, the last year Statistics Canada collected such data. That figure rises only marginally in urban areas: Just 8 per cent of couples were in mixed-race relationships in Toronto, 10 per cent in Vancouver.

How do people in interracial relationships experience that multiculturalism on the ground, when they introduce their boyfriends and girlfriends to family, or hold hands on a date? How do mixed-race families and their children feel about it, in their communities and in their schools?

Mahtani was the keynote speaker at last month’s Hapa-palooza, an annual festival celebrating mixed heritage in Vancouver, and she will present at the next Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference in California in February. She spoke with The Globe and Mail about the daily realities of mixed-race families.

How tolerant are Canadians of interracial relationships today?

It’s an early kind of euphoria around celebrating multiracialism in Canada. We’ve romanticized this notion far too quickly. All the numbers from Statistics Canada show that yes, we are seeing more interracial relationships, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the racism is decreasing. People who are in interracial relationships are still experiencing a lot of racism.

What kind of criticism do mixed-race people in this country still get for their dating choices?

So much depends on where the relationship is happening and the class background of the people who are getting involved. Even though there’s a greater tolerance of interracial relationships, some researchers talk about this as a kind of “repressive tolerance”: it’s not quite acceptance but a kind of toleration.

So many of the mixed-race people I interviewed spoke about the challenges that their own parents faced as interracial couples. We’re talking about kids whose parents met in the seventies and earlier when there was much more outright, blatant racism experienced by interracial couples.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/where-is-the-love-how-tolerant-is-canada-of-its-interracial-couples/article32206930/

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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