Interracial and interethnic marriages have been on the rise in the U.S. over the past three decades, especially in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles. But what is life really like for bicultural couples, married or not, as they navigate daily challenges? Where does race, culture, and identity fit in to the ways in which they communicate, raise children, deal with in-laws?
Three couples came together Wednesday night at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum for an open conversation on life in a mixed relationship, moderated by KPCC Multi-American immigration blogger and reporter Leslie Berestein Rojas. Among them: Aris and and InSun Janigian, an Armenian American novelist and his Korean American wife; KPCC's Off-Ramp host John Rabe and Julian Bermudez, a producer of art exhibits; and Terry Dennis and Gabriela Lopez de Dennis, both artists, a black Texan and a Latina from L.A.
The takeway: Love may be blind and conquer much, but all three of these long-term couples have at times had to draw on a particular kind of strength. Some have had to stand up to immigrant parents who initially disapproved ("I'm marrying her, I'm not marrying you," Janigian said he once told his mother); for Bermudez, the attitudes of his conservative Mexican Catholic mother continue to be a challenge.
The couples talked about the lifelong learning process that's involved. Among other things, the cultural and identity lines that can at first divide eventually soften and blur over the years. Rabe, a Midwesterner of German
descent, has "become more Latino," he said, while Bermudez said his own personality has changed somewhat. Some have also concluded that culture is as much a product of the families we are raised in as where we are raised, as Lopez and Dennis have learned. Some of their biggest differences stem not so much from the fact that he's black and she's Latina, they said, but that he's a small-town Texas boy and she's a big-city girl from California. A vegetarian, even.
On the subject of food, it's one of the ways in which these couples pass along their distinct cultures, along with language and other aspects. Lopez and Dennis are trying to raise their toddler bilingually; the Janigians, who have two older children, aren't. But "they love Armenian food, and they love Korean food," Janigian said of their two daughters. "And they know that they're Armenian and Korean."
The audience participated as well, with many sharing their own mixed-relationship stories. Check back later for the audio from the event, which will be posted soon.