Volume 94, Issue 38

Tuesday, November 18, 2000


Arranged marriages: A true family affair

Breaking the cultural boundaries

Racism still prevalent in families

Breaking the cultural boundaries

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

Take away the strains of raising children and having to deal with grouchy in-laws and it can still seem like married life is no bed of roses. Just imagine how tough it can get if a couple are of different cultures.

Intercultural couples face problems of prejudice other couples do not face, said Regna Darnell, professor of anthropology at Western. "Many people are afraid of things which are different."

Reverend Lynn Godfrey, of Western's chaplains' services, said interracial couples have always been a big issue, even in the 1950s. During those times, having friends of different cultures was usually not very accepted. Today it's perfectly acceptable, which shows tolerance levels have gone up, she explained. "If different races are accepted, then intercultural marriages can be accepted also."

Society has come a long way in accepting interracial marriages, but there is still room for improvement. Darnell said people have to realize the world is richer with different people. "I think we want to live in a society with differences."

Intercultural marriages are more common than society thinks. Many people have ancestors coming from a few different countries said Reverend Elisabeth Geertsma, Anglican chaplain at Western. "In this country, who is a purist?"

Nicole Baker, an events planner in Toronto, who is in an interracial marriage, said she did not experience any problems when she married into a caucasian family last August. Her family is from the Caribbean, where there are many different cultures and races present, she said.

Living in a big city has helped, she explained. There are many interracial couples in Toronto and it is not a strange sight to see them. "I wonder if it would be a problem in a smaller town."

One big obstacle these couples must overcome is raising children within two different cultures. The prospective couple should discuss this issue before the wedding, Godfrey said. "How will the children identify themselves? We try to get couples to think about how they would raise children."

Baker said she and her husband do have some concerns about raising biracial children. "We wonder what problems our kids will encounter. I'd like to think there will be no problems."

"There are always ugly things in the world," she said, explaining children have to be taught other people will not always accept mixed families.

"I'm not against interracial marriages," said third-year honours anthropology student, Mira Mohsini. "I just think they create a lot of tension between families. Kids can be really confused. The parents have to be careful not to dominate each other's cultures."

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