I have recently encountered several people with the mind-set that you shouldn't date people from other cultures (too many cultural differences). It's odd how anthropology has become pop-cultured and now people talk using its terminology...but its used to hide behind things instead of for seeking a greater understanding of the world...though considering that it came out of a white-colonialist-academic setting I guess that isn't surprising. However, through my interaction with people in the fields of Anthropology and Sociology the vast majority tend to view dating someone from a different culture with more openness ie that while there may be cultural differences it is not all that different from all the other more "typical issues" involved in dating anyone (even those with a background similar to your own). My only concern with dating someone from another culture is when there is a language difference. Communication or lack of it is a bigger issue than culture or race. I mean I often can't communicate effectively with my own family.
This is not to downplay the role nationality or race will impact a relationship, I have recently started dating someone from another country. We are having some issues in the early stages of our dating. Rather than bore you with those details, I will say that the funny thing is that despite people saying its cultural differences...his behavior is pretty much like any other guy I ever thought I could end up in a relationship with. Which in fact may say more about me...back to the point. I have grown up in an untraditional household, granted from the outside it would seem typical: white middle class, two parents and whatever else is supposed to indicate "normal american." However, I grew up in the rural mid-west, part of my life was spent without indoor plumbing and living "off the grid" ie solar power (though there was a brief time with kerosene lamps), we had the use of a wood stove for our primary heat source for a number of years, and I even lived in a cabin with only a loft, no bedrooms. This list is an incomplete g;impse of why I am not really "typical" especially by american standards.
I don't really get men (or boys cause there is a lot of grey area about when a boy becomes a man, he may be 30 and still a child of sorts) and I am definately not an east coaster by nature. I embody too many of the deeply instilled mid-western qualities to really ever become fully adjusted to the east coast whether I am living in the south or the north. By this logic I have been dealing with "cultural differences" for 9 years. So taking the step and dating an African isn't so far-fetched. I mean New Yorkers, New Englanders, and North Carolinans are all pretty foriegn to me. The issues in my new relationship aren't so much "cultural differences" unless the cultural differences we are talking about are men vs women.
I guess what bothers me so much is that the people who have told me not date someone from another culture are hiding behind cultural differeces, when it is racism. Cultural differences was not mentioned when I was briefly infatuated with a European last year. It's attitudes like this that really pisses me off. I guess what is interesting about this situation is that it is a dear F/friend I like a lot and care about saying what is essentially racist BS. But she has no idea that its racist or that it is a good example of Northern racism having never been challenged to think about race before. I have been spoiled with all of my friends being pretty much aligned with my personal views on such topics.
Of course what we are talking about here is also addressed in "Jungle Fever" and I think that the movie tells us that it can never work (inter-racial dating) not because of so-called "cultural differences" but society's prejudices and the history of racial tensions especially in America. I watched it again recently and was a little pissy with Spike Lee for making it seem like we need to not date across racial lines...whatever those are. I think more people need to date interracially. The more it happens the less people freak out about it. Miscegenation is awesome! That is why the movie made me so sad. I felt like it made things seem hopeless.
And if things are hopeless what does that say about America? Where does that put those who are bi-racial or multi-racial? Are we always going to be afraid of the "other?" Once in this country we labeled the Irish as black on the census...there is a tale in my family that when my grandparents got married the Irish sat on one side of the church and the Germans sat on the other. There are no photos from the wedding. Of course in contemporary America no one thinks twice about Irish heritage or finds it shameful. Thus, the sociologist in me says, "See race is just a social construct!" So first a generation marries different ethinic groups, but within the same religion. Then their kids marry folks from different religions and the next generation is even more likely to marry (I am using that term to illustrate the historical precendent and evolution of social mores--so substitute partnership or whatever if you prefer) who they choose for love whether that is someone of the same sex or of a different race.
So here is to the cultural differences of men and women. And I understand that this is not going to be the first instance of racist attitudes that will try to influnce my current relationship but if we avoid examining such things we can never get to the root cause and work to change things. Whether such negative attitudes are being expressed by whites, African-Americans, Africans, Latinos, or Koreans they are still at their foundation prejudicial and ultimately racist. We all carry the means for racism within us, what matters is if we take time to examine and deconstruct it for positive change or if we let it continue to inform our thoughts and actions no matter how subtley.