Jack and Jane
This next couple I am writing about requested that I write their story anonymously. Just to make this post easy to understand let’s call them Jack and Jane.
Jack is a first generation born Bengali Muslim, while Jane immigrated to the states from Ukraine with her family at the age of 2. Although Jane and her family closely identify with Judaism, Jane described that they aren’t that religious when it comes to customs and Jewish practices. They both met in college, started out as friends, and eventually fell in love. Their story sounded all to familiar to me since this is closely resembles one of my love stories (you can read about that here). Some of their experiences together were also close to mine as they probably are to many interracial couples who come from strict family backgrounds and culture.
One of them being that they both have different views when it comes to religion. While Jack believes in God and closely resonates with some Islamic practices, Jane considers herself an agnostic. They are both still figuring out exactly what religion means to them and have a lot more questions.
I often heard many different people say that relationships like theirs don't work for many reasons. One being that differences in religious beliefs and cultural practices can make things extremely complicated. This is possibly what started the taboo that people who end up in these kinds of relationships are considered incompetent and immoral. Many parents who are unwilling to accept their children choosing to be in an interracial relationship believe that that their children are selfish for making this choice. In the parents’ eyes, their children are ruining the chances of preserving the culture they worked so hard to pass down, especially immigrant parents who come here for a better life. Some parents are so against these kinds of relationships that they even threaten to disown and/or never speak to their children again. However, not all immigrant parents think this way but they can be very well aware of other parents who do. While Jack’s parents might feel this way, Jane’s father (who had met and has grown to love Jack) sometimes tells her that things might not work out when Jack’s family finds out. While there is some time before Jack officially tells his parents about Jane, it doesn't seem like this couple is going to end things anytime soon. Jack is also hopeful and believes that when he does tell his parents that they will eventually come around and love and accept Jane the same way Jane’s family accepts him. From our conversation it seems obvious to me that they are well aware of the challenges they face in being this kind of relationship where there is a constant need to keep things a secret. They also sit down to talk about all these issues (and why wouldn't they, anyone knows strong communication is an important of any healthy relationship). One of the things they have talked about is how they would tell their future children about their respective culture and religion. They know it won't be easy but they both decided it was fair to educate them on everything they know and let their kids decide for themselves what they want to do with this information.
And perhaps things really will continue to be complicated for them. But when they told me what their actions would be toward their children I couldn't help but think that this is how any parent should teach their child. Teach them as much as they can about religion and let them decide if these beliefs serve them in any way. Religion can be an extremely important when it comes to someone’s identity even it's only partial. Even though Jane doesn't practice Jewish customs very strictly she considers it an important part of her identity because her family is so important to her. She respects and cares for them, so while Jack and Jane don't share the exact same beliefs, Jane harbours the same kind of respect for him too. Jack also deeply loves his family and Jane. He doesn't want to have to ever choose between them. I believe it is part of the reason why Jack and Jane are so strongly committed to each other. It's their mutual respect for eachother, their families and other people’s beliefs that make them so understanding. I am not saying that if everyone respects everyone’s beliefs that relationships will not be complicated even if they are interracial and interfaith. For some people it truly is important that their significant other follows the same lifestyle/beliefs. And that's okay. But it's also okay to be the way Jack and Jane are. Interracial relationships really shouldn’t be this big of an issue and people in these types of relationships are not bad people in any sense of the word. Perhaps when Jack does tell his family and they (hopefully) do come around to be as understanding as Jack and Jane are of each other their relationship can be a little less complicated.
To be honest, even though I am an outsider viewing their relationship, they actually seem like quite a simple couple. Not to mention beautiful. I wish them all the best in their future. I truly believe that their love for each other makes all the complicated issues they face and will continue to face worth it.