Editor’s note: For their protection and privacy, names have been changed.
Outside of his neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party, Jack and his boyfriend Ryan could hear people chanting, “Build that wall.” Walking back into the home, they found a room of Jack’s predominantly white neighbors dancing to each other’s pro-wall chants.
Frozen in place, they struggled to decide what to do next. Ryan, who is Hispanic, was the only person of color in the room.
“I felt Ryan tense up next to me,” Jack said.“I struggle a lot with knowing when it’s my place to step in (as a white man).”
Jack, a UT alumnus, and Ryan are in an interracial relationship. While Jack said he doesn’t think the racial difference between he and his partner matters, incidents such as the party and occasional snide comments from others remind him that not everyone agrees with him.
Jack’s father is accepting of his relationship with Ryan, but he said his experience at the party is an example that showed him not everybody is.
Before they finally left the party, Jack was pulled aside by his neighbor.
“He was like, ‘Sweetie, you know, you’re cute, but don’t you think you should end up with someone like us?’” Jack said.
This situation isn’t isolated.
Margaret Castellanos, arts and entertainment technologies junior, identifies closely with her Mexican heritage even though she comes from a mixed background with Mexican, Iraqi, white and Native American roots. Her boyfriend, Trenton Bergen is white.
While visiting Bergen’s stepmother, Castellanos had an experience with his aunt that she said made her feel negatively.
“(Bergen’s aunt) was about to start something about Mexicans, and then his stepmom came in and she’s like, ‘Oh, well, Margaret’s Mexican,’” Castellanos said. “And she’s like, ‘Oh really? You don’t look like it.’”
Because of Castellano’s paler skin, she often passes as white. As a result, she and Bergen don’t appear to be an interracial couple unless people know her personally.
“In terms of other people seeing us, it doesn’t draw attention,” Castellanos said. “People just go, ‘That’s a couple,’ and don’t think much further than that.”
Bergen said he doesn’t recall the incident because he may not have been in the room, but he doesn’t doubt that it happened.
“No one really seems to care, (at) least on my end,” Bergen said. “We’ve been together three years now. If they haven’t liked it for three years, I think you kind of get used to it at this point.”
Bergen said he doesn’t believe the relationship he has with Castellanos has been affected by the racial difference between them. He said he sees her as just another person.
Ultimately, Jack said Ryan is just the person he happened to fall in love with.
“Most of the time, I don’t think neither of us really even thinks about the fact that it is technically an interracial relationship,” Jack said. “It’s just a relationship.”