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Surviving Racial Storms

What people predicted would be a barrier in our marriage unified us

Thanks to the era of political correctness, being part of an interracial couple no longer elicits blatant staring, but my husband Jim and I are still considered "unique." Still, I have been fortunate enough to experience very few instances of overt racial intolerance in my life. One of the first, however, occurred when I brought Jim home to meet my family.

I like to call God the Grand Director of my life because I see so many aspects of it reflected in movies. Like some of the women in The Joy Luck Club—a movie about the clash between two generations and two cultures—I am an Asian woman married to a loh-fahn, a derogatory colloquialism for a Caucasian, which translates roughly to "old rice."

When I brought Jim home, my younger sisters recognized him for what he was: a sweet, gentle, witty, and intelligent (not to mention cute) young man. Mom withheld judgment until she was able to observe his character and his decisions. My father, was an almost-comical caricature of Steve Martin in Father of the Bride. He shook Jim's hand and grunted while looking away when they were introduced.

At dinner, he ignored Jim completely, speaking only in Chinese to my aunt (who, incidentally, was surprised to discover that he could even speak Chinese). A few days later, my mom suggested I rent the movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

In later discussions with my father, I asked him why he disliked Jim. He quoted Old Testament commands forbidding the Israelites to intermarry with foreigners. I explained that I believed those laws were given to the Israelites to prevent them from leaving Yahweh for foreign gods due to pressures from a nonbelieving spouse. I briefly pointed out Old and New Testament teachings against racism, especially Galatians 3:28, but I realized that my dad was not interested in an exegetical debate. He was petrified with fear.

His fear had less to do with Jim and more to do with the racism he had experienced as a young Chinese man growing up in America in the 1950s. Most of the wounds were so traumatic that he could only allude to them and refused to discuss specifics with me. He was afraid that by marrying Jim I would be making myself vulnerable to the same kind of trauma.

Through many prayers, God's grace, the encouragement of my father's friends, and Jim's gentle perseverance, my father came to embrace Jim as the son he never had. But my father was not the lone naysayer. Others who counseled us cautioned us that our marriage might prove difficult (as if marriage itself was not difficult!). Some thought that the culture gap would be a troublesome hurdle to clear; however, I noted that the culture I had been born and raised in was as American as Jim's—it was our families and our ethnicities that were disparate. Some were afraid, like my father, that our future children would be targets of racism. A few even hinted that my actions were a renunciation of my cultural background. Although many of these concerns were raised out of a desire to care for us, I thought it sad that nobody thought to encourage us with the thought that our dissimilar ethnicities might actually be a help, not a hindrance, to us.

Despite the overabundance of criticism and our imperfect love, God has made our marriage the instrument of his loving presence. He allowed the criticism, which could have debilitated us, to strengthen and unite our marriage. God led us to vocational ministries in a community that has a high percentage of "mixed marriages," yet where racial tensions remain high. I believe God has not only brought me and Jim together for each other, but to this environment together, to be an example of God's love at work beyond the barriers of skin color. I'm proud to be a couple that can serve in a way that many other couples could not.

The heartbreak of all those years produced more than just acceptance. It proved to me that I had found a man willing to fight for me. It proved that I was blessed with a love that could weather intimidating storms. It proved to me that I had a God whom I could trust to weave into my life a plethora of stories that would make life interesting and bring glory to the One who gave me life.

Yolanda E.S. Miller is wife to the witty and brilliant Jim and mother of two ridiculously cute and funny kids. In her free time, she likes to burst people's bubbles and explode the myths of perfect marriages and parenting with her brutally honest perspectives on both.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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Disrespect; Interracial marriage; Marriage
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2001
Posted September 30, 2008

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