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home : community : community Friday, May 24, 2019

11/29/2016 4:28:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Interracial Dating Within The Hmong Community

By Priscilla Yang

Today in America we have the freedom of marrying whomever we want to marry, but this was not the case years ago. In fact, it was illegal to marry someone from a different race. Miscegenation, also known as "race-mixing" is when two people from different racial backgrounds marry or have relations. The first anti-miscegenation law in America was put into place in Maryland in 1664. They were laws that made it illegal for white and black people to marry each other. In 1780, Pennsylvania repealed its law banning interracial marriages in an effort to abolish slavery. Other states began repealing their laws as well. It wasn't until 1967 that the remaining anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme court in Loving v. Virginia.

In the Hmong culture, there is one rule that all Hmong people, young and old, are aware of when it comes to dating and marriage - do not date or marry someone from the same clan (a.k.a., a person who has the same last name as you). Essentially, this rule is still in place, but when Hmong people came to America as refugees in the 1970's and lived amongst people from other race and ethnicities, there was something else that began to occur. Hmong children went to school, became friends with people from different backgrounds, and some even dated and fell in love with people who were not Hmong. This was difficult for many parents to accept because of the cultural differences. One of the biggest issues that parents were afraid of was that there would be a loss of culture if their children married outside of the Hmong community. Failed interracial relationships and marriages in the Hmong community became examples that parents would use to try to convince their children that dating someone other than a Hmong person was not promising.

Julie, who has been dating her non-Hmong boyfriend for four years now, said that she comes from a very strict family. Julie is the youngest of six children and all of her siblings married Hmong men and women. She stated that dating and marrying outside of the Hmong community has always been looked down upon in her family. "They will not love you," or "they will treat you bad" were some of the most common lines that Julie said she heard growing up.

Julie explained how it was shameful and that by dating and marrying outside of the Hmong community, you are disrespecting your parents. She went on to explain that her cousin married a man who was not Hmong and she was "disowned" by her parents and sometimes she is afraid that her parents would do the same. Julie's relationship with her boyfriend is a secret. She said no one knows about her boyfriend except about five of her friends. "My boyfriend doesn't like being 'hidden' but he respects my wishes," Julie said. When they go out in public, they have a game plan if they run into anyone she knows - they scatter and go different ways so it appears that they don't know each other. "Once my boyfriend has his life together, you know - has a good job, a house of his own, and money saved up for the bride price, then I will introduce him to my family. If they see that he has a good career and can take care of me financially, I think they will be more open to accepting him," Julie shared.

Bao, on the other hand, said that her parents have always been very open-minded. She shared, "My parents always wanted us to marry for love. They didn't care what race our boyfriends or girlfriends were, as long as they treated us right." Bao was raised in Minnesota and currently lives in California with her daughter, husband, and husband's parents. She says she gets stares when she goes out in public with her family and other Hmong people see her, but it doesn't bother her one bit. Bao's parents visit her two times a year and Bao and her family visit Minnesota two times a year.

In 1980, 6.7% of new marriages were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another. In 2010, that percentage more than doubled to 15%. The Pew Research Center did not have statistics for Hmong interracial marriages, but in 2010, it was recorded that 36% of Asian women and 17% of Asian men married outside of their race. Today, we can see that interracial marriages are increasing and in some cities, it is even possible to hire men to help non-Hmong men perform traditional weddings (which includes negotiations, blessings, and ceremony) to marry Hmong women. Bao put it best when she said, "Parents who do not approve of their children's interracial relationships or marriages will eventually come around and will accept their child's decision as long as they are in a healthy, loving relationship. Love always wins."

St. Paul, MN



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