Sunday, March 13, 2016

Intercultural Isn't Always About Skin Color

I was listening to the radio the other day and a man was talking about how you never see intercultural couples in their 80's. I wouldn't say I got angry but this statement just made me feel like he was being blatantly ignorant to what intercultural really is. You can have 2 same-skin colored people who are an intercultural couple, or 2 Americans, or 2 Canadians, or 2 Europeans who come from different cultures. Intercultural has little to do with the color of someone's skin. Culture can be such a deceiving word!

These are my great-grandparents. I know the picture is black and white but you can see many elements of their different ancestry if you know what to look for (bone structures, common ethnical traits, etc.). His name was Pedro. Her's Anginette. She was French. He was Spanish. Both European. Both skin tones were olive-ish (as you can tell he was obviously darker). Yet they were from two very different cultures. Skin color would be a horrible way to judge whether or not they were of the same culture.

Culture goes even deeper than that though. You still can't single people out based on their ethnicity. Every country is further broken down into geographical areas, family backgrounds, neighborhoods, cities, family dynamics (like adoptions; etc.). The list goes on and on and on. Of course the man's comments that sparked this blog would never have needed to be this detailed but, I still can't help but feel his words were ignorant because he was only looking at skin color.

Pedro and Anginette grew old together. They lived into their 80's and they were an intercultural couple. They just likely went under the radar under the guise of both being European so no one cared or thought much of the vast cultural differences.

On the other side of my family we have Lizzie and Frederick. Frederick was German and due to his criminal nature we have no pictures of him but we know his heritage with absolute certainty. Lizzie, pictured above, we had thought to be Jewish as little was known about her however, recent DNA testing has proved she was more likely Scandanavian. Still, both her and Frederick had white skin tones but were far from the same cultures.

My family has a long history of intercultural relationships. This was America in the 1800's. All flying under the radar because their skin color was the same and no one thought much of it. They still don't apparently.

This isn't limited to just white cultures. Ask Africans. Nigerians will always tell you their culture is not the same as Liberians. Both of those are far different from the African Americans that have the same skin tones here. Nor could you compare Puerto Ricans to Mexicans. Both Latino, still two very different cultures.

It makes no sense for people to think that different cultures must have different skin tones.

What about you? Do you know older intercultural couples or of couples from years gone by?
Do you know people who instantly think different cultures must have different skin tones?


  1. Among Europeans or people of European descent Americans, Italian, Australians etc. though with significant cultural differences are not essentially inter cultural since there is racial uniformity and at some levels food habits, family structure, social norms are the same, or some amount of similarities are found.

    Intercultural is a term more suited to marriages where people come from entirely different cultural, social and racial background. That is more what I feel is intercultural.

    I agree that same skin tone does not mean same culture. Like Tamils and Malayees, more of less the same skin tone but different cultures. But they have similarities in languages and food habits. Bengalis, Oriyas and Assamese, very similar food habits, languages, skin tones. Then there are Hindus and Muslims within the same community with different cultures and looks.

    A true inter cultural marriage would be a Punjabi marrying a Tamil. Entirely different skin colour, food habits, outlook towards life and even mentalities. The difference in mentality is the most significant aspect of inter cultural marriages.

    As for old intercultural marriages, perhaps the most ancient and famous interracial couple in mythology were Ravana's parents. Ravana's father was Aryan Brahmin and his mother was a Demon. Ravana's maternal grand father wanted someone who was powerful enough to defeat the gods so he came up with this brilliant idea. The mixing genes was outstanding. Ravana got the best of both worlds. From his father he got intellect and knowledge of sacred texts and from his mother he got incredible strength and power of illusion. As they say inter cultural children get the best of both worlds. Thus, we have plenty of inter cultural marriages in mythology but less in real life.


    1. Mentality is definitely a significant aspect of intercultural marriages! I think you grasped what I was saying quite well. It really does take a lot more than skin color to determine if a marriage is intercultural. Even in the US it would be difficult for a New Yorker to marry a Floridian in the same respect you mentioned Punjab and Tamil. They have entirely different mindsets, eat entirely different foods and have different ideals about most things in life. Their skin color may or may not be the same but they would have difficulty overcoming cultural differences because of the huge gap in how each was raised.