Liza Booth, BBC News, August 6, 2007
British Asians are five times less likely to marry outside their race than the white population, according to a BBC survey.
The poll for the BBC’s Asian Network found that 44% would not consider a partner who was not Asian too.
One mixed-race couple interviewed for the station’s report were Nayyar and Waleed from west Manchester.
When Nayyar was growing up, her parents had a clear idea of who they wanted her to marry—someone Pakistani, Muslim and from the same extended family back home.
But when she introduced them to the man she wanted to settle down with, he didn’t tick any of their boxes.
He was a Jamaican called Vinnie Walters, or Waleed after he converted to her faith.
“When I first told them about him, I was a bit worried,” Nayyar says. “Which is why I left the fact he was Jamaican to the last thing I told them.
“It was like, ‘Oh, he’s a high school teacher and he’s really nice’, I didn’t want to say too much about where he was from.”
After giving him the third degree, they did come round, but this poll found young Asians were half as likely to choose a black partner than the white population, so Nayyar broke a double taboo.
I also asked people in Manchester what they thought of the issue.
One said: “If you’re Asian and you get involved in a mixed race relationship, then you might lose your identity and lose your culture.”
Another said: “Maybe they are ashamed of who they are and where they come from, and this is the reason they are trying to hide behind other people.”
Nayyar says she gets a hard time from other Asians every time she and Waleed are out together.
“We get a kind of stare. It’d be like: ‘Oh she’s married a colour. Poor thing. She could have settled with a nice desi (Asian) boy, what’s she doing with him?’”
And Waleed’s family took some time to accept the situation too: “My mum did not like the idea that I was marrying someone who wasn’t a Roman Catholic.
“She said, ‘You know what, Vinnie? You disappoint me.’”
It is the kind of story that Sharon Hall hears time and time again. She founded Intermix—a group that represents mixed-race couples.
“It is getting better, but it’s always going to be a big deal,” Sharon says.
“And for many Asians the fear of hassle means even if they are dating outside their race, they wouldn’t own up to that for their own wellbeing. And you can’t blame them for that.”
Language and music
Many of the South Asians in the UK emigrated in the 1960s and one theory is that they have hung onto the values and traditions of that decade and expect their children to live up to them.
Even when things have moved on in the countries themselves.
But Sharon says people must admit there is an element of racism in there too.
“I never thought I would be one to marry out,” says Nayyar, “I was worried what I might miss because I’m very desi at heart.
“It was the language and the music and sometimes when I’m listening to a song with Waleed, by the time I’ve translated it, it’s lost its essence and meaning. So I can’t share everything.
“But I’d advise people to think outside the box. I did and I’m much happier for it.”
The survey, carried out by ICM, questioned 500 Asians and 235 white people aged between 16 and 34.