Behind their smiles, Lehigh Acres residents Jerome Jackson and wife Aspen have struggled with how some strangers react to seeing them together. Something as simple as enjoying a meal has turned into an uncomfortable situation. On one occasion, the interracial couple came face-to-face with a group who became vocal as they exited a restaurant. “They said something vulgar to my wife for her being with a black man,” said Jerome. It’s very hurtful to me, no matter how many times I’ve gone through it.”
According to the Pew Research Center, one in five new marriages is now interracial. While statistics suggest that interracial marriages in America have gained greater acceptance, not all couples have that experience. Still, they have found ways to cope.
Shared religious faith along with a community of fellow believers have been invaluable in navigating the cultural complexities.
The experience was similar for Monifa and Isaac Homza’s multiracial, multi-generational clan.
Monifa’s Nigerian-Caribbean father and Korean mother were often a curiosity in their New York City neighborhood. But at home, the children could see their peaceful and loving relationship, Monifa said. “They took care of each other in spite of what was happening around them.”
Meanwhile, Isaac was growing up in rural Virginia, where he observed the racial divide daily on his bus ride to school. As he passed two churches that shared a parking lot, he noticed that the lot divided attendees by race. “It seemed strange to me because at our congregation we all met together,” Isaac said.
The couple eventually met through a mutual friend when Isaac moved to New York to work at the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses with volunteers from around the world.
Monifa was immediately drawn to Isaac’s piercing blue eyes. As for Isaac, there was no question: “I thought she was beautiful.” A similar sense of humor and willingness to expand their cultural horizons helped too.
The couple might never have come to be if the prior generation hadn’t overcome their own cultural biases.
Monifa’s father made big changes once he started studying the Bible and saw that all races are equal in God’s sight. He widened his circle of friends, met Monifa’s mother, and later welcomed his white son-in-law into the family.
“It was heartwarming to me because I knew the background my dad had and the prejudices he held,” said Monifa. “It’s not the way you look. It’s what you are on the inside.”
Now living in Maui, the Homzas are working to impart the same qualities to their three children. “One of the Bible principles we try to teach them is love of neighbor,” Monifa added. “We don’t categorize people. We love people of all races.”
According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, married couples who had shared values reported higher levels of marital happiness and individual well-being than those who did not.
The Jacksons, mentioned earlier, agree. Love, loyalty and faith are among the shared values on which they base their marriage. “Our relationship turned for the better when we applied Bible principles and became more involved with our congregation,” said Aspen. “We really felt the love of our friends in our congregation.”
The couple also found the articles on jw.org about marriages and couples helpful and a source of encouragement. “Regardless of what is going on around you in this world we live in,” said Jerome. “Always remember that God doesn’t see color the way the world sees color. He doesn’t see it as a hindrance.”
More information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including resources for happy family life, can be found on their official website, www.jw.org.