Although supportive, junior Bernie Degnan’s parents question their son’s relationship with his girlfriend, sophomore Ambar Jivraj, since he is Jewish and she is an actively practicing Muslim.
“When I tell my mom that Ambar goes to her place of worship almost every day, my mom is like, ‘Oh, if they’re really religious, why are they okay with you being Jewish?’” Degnan said.
But Degnan and Jivraj don’t see their different backgrounds as hurdles in their relationship. In fact, having grown up in diverse environments, they don’t consider it out of the ordinary.
“We don’t think dating interculturally is a big deal at all,” Jivraj said.
According to a Pew Research Center (Pew) study of the four generations spanning from 1920 to 2014, millennials are the most diverse, with 57 percent identifying as white, 21 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 6 percent Asian and 3 percent listed as other.
In another study, Pew found that millennials are also the most accepting of interracial dating.
The Miami Hurricane conducted an online survey to explore intercultural dating on campus and received 50 responses. Forty-eight percent of respondents in a relationship were dating someone of a different race. Among those not in a relationship, 66 percent of respondents said they are likely or very likely to date someone of a different race, religion or culture.
While Degnan and Jivraj see their relationship as normal, their parents are still becoming comfortable with it.
“This is probably more of an awakening for my mom,” Degnan said.
“It’s probably more educational for our families than for each other,” Jivraj agreed. “I guess the older generations have more stereotypes. I feel like our generation is more open to things.”
Neither the parents of Jivraj nor Degnan have actively encouraged their children to date within their religion, but Jivraj said they might have an underlying preference for it.
“My parents are religious and Bernie’s mom is religious,” Jivraj said. “So like with any family, if you’re dating someone outside your religion, it’s like they’d want you to date someone in the religion … whether you’re Christian or Muslim or Jewish.”
Unlike Jivraj and Degnan’s families, the parents of African-American sophomore Alex Michell have suggested that he date girls of the same race. However, they never pressured him, and he has now been dating sophomore Emma Freeman, who is white and Jewish, for over a year.
“I remember if I was ever talking to my parents about being interested in any white girls, they would be like, ‘Why don’t you find any of the black girls at your school pretty?’” Michell said. “So nothing big, but they were curious.”
Similarly, Afro-Cuban freshman Alana Requejo said her mother has expressed an interest in her dating African Americans, although she has always been open to dating anyone.
“My mother is African American, so she always wanted me to be with someone that’s African American. She’s always wanted me to have a black husband,” she said. “But I find everyone cute.”
In TMH’s survey, 64 percent of respondents said they were dating someone of a different religion, and 73 percent of single respondents said they would consider dating someone of a different religion.
While Requejo practices Santeria, a religion involving belief in spirits and the worship of saints, her Dominican boyfriend, Ian Ortiz, practices Christianity. At the beginning of the relationship, Requejo said she was nervous about their religious differences.
“Initially, I was kind of afraid to tell him about the Santeria, because usually when people hear that, they’re like, ‘What are you talking about? That’s weird, isn’t that Voodoo?’” she said.
But according to Requejo, Ortiz was “very open-minded about it,” helping her become more candid about her religion in general.
“He’ll … want to know more about it and actually ask me questions, so I’m not afraid to talk to him about it. And because of that, it has made me more open to talk about it,” she said.
Now when they share stories about their backgrounds with each other, those religious differences keep things interesting, according to Requejo.
“He’ll tell me things he learned when he was little going to church and I’ll tell him all about spirits and the African powers … I like seeing the contrasts between us,” she said.
For sophomore Mackenzie Smyth and junior Christian Guevara, common religion brought them together. Guevara saw a post from Smyth on the Class of 2018 Facebook page that mentioned her faith, which encouraged him to reach out to her.
“It really caught my eye first because we shared a common ground there, because we were both Christian,” Guevara said.