Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2000
Couples gain from ethnic difference
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Marrying into another culture or race is not a black and white issue. Like any marriage, it's a love issue, plain and simple.
"It's not a white thing, it's not a black thing,' said Donna Farrell of her 13-year marriage to Rory Farrell. "It's a Donna and Rory thing. It's something that had to be."
With her dark skin and curly jet black hair, Donna Farrell, a native of Trinidad, reflects a different ethnic background than that of her native Edmontonian husband Rory, who's fair skinned, blue-eyed and has light brown hair.
The ethnic difference is also apparent in Kevyn and Alison Phan. With her fair skin, blonde hair and green eyes, Alison's colouring is a contrast to Kevyn's dark olive skin and black hair.
"My mom used to call her the white hair girl all the time," Kevyn Phan said. "Or that white girl."
The year is 2000 and the stereotypical glares, stares and puzzling looks that interracial couples would have gotten five decades ago are almost non-existent. That's not to say that people are not wondering about it in the back of their minds.
"We find that we ourselves - and I mean ourselves as the world, hasn't changed a lot in some of this thinking," said Donna Farrell.
Donna admits there may still exist those who think one should marry within their own race, but she has had little experience with those people.
Growing up in Trinidad, Donna was surrounded by a mix of cultures. So dating Rory was never an ethnic issue. What her family, particularly her brother, was concerned about was the fact that Rory was a man who had come a courtin'.
The two met in Trinidad where Rory was vacationing.
"My brother was worried because (Rory) was a foreigner, he was only here for a few weeks," Donna said. "It wouldn't have mattered if he was Chinese or black, it was the fact that he was not (local); he was from another country."
Alison Phan's family took a liking to Kevyn right away.
"It was my friends who gave me a weird look when I said I was dating an Asian guy . . . and he was just a little shorter than I was too," Alison Phan said laughing.
"My family treated him like any other boyfriend. My dad and brothers were suspicious just because he was a guy. They were more concerned of what he did for a living, would he be good to me, what kind of person he was. My mom really liked him.
"No one ever said 'Why are you dating someone who's not (Caucasian)?'"
Alison and Kevyn met while they were studying at the University of British Columbia. They were married in 1995, two years after meeting.
When she first met Kevyn's parents, Alison Phan was somewhat hesitant. His parents were in their late 60s and had immigrated to Canada less than five years earlier, so "they were very clingy to their traditional Asian ways. I thought they would be less accepting of someone like me coming into their family."
But it was Alison who caused herself grief thinking this way.
"They were so open," she said. "They don't speak English, but they give me lots of hugs and made me feel very welcomed.
"When the family gets together, (Kevyn's mom) puts me to work in the kitchen just like she would any other daughter."
When the Farrells were married the two also felt nothing but a welcoming spirit from each other's families. There was only love among them.
And in the end, beyond the ethnicity and colour of skin, as clich‚ as it may sound, it's that act of love which makes the world go round, said Donna Farrell.
"You can't just say I love you everyday to one another, that's not enough," Farrell said. "You have to decide to love one another.
"Love is something you have inside of you, it has to be inside of you or you can't show it on the outside. It makes you see beyond someone who's making you angry. It makes you see beyond all the things he does that you don't like. It's what keeps you with this person.
"It doesn't matter who they are, black or white, (love) is either there or it's not. (Love) is not a word, it's a living."
It's this love that the Farrells give examples of when they lead marriage preparation courses offered through the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"We tell them stories about our experiences, about our marriage," Farrell said. "We don't teach them how to be married. You can't teach that. You show by example."
Donna Farrell and Alison Phan predict their families' differing ethnic backgrounds will also bring an abundance of spiritual wealth to their children.
"I think our children see the world in a different way," Farrell said. "It's bias, but we always knew we would have the most beautiful children in the world . . . because they would have the best of both worlds."
Phan added, "My daughter is learning to speak two languages, and she's only two. She has two sets of grandparents who are living examples of two very rich cultures. You can't learn from a book what they teach her."