Gabriel and Olisi hadn’t really noticed each other before, but at a party that Olisi didn’t even want to attend, the two talked for hours. Nearly two years later, after a discussion about an amusic collection that blossomed into love, the Northeast, D.C. couple were married.
The Hindins have found, however, that theyʼve needed more than shared interests to overcome the rude comments, the peering stares, and the looks of disdain, some of the challenges they face as an interracial couple. Olisi, 42, a born and raised Washingtonian, is African-American while Gabriel “Gabe”, 44, has German-Irish and Sicilian heritage.
“I was like, ʻWow, this is still happening?’” said Olisi, after a man muttered that she could always ʻcome back homeʼ after seeing that she was meeting Gabe for lunch. Gabe remembers feeling angry another time after a waiter gave the tables around them noticeably better service.
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.
Gabe and Olisi initially met while worshipping and associating with a diverse group of people in their congregation of Jehovahʼs Witnesses. Neither their families nor their fellow congregants were surprised when they began to date and later married.
The experience was similar for Monifa and Isaac Homzaʼs multiracial, multi-generational clan. Monifaʼs 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 Jehovahʼs Witnesses with volunteers from around the world.
Now living in Maui, the Homzas teach their three children that all races are equal in Godʼs sight. “One of the Bible principles we try to teach them is the love of neighbor,” Monifa added.
“We donʼt 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 Hindins agree that love, peace, and faith are among the shared values on which they base their marriage and family life. They credit Bible principles and prayer with helping them to cope with mistreatment.
“Iʼm very triggered by injustice,” Olisi said. “It is something that I constantly have to pray about.”
Gabe agrees that prayer gives the fortitude to cope with rude comments and prejudice. “Even if youʼre being peaceable with others, those negative things can still hurt. Throw that burden on Jehovah God, and he helps us have peace.” He continued: “People are gonna do what theyʼre gonna do, but we can control how we respond.”
The Hindins also review articles found on jw.org that deal with interracial relationships. Additionally, their families, fellow congregants, and friends throughout the D.C. region provide a supportive network.
After four years of marriage, the Hindins are still listening to the record collection that brought them together that night in 2015. Olisi hadnʼt wanted to attend the party because she was grieving the recent loss of her father. She heard Gabe had an extensive record collection and could probably give her tips about record players, something she needed for her fatherʼs albums.
Now her fatherʼs soul music blends with Gabeʼs soul, jazz, and rock collection in a wooden cabinet built by Gabeʼs father. They are raising two-year-old Zoe to hold the same values they do about people, with a diverse taste in music to match.
Olisi appreciates that she’s learned to have an open mind about people from different nationalities and backgrounds. “In this case, it opened us up to an opportunity for love,” she said. “If you limit yourself and youʼre not applying those Bible principles then you could really be missing out on something good.”
More information on the activities of Jehovahʼs Witnesses, including resources for happy family life, can be found on their official website, www.jw.org.