For a while now, the term ‘race traitor’ has been cropping up on the Internet- mostly on Reddit, with women sharing their experiences of being coined a ‘race traitor’ by their families and by members of their own race, all of whom believed that these women betrayed their own race by dating or marrying someone outside of it.

While the term race traitor has roots in the KKK as a way to target women who dated Black men, race traitor first began cropping up on the internet in incel forums, with Indian incels complaining that Indian women betrayed men of their own race by dating or marrying people outside of it; however, the term soon expanded to include and target all Asian women as a way to degrade and ‘keep them faithful’ to their own race.

Unfortunately, although some men have taken up the term in an entitled rage to guilt women to stay away from interracial relationships, the truth is that the term goes well beyond them and spreads its roots into familial and societal pressure. The idea that a woman should only marry within her race has long been present, and many Asian families still reinforce these principles through guilt tactics. This includes intermittent racism in the way daughters are raised.

An Indian friend of mine started dating a Black man recently and opened up to me about the racism against Black folks within her family that she faced from aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Though there were never blatant slurs, there were plenty of microaggressions- uncomfortable silences, whispered gossip, and judgmental looks -that made her feel inadequate and ashamed of dating outside of her own race. Fortunately, she was able to overcome these challenges along with her partner – but what about the many women who are shamed enough to fear the idea of interracial relationships?

According to an open letter penned by a Lebanese woman who married a Black man – in the Layali Webzine, a magazine for Muslim women, young women are often raised to believe that disobeying their parents on grounds of marriage essentially dooms those young women. However, she continues, on the grounds of Islam, no race should be considered superior over any other race, and interracial marriages should be normalized. Only through normalization of interracial marriages can the idea not seem so taboo in households where referring to women as race traitors is a common occurrence. Normalization also has the power to decrease acts of racism, as there will be fewer reactions to something that has become commonplace.

The ugly truth is that behind many interracial marriages, there are either subtle or blatantly aggressive instances of racism that are geared toward shaming women – or even men- as race traitors, putting down other races and instilling racist beliefs in young women, and gaslighting women into feeling enough shame that they decide to end the relationship.

The importance of removing the branding of race traitor is crucial in modern society. Young women should be encouraged to pursue interracial relationships without having to worry about the ‘shame’ it brings to their family and how others will label them. Interracial relationships encourage breaking the stereotypes placed on different races and open the possibility to learn a new culture and be a part of something bigger. Although there can be many opportunities to learn and grow within interracial relationships, the fact that they are looked down on by many ethnic groups can be disheartening and bring pain and shame to the women at the center of racially spurred insults.

Family aside, the other group that takes advantage of the term- which was addressed briefly at the beginning of the article -are men who feel like they are owed women of their own race, and who call women who date outside their race “morally inadequate.” Because of this ideology, the term race traitor is very deeply rooted in entitlement. Entitlement has previously been seen as a problem among men who, for example, believe in government-mandated girlfriends, not to mention the incident with Elliot Rodger, the man who went on a rage-filled massacre due to his inability to get a girlfriend. In his manifesto, Elliot made clear that he felt he was ‘owed’ a girlfriend, a mentality that is reflected among the same men who deem women as ‘race traitors.’

It all boils back down to the idea of entitlement. Nobody, not members of a woman’s race- including her family – or men who think that members of a certain race are owed women of that race, is owed anything. The idea is archaic and truly degrading for women who have found happiness outside of their own race, and the term race traitor only serves to oppress and hold those women back. It is clear to see that entitlement, as it has before, only continues to be one of the biggest obstacles in the way of women being free in their decisions. Although privileged entitlement stemming from the desire to have a girlfriend and, consequently, sex is extremely harmful to women, the entitlement that is often looked over is that of a woman’s own family. Family can feel entitled to dictating the terms of a woman’s marriage, down to who she marries and on what grounds a marriage can be carried out. Although this type of entitlement isn’t often talked about, it is one that can be just as harmful as it can cause enough shame to a woman that it keeps her from an interracial marriage.

In the end, it is important to remember this: the only thing that either family or men who use the term race traitor are entitled to are their opinions. However, they are not entitled to making decisions on behalf of anyone, least of all the woman that they are choosing to shame and harass with the term. With the rise of interracial marriages, there is hope that people will eventually be able to move past branding women as race traitors and see the cultural benefits and exchange of ideas as something to be celebrated instead of looked down on.