Actress Explores Tensions in Interracial Relationships

Actress Diane Farr identified culture—not race—as the greater cause of friction in interracial relationships, at a conference Saturday for local universities organized by Harvard Half Asian People’s Association.

Farr headlined the Harvard HAPA ‘So...What Are You, Anyway?’ (SWAYA) conference, the fourth annual event organized by the student cultural group to examine and discuss HAPA culture. During her address, Farr discussed the difficulty of managing different cultural backgrounds as she entered her marriage with a Korean-American nearly six years ago.

“One of the hardest things for me to learn, after getting married to a Korean-American, was not to kiss his parents,” Farr said, with a laugh. “It was just reflexive for me to greet them in a certain way, and it took me a while to get used to recognizing the difference in customs.”

In fact, kissing provided Farr with creative material for the title of her recently published book, “Kissing Outside the Lines.” Her book focuses on the experience of being married to a Korean-American man and being a mother to three half-Asian, half-Caucasian children.

In gathering material for her book, Farr said that she talked to many mixed-race and single-race families. She noted that she discovered some surprising trends in the single-race families.

“As I was trying to dissect these conversations and interviews, it was shocking to see educated, liberal, worldly people harbor...prejudice in their homes,” Farr said. “Somebody in your family had to climb a mountain or cross an ocean for you to exist the way you do today. You owe it to them and to each other as a small and powerful group of Americans to own all aspects of yourself and utilize it to move that voice forward.”

Farr, an actress who has appeared on TV shows such as Numb3rs, Rescue Me, and Californication, was just one of the many speakers that spoke at this year’s SWAYA conference. In the four years since its inception, the SWAYA conference has grown tremendously in size, according to former Harvard HAPA President James Fish ’10.

“It’s personal for all of us that are involved,” said Fish, who organized the first SWAYA conference. “It’s important for us to have a space that talks about race and identity outside of traditional paradigms of constructions of race.”

SWAYA has increased in attendance year after year, garnering interest from mixed-race student groups from across the country. Jamison Leid, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, was one of the visiting students.

“We were interested in seeing how other people did things,” Leid said.

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