What these 5 interracial couples want you to know about America and race.

On a plane ride back from Ketchikan, Alaska, a flight attendant stopped to compliment a passenger on his startling blue eyes.

Days later, the flight attendant, Mardra, received a three-page handwritten love letter from Chris, the blue-eyed passenger, with his phone number inscribed at the bottom. They met in person on a layover two weeks later, the entire flight crew in tow to catch a glimpse of the fated mystery man.

"You know, I was married, and I have a child," Mardra told Chris. "If you're not fine with that, thank you for coming out."


"I would love to take you out to dinner," he replied. A year later, they were married.

Chris and Mardra marrying in 1981. Photo courtesy of Chris Jay.

Though their earnest romance might seem like it was lifted directly from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel, Chris and  Mardra Jay will tell you there's more to their story.

It was the 1980s. She was black, and he was white. It had been a long time since 1967, the seminal year that Mildred and Richard Loving famously used their own love to overturn the ban on interracial marriage. Still, there was a long way to go.

Mardra recalls that often her husband's acquaintances wouldn't treat her with respect.

"They would say, 'You know your wife is colored, right?' Right in front of me," she says, adding that she felt like the two of them were a classroom for people who had never been exposed to an interracial couple.

Chris, 67, and Mardra, 72. Image courtesy of Chris Jay.

Now in their 60s and 70s, Chris and Mardra know there's been a lot of progress since they were young. Once a rarity, multiracial children are the second-fastest growing segment of the U.S. population according to official census data, and interracial marriage has lost much of its former taboo.

We spoke to four other interracial couples about their relationships in America today, and how far they think the nation has come.

1. Jill and Juan Cortés.

Juan, 60, and Jill Cortés, 55.  Image courtesy of Jill Cortés.

Though no one would say it, Jill Cortés often suspected the neighbors were only polite to her and her Latino husband, Juan, because of his social status.

"Sometimes I feel that they wouldn't have talked to us, but they did because Juan was a doctor. If he was a blue-collar worker, maybe people wouldn't have associated with us," she recalls.

Juan said that friends and family were always supportive, though he didn't remember a lot of interracial couples — or racial tolerance — growing up when his family would visit Texas.

"I remember being a teenager and being afraid to walk into a restaurant," he says. "I worry it's headed that way again."

2. John Krause and Maria Chua.

John Krause, 48, and Maria Chua, 45. Image courtesy of John Krause.

When John Krause and Maria Chua got married, they had to contend with racism from his mother.

One night after dinner, she took Maria aside to tell her that "it would be very difficult for the children."

"It literally got to the point where I had to tell my parents, if I have to pick between my parents and Maria, I'm picking Maria," Krause says, adding that, "sometimes people don't realize when they're being racist."

John's parents eventually came around, and the couple now has two daughters.

3. Neelam Pathikonda and Lisa DeWolf.

Lisa DeWolf, 43, and Neelam Pathikonda, 39. Image courtesy of Neelam Pathikonda.

After meeting on Facebook through mutual friends, Neelam Pathikonda asked Lisa DeWolf on a date.

"I saw Lisa and pretty much lightweight stalked her online," Neelam says with a laugh. After they met, Lisa sold her house, quit her job, and moved to L.A. to be with Neelam. They married in 2013, in a traditional Hindu ceremony.

Neelam Pathikonda and Lisa Dewolf during their wedding. Photo courtesy of Neelam Pathikonda.

The wedding made some family members — especially those who hadn't originally supported their union— change their mind.

"With the legalization of gay marriage and our big Hindu wedding, my mom definitely came around. She realized that this wasn't a phase," Neelam says, adding that it had been 12 years since she had come out.

When the couple finally had a child, Neelam's father came around too.

Lisa and Neelam are nervous about what a Trump presidency will mean for them and their daughter. Still, they don't plan on giving up their rights anytime soon.

"I think that certainly there has been progress made. Queer clubs used to be raided by the police, and as a community, we've come so far and we're still demanding more," Neelam explains.

4. Ben and Constance Hawkes.

Ben, 30, and Constance Hawkes, 29. Photo courtesy of Ben Hawkes

Growing up as millennials, Ben and Constance Hawkes noticed a change in how mixed-race couples were treated.

"I've been pleasantly surprised with how supportive my friends and family have been," Ben says, acknowledging that being white, he can't speak for his wife's experience.

For Constance, she's had to contend with annoying comments about how "well-spoken" she is or people's ideas that racism no longer exists.

Despite the deep hostility felt through the election cycle, Ben and Constance are hopeful.

"We've just seen so much more representation of mixed-race couples in TV shows, in the media," Constance explains.  

The last law banning interracial marriage in the United States was officially repealed in Alabama in 2000. Yet today, race relations in the U.S. are at a boiling point.

We've come a long way since 1967, but these couples and their experiences shed light on ways we can create a more tolerant world.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."