I was brought up in a middle class West Indian household with both parents. Growing up, I was raised on “black love” and what being a strong black woman meant in a society where we are told we may not be good enough. My father made sure to teach me about my influence and that my hard work may be overshadowed by the colour of my skin so my efforts may have to be 10 times more than that of a white woman.
My mother and my sisters instilled in me the importance of Self love and respect for my being. I only played with black dolls and read books by black authors. Blackness was celebrated in my family. Despite that,I grew up in a tough neighborhood, and struggled through adolescents in an era where my skin tone was considered “too dark” and my hair wasn’t curly or long enough for acceptance by the boys I was around. I struggled with low self esteem and often times wished I was lighter or my hair “got curly ” when wet. It was as if the teachings that I was brought up on didn’t stand up much to what was going on in the outside world.
As most teenagers have to deal with the stigmas associated with body image, I too doubted myself. I got into an abusive relationship, again taking even more hits to my confidence. Eventually I gained the strength to leave, my children’s well being depended on it. I was then again left to find myself and start over again.
In the midst of learning to love all of Me, I found love, oddly enough with a white man, who is Irish to be exact. My boyfriend and I met while working together after almost 2 years. We didn’t speak much until one day he approached me. In the beginning I was very skeptical, and shyly played him off every time he’d ask when I’d take him up on his offer for dinner or almost run away when we would be in situations where we’d be alone together.
He was attractive, and was a gentleman but the thought of me being with a white man had me very reluctant about our future. What would my family think? What would his family think? I’m sure other women will understand what it’s like bringing home their white boyfriend for thanksgiving dinner and introducing them to their families for the first time. A disclaimer always had to be given before anyone ever met him. It was never, “Oh Tee has a boyfriend now,” it was “oh Tee went and picked up a white boy”.
I became reluctant to bring up an arguments that we’d had to family members because it would always lead to,”that’s how white people are”, in which I’d quickly have to end that conversation.
I recall for a period of time, my cousins would refer to my boyfriend as, Bob or John, thinking it was funny, and that he should have a moniker associated with his skin tone.
As for past boyfriends? Forget it. I would always be hit with the line, “Oh you like white boys now?” A question which is indicative of a bigger problem in our community, I love black men the same, the need to justify it is just ridiculous, especially when black men date outside of their race all the time, something that is seen as acceptable, almost celebrated.
In discussions where the topic revolves around the injustices black people have faced at the hands of white people I always find myself having to defend myself when asked, “isn’t your man white?” It’s as if I’ve been stripped of my black card and put on trial to get it back.
To fast forward, we now have a beautiful daughter who will grow to know her roots and respect both sides of her heritage. We’ve learned a lot from one another over the past 6 years, I always joke that I’ve grown to appreciate going on hikes and camping outdoors and he’s learned to make a mean ass oxtail with rice and peas. My family has now curbed their jokes, and even though my father will throw a subliminal or two in, my boyfriend takes it in good humour.
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot form being in my relationship, below are a few of the important takeaways.
1. People will judge.
For those whose families are not as accepting of your relationship because of the race of your partner; they will get over it. And if they do not, then perhaps it’s time for you to evaluate the importance of your happiness vs the discomfort or ignorance of others.
2. I’ve learned that Love is love despite our races.
Being with my boyfriend has taught me the importance of understanding and looking past minor issues. Love has NO color. Sure there are times when we don’t see eye to eye on certain things but that’s every relationship. Never has our skin color been an issue between us.Being with someone of a different race does not mean you’ve lost yourself or your identity, it means you’re willing to share it. I love all of me, and he loves me back.
3. Things take time.
I was scared in the beginning but that’s because sometimes we can be weary of the unfamiliar. Like with every opportunity in life, I couldn’t let fear be my deterrent. I’m glad I didn’t let it because entering into a relationship with my boyfriend was one of the best decisions I’ve made to date. Again, not because he’s white, but because I found someone who completes me perfectly.
4. It is important to love yourself.
No matter what the dynamics of your relationship are, you cannot love someone unless you love yourself first, and that goes for EVERY relationship.
The purpose of a relationship is to build and grow substantially with one another, so if we’ve achieved that, what is the big deal? The truth is I’d love him even if he was purple, I’m with him because he is REAL. We balance each other out so perfectly, and the color of his skin doesn’t define how he treats. Please believe, he loves every inch of me, from the depth of my brown tones to the kink in my hair and most importantly, he loves me because I am in love with myself.