By: Tazhiana Gordon
I am 25 and am lucky enough to have met the person I want to spend the rest of my life with years ago. My partner and I have been together for seven years, are incredibly happy together, and are steadily working towards that happily ever after. This would be a fairy tale, if only for one thing.
Now, for me at any rate, that means absolutely nothing. For other people, that is a very big deal. My being an African-American woman dating a white male is either seen as me rejecting my race by some or as a “come-up” by others.
The reality of the situation is it’s neither. He is the love of my life, and he just happens to have different skin color than I do.
Post-Racial America: Myth or Reality?
What continues to amaze me is everyone’s claims that we live in a post-racial society, yet casual racism is all around us. I have faced my share of the casual and innate racism that pervades American culture growing up, but I don’t think I ever encountered as much as I have since my partner and I stepped out of my apartment holding hands. Depending on what state we’re in, I’ve had people defer to him as if I was invisible, or stare at me as if I was an alien. It’s equal parts the most nerve-wracking and frustrating thing I’ve had to deal with.
In addition to that, we get the “Your kids are going to be beautiful” comment all the time. I admit that I used to buy into the hype and celebrate mixed children with green eyes and big curly hair as the ideal but that is so wrong. That is just an indicator of our flawed perception of beauty – that we still subscribe to “light is right”, and we are perpetrating colorism to this day. The thought that my children will be more attractive because they have white in them says that black is not desirable and isn’t something that should be celebrated, and that is not true.
The fact of the matter is this is such an old problem – one that is a direct result of black history in America and one that isn’t going to go away until we work on it. I decided that I was going to stop saying “Our children are going to have beautiful hair and big green eyes and they’re going to be stunning!” and start saying “Our children are going to be beautiful because they’re ours and we’ll love them.” It’s all a matter of changing the dialogue.
Outside of the external forces, there are the internal struggles that are unique to interracial relationships. My partner and I talk all the time about how we are going to raise our children – I don’t mind delivering a well-deserved spanking (it didn’t kill me!) and he is more of a fan of positive reinforcement and corner time. I also have the undesirable task of confronting him with his privilege when he doesn’t see it, which is quite often. Thankfully, we are secure enough in our relationship where I can call him out on his BS and not become the angry black woman that people expect of me. It does become very messy at times, especially with so many racially charged events happening around America but we manage to muddle through.
All They See Is Color.
Love may be blind, but society sure as hell isn’t, and it sure seems like the odds are stacked against us. Like I said before, we have been stared at and received more than our share of stupid comments. Sometimes it comes from closer to home – disguised as jokes that you have to laugh at or everyone will think you lack or a sense of humor or you’re way too sensitive. That’s the interesting thing, and scary thing, about casual racism – it’s incredibly hard to call out. Everyone wants to be politically correct and the word racist might as well have a giant taboo on it. Don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, right?
In addition to the smart remarks, I’ve been confronted with the jungle fever question more times than I can count – whether I’m with him because of a fetish. This is an aggravating and disappointing question. The fact that we still fetishize other races in 2016 is beyond me, and I know it’s alive and well because the porn industry makes thousands of dollars on race oriented pornography. My question is when does it stop? Where do we draw the line in the sand and say no more?
Lastly, my being with a white man doesn’t negate my black identity, or mean that I have some sort of self-hatred. I love being black, I celebrate the melanin in my skin, and my culture is one of the things I’m most looking forward to sharing with my children some days. I don’t have any issues with self-acceptance, and I am not with him to validate myself as a human being. I am not a white supremacist (someone literally asked me that!) and I honestly don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Obviously, lots of people will disagree with me.
So Why Are We Even Having This Conversation?
Independent of other communities, there is a fair amount of dialogue coming from within the African-American community about interracial dating. Every day I turn on my computer, there’s another story about other races “stealing the good ones we have left” – whether it be addressing men or women. Sometimes, I wonder if our community is more obsessed with interracial dating than any other – the amount of black owned “swirl” websites is staggering, and continues to astound me.
Here’s the question I have: As people of color, if the color of our lover’s skin doesn’t matter, why are we always talking about it? Correct me if I’m wrong, but interracial dating doesn’t seem to be as mainstream in Cosmo or Glamour as it is in Ebony, and it doesn’t seem to be a story that is going away anytime soon.
Standard disclaimer, and this should be more than obvious – I don’t have any issue with dating outside of your race. I, and like others around the world, had and still have no ulterior motive when it comes to choosing my partner. He literally fell into my lap, and we danced around each other for weeks before we decided to give it a shot.
It’s the other people that manage to irritate me to no end. I really want to grab them and shake them until they realize that dating a white person isn’t going to solve all of our problems. A white man won’t make all your debt disappear and suddenly make you appear to be a pillar of your community. It worries me to no end that in this day and age, too many of us are still hunting for the white savior. Pushing interracial dating as the next step to fixing and empowering the African-American community is illogical and it needs to stop.
Please let me be clear, I do not want to step on anyone’s toes and I know that this is a very sensitive issue. I wanted to address it because I’ve heard this from friends and from strangers the entire time my partner and I have been together – that our relationship is something other people can look up to. I hope that we’re worth looking up to because we’re an example of what a successful and loving relationship can look like, but I also know that that’s not always the case.
The Bottom Line
Our love is not a political statement, it is not a fetish, and it is not a way for me to advance through life. It is not a come-up. It is messy, and difficult, and at times impossible while being the most amazing decision I’ve ever made, just like every relationship out there.
Love is beautiful not because it’s exotic or because it’s different, but because it’s love. In our day and age, love anywhere you can get it is an amazing thing to see and should be celebrated. I can only hope that in my lifetime other people will begin to see this and start celebrating love with me. Until then, he and I will just have to muddle through post-racial America.