Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Color Of Love

Other than scant references to my personal life, I have made an effort to keep my identity as a blogger separate from the life I lead away from the Internet. What I post here at womanist musings is a side of my personality, the serious side...I am far more dimensional than the posts I have written.  To write the following post I am going to have to delve into the Renee that is a relative stranger to the blogosphere. 

I have been in an inter-racial relationship for almost 18 years.  Together we have two wonderful little boys, who for the purposes of this blog I will nickname mayhem and destruction.  As you know when children are quiet something bad is going on, and that statement definitely applies in my household.  I did not seek my partner out on the basis of his race.  We came together based on common interests, specifically our love of laughter and music. Throughout the worst times in our relationship we have always had the ability to share a laugh, and a hug.  It is what keeps us together, and probably what keep us sane in times of great stress. 

I make it a point not to justify my lifes choices to anyone, as I firmly believe no one sleeps in my bed except me.  I have read alot of posts in different blogs regarding inter racial relationships.  Most of it I have been able to tune out as just pure nonsense, that is until I read this post at Ruminations Of A Racial Purist. Upon reading, I really felt that Clare posed some questions that deserved an answer. So here I go....

Clare: I always wonder whether any of these women ever consider why - in a white supremacist society - would white men choose black women as partners. Why would people who have historically enslaved another people now want to be in relationships with them? Why would men who defiled and denigrated black women now consider marrying them?

I am sorry but I do not buy the “love is colorblind” nonsense. We live in a color conscious society and the truth is that color does indeed drive interracial relationships - more than the “Something New” brigade are willing to admit. Indeed, some of the worst racists out there are those who are in relationships with black people!

Believe it or not, there are white people, who have owned their racial and gender privilege. No one person is perfect at negotiating privilege, it is the daily attempt that counts. They realize that they cannot as an individual change society as a whole, but they can change the way they respond to certain situations.  I know that my partner chose me for my wit, my intelligence, my generosity and (yes I'm tooting my own horn) how damn cute I am.

No one living today took part in the form of institutionalized slavery to which you are referring.  Some of us are receiving the benefits of slavery, and some of us are still negotiating the social consequences of slavery. 

You are assuming that all white men have defiled and denigrated black women.  Until you have met every single white man on the planet that statement is impossible to prove.  In fact if you met my partner, you would be aware of at least one man that does not denigrate black women.  If this where the case I would have put him out on the curb with the garbage years ago. 

You are perfectly correct in you attestation that "love is not colorblind".  People in inter racial relationships recognize difference the same way that everyone else does, there is nothing unique in our socialization to suggest that we would suddenly look at a black person, or a white person and not be cognizant of race. There is however a difference...When I see my partner I acknowledge that he is white, I acknowledge that he lives with at least two locations of privilege, his color and his gender.  I however do not see these attributes as necessarily overtly valuable, or as the primary markers of his identity. Similarly, he of course recognizes that I am a black female, and that I have at least two markers of stigmatization to negotiate; but neither of these two completely represent who I am as a person. It is not about not seeing difference, it is about the value that we give to difference.

People that approach inter racial relationships from the point of view of a voyeur will clearly still adhere to much of the racism that exists in Western society.  For them the body of color will always hold an element of the exotic, and they will never view their partner as an equal.  So once again the issue is about the approach of the individuals involved in the relationship.  Being able to cite incidents where a person still holds onto to their racist attitude does not mean that everyone is a racist.  This is another globalizing claim that you will be unable to prove. 

Clare: I strongly suspect that in many cases “interracially-inclined” men feel particularly comfortable in relationships with “out-group” women who have a lower status in society. For some, it may be the need to feel special and important in relation to their low status partner; for others, the driving factor is perhaps very low self-esteem in the sense that they simply do not feel secure in relationships with women of their own status (in white supremacist society).

Assumptions, assumptions, your very statements you are devaluing WOC.  To state that the only reason white men may be interested in us is because they have low self-esteem, necessarily posits that WOC have little to no value outside of acting as "fluffers" to male pride. Voyeuristic men may be looking to enact the white mans burden upon their partners physical body, however a man that has owned his privilege will once again take a different approach.  There is a difference between a man that actively seeks out WOC, and man that chooses a WOC within the contexts of all his relationships. One is based on an unconscious desire to oppress, and the other a happenstance of an engaged life.

Finally I want to point out that you only look at inter racial relationships from one perspective, white/black.  This world is very diverse, and many different races today are uniting in love beyond the prominent white/black pairing. Blacks and Asians are marrying, Blacks and Latinos are marrying, Blacks and Aboriginals are do these relationships change your analysis of power? Are they somehow more acceptable because they do not involve a white partner?  When the gender is changed and the POC is male, how does the power dynamic change?  These are the kinds of questions you should be exploring. Finally as with all relationships, no one on the outside can ever truly determine the positive or negative aspect of it. Only the people living in the relationship are privy to the necessary information to decide what it is based on, and if they are truly happy.  Instead of chastising people that have found love in a world full of anger, racism and hatred, you should be celebrating it.  I cannot possibly see how truly loving someone is a detractor.


Nudiemuse said...

I am a new reader hello, that was beautifully written. Thank you.

Ebony Intuition said...

"There is a difference between a man that actively seeks out WOC, and man that chooses a WOC within the contexts of all his relationships. One is based on an unconscious desire to oppress, and the other a happenstance of an engaged life."

This is a very good point, me personally I've never dated anyone outside of my race, but it really depends on the environment people are in and like you mentioned if a man chooses to actively seek out a POC.
I think when it comes to inter-racial dating this is what bothers me, when men actively seek out non black women and base the relationship on the persons looks and then turn around and demonize the women in their own race.

If a black man is going to date non black women then hey go ahead but don't turn around and say "I date non- black women because black women are .....".
And I also don't like when non black who date black men act as if they can do a better job of raising a child because they are white, to me they are indirectly stating that because they have status and privilege their child would be better off.

Thats the main issue that bothers me. It just creates so much un-need tension.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this read.

Renee said...

welcome nudiemuse...

Ebony, there are certainly issues with inter racial dating however it is all about the approach of the people in the relationship. If someone is a committed anti-racist throughout all of their lives they will bring that to their relationships.

lujlp said...

Nice to see racism is still alive and doing well.

Now can anyone explain to me why only white people can be racist?

Ebony Intuition said...

"If someone is a committed anti-racist throughout all of their lives they will bring that to their relationships."

Yup I agree

Renee said...

Obviously people of all races have the potential to be racist. Clearly the author of the post I mentioned labored under some very false assumptions.
I think what is at issue is the power of the person who holds racist ideals. A POC who is racist does not have the social power behind her/him. Racism against POC is systemic and has more effect in a social context.

Sally said...

This is a great post! My fingers were itching to point that there are other types of mixed-race couples, so thanks for that. I'm Latina and my fiance is Black, but, like you said, we are both very aware of our positions (we are not colorblind).

Two interesting things I notice though: 1) the fact that I'm actually darker than he is seems to throw people for a loop, and 2) there are times when we both take for granted that some of our experiences are quite different and it takes us a while to realize why.

But we love each other, we're honest, and we make it work--I'm still confused about why people just don't get that.

Ebony Intuition said...

"But we love each other, we're honest, and we make it work--I'm still confused about why people just don't get that."

There are also people of the same race who are in relationships and are in love and people chastise against it. For example look at Usher and his wife Tameka, everyone is ridiculing him for the person he chose to marry.(Its obvious that because he decided to marry a women who is black that everyone has a problem with it, if Usher married a Latino or a White women, I don't think anyone would be ridiculing him)
So to me it's not just towards people who date inter-racially it's towards everyone if you really think about it.

Sally said...

Very true, Ebony! So now I get it even less!

OutcrazyOphelia said...

I'm right here with you. Just recently I was asked to justify my relationship with a white man given my blog and my awareness of racial issues. But I'm left to ask--do they think I'm a fool? My last undergraduate paper was about interracial rape and reporting in the period of 1893-1910. It's not as if I'm unaware of the history of race, or the present incarnations of racism. But my partner does not dominate me, he doesn't date me because he thinks he's better, he's never displayed otherizing tendencies. At the same time, I see him working through his own understanding of race and the issues inherent. I would not be with anyone who couldn't see those things and moreover, who attempted to use their privilege against me. I don't know why that's so difficult to understand.

Renee said...

The truth of the matter is that anytime a woman is in a heterosexual relationship with a man there is the potential for an imbalance in power. If a man does not own his gender privilege the relationship can be exploitative and yet we do not go around asking why women are even involved with men.

zebracouple said...

Hi. First time here. I have to agree with nudiemuse(?), that was well said. I checked in to see Clare's original post, but my comments here are prompted by yours alone. You've done a great job here articulating the nuances and subtlties of an interracial relationship. My wife (African American) and I (Swedish American) will celebrate eight great years of marriage this winter. We happily invite you and some of your readers to check out another (if less polished) perspective on the IR scene at our blog at: Thanks for your great thoughts here-- we'll be back!