Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Loving Day and Interracial Relationships
Loving Day commemorates the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision, which struck down the last of America's anti-miscegenation laws, allowing interracial couples to legally marry. As a Canadian, obviously this ruling does not apply to me, but having been in an inter racial relationship for over twenty years, I thought I would take the time to talk about it.
I think from the outside there exists a belief that race simply disappears when one is involved in an inter racial relationship and I can tell you first hand that nothing could be further from the truth. If I were with a Black man, our racial discussions would probably be less, because there would be a greater understanding of what living in a White supremacist state involves. Being with someone who is White, even one who is absolutely a committed anti-racist, means that racism is something that is always present, even in moments that are supposed to be safe and or neutral.
Loving a White man does not suddenly mean I don't see the colour of his skin, or the racial privilege encoded to his body because of it. Loving me, does not mean for one moment that my unhusband is not aware of my Blackness and how it marks me and by extension him. He has seen how just his presence at times confers acceptability for me. I was shopping for a new purse and trying to get the attention of a store clerk. They all walked past me like they didn't see me; however, the moment he came to stand next to me, taking my hand, suddenly a clerk appeared and asked him how he could help, despite the fact that we were in a purse store and I was the one obviously who was going to purchase something. We walked out hand in hand, but that does not mean the sting didn't hurt.
He has had moments when without knowledge of me or our children, co-workers and acquaintances have made extremely racist comments. Without my presence, his Whiteness speaks loudly and people feel free to let their inner bigot run loose. What they don't know is that by doing this, they are attacking the very people that my unhusband holds loves the most. Of course he is angry and hurt, but even as he relates these stories to me, he cannot imagine how much more it hurts me. I have held his hand and listened as he was told that he should find himself a nice White girl and that he didn't have to settle for me because he is a good guy. To outsiders, I am a stain on the purity of his Whiteness, though I have stood by his side for twenty plus years and birthed him two sons. He has been called a nigger lover more times than I can tell you.
The pressures from the outside world on inter racial relationships are difficult to deal with on a day in and day out basis. They come with the rude comments, or the stares as we walk down the street, or when the unhusband shows any kind of physical attention to his bi racial sons. It does not occur to people that this six foot green eyed man is actually playing with his children. As our children grow, the world no longer sees them as innocent and each has now been subjected to racist bullying. It is to me that they turn, because being Black like them, I can understand in a way that the unhusband cannot. He tries to help, he tries to build their self esteem, but he worries that despite the love he has for them that they will one day come to see him as the enemy because of the ongoing assaults by Whiteness. When our oldest told him two years ago, "I am surprised that you love me because I am a brown son," he didn't have the words to deal with Destruction's pain. This was not the first, nor will it be the last time a member of his family has undergone pain due to White supremacy that he simply didn't know how to deal with, despite loving us with all he has.
Even when we are alone and there are no outside pressures, his Whiteness ensures that he doesn't always see racism for what it is. He most certainly does not mean to hurt us, but his privilege and frame of reference means that he cannot help from doing so occasionally. It means that we have to talk once again about race and his privilege. It means a constant negotiation in which each of us must listen to each other with patience and respect. It means having to look at the pain in his children's eyes when he has shown his arse to the world.
Inter racial relationships are not easy. We have to deal with the same issues as any other relationship and we have to deal with racism. The outside pressures on our family at times feel overwhelming and at these times, I know exactly why inter racial relationships have such a high failure rate. It's not because people love each other any less than intra racial relationships, it's that there is never a break from the pressure.
You cannot be colourblind or race neutral or whatever catchy phrase people are using today and have a successful inter racial relationship. Not only must you be committed to loving each other, you must be committed to fighting White supremacy. Seeing a mixed raced couple is not a sign of how far society has come in terms of equality; it is only a sign that this couple has decided to love and fight White supremacy together. I can promise you that they are not colour blind or race neutral because race is something that will constantly be thrown in their face and that will only multiply should they decide to have children. Being in an inter racial relationship does not mean that White supremacy, or all of the issues that comes with it disappears. So yes, celebrate this day, but understand that a change in the law, does not magically confer a change in social acceptance or attitude.