In all honesty, I’ve never really thought that much about race, probably because I’m white. I’ve never had to. My husband is Black, and I still have a lot to learn. Not only do I want to teach my children about Black history, but I want to make sure they grow up knowing how important it is to celebrate what makes each one of us different. Being in an interracial marriage means that I get to observe a culture that I didn’t grow up with. When we have family gatherings on my husband’s side, I’m usually the only white person. I grew up in a predominantly white town in Minnesota, so this experience was unfamiliar to me. Similarly, my husband is the only Black person when we are with my side of the family. The only difference is, he’s used to that.
As a couple, our skin colors are not what define us. We are simply two people who fell in love and chose to spend our lives together. We are two very different people but we compliment each other quite well. My husband is easy-going and wise. I’m blunt and sarcastic. He’d say I’m talkative. I’d say he sits back and observes. I’m sure many people see our skin colors first, but it isn’t something that I think about very often; that’s part of my privilege as the white person in the relationship. I didn’t earn it, I was born that way. I asked my husband what he thought. Here are his responses:
What is your perspective on our relationship as a Black man?
“We live in a fairly diverse city where there are a lot of interracial couples, but things still happen. When we go to restaurants the server will ask if we want separate checks, even when we both have our wedding rings on. They will give you the bill more often. It’s a stereotype of Black men who are with a white woman. I must be with you for your money. Sometimes people act surprised when I tell them I’m married. I guess that’s another stereotype Black men have to deal with.”
When things like that happen, how do you feel?
“I notice them, but they happen so often that I’m numb to it. Other things happen when I’m alone. I’ve been pumping gas and a white person locks their door after making eye contact with me. When I’m at the gym, I get approached by older white men who want to talk about sports.”
“When we go to smaller towns, I am made more aware that people might judge our relationship. I remember the time we went to a wedding in Wisconsin and a woman across the table from us casually used the n-word as if it were in her daily vocabulary. The rest of the table got really quiet, and then people tried to justify her behavior by saying “That’s just the way she grew up,” and ”Her family uses that word, but she’s not racist.” Later that same night, a man pulled me aside and asked me if I could jump high enough to touch the door.”
What stereotypes do you think are most harmful to Black men?
“The majority of the time, we’re put into this box. We’re expected to all act the same, talk the same, and dress the same. When people see you acting outside of those stereotypes, there has to be a reason. If you have a good job, you must have gotten the job because you’re Black, not because you are smart enough or the most qualified candidate for the job.”
What worries do you have for our bi-racial son?
“I feel like you have to pick a side. Society wants you to be Black or white. I worry that he could struggle with having to fit inside of a category. We can shelter our kids until they start school, then they get around other kids who were taught to view life differently. For me growing up, there were some birthday parties I wasn’t allowed to go to because of my friends’ family’s views. That made me feel really left out. I don’t want that for our son.”
What do you think I need to work on in regards to stereotypes and racism?
“I’ve already seen you step out of your comfort zone and we’ve had a lot of good discussions that we hadn’t had before. I know you’ll continue to learn and teach our son, and I don’t want people’s opinions of that to get in the way because I think you’re doing the right things.”
He’s right. The conversations we’ve been having are so important. We’re going to keep talking, and I’m going to keep learning. I’ll admit, I am far from perfect. We all have prejudice and bias. I’m putting in the work to unlearn mine. I’m thankful for the diversity of my extended family and I’m thankful that my son gets to learn different traditions, eat different foods, and see people of all colors, depending on where we go. Our diversity is a positive for our family.
I’ve started a list of books, blogs, podcasts, and movies to help me on my journey. I added some links below for you to get some ideas. I’d love to hear your recommendations too!