Things They Never Tell You: 12 Thoughts on Interracial Relationships

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the past few months since I wrote “Things They Never Tell You: 25 Thoughts” I have received a number of requests to write about what it is like to be in a interracial marriage, so I compiled a short list.

One

When you dare to hold hands. Outside. In public. Fingers sweat soaked and tangling, feet stumbling over gum crusted, crackling sidewalk, strangers will stop and stare. Eyes watching you as your hands suddenly find lint-crusted pockets, a corner of a sleeve, a phone, anything but another hand. He won’t say anything when you suddenly walk, just a little slower. Too far away to be together. Too close to be a total stranger. He will just, wait for you at the light. You will just keep your eyes down. Until, you can be alone again.

Two

When the Police come, and he is driving you will wonder if he knows the rules.
Wonder if he can hear your heart beating out of its skin. 
Wonder why he tells you “it will be okay.”
Wonder why his hand is already moving to pat your leg.
Wonder why he isn’t stock still.

Wonder why he isn’t heartbeat and sweat and panic.
Wonder why he is reaching for the insurance and his wallet before the police even come to the door. 

The police can see him moving from their vehicle. The police can see him moving – white lion, white body, white skin and blonde hair and blue eyes and innocent over you, black body and black hair and your black,black,black.

And, you wonder if he knows that he will be okay. That he will come out of this alive. That he will come out of this still in one piece. That he will come out of this with just a warning. That he will come out of this okay.

When the police come and they stand on your side and they ask you for your license and they look at him and ask him about you. 

You will wonder if he notices.

You were not the one driving. You are just passenger. But you are still under suspicion. Still investigatable. Still black in car with white man. 

You will wonder if the words, “she’s my wife,” saves you or condemns you.

You will wonder if you should thank White Jesus or Black Jesus that today you are still breathing and alive and one piece.

When the police come and give a warning, and he shifts car back into life and speed and body, you will breathe and he will ask you if you are okay. You will just nod your head. And breathe “okay” like a prayer as you look out the window and cry. Okay.

Three

Cute babies. You will make such cute babies someday, a stranger announces. Cute babies. As if your relational diversity was made solely for procreation. You will wonder who is the stranger with your voice that nods back and says, “thank you.”

Four

Hope for the future was not Obama.

Hope for the future is walking together.

Hope for the future is walking and holding hands together.

Hope for the future is walking and holding hands together to the end of the block.

Some days, there will only be hope for a half a block.

Some days, the block doesn’t even have a chance.

Some days, you march the whole damn block back and forth, hands gripped so tightly your fingers turn American flag –red, white and blue, your body turns soldier, your voice turns freedom.

This block don’t own you, today.  

Five

*When your friends wonder, without always saying it, if you feel like he is colonizing your body, fetishizing your skin, exerting his imperialism in every “let me show to my friends,”
“babe, I love you,” “let me do your hair,” “let me kiss you here,”
you too will start to wonder it.

You will start to ask the questions. You will start to ask if white people and black people can really be just people, together, only to have him rub cocoa butter on your feet and ask for nothing in return.

When he says, “damn, you are so beautiful,” you will hear the word enough slipped in like a song, you will feel enough when he tells you to wear your hair natural, you will feel enough, enough, enough.

***Loosely quoted from, “The Troubles of Interracial Dating” by Taylor Seaburg***

Six

Every family has a Becky. If you haven’t met her yet…you will.

Seven

“Are you two together?”

Eight

When it’s time to have the conversation. Again. For the onetwothreefourfivesixseventh time.

Breathe.

While he is sitting there, wondering what is wrong while wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, remind yourself of your truth.

Remind yourself of your commitment to intentional, sustainable, relationship.

Remind yourself that your voice matters.

Remind yourself that choosing to ignore it will just lead to resentment.

Remind yourself that you will survive.

Remind yourself.

And breathe.

Nine

It is not always your job to educate.

It is not always your job to educate.

It is not always your job to educate.

Ten

Sometimes, after that family dinner, after that ‘is this little racial experience over yet,’ after that ‘I love Trump’ tirade, after that, ‘please-excuse-them’ eyes, after that white silence/white silence/white silence, you will wonder if this is what you signed up for.

You will wonder if this is what it means to be accepted, to be integrated, to be happily colorblind in order to sacrifice your actual safety for white comfort.

You will wonder if this is what it means to love a white person – Jesus prayers and potluck with a sprinkle of racism.

Eleven

When you toss around baby names. Be sure to toss around ‘strong’ names. Something like John or Charles or Steven. Something like Matthew or Mark or Jason. Something like Elizabeth or Annie. Something white. Something innocent and culturally ambiguous. Something easy to pronounce. Something alive.

Twelve

When he catches you reading the news. Your face betraying your grief, your lips committing new names to your memory: Trayvon; Sandra; Walter; Erica; you will wait for his touch.

You will wait for his words.

You will wait for his white, white, white, to clean the black.

Instead, he will surprise you.: let yourself be surprised!

When he sits down next to you, hands folded in his lap, eyes, shimmering, lips moving as he whispers: “I love you.” “You are enough.” You will hold onto him, feeling your breaths together as you breathe in silence – together, and enough.

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