In August 2014 I met a pretty cool guy online. We went out on a date, had a great time, and promptly fell out of contact for some reason. Fast forward to July 2016 and that guy randomly contacts me and we go out again. Since then I have seen this guy at least twice a week, we've gone on a vacation together, and am crazy about him. Oh and did I mention I'm black and he is white?
In a time when race relations are getting more stressful by the day, interracial dating, especially between blacks and whites, can put a person on edge, to say the least. It gets worse when you are a very vocal liberal, described as an "angry hippy" and have no problem calling out the problematic behavior of white people.
Even before #BlackLivesMatter came on the scene in2012 in the wake of Trayvon Martin's murder, interracial dating was a minefield. There were accusations of "race betrayal" and invasive questions about sex. But now with black lives so often being sacrificed for white fear, there is an added layer of pressure.
Now every relationship is unique and come with their own set of issues, but some of the things that have been bumps in the road for us are somewhat universal to interracial dating. Like the reason I even thought to write this article is the fear and discomfort I experience every time we go out together.
That is not to say my boyfriend has done anything to make me uncomfortable. Our relationship is strong. It is the outside world that scares me. The looks I have seen from both black and white strangers. The past experiences I have had of people assuming that a black woman with a white man thinks she is "trading up." The judgement and scrutiny that we are placed under that same race couples don't generally have to deal with.
Sadly, it isn't always strangers that look at you strange. Because of the crushes I had growing up and the friends I gathered around be during and post college, my family have always lovingly joked that they would not be surprised if I married a white man. Though I have dated guys of various races, this is the first time I've seriously dated a white guy. This lead to worry from my mother about if he was interested in me or interested in my race. She knew there was genuine like on my part, but before she met him, she did ask me if I was sure he wasn't just trying to cross being with a black girl off his list.
It isn't only my parents that may cause strain to our relationship. Like many Southern whites, his parents are pro-Trump and anti-illegal immigrants, which sometimes can translate to racist thought processes. There is a fear in many white Americans that brown people may somehow come for their jobs, even if their job is something that requires background checks illegal immigrants would not be able to pass or even a job that the white person may deem "below" them.
Luckily, not everything in our relationship has been trying. I was lucky enough to find a very woke guy to date. While he is not the most PC person, this works for us because it leads to very frank discussions on race and society. This is probably one of the things that keeps our relationship so strong. While communication is important in any relationship, it takes on a whole new level when the need to acknowledge race comes up. And race must be acknowledged. But the benefit of needing and wanting to have these conversations with each other creates a deeper understanding of opposing perspectives. We've each learned things about our respective race's history and why we react to societal issues in certain ways, from the historical reason many blacks don't know how to swim to the treatment of Irish immigrants in the early 20th-century.
I am sure any fears that I have about the outside world invading our peace will be soothed by the constant open discussion of everything that is happening beyond our control. Active engagement in reaching for the equality of races with both partners and making an effort to honor each other's experiences and thoughts are some of the most important parts of making not just an interracial, but any, relationship work.