Navigating Racial Tension as an Interracial Couple in America
The year 2015 marked a point in modern history when racial tension reached a new height. The Paris attacks and ISIS beheadings turned public opinion against Muslims as more Syrians flooded into Europe to escape war. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement took root and spread across America like wildfire – feeding racial tension between Whites and Blacks everywhere.
The year 2015 also marked a major point in my personal history; because it was the year I got married. My husband is of Irish American descent, and I am a Jamaican immigrant of mixed ancestry, primarily Black. In short, we joined the two racial sides at each other’s throats on American soil.
A lot of people wonder about the racial tension within an interracial marriage. The truth is, for many people it’s an uphill battle. Often times, one or both sides of the family refuse to accept the union, and the couple must move on together, or end the relationship. I ended one such relationship in my early 20s, after dealing with a mother-in-law in Jamaica who could not accept her son’s preference.
My husband and I have been mostly fortunate where this is concerned. I have yet to encounter racism from his side of the family; and already accustomed to my preference for Caucasian men, my family accepted him into the fold as they would anyone else.
When we walk through the park together or sit down to dinner at a nice restaurant, no one notices. Why should they? We live in Atlanta, where racial diversity and interracial coupling is normal.
Yet, we are not immune to the racial tension in America. Almost every day some new racial controversy hits the media, whether it comes from celebrities, politicians, or another YouTube video of a Black teen fatally shot to death by police officers. Then the racial debate begins amongst our friends and families all over again, and we find ourselves dragged into it.
My husband hates talking about race. He rightly believes that race is inconsequential; and just as men and women cannot be judged on account of their sex, people should not be judged on account of the color of their skin. Every time a new incident surfaces or some new discussion of race hits the media, he takes a deep breath, and quickly backtracks out of the conversation. Often times I do the same. We’ve heard it all before; and there’s hardly ever anything new being brought to the discussion.
Yet sometimes his refusal to address racial issues bothers me. Of course, race should be inconsequential, but the truth is it isn’t. People forget that just as Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber do not represent typical White American lifestyles and ideologies; Tyler Perry movies and rap videos do not represent all Blacks in America, either.
Every time the topic of children comes up, I cast a worried look in my husband’s direction. I worry because I think sometimes he forgets that in spite of his European ancestry, his children will be “Black” too. The racial bias that minorities suffer on account of the tension in America – his children may suffer those too.
When they are called hurtful names at school, or teased on account of their mixed heritage as I was, how will he react? Will he be able to relate to his children as a man who, whether he realizes it or not, sees most of the world through the rose-colored glasses of a northern boy’s middle-class White privilege? They may end up with his hazel eyes and even my reddish brown hair, but when people look at them, they will be labelled Black children, Black teens, Black men and women in America.
What kind of world will we leave behind for our children to grow up in tomorrow if our way of handling the issue today is to ignore it? I do agree that many of the allegations are blown way out of proportion. I have experienced racism only once in the seventeen years I have been coming to America.
But I also believe that I cannot use my singular experience to discredit what other minorities experience in the country now, and what my children may experience in the future if the situation does not improve. My husband has been an amazing partner to this Caribbean woman. But still, perhaps unfairly, I sometimes wonder about how he will handle being a father to our future African American children.