10 Things You Should Know Before Dating Interracially
Things to Think About in Interracial Relationships
Interracial dating. Holy shit, we're going there. Yeah buddy! If you haven't stalked my Facebook page yet and been introduced to my boyfriend, Kevin, you're going to meet him today. He and I met at a bar, where he tried to buy me a drink. I responded by saying, “I can buy my own fucking drink”. Because it's 2018 and I am woman, hear me roar. *pounds chest* For some crazy reason, he stuck around… and here we are. :)
Notes before we get started:
I apologize in advance if this post is messy. I put my thoughts, he put his, and I mashed them together. It may be somewhat difficult to follow at times. You'll see my writing in black and his in red.
These points are based on our personal experiences – coming from a white woman and a black man. Just like my dating with autism experience, your mileage will vary. Individual experiences will vary, and if you flip it to a black woman dating a white man it's going to be different, too. The way you're treated by society when you're in an interracial relationship largely depends on where you live as well. Either way, interracial dating and marriage are on the rise. :)
I have been told that, as a white woman, I shouldn't be speaking about race. But I've also been told I shouldn't be dating outside of my race, yet here we are. If you agree with either of those statements, this article isn't one you should waste your time reading. I'm speaking from my experiences and he's speaking from his. At the end of the day, it's truly about who you connect with as a person, regardless of the color of your skin.
If you’re here to pick apart every little thing either of us has said, please don’t waste your time reading. If you’re here to learn about our experiences and possibly get some insight on what to expect if you’re in an interracial relationship, pull up a chair, grab a coffee, and let’s get started.
Things You Should Know Before Dating Interracially
We all know interracial dating is a touchy subject, to say the least. I have wanted to speak out several times in my life about the dangers, the attitudes, the issues (negative and positive) to dating outside of my race. We're writing this post now in hopes of helping those who are interracial relationships or thinking about dating outside of their race. These are our opinions, based on our personal experiences and conversations we've had with each other (and other interracial couples).
How do you know when to shut up or when to speak up when you are discriminated against or when someone says something that is racially biased? I will attempt to address these issues and a few more. If you as a reader have any questions of me or my beautiful girlfriend please feel free to ask we will do our best to answer your questions from our point of view. I hope if you are in this type of relationship these points will help you understand your partner better and strengthen your relationship and your resolve to be in the relationship.
You're going to be uncomfortable.
Even if you're head over heels in love, sometimes things are going to get uncomfortable when you're dating interracially – mostly regarding how society (and your friends and family) act towards you as a couple. Whether it's your family making racist comments, your partner's family not accepting you, or you're having yet another discussion about race, things aren't always going to be easy. Dating interracially is going to take you outside your comfort zone in many ways, and you have to be prepared to handle it without it having a negative effect on your relationship. I have talked to several women who say a major factor in their past interracial relationships failing was outside negativity. I feel like this happens a lot no matter who you are dating, IF you let it.
Some issues with interracial dating are the attitudes and fallout from families that can occur. The negative attention can put an enormous strain on any relationship. The negativity is irrelevant if you are truly in love and with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Remember it is going to be uncomfortable and there are going to be some stressful times that are not inherent to same race relationships. You love this person and they love you back. It's okay to be uncomfortable. Also realize it is okay to ask questions and it is important to listen to the answer. You want to show that you do have an interest in their viewpoints and how they feel in certain situations.
You're going to have to check your friends, and your family, and yes, even yourself.
Someone close to me said “Sapphire is my little black baby” – right in front of Kevin – and I was horrified. I assume what she “meant” was that Saff always has black baby dolls instead of white ones, I guess? Or maybe because she was giving speeches about Rosa Parks since she could talk. Maybe that's it? I'm not sure. I was dumbfounded when she said it. I didn't know how to respond.
Several friends have said “ohmygosh you guys would make such cute babies!”. There are many reasons it's not okay to say things like “black babies are so cute!” but I won't address that here. When those comments are made… what do I say? What do I do? Should I tell them how ignorant their comments are? Do I wait for him to say something? Do I ignore it so it doesn't get weird? WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?
So I didn’t know why she said “Saff is my black baby”. It was a very weird and uncomfortable comment. You are in a relationship and you have to stand up to your family and friends
if when they make comments. If you don’t say anything at all, it is just the same as if you agree with them. Make a stand and make it immediately. Do not let any comments slide.
This goes for both sides of the relationship and even when you are not together and the comments are made you should stand up for your significant other. If you choose to only do this sometimes then your relationship is doomed because at some point someone is going to slip and say something while you and your significant other are together. When go to correct them they will throw you under the bus. They will say something like you were just laughing with us the other day what is so different now?
If you are serious about this relationship it has to be serious around your family and friends. You let them slip one time and that is all it will take for the door to be opened and the racial comments, slurs, etc. to start flowing. They will think it is okay and that the other person has given them a “pass” to act as such. Keep in mind you are planning a future with this person and you want them tho know that you are here for them and not just playing at this relationship.
Checking yourself is a little more difficult.
I've said things in the past that are ignorant and/or racially insensitive. We are all going to make mistakes. The main thing is that we need to learn and grow from them. Admitting you were wrong (instead of getting defensive) is your first step. Then, apologize and make it a point to be more thoughtful with your statements in the future. You are going to say racist things – own up to them.
This happens more often than you think. Both Sadie and I have made insensitive remarks about the other's race. It is something that both of you have to be aware of, work at not doing, and most of all apologize for. If you blow this off and don’t say anything basically letting what they said slide you will have to endure more of the same. If you say something, be nice about it. They may not know the remark was insensitive to you. Give them a chance to apologize and fix the issue. We are by no means perfect but we are working to be perfect for each other.
Another thing on the same topic, talk to your partner about how they'd like you to respond when these comments come up (because they will – frequently). Earlier on in our relationship, we were at a coffee shop when a random stranger said something about Kevin's shirt (it was a shirt that said “erase racism”). It was a compliment, but of course it couldn't just be left at that – the guy circled back around and started ranting about how the media is responsible for racism. Kevin just nodded, and listened to the guy. After the guy left, I was so pissed that Kevin didn't say anything to him! I wanted to shout from the rooftops about how there are racists all over the damn place even without the media involved. How racism started a long fucking time ago before the “crooked media” was on every TV. I had a million things I wanted to say and I just could not wrap my mind around WHY he wouldn't have said something.
After I calmed down and breathed a bit, he explained that basically – now I'm paraphrasing here – it's exhausting to respond to every ignorant comment and as a person of color especially, you have to choose your battles. Our conversation lasted a while and that's when I learned to listen rather than speak – I had literally gone off on him about something I clearly knew nothing about. Then, I asked him what he would like me to say
if when it happens again. Thinking beyond my initial reaction and thought and asking him for his input didn't come naturally – I'm selfish by nature and damn sure don't need a man telling me how to react to a situation – but it has helped ease my anxiety a lot because confrontations like that happen on a regular basis and I need to know how to respond to them. You are not your partner's spokesperson, but you can use your voice to correct situations when necessary. Finding the balance between using your voice to speak up, and overstepping and playing the “avenger” is something you have to work on individually and as a couple.
I read a really good article by @bisialimi on Medium recently:
The essence of white guilt makes many progressive and white liberals assume that they have the answer to racism and in the process, they devalue the people that actually have the struggle, people who are used to and well equipped to deal with it and respond to it. Even when white people speaking up is done with good intention, the reality is, if white people feel they need to speak for us so we can get heard, they deny us of our agency… No matter how woke you are, no matter how much black culture history you know, no matter how cool you can rap, shut up and speak only and if you are asked to… When you are in white-only environments, separate from your interracial relationship, and you observe or hear racism, challenge it. Don’t challenge it for your partner, but challenge it because it’s wrong.
How do you know when to shut up or when to speak up when you are discriminated against or when someone says something that is racially biased? Great question.
I have been told many times throughout my life that I don’t “act black” or I don’t “sound black” or I am “not black enough”, mostly by black people. I am still a black man living in white America doing the best I can to survive. (sounds like song lyrics) I have to think before I react to police, to a man in the bar, to an idiot in a coffee shop who thinks he is giving me a compliment but then follows it up with how racist the media is. I have to think first is this a battle I need to take on at this moment? What are the possible outcomes?
In the bigger scheme of things is it that important to voice my opinion this time? Depending on where I am an my surrounding getting into an argument about race can be deadly, not only for me but for my girlfriend as well as others around me who take my side. I literally have to think of all of these things every time I decide whether to stand up to some idiot who runs off at the mouth about racism or says a racist comment.
Now that being said, there are times when I will stand up and be heard. Those times usually tend to be when I believe what I have to say will have the most impact. Throughout my life, I have grown weary of taking on these skirmishes and having it thrown back into my face like that is what black boys act like, or that is what those heathens are like. I do not want to act like the typical portrayal of a distraught black man. See any local media for that portrayal. That being said, being angry and standing up for what you believe to be an injustice is admirable and will get you killed. Ask MLK. Malcolm X. Or any other prominent black leader who decided enough was enough and then had a voice and a following.
You're going to have to check your privilege. A lot.
Yes, this is similar to what I just said above, but Christ. This is a tough one for me to address. I grew up trailer trash, then lived in the city for a while – two separate worlds but I was the same poor white girl. I never felt privileged, ever. I struggled so much, how could I be privileged?! I was poor, born to parents who were drunks, and then I ended up homeless with two kids and one on the way. My life has never ever been easy. So when I was first told that I was privileged just because I was white, I was super defensive. I couldn't believe someone could call ME, of all people, privileged. I'd like to say that was my wake-up call, but it wasn't. I didn't realize the true meaning of white privilege until years after it was first thrown in my face.
Even after I realized what white privilege was, I still didn't have to address it. I was married to a (white) woman at the time and nobody checked me on my privilege. Being in a same sex relationship came with its own set of issues.
I remember a conversation Kevin and I had early on in our relationship. I was talking about how I got pulled over on the way to Arizona, in Oklahoma. I said the cop was a total dick but I didn't get a ticket. He said, “Yeah, that's because you're white”.
I scoffed and dismissed his comment, but then later I was thinking about it and realized he was probably right. I was doing 80 on the highway, slowed down and did a U-Turn where it said no U-Turn, and got mouthy with the cop. Would a black man have been let off with a warning? We all know the answer to that question, unfortunately. My point is, many times we experience privilege because of our whiteness and we don't even realize it – that's a part of our privilege, in my opinion. It's not like you can change your whiteness, but you can be more aware and you can use your voice to speak up when you see injustices taking place.
As a black man, I don’t have privilege of any kind. Sadie and I grew up in similar situations, we actually have family from the same town in the same state. We did not meet there, by the way. We have had similar life experiences and we enjoy learning about each other. She is still coming to terms (I think) with the idea that she has white privilege. She does understand what it is and that it is a “thing”. She and I have discussed this topic briefly and she knows that and I encourage her to speak up when she sees injustice taking place.
An example would be the coffee house incident. If I had said something to the man I would have either proven his point about his idea of black men (by being upset or irate because he had the audacity to blame racism on the media), or we would have had an argument that I could not have won even if all I did was state facts. Switch the script a bit and Sadie says something. Welcome to using white privilege in a way that may actually help.
There are different views on letting a white person speak for a black person but in my opinion, the situation dictates the necessity. Had Sadie spoken to the man even if she had gotten loud and irate, the message would have been received differently. He may have listened to what she had to say or more than likely he would have been dismissive to her. Either way his reaction to her saying the exact same thing would have been totally different. That's part of her white privilege.
You have to see color.
This goes along with the white privilege topic, but saying you “don't see color” is naive. In fact, when a white friend tells me they don't see color, I call them on their bullshit immediately. Why do you feel the need to say you don't “see color” when obviously that is untrue? Are you trying to say you don't treat people differently based on the color of their skin? Then say that. Don't try to “prove” you aren't racist by saying you don't see color, or, heaven forbid you “have a black friend”. Just don't.
Starr from The Hate U Give summed it up nicely when she said being “color blind” is bullshit. In the movie, Chris tries to assure Starr that he doesn’t see her any differently because she is black. “I don’t see color,” he says. “If you don’t see color, then you don’t see me,” Starr responds. That statement hit me hard, mostly because when my white friends say they “don't see color”, I know they're full of shit. It's OKAY to see color. It's NORMAL to see color. What's not okay is treating someone differently because of the color of their skin.
We all see color! I do, you do, we all do. I love the differences and the contrasts of color. When you are speaking about race issues you still see color. You can either choose to embrace the many differences or shun them, it's your choice. The problem arises when you treat someone differently because they have a different skin color than you. Watch Volcano the movie with Tommy Lee Jones in it. Towards the end, he is holding a boy who makes a profound exclamation. He says “look, they all look alike!” – ashen gray in this case. We are all the same on the inside; we all bleed red. We all hurt, love, and feel regardless of the color of our skin.
Realize you're not black.
You're not black or black by association, you don't get a “pass” to say racist shit or tell “black jokes”. You aren't the “go to” person when it comes to culture and race just because you're dating a person of color (article). If someone asks you a question about race, encourage them to dive deeper – don't just ask the white girl that's dating a black guy because, chances are, she's just as clueless as you are. You have to put an effort in to learn about a subject (like race, culture, racism, etc), you don't automatically learn because you're dating someone.
Sadie hit the nail on the head with this one. If you are dating outside of your race, it doesn’t make you a subject matter expert on their culture or their racial issues. The best you can do is tell your story from your point of view like we have tried to do here. I am not white, I don’t get to take advantage of white privilege. I will still get treated like a black male. You have to realize that in this relationship you are still who you are. You don’t magically change into a hybrid of yourself with the ability to understand what the other person’s life experiences are. You do get to share your life with them and they get to share theirs with you also.
You're going to catch attitude.
Whether it's from white men or black women, or your racist waitress, you're going to have some outspoken folks not so happy that you're a white woman in a relationship with a black man. Skepticism towards black men/white women relationships is a longstanding and well-documented part of our cultural fabric in America.
When I first started dating outside of my race, I was still a teenager. I knew my family didn't approve because they had been vocal about it. I knew most of my friends wouldn't “get” it. But what I really wasn't prepared for was the backlash that I received from black women specifically. It made me feel defensive when I was constantly getting comments and dirty looks because of who I was with. It wasn't until I started dating Kevin that I actually stopped being defensive and thought about the why behind the hurt and/or bitterness that came my way. I've read a lot of articles, watched and listened to several interviews, and honestly will still never get it completely because, well, I'm the white girl. But I do strive to understand the motivation behind such hostility for strangers who are in love.
Attitudes. So many attitudes. From utter disgust that I'm with a white woman, to “oh look, she has some arm candy”, the attitudes are always going to be there – yes, from complete strangers.
I should never have to explain why I am with who I am with. You should not be hurt because I decided to choose this woman or that woman. You should be happy that I as a man found happiness. You should be looking to find happiness in your life as well. I hope everyone finds the incredible happiness and the incredible relationship I have with Sadie.
You're not “not a racist” just because you're dating a person of color.
Remember what I said about being uncomfortable earlier? Read this: Dear White Women: Interracial Relationships and Biracial Children Do Not Absolve You of Racism. It's gonna sting.
“There are many people who use their interracial relationships, both past and present, to prove that they can’t be racist. News flash: Sex with a black man doesn’t earn you a get-out-of-racism-free card.” Ouch. If you felt that one, it's with good reason: you aren't not a racist just because you're dating a person of color. Period. It's like saying you “have a black friend” – replace “friend” with “boyfriend” and the comment you said before that statement was just as racist… because who says that shit, besides racists?
Let’s get gritty now. Just because I am dating a white woman doesn’t mean I am not or couldn’t be racist towards (gasp) white people. Just because Sadie is dating me doesn’t mean she isn't a racist. Racism is a state of mind; it is the way you act, feel, and portray yourself to others about a certain race. You can’t prove that you are not a racist because you have a “black friend” or a “white friend”. Your actions, your thought processes, your beliefs these are what make you a racist or not. Just because you dated that white girl once or had sex with that Asian guy doesn’t meant that you love or understand them and their culture.
I have a shirt that says ERACISM (yes, the shirt we mention in the coffee shop story!)- n. The removal from existence the belief that one race is superior to another. I truly believe that we should work towards the absolute removal of racism.
Communication is a must.
Just like with any relationship, communication is key. You may say something regarding race or culture that's insensitive or ignorant – or your partner might. Being able to be open and honest about these things is a critical piece of keeping any relationship strong.
When you discuss race with your partner, shut up and listen. I can't say it enough: shut. up. and. listen. You may have a million thoughts running around in your head, and you want to spit them all out – but don't. JUST. LISTEN. And learn.
When it comes to dating anyone regardless of race, communication is one of the keys to it being successful. In an interracial relationship, it is paramount. Sadie and I have communicated on one level or another since the beginning. It is hard, very hard to be as open as we have with each other. It has made us very close very fast.
Talk to each other so you can discover what the other person thinks and how they act in certain situations and why they chose to act or react that way. This clears the air so when you are in that situation (it will happen, see Sadie’s part about the coffee shop) you know what to or not to do. You know what is acceptable to your partner. It isn’t about telling them how to act, but just informing them as to why you will act or react a certain way. I encourage Sadie to stand up and say something when she feels she or I have been wronged, but I also cautioned her to some of the repercussions of doing that.
I will stand up with her every time she deems it necessary to do so. I know when I decide to make a scene or stand up for her or for myself she will be at my side also. Notice I didn’t say we would stand behind one another or that I have her back, we stand as equals beside each other. I think this is important to realize also. Your mate is your equal and together you face the world. I don’t need Sadie to speak for me, nor do I speak for her; we speak together, like this post. We face the world as two voices from two different backgrounds making this thing called life fun and enjoyable for us and those around us.
Love is love.
I've spoken about same-sex relationships before and this is no different in the fact that love is love. I don't love Kevin because he is black any more than he loves me because I am white.
If you are in a relationship like this and you want to know more we are here to help answer questions as best we can. Just leave a comment! We can only let you know what works and what doesn’t work for us. We are not counselors or experts, just two people living and loving each other the best we know how.
P.S. For the love of all the things, when you’re invited to the cookout, don’t put raisins in your potato salad.