As always, when I speak, or write, I try not to make rash generalizations. The world is full of variety, different people, different viewpoints, and I’m not here to critique the bulk of that world. Well, not in so many words. What I can share with you in the following blog is my experiences, things that I have noticed in my travels and ways in which I have been treated.
More precisely, I can tell you how both my wife and I have been treated, as this topic is as much about her as it is about me.
Interracial relationships, more specifically marriages, are not exactly common. You may think that they are fairly prevalent, but really take a look at your surroundings. Despite a decline in public displays of affection, which is another issue entirely, how often do you see a romantic couple, divergent in race, anywhere outside of Google? How often is it that you see anything other than monochromatic couples out there? This does not suggest that there is anything inherently wrong with dating/marrying inside one’s race or races; the problem comes from judging and expecting from others what has been accepted as an established norm.
That is to say, when I mention my wife to a stranger, it is safe to assume that they form an expectation in their minds. A great many times have I introduced my wife to strangers where I notice that small opening of their eyes, that subtle fluttering of the eyelids that suggests, “Well this is not what I was expecting.”
Truthfully, this can be passed off perhaps a measure of my own anxiety in the matter. Never once have I worried that people would think ill of my marriage or my choice in a mate. I couldn’t care less about their feelings in that regard; they have no ability to cast doubt in my mind over my choice. What does give me pause is whether or not the person standing across from me will delegitimize my marriage. That is a power that they do have.
Another example that I notice several times a week comes when we receive the check at restaurants. The question always erupts: “Will these be separate checks?” In a college town, this might be the norm. However, in moving across the country, in living back home in a primarily white area, the same was always true. I don’t remember a time where I have not had to answer that question. Nowadays, I just show the ring on my left hand as an answer and smile. This would not bother me roundly, were it not for a time that we dined with a pair of friends from undergrad. At the start of our meal, the waiter stared straight at my (then) fiancee and asked the question. Our friends, who were in fact dating, were not addressed in the same manner. They are both white.
Even now, I have to reel myself in. Our marriage is in a vast minority. If I count myself as a white man, our marriage constitutes 0.00278% of marriages (in 2010) in the United States. If I count myself as native (the only category close to that is “other), our marriage constitutes 0.000298% of marriages. That’s miniscule. Do I allot for such a minority in our marriage to justify the “Oh reallys” that we receive when we announce our marriage? I say no. Such a stance would delegitimize our marriage even further. Concessions on my part allow for ignorance on theirs, and, I believe, ignorance is not an excuse for betraying expectations.
I am in the unique position to educate people. The marriage I am a part of is unique, and I’m proud of that. I try to use these instances of ignorance (even if they be small) to stand proud and make an example of my life. I legitimize my marriage so that others cannot delegitimize it.
I recently read an article in which a woman, coincidentally in the exact same pairing as my wife and I, wrote of the plight black women face when black men date outside of their race. It frustrated me that interracial relationships and marriages, even from someone who took part in them herself, could be delegitimized,vastly on the assumptions she made with seemingly little research. I wish to combat this closed-mindedness. I am not stealing my wife’s agency, nor am I belittling or devaluing her as a woman or a black woman by tying myself to her for my life. The desegregation of marriage and of the views on marriage are intertwined, and such hypocrisy on either side of the perceived racial spectrum cannot be tolerated, no matter how contradictory your views and actions are.