Have you ever had that feeling when all eyes are on you whether it’s because of something you’re wearing or the way your hair looks? Have you ever felt like you were the main attraction in a showroom? I have. I am a white female and my boyfriend is a half black male. Many people would assume that seeing an interracial couple these days is no big deal. Most think “oh its 2018, a new millennium that’s not even an issue.” For most places like LA, New York, or other main cities full of celebrities who are mixed couples, that may be the case, but when you live in more rural small towns it’s not. Believe it or not, in my lovely little town we have a lot of “old school thinkers”, I myself, would probably call it “small minded” or a bigot way of thinking.
I have been in a relationship for 2 years, my boyfriend is half black, 6’6, has dreads and is half black. No that was not a mis-type I said half black twice, that’s because before anyone gets to know him, that’s how they begin to judge him…it’s all they see. He is also, kind, gentle, and has more love and positivity within his heart than anyone I have ever met before. Yet that is not what people are going to see, they see a tall black male, they see what could be a “dangerous man”, “black man”, they only see what they want to see.
When I first started dating my boyfriend prior to him physically meeting anyone in my family or friends I would always start with “my black boyfriend” or “my mans (mans is his nickname) is black” my intentions were to get rid of the elephant in the room, before anyone else could expose it. My aunt once asked me, why it mattered. Why was I introducing him in that way? I explained to her that when you go to the grocery store and all eyes are on you, you do what you can to get rid of the shock factor and let everyone get out all of the comments that are going to be negative or sarcastic before you bring that person around. I thought I was protecting him. Looking back, I think I was protecting myself.
Now I am not saying every single person in the room does this, but many people are guilty of stopping whatever it is they are doing and staring at the towns interracial couple. One thing I have never been good at is tuning out what others have to say about me. I struggle with opinions of others. Anyone thats close to me or even complete strangers, I have never been the type to ignore other people’s comments, looks or negativity. Common sense would be to ignore right? But what if you can’t, what if the strengths of the whispers are too strong? What if it is too much for one person to drown out?
Imagine you walk into the town brewery with your boyfriend and his friend, who are both black. You’re heading towards the doors and you can hear the laughter, chit chat, and the music from the other side of the street. Just as the three of you walk in, all noise besides the radio seize, and next thing you know you hear drinks hit the table, you look up to see all eyes on you and your company. It lasts for about 15 seconds then the whispers and quiet talk begins. Listening to the drunk conversations of the people who think the radio is drowning out their chatter and whispers, when it isn’t. “who brought the brothers”, “they must be making an Oreo tonight”, there was a lot more derogatory comments to add but you get the picture. It was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. I had never seen such dense ignorance in one room. I felt disgusted, sad, and disappointed in the people around me who are supposed to be my “community” and my home town.
Throughout the last 2 years I have heard every remark, been asked every question and been stared at from afar too many times to count. Even those close to me have had a mouthful to say. I once showed a picture of my boyfriend to a friend, in which her reaction was “oh your man is black, look at you being so progressive”, which wasn’t necessarily an insult, but I must ask, would it have been said if I was dating someone of my color? Somebody who wasn’t physically so different. I have been asked, “so you don’t care that your children won’t look like you?”, “how does his family feel about you being white?” all of which are ignorant and only being said because we are colored differently.
I have had to learn to deal with what makes my relationship so intriguing to others, making them feel as if they are entitled to ask questions that wouldn’t be asked if I was dating someone of the same race. It is a rare thing to see a black and white couple in our town, it’s not common, and things that are not common tend to stand out more then others. I am not saying I don’t understand where it comes from; the questions, the jokes, the comments, but how I let them affect me is my choice.
I have the choice to let it bother or be more then what people say or think. I have learned to shut out other opinions. It was a lot easier once I was able to see past the color for myself. Crazy to think even I once had the same thoughts seeing mixed couples. Yes, I am guilty of it, but my mom used to say to me, “You will never know what it’s like, until it is you who everyone is talking about”.
After about 6 months into my relationship, mans sat me down in our room to have a conversation about the way I had been introducing him to others around us.
“Are you ashamed or bothered that people may not accept us”
“No, I just don’t want them to say the rude comments in front of you.”
“Why not, I am black, I have been this way my whole life, you don’t think I know what everyone says, or is going to say”
“No, but I am not good at blocking others out. You know this about me.”
“Babe you don’t have to be good at it, that’s what I am here for. You don’t have to protect yourself anymore, that’s my job. You no longer need to have your wall up. You don’t need to feel like you’re alone in this. I will always have your back.”
He was right, I didn’t have to feel like a showroom attraction. We had each other. I didn’t have to get the jump on everyone, because they aren’t what mattered in my relationship.
That conversation changed everything. From that moment on I stopped telling people “my boyfriend is black” or “yes, I am dating someone, he is black” because that’s not who he is, it’s just a feature. He is my rock, my best friend, and a genuine person. I have learned to describe him as who he is not what he looks like. Now I tell people, “my boyfriend is so amazing, I can’t wait for you to meet mans (his nickname), he is the life of the party. You’re going to love him, he is such a sweet heart” because that describes who he is not what he looks like. I don’t care if people are thrown for a loop when they see that he is black, because after 5 minutes with him you won’t see color either.
I hadn’t realized before that I had been one of these “small minded” or bigot thinkers. I mean in no way am I trying to call these people or myself racist, but small minded would be the best way to describe it. Before my relationship I would say ignorant comments, make stupid jokes and I would have no remorse, I just thought I was being funny. I hadn’t realized how hurtful any of it could truly be. When you grow up in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, everyone’s thoughts are similar and, so you become like everybody else, you think like everyone else. Being in a current mind set of love has no color, no gender, no boundaries has not only taught me how to love everyone, but myself as well.
If I could go back and chose to not hear the comments other have said, or to not have heard the derogatory jokes, I wouldn’t change any of it. Those thoughts and opinions of others has helped shaped me into a better, more loving and caring woman. I have become stronger, and more selfless. I wouldn’t have been able to change that part of myself without experiencing what I have. Overall being in this relationship has made me a better person, and isn’t that the point of a relationship, to learn, grow and experience life through someone else’s perspective?