Modern love can be summed up in one quick status update: It’s complicated. In the first of a three-part series Love and Race, we explore the role race plays in relationships.
The following post follows some interracial couples of different races/ethnicities.
Half-black, half-white — how one woman discovered her romantic color-blind spot —By Anna Holmes
You are a girl who looks like the world,” a friend once told me. I knew what she meant: My caramel-colored skin and curly hair, the product of a ’70s-era marriage between a white Midwestern woman and a black Southern man, marked me as the living embodiment of the triumph of love at the time.
Photo:(ENGAGED FOR 7 YEARS Arielle Davis and Ian Julie)
I was raised to be open-minded and curious. And my biracial heritage gave me a vantage point to see the world from different perspectives. But in my late teens and early 20s, this didn’t prevent me from assuming my own racial blind spots, especially when it came to love. Turns out that the girl who “looked like the world” had a very muddled view of it. I didn’t know who I was, or whom to trust.
When darker-skinned men wanted to date me, I assumed it was because they considered me a trophy for my light skin. It reminded me of seeing so many successful and powerful black males — politicians, businessmen, entertainers — who appeared alongside lighter-skinned, sometimes white female companions. Tokenism? It wasn’t for me, so I either outright rejected black men or begrudgingly went on dates with them only to write them off well before the dessert course arrived.
Caucasian men were another problem: I didn’t believe they saw me as a potential romantic partner, given that I knew so few white male/black female couples. And although I socialized and worked with white men, the romantic relationships I entered into with them were brief and unremarkable. I didn’t trust them either, assuming they saw me as a novelty, as a way to sample another culture, or as a stand-in for all black women.
In hindsight, my distrust of men didn’t get me far. I hadn’t yet learned that giving others the benefit of the doubt was an important part of finding love, both from others and within myself. I was ignorant that appearances could be both deceiving and alienating — that my racialization of romance kept me at arm’s length from deeper intimacy. Not trusting that white or black men would see beyond my skin color let me stay apart, aloof, even a little superior. It gave me an excuse to overlook the fact that I had trust issues with all men, that my hesitations and presumptions were less about fears of being rejected and more about my anxieties over really being seen.
Eventually I got over myself. In my mid-30s, I met and married a dark-haired white Australian. He was well-acquainted with interracial relationships — two of his sisters had babies with men of color — and was generally less concerned with appearances than I was. “Look, I’m darker than you!” he once pointed out after I’d tried — and failed — to get a tan while on vacation. It was a joke, but it was also true. I winced a little: The irony was not lost on me.
“NEVER MARRY A MEXICAN“
A Mexican-American recalls her dad’s advice —By Michele Serros
The plan was to not marry a Mexican. Don’t believe me? I have proof: a letter I wrote to “my future daughter” when I was 11 years old. There it is, in proper preteen cursive handwriting:
“When I grow up, I’m going to marry a surfer with blond hair and brown eyes. He’s not going to be a Mexican.”
Photo: (DATING FOR 5 YEARS Kelly Roughan and Reynaldo Torres)
Before u judge me, know that I’m a Mexican-American myself. And that I never rejected my heritage altogether. As a child in Oxnard, California, a coastal town near Malibu, I loved hearing my father recite the works of 19th-century poet Amado Nervo, eating chicharrones (fried pork skins) as an after-school snack, and showing off my limited Spanish slang. But as much as I treasured those memories I felt only a Mexican family could create, my parents — especially my dad — told me that, for my own good, I should look outside of our culture for love.
One day when I was 8 years old, I tagged along with my dad to his job as a janitor at the city airport. Even I could see that he seemed invisible. Although he had worked there for three years, many people didn’t know his name. By comparison, the tall white pilots strolled through the airport with purpose, commanding respect. My father nodded to them and told me, “That is the kind of man you want to marry. A white man.”
My parents’ relationship only underscored that message. For 18 years, I heard them argue about my father’s salary, which wasn’t enough to afford my mom the lifestyle she wanted. Eventually, those fights tore their marriage apart. To avoid my mother’s fate and to live a prosperous life, I knew what to do: not marry a man like my dad.
Throughout my 20s, I followed my parents’ advice, dating only white guys. When I was 30, I fell in love with — and married — a white man who was an aspiring rock star. He wasn’t rich and his career wasn’t exactly father-approved. But my husband embodied excitement and opportunity, and he embraced my culture, learning Spanish.
Ultimately we weren’t compatible, and our marriage ended after two years. With divorce papers in the works, I flew to New York City to emulate Erica Benton, Jill Clayburgh’s character in the 1978 film An Unmarried Woman. Benton rediscovered love after her divorce. Maybe I could, too.
I moved to the predominantly Dominican area of Washington Heights, where meeting my white prince seemed unlikely. The guys who lived in my neighborhood were mostly newcomers to the United States, and as a fourth-generation Californian, I just couldn’t relate. Through my job in publishing, I fell in with a mostly white crowd of creative types. And I spent most nights below 125th Street, in karaoke bars and at poetry readings.
After living in Manhattan for a decade, I had dated casually but hadn’t met anyone who fit my husband model. From talking to my family in California, I knew that my younger female cousins were repeating the same pattern: They wanted so badly to emulate the roles played by Jennifer Lopez in films like Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, and The Wedding Planner — young Latinas who marry wealthy white men. But if I hadn’t achieved that by my late 30s, was there any hope for my cousins?
On a trip to Berkeley, California, in the summer of 2010, a friend treated me to lunch at a vegan Mexican restaurant. As the handsome chef-owner took our order, he said he recognized me from back home. We had both attended Santa Clara High School, and Antonio confessed to having had a crush on me. I blushed as he recalled my teenage persona: a New Wave girl who “only hung out with the skinny white boys.” I didn’t remember him, but now, 25 years later, I was drawn to his lean build and intense eyes. When he asked me to lunch, I didn’t overthink it — my plan was to not marry a Mexican, not avoid having lunch with one.
We spent the remainder of my weeklong trip together, talking late into the night over vegan tikka masala and red wine from Sonoma Valley. Since Antonio had a hectic work schedule, text messages flew back and forth between us when we couldn’t be together.
He was direct: Te quiero, te extraño — I want you, I miss you. And when he touched my nose — a feature I always disliked — and told me he loved it, I knew I was falling for him.
Antonio was turning around my perception of Mexican guys, but I could still hear my father’s voice. At face value, Antonio represented everything I was told would block my success. He was the man who, despite all his accomplishments, embodied an ethnicity that would hold me back in life. And yet, I was a successful writer with a thriving social life and a new co-op apartment. I was struck by a realization: On my own, I had achieved the kind of life my father said only a white man could give me. This revelation freed me to be with the man I loved.
Within a month we told our friends that we wanted to get married. But the last hurdle was introducing him to my dad.
Antonio and I flew home to Oxnard for the big first meeting. On the morning Antonio met my father, he whipped up vegan pozole and tamales. Although an enticing aroma of chile California and corn tortillas enveloped the kitchen, I couldn’t eat, I was so nervous about how my father would react. As they ate, my father was cordial yet reserved. I braced myself as he asked Antonio if he owned his own home and about his college education, and I could tell he was pleasantly surprised by Antonio’s plans to expand his business to New York City. Soon my dad and Antonio were laughing about mutual friends from the old neighborhood. It was then that I finally exhaled. I had made my dad and myself happy at once.
Antonio and I were married this past June. While I no longer write letters to my future daughter, I now share a stepdaughter with Antonio from his previous relationship. And this is what I want her to know:
“Dear step-hija, I did not marry a surfer with blond hair and brown eyes. I married your dad, a Mexican just like us. And the best-laid plans are often the last thing you really need.”
- Stories of Race and Love (sacratomatovillepost.com)
- Love & Race II (kolorblindmag.com)
- Love & Race III (kolorblindmag.com)
- Interracial Marriage among Newlyweds in the U.S. (nortonbooks.typepad.com)
Source Marie Claire: interracial