‘Waking Up’ to Racism in My Interracial Relationship

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Crazy story; Necessary story.

In February, I met my now girlfriend. It’s been anything but easy for her, for me, for us.

We met, we talked, we spent time together, we fell in love, hard, realizing every single thing that made us different, that should pull us apart, that shouldn’t make sense, somehow kept us together and made more sense than either of us could understand.

You see, she’s a biracial black woman from West Virginia and Ohio. She grew up experiencing one of the harshest childhoods I’ve yet to hear personally. She experienced racism in a way that I had never even considered. Hearing about her struggle to fit in with her white, Southern, racist family and still be black enough for her black community and black family, it seemed there was always a roadblock on every corner that read, “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!”

You can imagine the anger that would build in a child from the age of just hours old when her white grandmother denied her and left the hospital because she saw the color of her skin. To feel rejection on that level at that age, it’s heartbreaking to put it in words when actual words don’t exist to match the feeling it created within her.

She experienced addiction and death at every turn. From her mother to her family to her community, death from drug abuse was like getting into a car accident. It became such a common way of dying that showing up to funerals more often than birthday parties was the norm. A living hell, yet never knowing the difference.

The struggle to be accepted in a biracial body where you’re neither light enough nor dark enough is a special kind of struggle, and a struggle I will never know. And that has been poignant in our relationship. We met one month before a world-wide pandemic, spent months in quarantine together and are currently navigating through a nationwide standoff on racism and injustice for people of color in America that has existed since the 1600s.

The conversations that have had to be held while we sit in quarantine on the couch together have been excruciating. The acknowledgment of my white privilege and the experience of not only black people but her biracial experience too have been humbling. It has been awakening. It has been terrible. And it’s been so fucking painful.

Our brand new baby of a relationship has been put through more in 4 months than I’ve been put through with all my relationships combined, because these are the things that matter. The bullshit I’ve fought over in past relationships couldn’t hold a candle to the issues my girlfriend and I have faced in our short time together because they were not real issues. And yet here we are, broken wide open in front of one another like wounds bleeding out.

Understanding that my past struggles have been life changing and life altering are a validation that I give myself. I don’t deny or dismiss my personal growth and the adversities I’ve faced, but my perspective on those adversities have shifted tenfold; been flipped on their heads, if you will.  Am I lucky? YES. Am I privileged? FUCK, YES

I’m a privileged, educated, white woman in her 30s. And I’m not just white; I’m fair skinned with blonde hair and blue eyes. You guys, I am the most powerful person in the world.  And not to sound vulgar but they don’t call it “pussy power” for nothin’! Most men can be controlled by a pussy in a quickness, more so than money and while I have this white privilege, I also have this power. I am a white, privileged, powerful woman.

My girlfriend has metaphorically put a mirror in front of my face and said, “Yea you’re great. You’re aware of your white privilege, you’re not accepting of racism on a conscious level, but are you aware? ARE YOU AWARE? Aware of all the ways you accept and participate in racism unconsciously? ARE YOU AWARE?  Aware of the struggle that not just I face, but my people face every fucking minute of every fucking day? ARE YOU AWARE? Aware of all the ways you abuse your white privilege and sit on racism like a princess sits on her pea? And what are you going to do about it?”

And the truth is, I haven’t been aware. I’m still not fully aware because I’ve just begun, and will never be completely aware because I’m not black. The life that my girlfriend has lived in regards to racism is a life that I struggle to think about because I get so emotional and angry. But guess what? I get to choose whether to think about it. I have a CHOICE! She doesn’t get to CHOOSE; no black person gets to CHOOSE, EVER. And neither should WE!

I. AM. PRIVILEGED.

Owning that privilege is the easiest part of all this. Denying white privilege isn’t just ignorance, it’s stupidity. The hard part is doing something about it.

I’m honored and continue to be lucky to have a girlfriend who is willing to teach me and show me about racism in a way that no history book ever could. And in this bubble of love that we share, we experience an incredible amount of judgment when it comes to our relationship. She experiences even more criticism in being with me because she’s choosing to be with a white woman. And while we can say that it shouldn’t matter, it does.

I’ve never been more aware of the color of my skin than I am right now. In my relationship, my skin color is talked about dozens of times a day to her and in turn, to me. The betrayal felt by many in her black community is voiced. The shock of choice is called out because I am the first white woman she’s ever dated. And the uncomfortable feeling I get when I hear a discussion about my skin color isn’t a fraction of how uncomfortable and angry and exhausted people of color feel when they have lived their entire lives abiding by codes based on their skin color. So I’ll be just fine.

I’m in a relationship with a black woman who has spent her entire life in survival mode in some of the most unsafe conditions and environments in America. I’ll be just fine. I am in a relationship with a black woman who is a survivor, who is so fucking beautiful, and angry at this world and the injustices she and her race experiences. I’ll be just fine. I am in a relationship with a gay, black woman who has been divided by her two races and never fully accepted by one or the other. I’LL BE JUST FUCKING FINE.

I’m in an interracial relationship during the most important moment in history of my lifetime.

It’s so fucking hard. We are struggling but surviving. We are learning and unlearning and falling and getting up and still choosing to learn and unlearn more. We have every reason to call it quits and choose to be torn apart by anger and differences but we keep choosing to stick together and not let it break us. Because the more we can learn from the other’s life, the more we can teach others the same. Choosing love can be the hardest feeling when the odds are stacked against you, but again, it’s a choice.

A lot can come from truly listening to someone’s pain. Like, A LOT. A lot can come from understanding someone’s struggle. A lot can come from love, even if it’s seen as unconventional. This love is not easy because we are treading through the unlearning of systematic racism, through hate, through assassination by a government and country, through the murdering of black people, through violence against people of color. And yet this love is easy because we choose to understand and we choose to do better.

We aren’t changing the world by choosing each other; we are changing each other by choosing love and that’s a start.

 

 

 

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