Maintaining An Interracial Relationship After #Charlottesville
Disclaimer: This is a post about my personal experiences, I do not speak on behalf of any particular race, culture, or ethnicity.
By now the world has witnessed the violence that has occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists clashed with protestors during a “Unite the Right” march. It was heartening to see that protestors of the intolerance were made of all colors and backgrounds–this certainly isn’t the 1950’s. But with one woman killed and two police officers dead from a helicopter crash, and our “dear leader” trying to spread the culpability around instead of taking some fucking responsibility for the rats his rhetoric has emboldened to crawl out of their corners, I have to ask…was nixing Obamacare worth all this?
I have noticed a lot of non LGBT people of color like to have sex with folx of color, but are absent in solidarity when shit gets real. People are quick to fuck black bodies unapologetically but can't stand up apologetically. This is where I had to check myself and my relationship with my partner.
While the racial identity of my relationship matters in the context of how dynamics of race, gender, power, and privilege play out, the question really becomes: How can we be true to ourselves and the ones we love? Even though it’s impossible for us to separate ourselves from our racial identity, I've had previous relationships avoiding race talk, brushing things away and compromising our perfectly beautiful identity to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. I never want to do that again because I then am doing a disservice to my partner and end up loving my partner thinly. How could I fully love my partner without fully uplifting and championing for their existence in this society.
This thought of loving people of color radically is not a new concept, and loving people of color radically means more than just sexing them, partnering with them, or even creating family structures with them. It means bearing witness to their struggles and their pain; it means transforming silence into action regarding those struggles and that pain. Because we all know that silence often means complicity, and their is a battle that my partner fights out here trying to get all-the-way free.
So in conversations with my current partner, we have started to intentionally confront any triggering, racialized comments may have been said that made either of us feel awkward or that didn’t sit well with us, and also more openly talk about racial issues we care so passionately about.
In my previous relationships we never discussed race, but I had insecurities that I “rationalized as irrational”: Is he only dating me because he wants to try something outside of this race? Is the lack of commitment because he thinks of it as an experience and not a relationship? 9% of new marriages in the United States in 2010 were interracial marriages that involved white partners. But how does this compare to interracial relationships that don’t end up in marriage?
But I never brought any of these things up until my current relationship.
With my current partner, we’ve been through much trial and error in learning how to talk about race both in the context of our relationship, as well as in the larger context of social justice. Learning to talk about race in a relationship began with finding someone who a) cared about racial justice and b) was open to learning and growing together.
In the process, I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) how to assert myself, how to disagree, and how to communicate more lovingly, respectfully, and productively.
I also had to understand that there are some spaces that I do not and will not ever belong in because those are sacred spaces for him to be around other people of color. I had to realize that if I were to insert myself in those spaces I would be no better than an oppressor. We both realized that taking time to seek out external sources if needed, provided ways for us to connect with information in our own way. While we can only speak from our perspective and experience, encouraging each other to do our own work in finding sources places less burden on you to be an authority.
Sometimes their are conversations that you have started that were left to be discussed at a different day. We realized that if those conversations cause us some discomfort or confusion we would do a "Check-in" to discuss our feelings.
We work together to keep each other accountable, the more we talk the more we are able to check each other in social settings, or in other spaces where racist or privileged conversations may take place and know that we have a support system in each other.
We have an extremely amazing relationship in terms of compassion, trust, and support, but I also desire and crave intentional conversations around racial justice issues.
I’m still figuring out what is or isn’t negotiable between the two of us, but as I’m doing so, I’m also shifting my expectations and seeking other people and supportive spaces to satisfy my need for more extensive race talk.