Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FEATURE: “Tightroping The Color Line”: Interracial Relationships Examined (Part 2 of 2)

[thenewblacklove concludes its series examining interracial relationships. In Part 2, we discuss the effects associated with backlash against interracial romances, and ways to effectively manage the same.]

So what about those already in interracial relationships....how do these folks deal with the backlash associated with their unions? Are those with mates of other races, other ethnicities, made to feel like there's a stigma unfairly attached to their relationships, as if their unions are somehow less credible than those of same-race lovers? And why are most opponents of interracial relationships always SO vehemently vocal in their opposition, as if someone has PERSONALLY offended them by (*gasp!*) DARING to date outside of the race?

“Don't Drink The Haterade...”

Those who hate on interracial relationships usually do so based on their own personal convictions, their upbringing, or just plain ol' jealousy. Either way, only haters are against interracial dating. Because let's be real....why should anybody have a problem with whom someone ELSE dates simply because they're not of the same race or ethnicity? Like, how is that YOUR damn business to begin with? I mean, if that's not the very definition of “hating”, then what is?

Backlash against interracial dating can manifest itself in various forms:

General public backlash. Contemptible stares or murmurs out in public. People looking down their noses at you. These are but a few ignorant responses that people in interracial relationships must endure. I'm sure such backlash is more than annoying, but I would wager that it occurs more often than not in those cities and areas that aren't too progressive, areas which may not be as integrated as a major metropolitan area (OR, occurs in many clustered areas of The South in general, where ingrained racist sensibilities will never allow for full-scale acceptance of “gettin' down with the swirl”...)

Look, let's keep it a whole hunnid.....the fact is, as recently as 1967 marrying a person of another race was considered to be illegal in at least sixteen states in this country. It was only through ground-breaking actions like the Loving Decision - a landmark civil rights ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court which eliminated all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the country – that these laws have been overturned and people are free to date and marry whom they like without condemnation. However, when you consider that it's only been forty years since you could be arrested for dating interracially, it's easy to see why those who engage in cross-cultural romantic relations today might still find themselves suffering some backlash from individuals who are behind the times. As was recently proven in the story out of New Orleans last year – where a Justice of the Peace denied a marriage license to a Black man and a White woman “for their own good”, according to him – certain lines of thinking die hard.

Opposition from family members. One of the more difficult aspects of interracial dating is having to deal with an invalidation of not just your relationship, but your character and integrity as well, from members of your own family. When those with whom you share bloodlines frown upon the person with whom you share your heart, it creates an unfair tug-of-war contest that rarely, if ever, concludes with someone “winning”. Those in interracial relationships can be made to feel betrayed by their family's lack of understanding. Oftentimes, a family member's disdain for an interracial relationship is the result of a clash with that family member's own traditionalist leanings. In other words, these family members are the people whose opinions follow that “old school” mindset....one strongly based in a “stick with your own kind” sensibility. They may have been born and bred in an era of racial intolerance, leading to their rationale. So when, over generations, these people become parents in their own right, they pass these ingrained ideologies of intolerance down to their kids, creating a cycle of ignorance that can be hard to break.

Being confronted by opponents of interracial relationships. Aaaah, good ol' fashioned resentment...it always amazes me how the people MOST vehemently against interracial relationships are the ones who NOBODY of ANY race would want in the first place (yeah see, God don't like ugly). Whether it's due to the aforementioned traditionalist leanings, or because that person just flat out doesn't LIKE members of your mate's race, encounters with those who disapprove of your union are the most extreme and most volatile form of backlash. Here, the indignation and notions of “feeling slighted” are most apparent, and it rings especially true when it comes to Black women's disdain for Black men dating White women.

Sistas voicing their displeasure for brothas dating White women ain't nothin' new. In fact, Black women have long felt slighted by the tendency of Black men to pair up with White women or, in today's era, “exotic-looking” women (typically a biracial woman or a woman with variant ethnicities....e.g., “half-Black, half-Filipino”, or “half-Dominican, half French”, etc.)

True story...according to a female who is very close to me who was there during the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas, some White women who showed up on the arms Black players at events around town were often targeted, jumped and assaulted by groups of Black women. Now before you jump on your defensive high horse, understand that NO, not ALL Black women participated and, no, not all White women got jumped. But, in validation of my “source's” version, sporadic incidents of such violence were widely reported by the media. Now....it could have been that these Black women were jealous of the White women's position, it could have been that these Black women felt one of the White women “got smart” when initially confronted, hell it could have been that these Black women were simply thugged out and looking for victims. Whatever the reason, the message behind the physical confrontation was clear: Blackwomen weren't happy with the seemingly inordinate number of famous Black male athletes and celebrities showing up with women who WEREN'T Black on their arms.

The thinking goes that Black women hold such resentment for Black men dating White women because, according to Black women, there's “already a shortage of good Black men” such that women of other races and ethnicities shouldn't be given first priority (a topic which we have covered before in thenewblacklove.com editorials). So what about the brothas, then? Why do these men seemingly favor non-Black women over their Black sistas? Clearly, it would seem, there is equally a degree of resentment held BY brothers towards sistas, no matter the specific reasoning behind the resentment. For instance, a brotha once told me that the reason he favors meeting new White women over Black women is that, according to him, “in the first ten minutes of the conversation, a White woman lets you know she's looking for a man and is interested in you. In the first ten minutes of a conversation with a Black woman, though, she lets you know that she's looking for a CERTAIN KIND of man....and that's the difference.” Long-standing among Black men is the notion that Black women have too many “rules” and “qualifications” that one must meet in order to be “good enough” for a Black woman, while such constraints are not as prevalent with White woman. To be fair, you can't blame a woman for wanting more than a mate she has to “settle with”...you can't get mad at a woman wanting better for herself, or setting (reasonable) criteria that she feels her mate should meet. At the same time, Black women should remember not to harbor TOO lofty expectations from the pool of men to which she is exposed.

Bottom line? You can't be mad at someone's personal preferences. If a brotha wants to get his swirl on, or get his Asian persuasion fix on, that's his right, who are you to suggest otherwise? At the same time, however, no one should form their preferences around stereotypical notions or misguided principles, like thinking you're actually dating a higher QUALITY of person simply because they're of a certain ethnicity or biracial makeup. Men are especially guilty of that. Just cause a woman is “half-Black, half-Chinese” doesn't automatically mean she's better wifey material than a Black woman, or ANY woman for that matter.

“Back That Lash Up!”

So how do you cope with the unfair backlash associated with your....association? Various coping methods exist for dealing with the different forms of backlash you may face.

When dealing with backlash from your family or friends or, in a sense, from society at large, the key is to surround yourself with pals who tolerate diversity to desensitize yourself to ignorance you're sure to face. I mean let's face it, as individuals we all have an innate desire to be understood. For those who are apart of an interracial couple, this desire remains the same. So you and your mate should find those who aren't so unfamiliar with the idea of diversity, to whom intermingling with people of other races or ethnicities ISN'T a foreign concept. Gaining acceptance from a circle of friends can work to neutralize the snide comments from those who oppose your dating preferences. At the same time, understand that there may always be a family member or friend – or again, some random jerkweed out in public - who has trouble thinking before they open their fat mouth to spew some insensitive opinions or bluntly racist remarks. Learn to prepare yourself for these confrontations. Then, rationally let that person know if you think his/her comments are offensive, and choose honest yet calm and intelligent ways to respond. Maybe even practice what you would say in such a situation, so that when it happens, you'll be better prepared not to let your emotions get in the way of your logic.

When dealing with backlash stemming from those of your own or the opposite race, the best bet is always to ignore these people to the degree you can. Not giving them the attention they desparately crave is the greatest form of get-back. These people are often looking for a confrontation, whether verbal or physical. If you don't give them the fuel for their fodder, they're just left standing there, looking stupid. It takes a bigger person to walk away from such a confrontation...now GRANTED, if somebody gets to swingin' on you, by all means open up a can of whoop ass if you must, or in order to defend yourself. But for the most part, it's best you not feed into the drama.

Whatever you do, don't let outside forces dictate the happiness YOU share with someone. It's your life, not your parents' or anyone else's....last time I checked, grown folks weren't required to get permission to live their lives...

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