City Paper is not for tourists
Wow. Chalk another one up for separatism (“Love Knows Color,” 11/21). No, of course the world isn’t colorblind. Nor is it likely to become so any time soon. And, of course, like all relationships, interracial relationships (real ones, not just acts of sexual curiosity) are driven by many things. Including, one hopes, love and affection. Also, the need to grapple with societal and individual expectations about race and about gender, as well as historical patterns of oppression of black men, black women, white women, and some other people as well (not, of course, to imply that all historical oppression is equal). But sometimes people of different races meet, like each other, have a good time, respect each other, share values, and fall in love. That love of course cannot be kept entirely separate from social mores or from our racial history. Who expected it to be? It sure helps, though, if one doesn’t walk the streets searching for validation in strangers’ eyes.
I’m white and my boyfriend is black. We found little that reflected our day-to-day reality in your largely disapproving and pessimistic account of interracial love in Washington. We pretty much go about our business. We talk about race a fair amount (your piece spurred another extended conversation). We also go to the grocery store, see movies, cook dinner, watch TV, go to the theater, talk about our work, spend time with our friends and families, go out to eat, and go Rollerblading. Once in a while, a street person will tell us to stick with “our own kind.” And once in a while, someone, white or black, will look at us longer and harder than is polite. Maybe they disapprove. Maybe they don’t like my hairdo. Maybe they are bored. It doesn’t really matter why, as long as they don’t give us an overtly hard time, which they almost never do.
Our racial differences make our relationship more complicated in some ways than if we were the same. In some ways they make it better, and in some ways they make it harder. But the vast majority of the time, whatever tensions we have are more about my being late or his not clearing his dishes or one of us feeling preoccupied and distant. It was pretty annoying to have the sum total of our relationship reduced to self-hate and an insult to black womanhood on his part, and “jungle fever” and shocking my parents on mine (at 38, it’s too late). Louis Steadwell and Holly Bass were welcome three-dimensional voices amid a sea of two-dimensional interviews. Ta-Nehisi Coates is obviously welcome to decline to date white women for whatever reasonspolitical, moral, aesthetic, whateverhe chooses. And I wish it didn’t anger Deborah Rouse so much that I’m with a black man, but it isn’t really about her, and it’s not a good enough reason for us to break up.
I felt like the upshot of your piece was that all over Washington, the verdict is in that blacks and whites should be “keeping to their own.” You left only a tiny window open that allowed for the fact that this is (slowly) becoming a more integrated city both professionally and socially, and that in relationships between black people and white people there is room for sincere affection, love, and trust, as well as all the other inevitable baggage related to history and power. Surely, there was room for a more balanced story of what black women with white men, white women with black men, interracial gay couples, and interracial families experience in this city and the larger world. Our relationship, at least, has not found that “it’s a jungle out there.”
via the Internet