By Christelyn Karazin, Brand Ambassador for InterracialDatingCentral.com
In light of the recent events in Ferguson, as well as news that the police officer responsible for the chokehold that contributed to the death of Eric Garner will not face criminal charges, the focus on black people in interracial relationships has come into question by some. If you are currently in an interracial relationship, as I am, you may now be noticing an elephant in the room with the two of you. How you and your partner navigate the communication surrounding America’s recently heightened racial tensions can make or break the longevity of your relationship. Some questions I have gotten recently are along the lines of: “Is it possible to date and marry a non-black person in light of recent events? Would they really understand what it’s like to live in a country where racism is still alive and rearing its ugly head?”
Sometimes debates between interracial couples creates conflict within their relationship, and oftentimes, disillusionment can set in. But that is when empathy and understanding are in order.
When events like Ferguson occur, and you suddenly find yourself party to a racial debate in your very own kitchen or bedroom, both races need to begin that dialogue by acknowledging certain truths. Much of the frustration and misunderstanding comes from each party being so invested in their own emotions that neither person wants to acknowledge these truths.
A Caucasian, or non-black, person involved in an interracial relationship must acknowledge that racism in this country still exists, even if you yourself do not endorse or engage in such bigotry and discrimination. We are a country founded upon a racial hierarchy which was used to justify slavery and subsequent injustices like segregation. The people who encouraged, accepted and perpetuated such injustices are not all dead. In some parts of the country, there are populations of white people who still yearn for the old days when everything was separate and vastly unequal. Though these populations are marginalized at this point, they do exist.
For much of the black community, events like Ferguson and the events that surrounded the death of Eric Garner, rip open old wounds. It leads many of us in the black community to feel powerless in the world in which we live. Many of us sink into utter despair. When you visibly see your partner in despair that is not the time to apply your logic and state your laundry list of facts surrounding America and race relations. It is a time for you to simply hold him or her in your arms and sooth them through their pain until they are capable of having a rational conversation.
When emotions are raw, it is best to observe and acknowledge the pain the other person feels. Acknowledging a person’s feelings doesn’t mean you have to 100% agree with their point of view. It just means that you care enough about the person in front of you to listen and give support.
Because we live in a country with a racial hierarchy, understand that issues related to your partner affect you too. If you have children, then even more so. You need to know that your children may be negatively impacted by those who adhere to this old guard racial hierarchy. You will have to acknowledge and deal with the reality of police misconduct so that you can protect your progeny.
Now, black Americans involved with non-black people, we need to acknowledge certain truths as
The Black community is in trouble. We have a 73% out-of-wedlock rate which is resulting in utter chaos, especially in lower-income neighborhoods. Children growing up without fathers are the walking wounded, and are often angry and much more likely to drop out of school and go to jail. You need to know that outsiders who observe this dysfunction see it for what it is. Everyone can see our dirty laundry, and that can feel embarrassing and put you on the defensive with your partner. But resist that urge. We have to openly and honestly acknowledge that fractured families come in to play when it comes to the chaos within our own community. No amount of money or legislation will affect the change that needs to come from within.
You need to understand that white people see us killing each other. They see how many of us apply little value to our own lives and to the lives of others. They become confused when a black person’s life seems to suddenly have value and galvanize the community only when a white person ends it. They take notice, and yes, they are quietly judging us.
You have to acknowledge that the black community is not completely innocent, powerless and unable to enlist personal accountability. Not everything is “the white devil’s fault.” Some of it -much of it – is ours. The good news is, we also have the power to harness our anger into productivity and stronger family ties within our own community.
You need to understand that the person in front of you, your significant other, should not be some voodoo avatar to stand in for every racist white person that has ever wronged you or your peers. Just as you want to be judged as an individual, you must also extend that courtesy to your partner.
If both parties can acknowledge one another, empathize, listen, and be willing to learn from each other’s point of view, such relationships have a very good chance of thriving through these moments of racial crisis in America.