A few months ago, a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook live streaming of a discussion that was happening at my alma mater, Andrews University. It was part of The Agora series and the discussion was titled, “Jungle Fever: Interracial Relationships and the Black Community.” If anyone has the original link to that video, please feel free to leave the link in the comments for everyone’s reference. I’m struggling to find it right now. After watching the video with my significant other, I could understand the reservations and the hesitation of some members of the Black community to accept interracial relationships. I could understand why some may feel interracial relationships hinder the progress of the Black community. But at the end of the day, I fell in love with a man who is of a different culture and ethnicity than me and I have to believe that there is a way for me to love him and for him to love me without either one of us impeding the progress of our respective communities.
To love someone is to be responsible, to be accountable. You are responsible for the way you love this person. You must be accountable for the way you choose to love this person. Truly loving someone is acknowledging that their history, their background, and their roots play a part in who they are and how you must love them. To ignore all of those details is negligence and ignorance. That’s where the disconnect happens in a lot of cases.. When people pick and choose what they love about someone.
“I LOVE YOU DESPITE THE FACT…”
It’s a dangerous sentiment. Because the fact that they grew up in an abusive home should affect the way you love them. The fact that they were hurt by a number of previous relationships should affect the way you love them. The fact that they are of a different skin colour than you should affect the way you love them. And that’s where this blog post is going: I do not just love a man, but I love a Black man.
For those of us who choose to continue the journey of being in an interracial relationship, accept the responsibility and accountability of being in this relationship. After loving the same man for almost a decade now, here are the ways in which I have learned to love my man, my Black man.
ERASE ANY PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS OF BLACK MASCULINITY
There’s an image of Andrel in my mind from our high school days that defined who he was to me for most of our high school career. We were in grade 10 math class together and we were getting back our midterm grades. I remember the noise the boys of our class were making in the back of the class. They were all hysterically laughing at how low their grades were, competing with each other to see who had the lowest grade. I remember looking at this group of boys and thinking how intelligent they all were, but how much they refused to let it show. That was the definition of Black masculinity: it was the laid back, rebel, playboy attitude. For the longest while, Andrel fit my definition of Black masculinity, only for me to realize it wasn’t him at all.
Andrel will speak to that experience in a later blog post (Don’t worry, it won’t be all me writing on this blog), but our conversations about the subject made me realize how inaccurate and inappropriate my definition of Black masculinity was. I won’t lie: my definition of Black masculinity came from the shows I watched on television and the music I listen to on the radio. Just like the rest of society, I attributed my skewed perception of Black masculinity to the Black men around me. I was unknowingly hindering the progress of the Black community with my distorted perception of what a Black man was: who he was “supposed” to be and how he was “supposed” to act. I was placing unrealistic and detrimental expectations on my boyfriend (fiancé), forcing him into a mould that was never meant for him in the first place.
So, erase any preconceived notions you may have of what Black masculinity is supposed to look like. Everyone has the right to find who they are and be that person. My fiancé graduated cum laude from university, then scored the highest GPA in his post-degree diploma. He is one of the youngest commercial real estate appraisers on his team, working in a field that is white-dominated (for now). His passion is real estate, investing in properties and building a real estate empire. He is just one definition of Black masculinity and I will do everything in my power to support him in his journey.
NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR HIS BLACKNESS
We currently live in Central Alberta, where it’s very likely that the white people you encounter have an issue with your skin tone. With that said, I am always on high alert when we’re out in public, ready to decipher whether or not an encounter may have racial undertones. I legitimately live in fear sometimes that someone may take offence to something we say or do because of the colour of our skins. I’m afraid that we could literally get hurt sometimes.
There was one incident that happened recently during a weekend out with some friends. We were on our way out for the evening, making our way to our cars that were parked on the street. As we reached the sidewalk, we noticed a gentleman trying to park in between two cars: the car in front of him belonged to one of us. We watched as he struggled to park, then witnessed him bump the car behind him with his rear bumper. One of our friends asked him if he happened to hit the car in front of him because that car belonged to us. The driver immediately got defensive, yelling and shouting at him. Our friend shot back, responding to the man’s yelling with the same intensity. As the only Asian in a group of Black friends, I immediately got uncomfortable, not because I didn’t think my friend had a right to fight back, but because I was legitimately scared that this non-Black man could be racist and possibly do something stupid.
I contemplated the exchange for the rest of the evening and I quickly realized how wrong I was for my reaction. I wasn’t uncomfortable because I thought our friend was wrong for what he did; I was uncomfortable because he was doing what he did while being Black. And I realized there may be instances where I may have scolded Andrel for how he reacted to something or how he decided to handle a situation, not because I thought what he did was wrong, but because I didn’t think he should do it because he was Black. This way of thinking is a form of oppression: that a Black man cannot react the same way a man of any other race would normally react because he’s Black.
So, check yourself. Are you uncomfortable with what he did because it was wrong or because he’s Black? Are you apologizing for what he did because it wasn’t the compassionate thing to do or because he’s Black? Are you unknowingly holding him back because of his blackness? Check yourself.
FIGHT HIS FIGHT AND MAKE IT YOUR OWN
As someone who is not from the Black community, it is easy to see the issues they are facing as their issues and not mine. It’s easy to watch from the sidelines as they protest and fight for their rights, claiming that it’s not our cross to carry. It’s easy to choose not to join their movement because of how out of place you feel at their rallies or gatherings. But it’s not their job to make you feel comfortable. It’s no one’s job to give you your props because you’ve decided to attend one of their protests or join one of their causes. No one’s going to hold your hand through it all, constantly asking if you’re okay and if you’re comfortable. You’re not a dinner guest in someone’s home. Realize that you are walking into a community of people who face systemic racism on a regular basis, who can never be sure if the person they work beside might secretly have a problem with them because of the colour of their skin. Realize that joining the fight of a community that you are not automatically a part of is going to be an uncomfortable process of growing and learning. But if you truly love your Black man, you will realize that his fight is your fight and you’re going to do whatever it takes to ensure that he has a right to live, no matter how uncomfortable you might get.An interracial relationship holds back a community when the people in that relationship choose to not see colour. When people in that relationship choose to ignore the difference in ethnic background and cultural roots, everyone suffers. I’m not a big fan of the whole, “I don’t see colour” argument because it’s ignoring something about someone that makes a big impact on who they are. Not seeing colour is a cop out, the easy way out. Not seeing colour allows you to live in a bubble that may be detrimental to the survival of your relationship.
Everyday is a lesson. I still struggle from time to time, but I’m learning. I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m open to growing.