Monday, December 22, 2008

The Times That Haven't Changed*

The following was originally posted on Oct. 6, 2008. It is being re-posted as part of our CHICKS ROCK! Holiday series.

I recently had a long conversation with a friend about relationships, specifically interracial ones. This friend is a young white man who’s in a long-term relationship with a woman of color. They’re bizarrely compatible, totally in love, and now planning to get married. Suddenly, a flock of doubters have emerged out of the woodwork – his family and friends, advising him against taking this particular plunge.

It continues to surprise me that in this time and place it is still so hard for some people to accept interracial marriages. My parents have spoken about various encounters they had in the 1970s, when their relationship began. Back then, it was still unusual to see a black man and a white woman walking hand in hand. Somehow, I had come to believe that times had changed.

My friend said his family claimed to be worried about the struggles he, his wife and their (hypothetical) biracial children might face in the future. They thought he was setting himself up for an unnecessarily difficult life. Devastated by their lack of support, my friend called me, looking for me to tell him that it would all be okay. He asked if I thought his engagement was a bad idea, and if I felt my life had been made more difficult because I am biracial.

It hurts me a little that these questions have to be asked, though I understand why they are. I answered in the only way I could. Being biracial has certainly affected me and shaped my life into what it is today. It’s impossible to list the ways it has made me different, because I’ve never experienced the world from within any other skin. But I don’t believe that any of those differences are bad, or something to be avoided.

Every relationship has challenges. This we know for sure. So why are the challenges faced by interracial couples perceived to be worse than those of any other couple? Why are they perceived to be avoidable? What is the supposed solution: just marry someone else? It's hard enough to find one person to love and be loved by.

I hope that as a society, someday we will be able to value each other’s happiness over our own fears, and to affirm love, in whatever form it may come, over prejudice.

What would you have said, if a friend called you with these questions?

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