Heartbeat

Interracial relationships require communication about anti-racism. I don’t say this because of my experience as a white person. I say this on behalf of the well-being and safety of Black people who interact with — who trust, depend on and confide in — white people. We cannot avoid conversations about race, even if they are awkward or difficult and especially when they involve romantic relationships.

Two educators from my high school made a podcast called “Black and Blonde,” which enlightened me on this topic. The podcast focuses on their identities as Black and white women and often talks about their interracial lesbian relationship. I feel connected to them because they are my mentors, but also because I am a white woman in a lesbian relationship with a Black woman.

I love my partner because of her humor, beauty and intellect, but I cannot love her if I ignore her Blackness. Racism is sometimes an uncomfortable conversation for me as a white person, but I cannot love my partner unless I understand the racial differences between us and uplift her Blackness. Most importantly, I cannot back down when she calls me out on racism.

Interracial relationships automatically face multiple obstacles. Aside from the obvious, namely, anti-Black racism, white people — at least from my knowledge — hold many unspoken concerns about their romantic relationships with Black people.

I worry that I might be appropriating Black language when I talk too comfortably around my partner. I fear that I change how she is perceived in Black spaces because she is dating a white woman. I hope that she knows I am not with her because of a fetish, but I can provide no proof nor have any say on that issue. I strive to be anti-racist, but I never know if I am speaking too much or not enough on racism. The list goes on, and the internal monologue never stops.

I assume other white people have similar thoughts that we never express out loud, but our concerns are real. I am ashamed at how silent I can be on racism when I fear I will mess up in front of my partner.

We white people must show all-encompassing love in our interracial relationships. Love is not just saying, “I hear you.” True love requires listening, learning, spreading the word to other white people and putting our money where our mouth is through economic reparations. White people must educate each other instead of making our Black partners do the work.

I often think about the similarities between my partner and me. We love talking about our shared experiences as gay ethnic women, but I will never be able to empathize with her Black experience. I should never try to empathize either.

I ask that white people reflect on their relationships with Black people and other people of color. Interracial relationships should not feel like the relationship between an educator and a learner. In a “Black and Blonde” podcast episode, educator and host Molly Hollenbeck emphasizes that for an interracial relationship to be “truly authentic,” white people must ask themselves, “What does it mean to be in a relationship with a person of color?”


larion1@stolaf.edu

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