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REFLECTIONS: Interracial Relationships
by Vicky Nabors
2005-03-01

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The issue of interracial relationships has been on my mind ever since my son informed me that his new love is a cute white girl.

I've dated outside of my race a time or two, but concluded that it's easier to date my own. The cultural differences drove me crazy, I got tired of explaining and defending my behaviors; we were just dating! I know, however, that not all white people are like this, just the ones I dated. In fact, there are many white sistahs who are quite knowledgeable of Black culture and comfortable interacting within it.

For this article, I interviewed some interracial lesbian couples to find out why they thought some of these relationships worked while others failed. In other words, how do you blend colorblind love with collard greens and tuna casserole? It's not realistic to assume that two uniquely different cultures can exist under one roof for an extended period of time. Eventually, the novelty will wear off, and one or both partners will begin to get irritated with her lover's unusual behaviors.

A common problem in the failure category with these couples seemed to center around the concept of assimilation ( trying to fit in with another culture ) . But, the problem wasn't that one of the partners was trying to change her ethnic behaviors to mimic her lover's ( act white, or act Black ) , nope, it was that her lover was subtly pressuring her to change.

Now that's not cool. I found it interesting that the Black partners always said the problems with their relationships were hidden racism or racial intolerance, whereas the white partners suggested that other non-racial issues were responsible. We're talking about two very different people here: a white person, from the dominant culture, who's accustomed to privilege and power, and her Black lover, of the sub-dominant culture, who through pain and suffering has learned to deal with the blows of injustice. Therefore, each lover brings a different perspective of how they see the world into the relationship.

If this is true, love can only take you so far before those perspectives begin to clash. This problem is magnified when one lover is constantly criticizing her partner's cultural behaviors. I heard this one time too many from the Black partners during our interviews. It's sad.

Moving on, in the successful category are couples that clearly practice the act of accommodation ( staying true to your own ethnic identity while interacting with other cultures ) ; they all seemed to enjoy a healthy balance in their relationships. Both partners openly acknowledged sensitive racial issues they struggled with, discussed and resolved them. These discussions included handling the disapproval of other lesbians when in public and dealing with racist family members. As a result, they've been true to themselves while blending their love into a unique mixture that reflects both cultures. 'It took a bit of work to learn her ways, but I'm loving her more now that I understand why she does the things she does,' said a white butch of her Black femme lover.

Love may not have a color, still love alone isn't strong enough to maintain a relationship either, especially the complexities of an interracial relationship. I've learned to look under the topical love, sex, and friendship of new relationships, because the true challenge is waiting.

vickynabors@hotmail.com


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