Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love and Race

A friend's blog has inspired me to write again.  She has a post here on love and race.  The post is about her decision to open herself up to the prospect of dating outside her race (she happens to be African-American).  The comments to her post discuss whether men and women of different races can feel fulfilled and really meet each other's needs in all aspects.  One individual who commented relayed her story of dating outside her race and her feeling that the white man she dated just couldn't relate to the struggles she faces as a black woman.  Now, I am not a black woman and I try to be very aware of the fact that no matter how hard I try not to, I operate under the protection of white privilege , so I cannot specifically understand her point of view or the point of view of her commenters.  But I am married to a man of a different race, so I have some experience with this subject.   

I will be the first to admit that, in my marriage, there are times our race separates us.  Even though I tend to be the one who gets most outraged at racial injustice and even though I have a real passion for equality and for increasing diversity in the professional world, there are certain topics, certain current events, that we simply cannot discuss because I cannot, and probably never will be able to identify with his opinion on the issue or his experience of the particular issue as a black man (and an Indian man, but my observation is that, at least in this country, the world defines you as black when they discover you have any African-American heritage).  When we try to discuss those topics, it just ends up being hurtful to someone.  No matter how innocent my questions, they appear ignorant and insensitive and no matter how level headed he tries to be in our discussions, there is a great deal of emotion tied up in reactions/comments/opinions and I end up feeling like he thinks I have no sensitivity to or understanding of what he has experienced.  And there are certainly times when I know our difference in upbrining and life perspective has made things more difficult - from discussions about family, money, discipline of oru children, etc., but I don't think that would have been any different had I married a white man who grew up really rich or poor or from a different religion. I feel privileged to have an intimate relationship with someone who has a completely different life experience than me.  Part of the joy of a relationship is figuring out your differences together and learning how to become one - despite those. And I am happy that my children are an amalgamation of at least three different cultures.  I hope to allow them to find where they fit - to encourage them to completely understand who they are.  Maybe that's very PollyAnna of me, but I don't think so.

My first reaction to my friend's post is that you shouldn't limit yourself, but I think my real opinion is that it is an individual decision for every one. I can see why someone would choose not to date outside their race.  In some ways, it would be a lot easier.  In other situations though, it is part of what defines the beauty and success of a relationship.  And in even others, it is unfortunately, what defines the failure of a relationship.  I have never really been attracted to people who are the same (race, gender, sexual orientation, economic background, political affilication, etc.) as me - in my friendships or intimate relationships.  Don't get me wrong, everyone needs to feel understood and I have friends who are very similar to me, but for the most part, I like surrounding myself with different perspectives.  So, for me, this is what fits.  And I hope it does for my husband also :)