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VIDEO KILLED THE INTERRACIAL RADIO STAR


It all started one night when I was sitting on my couch, listening to Terence Trent D’Arby. As a 28, going on 29-year-old, I was only a kid when his music was popular, but I still remember hearing his songs throughout the house as a child and watching his videos on MTV back when MTV actually showed music videos. As I listened to “Sign Your Name” (1987), one of Terence Trent D’Arby’s famous ballads, I decided to YouTube the video to further enhance my trip down memory lane.

 

* “Sign Your Name” – Terence Trent D’Arby (1987)

As I watched, the video portrayed the story of Terence, a mixed Black/White (Scottish/Irish) man who loved and lost a White French woman; their light-skinned, curly haired, brown-eyed child caught in the crossfire between the complicated love of two complicated adults.

Screenshots from official music video for “Sign Your Name” by Terence Trent D’Arby

 

After watching the video, I immediately thought to myself…

“How many other music videos highlight multiracial love?”

 

Continuing my late 80’s, early-90’s nostalgic journey, I thought about the catchy “Jungle Fever” (1991) by Stevie Wonder from the hit Spike Lee movie Jungle Fever and its story of an interracial relationship between a Black man and a White Italian woman in 1990’s New York City.

“Jungle Fever” – Stevie Wonder (1991)

 

In the late 90’s, there was the sexy futuristic video for “If You Can’t Say No” (1998) by Lenny Kravitz, where Lenny, a mixed Afro-Black/White Jewish man professed his love and loss for Mila Jovovich, a famous Ukrainian model and actress.

 

“If You Can’t Say No” – Lenny Kravitz (1998)

 

And of course, the video for “They Don’t Know” (1998) by Jon B., who everyone said “sounded Black,” but was a White man who displayed his secret love for a Black woman.

 

“They Don’t Know” – Jon B. (1998)

 

As for music videos showcasing interracial love into the 2000’s, many of us may remember Justin Timberlake’s video for “Like I Love You” (2000), his first single as a solo artist after leaving N’SYNC. The video showed him, a White man, trying to win the affection of a Black woman.

 

“Like I Love You” – Justin Timberlake (2000)

 

There was also the ballad “Lost Without U” (2007) by Robin Thicke, which featured then wife Paula Patton, as they engaged in a sexy flirtation. This music video also recounted a love that was lost between a White man and a mixed Black/White female.

 

“Lost Without U” – Robin Thicke (2007)

 

And most recently, Adele, a White British woman pined over a love lost with Mack Wilds, a mixed Irish/Afro-Dominican man, in her video for “Hello” (2015).

 

“Hello” – Adele (2015)

 

Despite these videos showcasing love and romance between interracial couples, they are predominately just a visual that comes with generic songs about love and heartbreak. The actual topic of interracial love is not overtly sung about. There are some examples, however, as few and far between they may seem. Auburn, a Black female rapper from Minneapolis, has received negative feedback by rapping about her Asian boyfriends and using Asian men to portray love interests in many of her music videos. In her song “My Baby” (2013) Auburn states,

“I know people look at us and they wonder why we’re attached because our skin don’t match.”

 

“My Baby” – Auburn (2013)

 

Other noticeable songs from the 2000’s which explicitly discuss the intricacies of interracial love are “Long Way To Go” (2004) by No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani and member of Outkast, André 3000. The two sang about how love is love, regardless of color, but how society still has a long way to go to fully embrace the notion of colorblind love.

 

“Long Way To Go” – Gwen Stefani feat. André 3000 (2004)

 

There is Alicia Keys “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” (2009) which directly expressed what it was like to engage in an interracial relationship when such an idea was still very taboo.

 

“Unthinkable (I’m Ready)” – Alicia Keys (2009)

 

And lastly, Robin Thicke’s “Dreamworld” (2009) which has Robin dreaming of a world where he states, “There would be no black or white, the world would treat just treat my wife right, we could walk down in Mississippi and no one would look at us twice.”

 

“Dreamworld” – Robin Thicke (2009)

 

It is interesting how the videos for the songs I have mentioned which feature multiracial love are stories of love that was lost, stories of heartbreak and misery. The stereotypical tragedy of mixed-race plays out even in mainstream music. How come we do not see music videos where multiracial love flourishes? How come we do not hear more music about interracial love from a variety of perspectives, not just couples who are Black and White? Why are artists not singing about multiracial love in general? And why does interracial love have to be so difficult, even within the language of music, which is supposed to heal all when other remedies do not work?

 

The acceptance of multiracial and interracial relationships are higher than ever before, yet, popular music has yet to catch up to the claim. This all may be a moot point now that music videos are not what they used to be. Maybe a resurgence of the music video in the future will help propel interracial love into a new spotlight. Thankfully, interracial couples are still being seen in the media, from TV commercials to clothing ads. But it would be great to turn on a good song knowing there is a music video somewhere out there showcasing the beauty of multiracial affection, to see that multiracial love is not to be lost, but that it can be held onto long after the music fades.


NOTES:

*The original music video is no longer available in this country. The version of the video provided is a live version of Terence Trent D’Arby performing “Sign Your Name” live at The Roxy in 1988.

**Image from Google Images.

***Image from Instagram.

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A UNITED KINGDOM


Last weekend I took my daughter to go see Hidden Figures (which was INCREDIBLE) and worthy of its own blog post, but I have to say I was already in tears before the movie even started because the trailer for A United Kingdom played...

Looks incredible right?! So I have never heard this story before, but it is the true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams. Seretse was Botswanan and an Oxford-educated student prince. Ruth was an English middle-class clerk. In 1948 they were married despite all of the obstacles and outrage it caused.  Their relationship became the focus of a crisis between Britain and Botswana’s neighbour South Africa, which was about to introduce apartheid.

Seretse Khama with his English wife Ruth, and their two children Jacqueline and Seretse Jr in September 1956

Seretse Khama with his English wife Ruth, and their two children Jacqueline and Seretse Jr in September 1956

Ian Khama, current President of Botswana, son of Seretse and Ruth

Ian Khama, current President of Botswana, son of Seretse and Ruth

The couple went on to have a daughter and three sons. Their son Ian is now President of Botswana. Both Seretse and Ruth have now passed, but from the trailer it certainly looks as though British acting duo David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike have done an incredible job of capturing their love story. 

Oyelowo said that he was attracted by the ‘epic nature of the love story, and the backdrop of the British empire, and what it was like to be a king in Africa just as apartheid was being signed into law in South Africa’. There is already Oscar nomination buzz about his performance. He was certainly snubbed in my opinion for portraying MLK in Selma. 

It is wonderful to see a diversity of love stories being displayed on screen, of course Loving being most recent, and now A United Kingdom slated to be released on February 10th, 2017. 

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are portraying the pair on screen

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike are portraying the pair on screen

I hope everyone goes out and supports this movie, the multiracial community in particular! What a wondeful love story to share with the world.

A UNITED KINGDOM via Swirl Nation Blog



 

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THE SALDANA SISTERS THEIR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY LOVE


So, some people got heated over the above photo of Zoe Saldana and her sisters

From accusations of self-hate, to entitlement, people (presumably black men) were not happy with the sisters’ romantic choices:

Jen forwarded this to me because I come from a family of four girls and every last one of us married non-Black men.  With the exception of my younger sister, we ALL equal-opportunity dated – Black, White, Latino, Asian, and every mixture of all of those…

My oldest sister married her first love at 18.  He is white.  They have three beautiful children.  My brother-in-law married my sister knowing she had a terminal illness and he would have to take care of her.  He took care of her until she died, and I can assure you he still loves her very much. 

My older sister had a child with a black man.  Things did not work out and she raised my niece as a single mother until she met her current husband.  He is white.  They have two children together and he takes care of my niece from my sister’s first relationship like she was his own.

My little sister fell in love with her husband.  He is white.  They have one daughter together and his daughter from a previous marriage.  I am so happy for my little sister to be married to this man because he’s just a REALLY good guy.

They are ALL really good guys.  I totally notice they are white – they are like, white, white, super-, like “OMG” white; but I KNOW in my heart they didn’t marry these men because they are white.  They married them because they are good guys and treat them really well.  I know this because I married my non-Black husband.

I didn’t have a “type”.  I was so equal opportunity, with one exception: my dates needed to be tall – the taller the better.  When I met my husband, while wearing heels, he was shorter than me.  I did not want to like him.  I still think he did some Santeria/Voodoo on me because I can’t control my love for him.  I’m crazy for him.  Literally.  I risked having short offspring to be with him.  No one can make me laugh like him.  No one can make me as mad.  I love his short little Latino ass.  I love him to the moon and back, and I can tell you, with sincerest honesty that I didn’t go out looking for a non-black man to marry because I hate my race.  I was looking for a man to make me feel this way.  We’ve been together for twelve years, married for ten of those years, and we have two very lovely children who are being raised to be proud of both heritages.  (oh, and by the way, I’m his first black relationship… he wasn’t purposely seeking me because of my race either)

So please stop with this “they date outside their race because they hate themselves.”  I’m sure Zoe and her sisters don’t hate themselves.  Although I agree there has been a lot of messed up stuff that has gone on throughout history to make us Black people feel bad about ourselves, I am sure that is not why Zoe Saldana and her sisters are with these men. 

If you love black women, more power to you.  I have a secret, the Saldana sisters aren’t the only black women in the world.  In America, many black women are single.  Sadly, statistically, black women are least likely to marry than any other woman of another race in America.  Unfortunately, black women represent the largest percentage of single mothers in America.  Over half of black women over the age of 18 have had some college, so they are educated.  You are complaining about these THREE women… get over it.


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The End of Anti-Miscegenation Laws: Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Relationships


Little Rock, Arkansas protest to keep anti-miscegenation laws on the books. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

Little Rock, Arkansas protest to keep anti-miscegenation laws on the books. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

On November 3rd, the new movie Loving hit theaters. The film features the story of interracial couple Richard Loving, a White man, and Mildred Jeter, a Black woman, from Virginia who defied anti-miscegenation laws by getting married. The film highlights their historic Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) case in 1967, which overturned anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. (It had previously been legal in all but 16 states.)

Seven months shy of the 50th anniversary of the SCOTUS decision, thinking of the film and the story of the Loving family, many may not understand the true importance of Loving v. Virginia and the extent to which the United States viewed interracial relationships at that time. Some may even take for granted how interracial relationships have become a societal norm and view the film as slightly shocking. Therefore, to better understand the historical context of the film, let us reveal the State of the Union at that time when it came to multiracial love.

Pre-Anti-Miscegenation Laws[1]

When digging deeper into the struggles of the lived mixed-race experience in the United States, it is apparent Western culture has worked hard to maintain a division of the races (Wilson, 1987). For over 300 years, more than half of the United States held strict anti-miscegenation laws to prevent different races from marrying, cohabitating, and engaging in sexual relations. Yet, prior to the creation of anti-miscegenation laws, racial divisions had already begun to take shape. Around the time of anti-miscegenation laws, elite white Americans created what is known as a “white racial frame,” where the “superior” racial group were white Americans while the “inferior” racial group were black Americans (Feagin, 2009). Since the creation of aforementioned “white racial frame,” this highly prejudiced point of view was strengthened during American social crises with immigration, slavery, and civil rights. Ultimately, the elitist “white racial frame” no longer applied solely to black Americans, but came to concern all persons of color as being inferior. Native, Asian, and Latin-Americans were all seen as being inferior to the superior white American race (p. 56).

The United States, unlike any other nation in the world, has used a black identity to create and maintain a divide between whites and non-white minorities. The one-drop rule, which delegates any person in the United States with any known African black ancestry, no matter how little or distant, is deeply rooted in American culture (Davis, 2006). The one-drop rule is truly unique because similar to anti-miscegenation laws, the one-drop rule resulted from United States experiences with slavery and racial segregation. According to anthropologists, for those who are multiracial and/or multiethnic, the one-drop rule is also known as the hypodescent rule, as mixed-race children are assigned to the status position of the lower status parent group (p. 17). Therefore, according to such racial hierarchy rules, any individual who is a person of color, yet mixed with white, will automatically be assigned the status of their parent who is of color. 

The Era of Anti-Miscegenation Laws

Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States first appeared in the mid 1600s, around the Chesapeake area of Maryland and Virginia, where many mixed-race relationships were occurring between white slave owners and black slaves (Davis, 2006). Anti-miscegenation laws proclaimed fornication between whites and Negroes was equivalent to bestiality, with 38 states adopting such laws (Brown, 2001). By the 1700s, anti-miscegenation laws, along with the one-drop/hypodescent rule, were not only meant to prevent marital unions based on race, but became the social definition of a black person in the South (p. 17). Alibhai-Brown explains how the word miscegenation [was] used to describe the products of relationships across racial barriers and [was] infused with the implication of something not quite the norm, something deviant (Alibhai-Brown, 2001).

The End of Anti-Miscegenation Laws: Loving v. Virginia and Interracial Relationships via Swirl Nation Blog

Anti-miscegenation laws were a clear way to curb a national fear of individuals and behaviors that seemed to be abnormal and deviant. In addition, anti-miscegenation laws were vital in maintaining Jim Crow segregation, allowing for racial “purity” to persevere (Davis, 2006). Despite the law and a general fear of blending races among elite white Americans in the United States during this time, sexual, romantic, and marital relationships occurred at significantly high rates between whites and blacks. The number of mixed-race children being born during this time steadily increased; however, children from mixed-unions were automatically placed outside of the existing social order (Brown, 2001).

Post-Anti-Miscegenation Laws

It was not until the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, which facilitated an end to Jim Crow laws. The well-recognized Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, handed down in 1967, was a momentous event in United States legal and cultural history. Loving v. Virginia, which overturned anti-miscegenation laws, making them unconstitutional, created a spark that lit a charged fire of demographic change throughout the U.S. (Bratter and Zuberi, 2001; Brunsma, 2005). Elam (2011) reinforces the notion that although Loving v. Virginia and other cultural transformations shaped by immigration trends have contributed to the United States increasingly multi-hued population, people of mixed descent are not a recent phenomenon: they have existed in often distinct, self-identified communities since the colonial era in the Americas, from Black Seminoles to Melungeons (p. 6). Up until the Loving decision, it is clear race mixing occurred, but it was a strictly managed affair, driven by force and power. Yet, such a power shift in American culture following the Loving v. Virginia case helped bring mixed-race identities and struggles out of the private sphere into the public sphere (Olumide, 2002). In addition, such a socio-cultural and legal endorsement of mixed-race identities and relationships eventually produced what has come to be known as the “biracial baby boom.” In the 1970s, approximately 1% of children were products of a mixed-race union and by 2000, that number grew to more than 5% (Herman, 2004; Brunsma, 2005).

Mixedness in the New Millennium

We then come back to present day where the growing mixed-race population is observed not just in the United States, but across the world. This has created greater interest in multiracial individuals and their lived experiences. A recent example of such interest is presented through The Pew Research Center June 2015 report, Multiracial in America: Proud, Diverse, and Growing in Numbers (Pew, 2015). The 156-page report is based off findings from 1,555 multiracial Americans across the nation, aged 18 and older, who were surveyed in regards to personal attitudes, experiences, and demographic characteristics (Pew, 2015). The report describes how the multiracial population is growing at a rate three times as fast as the total population, citing 2013 U.S. Census Bureau data which shows approximately 9 million Americans chose two or more racial categories when asked about their race (Pew, 2015).

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.Commons

As we approach the 50-year anniversary of Loving v. Virginia next year and hopefully continue to see more media stories of not just the Loving family, but other multiracial couples and families, there is trust in the multiracial community continuing to add to the history of interracial relationships in America. Yes, it has been a bumpy road. Nevertheless, it has been a road worth traveling for the sake of not being afraid to cross boundaries for love, for happiness, and for freedom.

Post was originally published on Multiracial Media


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COLOR STRUCK


Tony* was the guy all the girls wanted to be with: tall, handsome, a great smile, and very nice and friendly. With a complexion like honey, Tony was fetishized by brown-complected women and made White women feel he was just Black enough to piss off their parents, but not so Black they were forced to confront their own biases.

 

At the time we met in November 1995, I was living in Southwest Washington, D.C. in a tiny studio apartment barely big enough for my two cats, Milo and Otis, and me. I had recently lost my mother and left a boyfriend who’d been a complete nightmare—physically and emotionally abusive. After breaking up with the man I often “affectionately” refer to as Time Travel A$$hole (we’ve all met him in one form or another), I wasn’t thinking about anything serious and really had no business dating yet. I needed to reflect on what my part was in that relationship so I could be sure not to choose a guy like that again.

 

So when I met Tony in one of those hip and trendy coffee shops, I should have enjoyed the flirting and walked away. The next thing I knew, I was having dinner with him. Wait, where had I been heading when I met Mr. Tall, Not-So-Dark and Handsome? Oops!

 

Whirlwinds Never Work!

 

It wasn’t long until Tony and I were inseparable. When we weren’t spending every moment together—making everyone around us completely nauseated—we were on the phone talking for hours at a time.

 

Then one day he dropped a bomb on me. He wanted me to meet his mother.

“Oh she’ll love you!”
 

And she did. And so did his whole family. “She’s so pretty with her light skin.” His mother’s complexion was close to my own. Tony’s dad was darker and definitely very handsome. It was clear where Tony got his looks.

 

My mom used to tell me people tell you exactly who they are early on, you just need to be listening carefully. That comment of his mother’s should have been the first clue to run, but I didn’t.

 

As my friends met Tony, all asked the same question: “How did you grab a guy like him?” Not my usual kind of guy, everyone who knew me knew he wasn’t typical for me. I liked them cerebral—looks weren’t as important. I needed to be challenged intellectually. This isn’t to say Tony wasn’t capable of intellectual discussions, but maybe it wasn’t how he was raised.

 

I could bring that out of him, I thought.

 

When Tony asked me to marry him only a few months into the relationship, I was shocked but figured, “What the hell? I’m spending more time at his place than my own, his family loves me and he treats me nicely,” which I needed after years with my ex.

 

Tony’s mother couldn’t have been more thrilled.

“Oh your babies ‘gone’ look so beautiful with their light skin and pretty hair.”

Even though I hated when she did that, I was raised not to be disrespectful, and so I never addressed how icky it made me feel.

 

Six months later we were a day away from getting married (May 1996). My father had flown in from France (where he and my mom had retired to in 1988) alone, and the night before the wedding we had the obligatory rehearsal dinner. Tony’s parents, his three sisters, their husbands and his oldest sister’s kids all met my father for the first time.

 

Tony’s mom asked to speak with me privately in the ladies’ room.

“Sugah, you didn’t tell me your father was White.”
“Is that a problem?” I asked.
“Well, not really but you weren’t entirely honest with us,” she responded.
“What difference does it make whether I am light complected and both my parents are Black, or whether my parents were different races and I am the complexion I am? Why is complexion such a big deal in your family?” I paused. “And if you’re my complexion or lighter, doesn’t that mean you have a White parent or grandparent? I am not sure what it means but it definitely means there’s a lot of mixing on both sides of your family.”
“No, honey, my family has proudly maintained this light complexion by marrying other light complected people on both sides for generations.”

 

My jaw was dropping.

“What’s your mother?”

Tony’s mother asked me. Her eyes were intense and narrowed. She was genuinely angry.

 

“Black and Japanese,” I said.
“Japanese? Excuse me? You mean to tell me you’re not even half and half?” she asked me.
“How did you think I got this light complexion? If my mother was Black and my father was White, don’t you think I would be darker than I am? I can’t believe I am having this conversation with you the night before I am going to marry your son and be married into your … family.” I felt dizzy and nauseated.
“Oh sugah, imagine how we feel! This changes things. We will never truly be able to welcome you into the family. Who knows what my grandchildren will look like now?”

 

What the hell was she talking about? Changes what? Oh lawd have mercy on my precious soul, I thought. What had I gotten myself into? I grew up proud of my parents’ interracial relationship. I started thinking back to all the scrutiny and racism my parents faced when they got married. I thought about the fact that my father’s family disowned him for marrying my mother. What on earth does this change???? I wondered. I may have always self-identified as Black, but I know I am Black, Japanese and White. And I also prided myself on not giving a damn what other people’s races and ethnicities were.

 

That night I talked it over with Tony and told him that if this crazy talk continued, I’d leave and go far, far away. The only thing that could keep us together was if we both moved—away from these crazy people. Tony told me he’d have to think about all this. He too had, in his words, “been blindsided” by my disclosure.

 

Blindsided? Okay, in hindsight I probably should have pressed the issue of race. I shouldn’t have assumed it wouldn’t matter what race or races I was. Then I was mad because I knew it was an issue when they fussed over my light complexion and “pretty hair,” and I brushed it off.

 

The next morning I got up convinced I had to go through with this wedding. I committed to him and we were going to do this. And we were going to fight this insanity—as husband and wife. I dug my heels in.

 

When his family showed up to the church, they couldn’t have been more disrespectful. They sat in the front pew and all of them wore black and dark glasses during the entire ceremony. During the reception nobody in his family said more than five words to me, and whatever they did say was unpleasant.

 

There’s Only One Christmas Baby and If You Don’t Like It…

 

During the reception, I pulled Paul—Tony’s best man—aside. I asked him what this color struck crap was.

“Oh, Tony’s family has been like that since we were kids. Tony once had a girlfriend who was the complexion of Maya Angelou and they used to call her Sheronda that Black A$$ N*****er! They could never say just her name when they talked about her.”

 

I cried. What had I done? I hadn’t met anyone like this before. I knew White people who were racist against Blacks and even Blacks who had serious distrust of White people, but I had never met people of color who were so color struck to the point where my having a White father was a problem, or where my now husband’s ex was considered too dark. This was all such a new and upsetting experience for me.

 

There was never any marital bliss for Tony and me. Six months into the marriage I saw his family less and less frequently, and the few times we saw each other, things usually turned ugly quickly.

 

Not long after we were married, Paul had started having problems with his girlfriend. He called the house to talk with Tony about it, hoping he could shed some light. Or maybe Paul just needed a male shoulder to cry on.

 

As soon as Tony would see Paul’s number come up on the caller ID, he’d say, “You pick up. You’re better at this stuff than I am.”

 

Over time, Paul began to see this woman was no good for him, and the two broke up. I tried fixing him up with a few of my single girlfriends. He was a very nice guy, bright, could talk about any topic—definitely cerebral—and oh yes, very handsome.

 

And while there was no reason for Paul to continue calling me, he did and we found ourselves talking about everything under the sun—all the things I wished I could talk about with Tony: politics, philosophy, current events, anything other than how color struck his family was.

 

At one point I confided that Tony was staying out a lot and that I had suspected he was cheating. Paul hadn’t believed Tony capable of cheating and he kept encouraging us to try and work it out. Paul suggested we move out of the area—get some distance from his family.

 

The final straw came on Christmas day 1996. We were at one of his sisters’ houses. Linda* tolerated me, and I think it’s because her husband was darker complected and she couldn’t very well be a hypocrite. After dinner, Linda brought out a cake to celebrate birthdays. Mine is on the 22nd and Tony’s middle sister’s fell on Christmas day.

 

As everyone sang Happy Birthday to Jeana* and me, Jeana stopped the singing and said to me,

“There is only one Christmas baby here and if you don’t like it, you can leave, bitch!”

 

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I looked at Tony who was laughing. I had already started seeing him as a spineless jellyfish and I think that was the moment I decided enough was enough. I got up and said,

“You know what? That’s the best invitation I have ever gotten. I’ll go one step further, which ought to make your whole family happy. I want a divorce from all you racist and color struck a$$holes.”

 

It felt so good to say those words. I walked home—four miles in the freezing cold—and started packing. As I was packing, I called two people: first Paul and then my father. Paul asked if there was anything we could do to salvage things.

“Nope, I am a stubborn one but once I make up my mind, I am done.”

Paul made me promise to stay in touch.

 

When I talked with my father, he told me he was so sorry but that he’d always thought I’d married the wrong man.

“Your mother would have loved Paul! Have you ever thought about dating him?”

 

Huh!

Well, I’ll tell you this. Having gotten it horribly wrong the first time, I wasn’t going to jump into anything really fast, but I also wasn’t going to let myself be bitter. I got divorced wanting to be married. I loved marriage; I had just married the wrong man.

 

After my divorce was final—almost a year to the day Tony and I got married—two things happened.

 

First, Tony admitted he’d fathered a child with his ex-girlfriend—the one his family used to call "Sheronda that Black A$$ N*****er"! Their child was due in just a couple of weeks, which meant he’d cheated before I asked for a divorce.

 

I actually felt genuine happiness for him. I suspected he’d always loved Sheronda and maybe this would be what he needed to live his life and not his family’s life.

 

We parted on, surprisingly, good terms.

 

Second, Paul admitted he’d been in love with me since before I married Tony. This, you can imagine, was slightly awkward. Not that I wasn’t attracted to Paul. I was, but I was concerned what people would think—particularly Paul’s family.

 

On Thanksgiving Day 1997, several months after my divorce was final, I met Paul’s family. One of the first things I noticed was that their family—like mine—spanned the rainbow.

 

Both parents were Black, but like so many in the United States, due to miscegenation, his mother was even lighter in complexion than I am. His father was very dark in complexion, and Paul and his sisters’ looks reflected this mixing.

 

Paul’s family knows how I met Paul but until now, only four or five other people outside his family knew how we met. It’s not that we’re ashamed, but you know how people can be.

 

So why am I sharing this story so openly? As Paul and I are two months shy of celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary and 19 years as a couple, people can think what they want, but clearly my father was right—I had married the wrong man.

 

I have since corrected that mistake.


Any names with an asterisk have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

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‘She’s So Pretty. Where Did You Get Her?’

Um, from my uterus?


‘She’s So Pretty. Where Did You Get Her?’ via Swirl Nation Blog

As mother to a child of mixed race (mine happens to be half Caucasian and half African American), before her birth, I never put thought into things I would hear.

The first time someone, a stranger, asked me a question at the pharmacy, I was floored. Minding my own business standing in line holding my beautiful, golden baby, a woman asked, “Where did you adopt her from?” I stood in utter dismay. What? First of all, I didn’t. But more importantly, what in the world would make you think it would be okay to ask a total stranger such a personal question? Should I ask you when the last time you had sex was? I mean, isn’t that about the same level of intrusiveness?

When I owned a salon and spa, someone thought it would be totally legit to ask me if I had “spray tanned” my baby. And she was serious! Ummmm, ya, actually I did, that was following her lip injections and her perm. She is a year old. Seriously?!

I mean I get it, it can be confusing. But that doesn’t mean your mind needs to make your mouth move. I have friends who have biracial children. One in particular is Filipino and her first child is super pale, has bright red hair and blue eyes. I can only imagine the looks and questions. The questions that are not YOUR business!

One assumption that always gets me, and I am sure makes most of my African American male friends perhaps slightly uncomfortable when we are in public together, is when someone says to one of them, “Oh, your daughter is beautiful” ― except as Jerry Springer would announce, “He is NOT the baby daddy!”

Just because a white woman is with a man of color and the child is brown does NOT make that man the father. A nervous laugh always ensues when that question is uttered by yet another stranger. Immediately, the look on the face of my friend says, What do I say?

I typically will hop in with a thank you. I am beyond the point of explanation. Although at times I want to concoct a long drawn out story of how I was just about to break the news to him that, in fact, this is his child albeit an immaculate conception.

There are times when I am not immune to wondering. Just yesterday at the beach I was chatting with a mom who was speaking what I thought was Italian. Turns out it was Portuguese. She was Asian. That was confusing enough and then her child ran up and there was no resemblance. None. But I did not ask her if he was adopted or if she was the nanny or the aunt. The next child I see wandering to the playground was blonde, blue-eyed and with a fair complexion. Mom follows slowly behind, Hispanic in appearance. I think (to myself) little one must resemble Dad, until Dad walked up and NOPE! But once again, not my business. Love is love. Genetics are weird.

In a beautiful world where children are blessed by love whether it’s adoption or genetics, I encourage you to keep your thoughts and inquisitions to yourself. Does it matter where a child came from? Because ultimately they all came from the same place.

Just ask the woman who a couple of years ago made the mistake of asking me while in the checkout line at Costco. She caught me on a day where I had had enough. With seven years of experience now under my belt, when she looked at my daughter with the usual compliment of beauty and then at me with the worn out question of “where did you get her?” I looked her in the eyes and said, “From my uterus.” I have never been checked out of Costco more quickly by a shocked cashier.

Children hear what you say and we as adults don’t need to emphasize their differences in a world where differences are not positively embraced by everyone. Do you really need to know? Keep your words kind and your nosey thoughts to yourself unless you want to risk hearing the word uterus out loud in public.

Post first published on Huffington Post 


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MIXING IT UP: WHY INTERRACIAL DATING HAS BEEN PIVOTAL FOR MY GROWTH


Dating is one of the rights of passage I relished in growing up as a young girl, I always envisioned the act of dating itself more than necessarily what my partner was going to look like. I wanted the cute pictures to post in a locker at school, someone to hold hands with in the hall, and to go through every rite of passage with (well almost every one since I was saving myself for marriage). My crushes which were wide and varied ranged from mixed people like myself (my first boyfriend was Black/Korean) to boys of other cultures and races. I never grew up feeling limited to what my future boyfriend could be (outside of the fact my father had a no dating rule that was enforced to the harshest extent. However; like all teenagers I found my way around it.)

My mother is a Mexican woman with olive skin and light brown eyes (seemingly white unless you hear her speak Spanish) and my father is black. I grew up being the bi-product of an interracial household even if my extended family and friends didn’t necessarily reflect that in their own families. I never felt pressured to date a certain race or limited to what that specific person could offer me. My parents had their preferences, ideas and even thoughts expressed on certain cultures given their own life experiences, but I wasn’t raised to be fearful of dating someone outside my race. You may be thinking you’re mixed so you basically had 2 options for dating in the racial gene pool, but you’d be surprised to know my first serious relationship (as serious as high schoolers can be) was with a blue eyed half British/ half Puerto Rican young man.

As I graduated and continued on through college my relationship palette transformed from Nicaraguan, Honduran, Mexican, and most recently Black with my partners who varied in education, personality and “type.” I’ve always found that personally as an odd question to respond to when people ask me what my “type,” is because I realize as I get older I don’t have one. Some people have strict wants/needs physically in a partner, and even though I’d love to be with my current celeb crush (Michael B. Jordan) he’s not the model for how I choose the guys I date. At the same time, I do have a profound respect for women who know exactly what they want in their partner from height measurements to eye color. There’s a certain sense of security that comes from knowing exactly what you want in a partner versus me who sees dating as a buffet, “I’ll just try a bit of everything and see what I like.” You could think maybe this is a waste of time and effort on my hand, but it has been an interesting process thus far really deciding what qualities I desire in a man, but I can tell you with the upmost certainty a specific culture/race isn’t it.

MIXING IT UP: WHY INTERRACIAL DATING HAS BEEN PIVOTAL FOR MY GROWTH via Swirl Nation Blog

Interracial dating has taught me so much and I’m very thankful to have gotten the chance to experience it so heavy handed when I was a teenager. Dating someone outside of both my respective races taught me understanding and tolerance for other people’s cultures on an intimate level. I still remember the first time I had Puerto Rican food cooked by my high school sweetheart’s father. I can recall meeting his lovely British mother and listening to her accent that gave me a small glimpse of her life in England. My game changer who was Nicaraguan wore a beautiful gold necklace that had a charm of his country on it. He would tell me stories about his family in New York and how his culture influenced his love of dancing and music. In college, my Honduran boyfriend explained the uniqueness of his name and familial upbringing in Honduras when he was younger. A chance connection in Greek life showed me not every Hispanic is raised traditionally with Catholicism or in a Spanish speaking household.

Even though back then I wasn’t as confident in my own identity, I did try to educate my partner’s on my mixed experience and what that was like growing up. I exchanged Spanish with those who spoke it and was fascinated to learn different dialects and phrases separate from my own. I kept my mind and heart open to alternate upbringings in different countries and the politics of getting citizenship or even a visa to see extended family overseas. I advocate for dating outside of your cultural norms and questioning what your physically attracted and why. I understand and respect we all grow up differently and our love interests can be reflective of that. It’s a very common understanding I’ve known that some people like “to date what they know or grew up with,” and how influential that came be subconsciously when choosing a date. I challenge to date outside the norm, open your mind up to crossing boundaries that you yourself might have in place or that were created as a result of your upbringing. The world is such a big place with beautiful people to limit yourself in love. 

MIXING IT UP: WHY INTERRACIAL DATING HAS BEEN PIVOTAL FOR MY GROWTH via Swirl Nation Blog

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A LETTER TO MY HUSBAND, DADDY TO MY THREE LITTLE GIRLS


A LETTER TO MY HUSBAND, DADDY TO MY THREE LITTLE GIRLS via Swirl Nation Blog

“My turn!”, my eldest daughter screams as the three girls (well, two with one sort of crawling) clamber to climb on top of your back. “One at a time!”, you laugh gently, taking each one by the hand, bowing and spinning them in a sort of ballet waltz that mirrors that of the prince’s ball attended by Cinderella.

I’m watching our 4 year old as she becomes completely captivated.  No smile, only a look of pure intense concentration to dance as gracefully as she can. It doesn’t matter that it’s with you, her Dad. In fact, it’s better because she knows she can be whomever or whatever she wants to be in this moment. Bossy, clumsy, even slightly dominating as she tries several times to lead the dance. She’s entranced by the magic of her imagination in a world where Daddy has made real the moment where the prince falls in love with the princess.   Still spellbound, she whispers, “Make me fly Daddy”. You dutifully lift her above your head and spin her around and around in the ultimate dance finale.

It’s their magical reality and it’s always been this way. Our daughters occupy that place in your heart that embodies pure love. That feeling of absolute adoration and infallible love that no other could replace.

It’s true that you rarely say ‘no’ to our girls and I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me sometimes when bedtime routine takes 3 times as long as it does with me because they need ‘one more story’ or want you to lie with them for ten more minutes. It sometimes means I have to be the bad guy who insists they eat their vegetables or refuses “one more sweetie”.

Inevitably as they grow, this relationship will change. Feasibly from the more physical play to more difficult, emotional needs. And it’s not easy with three daughters who all regard themselves as Daddy’s girl. As the youngest gets older, she’ll become more demanding. And so your attention will be split in yet another direction.

But I’ve come to appreciate the space you represent in our daughters’ lives. It’s different to mine. In a world where insecurity and self-doubt plague so many women, it’s so important for girls to know they have a safe space in a man with whom they can say anything and be loved no matter what.

You make sure each of them feels special, so conscious are you that they’re all different and need different things that although I’m the main caregiver, I appreciate the parenting example set by you.  You’re no push over but you always bend over backwards to make sure they’re happy. It means they go out with Daddy in mismatched clothes- often dress up outfits-, scooters, bicycles, whatever (could be both).

I know you didn’t foresee the changes that having children, particularly daughters, would have on you. What is it with a man and his daughters? And three at that.  Yes, we’ve both felt the pressure to have a boy and still the comments from other people about what it will be like when they’re all teenagers suggest an adverse future for you.

It’s not always easy coming from the Nigerian culture where the father’s role is the career go-getter and little importance is placed upon ‘playing’ with your children. I too notice the looks you sometimes get when we’re in some people’s presence.

Despite that, I have a feeling nothing will shift for you and your girls even when they’re moody teenagers who’ll inevitably push back and turn their back for a few moments. You’ll be right in there the way you already are when they want a side ponytail, baby doll to stop crying or the chance to play “Peppa Pig” with you.

For them, their first encounter and most important relationship with a man is and has been with their Dad. Add in the complexity that you are black, our daughters mixed and the media’s f***ed up representation of black men in our society, you represent so much more than just their Daddy.

If it’s true that little girls choose their future partners based on their fathers, having a Dad who is as adoring and absolute in his love for them is so precious. So today I count my blessings to have a husband who is the father to my daughters that they’ll always need. If I could choose a partner for my daughters it would be with a man like their Daddy. Thank you.

Love always,

Your wife


Post was first published on Fariba's blog http://www.mixedracefamily.com/


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PREPARING FOR RACIST BULLYING AT SCHOOL

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PREPARING FOR RACIST BULLYING AT SCHOOL


READING POSTS FROM A FEW MUMMY BLOGGERS THIS WEEK, THE SUBJECT OF RACIST BULLYING SEEMED TO COME UP A LOT. A BLACK TEENAGER WHO RETALIATED WHEN SHE WAS CALLED THE ‘N’ WORD AND THE SCHOOL/ POLICE’S UNEQUAL RESPONSE. A MUM WHOSE MIXED RACE DAUGHTER WAS ASKED (TWICE IN ONE WEEK) IF SHE WAS ADOPTED AND “IS THAT YOUR REAL MUM” BECAUSE SHE HAS DARK SKIN.

Real racism or blatant bullying hasn’t happened to my kids yet. But I’ve witnessed hints of kids becoming ‘aware’ of difference. At 4 years old, I can see the children already noticing skin colour and how it relates to them and their friends.

Children noticing difference and singling out other kids for looking or acting a certain way is nothing new. I remember being picked on and even doing the picking- for all sorts of things: glasses, red hair, short, fat, hairy, long nose, short nose, names… the list goes on. But what I don’t remember and what I’ve never had to experience is racist comments about skin colour.

Though I was born into a mixed family, my father a milk chocolate colour, I am by far the lightest in my family- easily able to pass as white. I could float between my identities at will, embracing more of my Iranian background as I grew older but wanting nothing to do with anything foreign in my pre-teen years. True, my name often gave me away but I was able to shorten it to a westernised version that allowed me to pass.

PREPARING FOR RACIST BULLYING AT SCHOOL via Swirl Nation Blog

So I’m new to this territory. I remember when my daughter was barely 1 year old and my husband and I had taken her to a local park in a very white middle class area. A child came up to her and stuck his tongue out, then tried to tell her she couldn’t come to the part of the climbing frame where he was. Perhaps we were sensitive as new parents but I remember feeling rage at the other child for excluding her or being mean to her. She was oblivious of course, as most babies would be. But looking around the park with so many white children and their blue-eyed- blonde- haired parents in groups, it played into the feeling we already had of feeling isolated and sensitive to a world that might judge our beautiful child on the basis of her skin.

Like any mother I desperately want to protect my children. I don’t want to be over sensitive but why then does racist bullying hurt so much more than just plain bullying?

My guess is it’s because we know it won’t end when the children grow up and realise glasses can be cool, being short is pretty common and having a different name isn’t something to make fun of someone for. Most people grow out of bullying. But racism is something that will and can continue for a lifetime. It may take a different form but the hurt caused whether you’re in the playground or grown up and working can be just as painful.

So to have it start at such an early age is heartbreaking. Because if you’ve given them the best start, you know they’re confident, even proud of who they are, soon, very soon, they’ll understand not everyone thinks that way.

I do realise that nothing could happen as many mixed friends can recount not having encountered any negative experience because of their skin colour. If so, my daughters may just escape the large chip many of we and many generations before us have been forced to carry and have a pretty good shot at happiness.

But if comments do happen, I’m hope I’m ready for it. Ready to maintain my cool and hold down the rage that I can imagine I’ll feel at even the slightest hint of racist bullying. I hope I can talk to my daughter about how and why it happened, how it made her feel and how some people may see things that way. What I hope more than anything though is that if it does happen, my daughters will be secure enough in who they are to be able to dismiss such comments as they would any other.

Is there any way a parent can prepare for when their child gets bullied? Perhaps not. I can’t do anything about the way the world sees her, but I hope I can be a positive influence in the way she sees herself.

PREPARING FOR RACIST BULLYING AT SCHOOL via Swirl Nation Blog

Post was first published on Fariba's blog http://www.mixedracefamily.com/


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NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM BY PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT KALMAN

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NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM BY PHOTOGRAPHER ROBERT KALMAN


As a Creative Director by profession I spend a good part of my days roaming Pinterest and the internet for inspiration, and one day I came across these beautiful portraits of interracial couples but New York photographer Robert Kalman. I loved the rawness of the photos. Kalman took the photos on the streets of New York City, Provincetown and during travels to Europe. 

Kalman's book No Difference Between Them was published in 2009, so it is not new but it was the first time I had come across them.  

I love that the couples seem to be in whatever pose they felt most comfortable versus being posed by the photographer. The images make me want to go deeper and learn their stories. Which photo is your favorite?  


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BREAKING THROUGH A SEA OF SAMENESS

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BREAKING THROUGH A SEA OF SAMENESS


People often ask me why it is that I primarily date men of different races than myself. I’ve thought about the answer many times. My usual response is that I am more attracted to people who have traveled different paths in life then myself. I enjoy the contrast, both in life experience and in skin tone.

I have been like this for as long as I remember. Searching for people who could teach me something. As a young girl in preppy Connecticut I definitely fit in. My blonde bob, Esprit bag, plaid skirt, Benetton shirt and penny loafers fit the mold. It was an ideal upbringing, the type of life you would see in sitcom. But I was uniquely curious about what else was out there. As I got older this desire became more prominent. I had a desire to travel, meet new people, and experience the energy of cities instead of my safe suburb.

I have a bit of gypsy in me. As a child we lived in multiple states, our most significant move came when I was 14 and about to start high school. We left sheltered Connecticut and moved to California. The two environments were vastly different, but I really embraced the change. This excitement for change and has followed me into my adult life. I love adventure and I’ve never been scared of leaving a comfortable place. In fact I feel most creative when I am in uncomfortable positions. It sparks something inside of me and pushes me. Now that I am older I can look back and see that there were many times when I purposely put myself in challenging positions in search of that push.

I think I can say the same about the interracial relationships I have been in. All of my long-term relationships in my 20s and 30s have been with black or mixed black men. These relationships have challenged me, as all partnerships do. But I think interracial relationships have a set of unique challenges. I’ve never dated anyone who I met and thought, “wow our lives are so similar”, “our parents would be best friends”, “your family reminds me so much of my own” – none of that, quite the opposite in fact.

There are uncomfortable moments being a mixed couple. Whether it is disapproving comments and looks or moments where you wonder if you are just too different to make something work.

I also think for me there is something deeper that is behind my desire for difference. And I think some people might feel uncomfortable with this statement, but I feel like I am contributing to making the world a better place by choosing to partner with men of a different race than myself. I know that might sound kind of strange. It sounds a little strange to me even. But I think growing up in a sea of sameness has pushed me to create a world for myself that is the opposite of that. Not in a bad way, because I loved my friends and the childhood I had. But it sparked a deep passion inside of me for creating a community for myself that was diverse- a Swirl Nation.

This of course goes beyond men and into female friendships as well. I have a great group of women in my life who are very diverse ethnically and personality-wise. I learn so much from everyone I am connected with and I can say there are times it is not completely comfortable. But I remember my ex-boyfriend Mike would tell me that as soon as a relationship gets “too comfortable” it is doomed and I have to say I agree with him 100%.

Many might disagree with my perspective. I have witnessed many people who find it much safer to stay in one place, partner with people very similar to themselves, and surround themselves with friends who look and talk like they do. My hope is that someday they recognize the sea of sameness they are living in and feel the urge to step out into uncharted territory. I recently read a stat that 75% of white Americans ONLY have other white people in their social networks, similarly 65% percent of black and 46% of Hispanic Americans also have homogeneous social networks.

This is a big problem. It shouldn’t surprise us that we are so divided as a nation when the majority of people do not have any close relationships with people of another race. Clearly this is a big opportunity for people to embrace difference and diversity.

Those of us with mixed families are certainly leading the way and are in the position to share our stories on blogs like Swirl Nation and on other platforms and hopefully inspire. I will continue to live life looking for new paths to travel and finding amazing people along the way to accompany me on my colorful journey. 


All artwork is by the talented artist Brian Kirhagis. I discovered him on Instagram and fell in love with the sexiness of his work. Follow him HERE.

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Getting Older…

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Getting Older…


My birthday is this weekend.  I will be 36.  Everyone is always like, “who cares if you are getting older?  Embrace it and be happy.”

I get it.

But can I really talk about what I miss about my first 35 years (really the first 30, because things kind of started to go downhill after that – I know everyone’s downhill is different, but whatever)?

  1. Eating, drinking, staying out late and it not affecting me in the morning.

  2. Eating ANYTHING and EVERYTHING and not having stomach issues.  Seriously, why do our stomachs become less iron-clad as we get older?  I LOOK at hot wings now and get gas.

  3. The healthy glow on my skin that only comes with no responsibilities.

  4. Having a good memory.  Seriously, I thought old people are supposed to be wiser…

  5. Having the endurance to wear heels all day.

Farewell first 35, hello to almost middle age.

As I look on the things I miss, I am reminded I have no business eating, drinking, and staying out late with two kids.  I can fake the glow with Becca Cosmetics, flats are fabulous, and Google is up there in my best friend rankings.  I’m still kind of pissed about the food thing, though…

I am also reminded that I have two beautiful children, a handsome husband, good friends I adore, a deeper relationship with my family, and my health.  Life is good. 

Looking forward to embracing another year of changes…

Me through the years. Notice how I'm wearing more clothes as I'm getting older? Photos from L to R: age 24, age 29, age 29, age 34


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About that Resolution...

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About that Resolution...

I don’t even bother to make New Year’s Resolutions anymore. Haven’t in years. I know we are supposed to set goals and plan but my resolution is always to get in better shape and making it again and again, year after year,  just got, well...silly. So I don’t.

Every New Year, my goal is to purge. Yesterday I unloaded every single bottle in my bathroom, wiped out all shelves and drawers and deep cleaned. Over the years, I’ve noticed a direct connection between my ability to achieve my goals and the condition of my home. Whether it’s working out, eating clean, completing a project, I find I am much more effective when my home is in order. 

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