My Interracial Marriage Made Me Realize Race Does Matter

wendy robinson husbandI met Michael on a Friday night. We had our first date on Saturday and our second date on Sunday. Less than four months later, we were engaged. We would marry the next summer, head over heels in love, completely besotted with each other.

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On paper, it might have seemed like Michael and I were an odd couple. He was 43, I was 25. He'd been married before and had two children. I was a single gal who'd never dated anyone for longer than six months before. We were from different faith backgrounds, and he was black and I was white.

But none of these things mattered to us. Love was love.

We've been married for 10 years now and are besotted and in love in the way of a long married couple: We make each other laugh, we get on each other's nerves, we have the same three fights over and over again, but we always make up even if we sometimes go to bed angry. 

When I was a new bride, I wasn't naive enough to pretend that race didn't matter. I knew that interracial marriage was still illegal in many states when my husband was a child. I knew that there were people in my family who found my choice of husband to be perplexing, who thought that I was somehow "settling" by not waiting for a white guy to sweep me off my feet.

(Side note: May you all be so lucky to "settle" for a man with a PhD, a brilliant mind, a quick sense of humor, and butt so perfect it still makes you swoon after a decade of marriage.)

So, I knew that race mattered, but I just didn't think it mattered to us.

More from The Stir: 15 Things Never to Say to Parents of Biracial Kids

But the events of the last year, from Ferguson to the shooting in Charleston, have shown me that I was naive and that race does matter in our relationship. This was brutally clear when the shooting in Charleston happened.

I was obviously horrified and heartsick about it. But my husband couldn't sleep at night for days afterward. He was devastated. For me, it was a terrible crime and a sign that racism is alive and well in the United States. For him, it felt much more personal. He thought about people who could be his family, worshipping at Wednesday night church services in the south. Maybe he thought about how if he had been in that church, he wouldn't have been seen as the educated academic and amazing husband and father he is. He would have been seen as a target. It was a reminder that he (and our children) are less safe than I am when it comes to the threat of racial violence.

We talked about it, but I couldn't help but feel that there was a distance between us at that moment because I just can't fully understand his experiences. I was trying to figure out how to shield our children from the news stories about the shooting, and he was trying to figure out when and how to talk to our 7-year-old son about the fact that there are still too many people who will see him as a threat as he grows up.

One of things that has become clear to me over the last year is that talking about race can be difficult and messy and even frustrating at times. Being part of an interracial couple doesn't give me a free pass on being a part of those discussions. It doesn't mean that I always say the right thing or that we don't disagree about how to best raise happy, healthy, and secure biracial children.

Marriage is difficult, messy, and frustrating at times, but the good news is that we were dead right on one thing when we said "I do" -- love is love.

 

Image via Wendy Robinson

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