“Nah, I’m not down with the swirl.”
This sentiment was offered by my employer a while ago when discussing the prospect of her dating a guy we both knew. She is black. He is white. The discussion came after she revealed to me that her younger sister had married a white guy and they had two children together. By her admission, he was “great, dork of a guy, but he really loves her. He’s a part of the family, for sure.” This made me feel good, and even though the “swirl” comment made my pc-liberal lip quiver, she was saying what her preference was, which we all do to some extent. She’s slightly older, so I chalk a lot of the untoward things she says up to just “speaking from a different time.” She lives in her own bubble where its acceptable to say un-pc things and it’s fine. I live in my bubble where I say things and then immediately worry if I phrased it in the best way possible so as to avoid attacking someone.
Based off her remarks, I suppose I AM “down with the swirl.” I dated white women for all my life (Living in rural Colorado, this was easier than you might think). Then I dated a non-white woman. Then I proposed to her. Then I married her. I am in no way saying that people MUST date outside their race, but doing so does change your thinking on a lot of issues, especially if you are the product of a more privileged upbringing. You start looking at things in a different way.
From early on, I could tell it was going to be different. On our first date at a fancy Italian restaurant, we kept getting strange looks from an older couple at a nearby table. They were of the same ethnic background as my wife, and they just kept gawking at us, but we ignored it. It was a weird experience, but it wasn’t the first or last time something like that would happen. We’ve never been physically or verbally attacked for our relationship, it’s much more subtle. The occasional frown, turned up lip, and lengthy stares are standard operating procedure, especially when in rural areas, but you get used to it. Honestly, these sort of things roll off, and are NOTHING compared to what people of color (POC) and members of the gay community have had to endure.
To be clear, being in an interracial relationship is nothing like being gay or a POC in America. It is a choice, while being a member of either/both of the aforementioned groups of individuals is not. Interracial relationships are much more widely accepted than gayness, blackness, brownness, and “other-nesses.” Except maybe in Mississippi.
As mentioned, being in an interracial relationship exposes you to different things. When you visit her hometown and you’re the minority, it can make you a bit uneasy. Its a weird feeling, and something you hadn’t really thought of beforehand. You start noticing depictions of her people in the media more, and over time, you develop a certain sensitivity to certain things. With this new world of experiences you’ve entered into, your personal politics begin to change. You start noticing more and more that the opinions you had coming into the relationship are changing, oftentimes, substantially.
In talking with other people who have/do date outside their race, it seems that are a lot of similar experiences, but the most common question we are asked is how our families reacted. Again, its such a common question, I’ve quit getting annoyed at it, but the fact it’s even being asked shows that there is still a taboo about dating outside our races. The responses to them are usually pretty consistent. White women who dated outside their race have generally gotten less support from their families than when white men did. Most often the immediate family is a little more accepting, and it’s the “outer rings” that are less so. More often than not, there is a “Stepford” effect, where even if people disagree with it, they force a smile, and hope that its just a phase their son/daughter is going through.
I recall hearing someone from the outer ring mentioning to their son that, “you can’t help who you fall in love with….but we’d PREFER if she were white.” When his sister asked about her dating, she was told to not “bring ANYTHING home that isn’t white.” Score one for the white patriarchy on that. There were less incidents like these among those I spoke with, but they did happen, usually at home, where the shroud of “Got Damn Political Correctness” was removed. Again, this level of openness isn’t that common, but it still happens.
And they’re far from alone in their disgust with Those People.
It was in 1967 that laws against interracial marriage were officially declared unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia, and like most good things, conservatives are still dragging their feet about supporting it. Once they lost on interracial marriage, they launched a war on drugs designed specifically to harm the black community, an effort that is finally starting to stumble after decades of wild success (in harming blacks, not in curtailing drugs). Then they launched a war on welfare, which failed to end welfare, the stated goal, but harmed minorities (the actual goal). Then came the war on gay marriage, and once again, it took the Supreme Court’s involvement for the rights of Americans to be respected. Time and time again, conservatives have tried to strip away and deny the rights of minority populations. Time and time again, they are batted down by a Supreme Court and society moving forward and striving for inclusiveness. Despite their abysmal record, they continue fighting against change and equality, getting more entrenched in their hatred of “the others” of society.
In this election cycle in particular, there is a much greater focus on the animosity the GOP nominee (at least as of typing this) is sowing against POC. He has done a tremendous job of bringing those under-the-radar racist and xenophobic elements out of the shadows and into the folds of political action. The instances of his supporters saying blatantly racist, sexist, and bigoted things grows longer and longer with each tick of the clock, but what’s a little less blatant is how those anti-POC views affect interracial relationships.
Out of Olympia, Washington, we have the stabbing of an interracial couple who committed the ultimate sin of kissing in public. White supremacist Daniel Rowe committed the attack and during his arrest, shouted support for Donald Trump and saying he wanted to attack a Black Lives Matter protest. This incident is troubling for a number of reasons, but the most troubling aspect of all is that it won’t be the last. Attacks on POC over the course of He Who Must Never Be President’s campaign have continued to rise in frequency and severity. Racists have come out of the woodwork, hidden behind the banners of “State’s rights,” “Taking America Back,” and “All Lives Matter,” and the implication of their invigoration is deeply unsettling. They are able to revive social and racial issues long thought to have been settled. Trump’s campaign has not only been a last gasp of white male supremacy, but a beacon for every racist and bigot around, and it makes sense that this is the next obstacle to progress we’ll be facing.
Over the past few years, I have become an even stronger supporter of gay rights, Black Lives Matter, and various other liberal causes, but I never felt that comfortable openly discussing them. Most of my online comments have been supportive, but nervous. I’m not gay, so when I speak about the need to treat gay Americans equally, I worry that it seems like I’m just pandering. I’m not black, so when I say black lives matter, I have that thought in the back of my mind that maybe I’m just doing it for the likes. When I craft a critique of something white people are doing, it has to be carefully worded. If it isn’t, I get feedback from family like this:
“You keep talking about all this race stuff, it’s like you forgot you grew up in a white middle class family!”
For the record, I haven’t forgotten my whiteness, my privilege, or my upbringing, but I learned that according to a certain percentage of other white people, if I’m not affected by it personally, I shouldn’t care. It doesn’t affect me, so I should remain quiet. This is obviously an absurd view of the world, but it is one that is shared by many within the Republican party. Time and time again, Republicans have to moderate on race or gay marriage, usually once it affects them personally. Without that, it’s a lot harder to get them to come around on these issues.
When the aforementioned family member said this, essentially asking why I cared, I thought about it for awhile. The term “intersectionality” has become quite the buzzword among educated liberals, usually discussing the overlapping struggles the gay, black, and female populations face in today’s society. There are various intersections of political issues as well. The response would have to show why I had a vested interest in these civil rights struggles, and why I was “betraying my race” by distancing myself from bad white people. I reflected on my change of heart over the course of being in a interracial relationship. I’d grown more liberal, and more aware of alternative views of the world, even if it was and incredibly small glimpse. Finally, I had it:
“I know I’m white, I could never forget that. Especially in my career, whiteness is something we are confronting more and more. However, while I may get more opportunities in life, and while I may have had more privilege growing up, I know that my children won’t. If they are a shade too dark, their opportunities diminish. If just wanting equality isn’t enough, then that’s why. I’m not okay with screwing over my kids by supporting politicians and policies that don’t think of them or treat them equally.”
Not the most well-crafted rebuttal, but it got the point across.
On the lighter and not-quite tongue-in-cheek side, I’ve figured how to counteract people like Trump and this fuckstick in Washington: Breed them out. If conditions improve when it becomes personal for those in a society, then we have a moral imperative to bone them out of existence. Find a person of a different race, make a baby, and move on. You don’t have to marry them, and you should absolutely help raise them, but by boning our way into the future, we are guaranteeing that the voices and opinions of these people are drowned out by a racially diverse, forward-thinking collection of Americans. Barack Obama has been a tremendous example of what a biracial kid can accomplish. Let’s build on that. Do it for America. Do it to spite Trump, and Fox News, and your “outer ring.”
America, embrace the swirl.