in the time of wokeness
January 3, 2020 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Buzzfeed made a confessional for people in interracial relationships.

The results are predictably messy.

Twitter doesn't care for it.

Some selections: (CW for racism)

I’m scared to have children because I feel your family will not treat them the same as the other grandkids

Ive been In a relationship with a white man for 10 years and have two gorgeous daughters. He is my soulmate and a great man. They being said, if I had to do it all over I would have never dated a white man. We have had issues with his family and friends that would have been non issues if I was white or if he was Hispanic. My children and I have been discriminated against and treated poorly based on the way we looked. It almost broke our marriage when my husband didn’t acknowledged these instances. We have been in therapy for a while and it has helped but it will always be a weak point in our relationship.

I love my ex. He’s one of the best people i know. Genuinely kind to everyone, very smart and considerate. But while we were dating, all of the police brutality and killing of young black men came to the spotlight in the US. He’s white and I’m a black female. My family was always uncomfortable with me dating a white man, but I did it despite their hesitancy. It was so hard for me though when I realized he didn’t pay attention to what was going on in the news, how alienated and sad I constantly felt where we lived. His lack often attention to such big issues for the black community were infuriating. It made it clear we would never get married because having black (mixed) children with me meant - you have to care, you have to pay attention and you have to speak out against the injustice because if you - privileged white American middle class man in love with a black woman - won’t ... who will?
posted by arabidopsis (29 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
This is super interesting! I agree that the framing is Bad, but the stories themselves are often super interesting, both in a "nuanced examination of culture clash and intersectional struggle" way and a "wow, is this what white people think when they date me" way. I particularly liked the stories from people in poc/poc relationships, because the conversation about interracial relationships has too often become one about white partners who are racist. Poc in interracial or even interethnic relationships with each other often face the same family pressures, unconscious biases, cultural misunderstandings etc. that they do with white partners.

I feel like there's almost a pressure to pretend that dating is 100% colorblind, and also simultaneously a misconception that a white person just being in a relationship with a poc is somehow a virtuous act. But the reality is often more complicated than that, as reality tends to be. Race matters more than a lot of people like to acknowledge.
posted by storytam at 1:07 PM on January 3 [19 favorites]

Interracial love is super complicated in this time of wokeness

Only if you don't talk with and listen to your partner.
posted by mattdidthat at 1:07 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]

These are incredibly upsetting.
posted by agregoli at 1:08 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]

Honestly, it looks like Twitter is full of itself and refusing to actually read what people are writing. It runs the gamut of happy to sad to confused and touches on a number of interracial combinations. There doesn't seem to be a good reason to hate on this being done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]

Oh I don’t think it’s messy because of being in a time of wokeness, but I do think that interracial dating is messy even if you and your partner have good communication skills. Not perhaps messier than other aspects of dating but “just being a good partner” isn’t enough to erase or cancel out the impacts of society.
posted by arabidopsis at 1:25 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]

Only if you don't talk with and listen to your partner.

This is hardly exclusive to people in interracial relationships.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

Only if you don't talk with and listen to your partner.

Yeah, the Twitter thread is hung up on that idea, yet most of the entries I read in just a few minutes are about so much more than that. It's an oddly one-note dismissal. Did anyone actually read some of the entries?

Is anyone reading this
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:41 PM on January 3 [36 favorites]

I am
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:43 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]

Only if you don't talk with and listen to your partner.
posted by mattdidthat at 4:07 PM on January 3 [+] [!]

I've got a gazillion thoughts on this but not sure if Metafilter is the best place for it. Suffice it to say that snarky drive-by comments like these are directly responsible for making it harder to talk about race here.

I'm sure I could push through, but honestly, want to point out how this is partially part of the problem, a kind of "oh, race isn't a big deal / I'm colorblind / love isn't about race it's about being HUMAN" conversation. Part of whiteness is the tendency of white people to desperately try to turn conversations about race into class/gender/nationalism/culture.. "oh god no, anything other than race!"

Who benefits by trivializing issues about race?
posted by suedehead at 1:43 PM on January 3 [106 favorites]

I've read them all and they're a mixed bag - some positive stories, lots of white anxieties, lots of very real societal issues (particularly the ones related to family acceptance) that won't be fixed by communication alone. Props to the lady who threw sweet tea on a customer though
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:47 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]

Yeah, but that sweet tea wasn't drunk, that feels so wrong.

As the black half of white/black American marriage that approaching 20 years, communication is important, as is empathy. It can be ok not aware of racial nuisances if one is willing to listen and learn, that's the real key. Sometimes it'll be difficult, sure, but getting through those times is possible.

Also, being willing embrace different cultures is important. My wife doesn't love that black church services can go on for hours, but she does find it interesting and is willing to go to them. Or would be if I was still religious.

She's Italian, so it's been hard for me to get used to some of the finer points of Italian cooking (what is up with all those different pasta shapes), but it's interesting to sit there and talk and compare our two backgrounds. Having families that aren't too weird about our relationship definitely helps.

I say "too weird" 'cause yeah, older folks have their biases and aren't always so willing to open their eyes and understand. But given time, they've come around and like any awkward relative, we know when to ignore certain people, as frustrating as that can be at times.

So yeah, relationships between different ethnic groups can be odd and challenging, no question. Especially with societal expectations. It really comes down to the individuals and how they choose to handle those issues.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:57 PM on January 3 [29 favorites]

Im confused by the person who wrote this, and, frankly, sad for their spouse:

I truly believe all immigrants have to enter US legally just as I did, Mexicans shouldn't be treated any different, they should be punished for crossing the border illegally just like any other immigrant would. - I'm caucasian married to Mexican.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:03 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]

And THAT neatly ignores the fact that "date someone with whom you can have those discussions" coupled with many, many external societal forces means that... well, there are a lot of people who are just gonna be off the table. And sure, I personally deal with this by dating within my race (inasmuch as that's even possible as someone who's in an interracial relationship with myself 😘) because I like the safety of being understood, but I don't kid myself that that means racism is solved for everyone or that the complexities of interracial relationships aren't worth discussing on a site like MetaFilter.
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:15 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]

Unfortunately, partners don't exist in a vacuum devoid of everything besides their own individual attitudes and morals. Even if, for example, your partner insists they will totally defend you at any potential family gathering that includes their racist relatives (your hypothetical in-laws), that's certainly something to consider when evaluating possible futures together. The immediate relationship might be great, but you might also have kids who never really know one parent's side of the family because that side of the family is conservative and prejudiced against their other parent and that parent's heritage, culture, and people. And relatives are just one aspect of the totality of a person's life. There's plenty of loving and kind interracial relationships out there, but simply listening and caring about your partner alone isn't going to outweigh nor even necessarily ameliorate all the other possible baggage that might affect an interracial relationship.
posted by rather be jorting at 2:19 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]

your relationship should be a safe space in which to discuss issues about race.
your relationship should be a safe space in which to discuss issues about sex.
your relationship should be a safe space in which to discuss issues about sexism.
your relationship should be a safe space in which to discuss issues about money.
your relationship should be a safe space in which to discuss issues about so many fucking things.

and yet. and yet. so many relationship are not always a safe space for everything.

it's not like safe spaces are binary things. you can have a safe space to talk about sex but not one for sexism. you can have a safe space to talk about race and racism for a lot of things and then run smack dab into fragility and obtuseness. it's not like safe spaces are immediate--they take time and trust to build, and where there might not be a safe space six months in, you might have one two years in. it's not like safe spaces are permanent; you might have one a year in, and then something shifts and by the end of the second, that trust is gone.

relationships are about complex interactions. "just talk to them" is such an assholish thing to say because it's a simple, straightforward thing that makes 100% sense but ignores so much context, so many varied communications styles, even differences in starting points.

the only person i see really trivializing these issues is you, mattdidthat, because you're dismissing so much by just saying "talk to your partner" as if that's the only concern here, before suggesting anyone who isn't necessarily in a place to discuss such things with should be single.
posted by anem0ne at 2:20 PM on January 3 [51 favorites]

[One comment removed, I literally don’t have time this moment to elaborate beyond please don’t jump to “no actually it’s simple” about complex shit.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:25 PM on January 3 [25 favorites]

The smug lack of complexity in this response is eye-watering: Only if you don't talk with and listen to your partner. Looking down at the difficulty of discussing the secret sorrows of interracial relationships? Creating and finding safe spaces has been, for me, greatly rewarding between me and those I have cared about. But sometimes, even with effort, that safe place can't be made.
posted by lemon_icing at 4:36 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]

MetaFilter: full of itself and refusing to actually read what people are writing
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:09 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]

We Built A Safe Space To Talk About Interracial Dating In 2020

I read them all, and almost all of them seemed real to me. Like, I was expecting a ton of troll comments, but after reading these they all seem pretty genuine, like after reading lots of them I was thinking "yeah, if these are your thoughts I can imagine how hard it might be to have a conversation with the person you're dating about these thoughts"
posted by 23skidoo at 5:20 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]

They were curated by Buzzfeed.
posted by agregoli at 5:38 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I didn't mean that I expected obvious trolls to flood the comments with obvious trolling, I meant more like subtle trolls that I expected to slip through even though the list was curated.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:44 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]

I've shared these thoughts and feelings with my partner, so it's not anything I wouldn't say to him. It doesn't fit the prompt. But this is what I wrote down, thinking about this.

I'm a genderqueer, white Jewish woman in a serious, loving intercultural relationship. My family and his family have both been awesome, kind, and giving, celebrating the love we've found together, with cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic differences. The same goes for his friends. Being with him has made me want to believe in family again, in a way I've only rarely been able to since my own fractured childhood.

But I'm ashamed of and disappointed in so many of my friends and colleagues. I'm ashamed of myself, by extension, for not telling them so more directly every single time they say something that's subtly racist or classist or show off their appropriative belongings. I need to do so. They certainly haven't hesitated to judge and voice their disapproval of various aspects of our relationship. The offenders have been mostly but not all white, including some friends I perhaps incorrectly assumed shared my liberal sensibilities. I didn't realize how entrenched they had become in their own privilege, whether racial or socioeconomic or gendered, as we've all gotten a bit older. I'm ashamed of and bitter about their blithely flaunted privilege, their insensitivity, their unwarranted assumptions. I'm angry about how comfortable they seem, sitting in this place of judgment, when we're doing our best to live lovingly, ethically, and morally.

Some of them think we should have waited longer or for more ideal circumstances to move forward in our relationship (there are reasons for that that have nothing to do with our cultures, but these aggressions don't feel so easily separated or parsed). Some of them think our differences in age and socioeconomic status are problems. Some of them have opinions about my partner's and my mental health. Meanwhile, so many such friends and colleagues have exhibited all manner of cultural appropriation, ableism, class- and privilege-based assumptions, scarcely a care about the concerns of black and brown people in our respective industries, and obnoxious jokes about my supposedly having a fetish for his culture. They must think me overly serious these days, but their unexamined bits of bad behavior have made gatherings really stressful for me.

Ultimately, I'm responsible for my own thoughts and feelings and who I choose to surround myself with, so I suppose on some level one could say I'm the one who is making this all stressful for myself. I'm trying to lean into these disjunctive moments and do better, speak up. I recognize that it's my responsibility to do so. Still, if I'm being entirely honest, it's hard to want to do that all the time. Of course, again, that's my privilege speaking, to want to pass and let it all pass by for a while and not don the mantle of crusader, when others have no choice but to take it all personally, and to act accordingly.

So many friends and colleagues have acted as if the world is a buffet of cultural and religious practices from which they can pick anything with neither consequence nor commitment. They have grown defensive and criticized my own interests when I suggest that they interrogate their family members' racist tendencies or pet names. They fail to see how incompatible the things they say are with my partner's very personhood. With him, I see their behavior through a lens that seems clearer than it ever has been, and I hate what I'm seeing.

Dealing with this is exhausting. Yet I know it's so much more exhausting to be a brown person in this country at this time, a target of aggressions, microaggressions, pity, and misunderstanding. I know I can't even know the whole of it, and I'm already incredibly disappointed. When I prod them about their foibles, my friends have sometimes pushed back and reminded me of my own privilege, as if that deflects the criticism or renders it irrelevant. It's been so frustrating to talk to people who have lived through some of the same events that I have, events that reshaped my perspective on race, including the crucible of a high-profile racially motivated killing in my hometown, and come away with completely different conclusions.

I'm worried that white people not talking to other white people about these things, not saying something about stuff like this, is exactly what got us into our present political dilemma, and on a personal level would constitute a failure to be there for my partner. But I worry that I don't know the right way to voice these criticisms, that despite my good intent, my actions will reflect poorly on the causes I believe in and put people on the defensive. I like to think I've learned from past experiences in this regard, but I know I can always learn more. I'm doing a lot of reading these days.

I'm decidedly not perfect, but I'm trying to do the work, through intense conversations and years' worth of reading to rewrite my own tendencies and find ways to address friends' white fragility. I wish they would try harder. I wish I could help them step back from the ledge of their own defensiveness. I wish I didn't have to worry that friends and colleagues would completely unthinkingly put their biases on display when I bring our worlds together. I wish I could talk about this more without sounding like I'm not up for doing the work, or like this is burdensome for me, and I hope you all will accept it in the forthcoming spirit in which it's meant. I willingly and ardently take this on, because it's worth it to be where I am, to try to make the world and the circles I find myself in better places for my partner and his family, and because it's a worthy set of struggles in itself. But it's also draining and saddening, and I find it difficult to maintain enthusiasm for engaging with friends who exhibit these biased beliefs and behaviors.

Anyway, this is a super interesting thread, and I'm glad we're talking about this.
posted by limeonaire at 6:18 PM on January 3 [20 favorites]

I'm mixed race, which means all of my relationships HAVE to be interracial save for the extremely slim chance that I meet someone of the same combination. So when I hear monoraced people talking about interracial relationships like it's some huge ravine to cross it feels like, idk, kind of similar to when white people talk about terrifying dystopian futures but it's just stuff that minorities experience on the daily. And when I hear them say those who date outside their race are "race traitors" (or some variation of that thought, like for some reason they're just super into people of their own race dating and promote it all the time) it really ties a knot in my stomach because they're essentially saying my mere existence is a threat to their whole ideology. But it's extra depressing because the people who do both of these things are often minorities themselves and they can't even see their own monoracial bubble.
posted by picklenickle at 7:19 PM on January 3 [51 favorites]

As part of an all-POC interracial relationship, I was hoping to see a bit more representation. We have embarrassing race problems, too!
posted by Selena777 at 9:21 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]

Thank you picklenickle for articulating things about my own multiracial experience that I hadn't consciously considered before.
posted by flamk at 9:29 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]

I’m the white guy in an interracial relationship. My family has been awesome (even my less evolved relatives, surprisingly), her family has been awesome (ditto). But coworkers, friends, and society in general — not so much. That has been a mixed bag at best, and actively hostile a lot of the time.

But yes, just communicate more is not the answer.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:21 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]

Yeah another thanks picklenickle from another mixed race person. I remember when Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz got married it struck me that I had never thought about finding a partner whose experience mirrored my own.

I was adopted into a white family and as an adult I married into another one. Being “loved” by white families is hard because it means some of the people I’m related to are racists. There is definitely a spectrum of racism, from well-meaning liberals to people who treat me differently in an obvious way (i.e. obsessively asking about my hair care regimen.) Sometimes the racism is hidden or subtle that I can ignore it enough to enjoy family events. It is like I have a special set of glasses ala They Live.

But anytime anything with race overtly comes up the room gets silent and the attention is focused on my response. When I gave the children’s book Amazing Grace to a niece she opened it and grimaced at the cover, “but there’s a black person on it.” Or when I was asked, “Why do black lives matter?” Or when one relative pointed at me and declared, “she’s white!” because I “sound white” and lots of “jews have hair like that.” Or when one tried to engage me in a convo about how they didn’t “get” beyonce’s lemonade, and their anger when I said it really wasn’t for them to “get” because they weren’t the intended audience (“well it sucks then.”) Or when one grandma told me about the time she watched a black woman buying steak and lobster with food stamps. I addressed her bull in the most polite yet insistent manner I could manage. I looked around the room for support, for someone to make eye contact or jump in and help. No one did.

The real trouble is due to insidious nature of racism, I can’t rely upon my partner to see or understand the world thru a POC lens or predict where and how his monorace family influences his attitudes or opinions.

I’m sorry to turn this into a confessional! I'm a longtime lurker but there have been so many good posts lately I felt I needed to respond to one.
posted by Phyllis keeps a tight rein at 6:18 AM on January 4 [48 favorites]

I'm a Filipino immigrant, wife born in Ohio to a family with Quebecois and Welsh/English heritage.

We met in college in the 90s, and she credits me with being the person who taught her that "where are you from? ... no, like, where were you born?" is problematic. Not that she ever pulled that on me, nor did she push back or "what about?" when I explained the microaggression to her. That's one reason why I liked her.

For me, I only ever dated non Asians. That may superficially hint at some kind of race shame, but it wasn't for lack of trying. There aren't a ton of Filipinos in Boston, and I deviated in ways that didn't make me mesh well with other Filipino-Americans that I met. Still, the idea of Marrying a White American as another achievement of immigrant assimilation is very much A Thing; and it made me question my motives when I was younger.

We mix well. She's embraced arroz caldo as her go-to sickbed food instead of chicken noodle soup. I find her tuna noodle casserole exotic and fascinating. We mixed Filipino and American elements into our wedding. She's much churchier than I am, though Presbyterian instead of Catholic, but the fact that she goes to mass on her own scores her massive points with my family. She isn't shitty about declaring some part of my culture weird or crazy, and gets it when I talk about the colonial legacy of America in the Philippines.

Still, I remember when I was visiting my brother and his Chinese wife, and his wife envied us and said to mine, "your in-laws definitely prefer their sons marrying someone like you more than someone like me."

And yeah, Immigrants Marrying a White American is A Thing and it may not be your Thing, but it could be your parent's Thing and what do you do with that?

I recognized my own, programmed, anti-Chinese prejudices when I was younger and spent part of my thirties overcoming that, and I'm not sure I'm totally past it either. I know for sure that my dad isn't working on it. And it's also been hard having to explain and describe it to my wife so that she feels enabled to support me, my brother, and his wife in that.

There's also, of course, her own racist and nativist cousins and uncles in Indiana but that's a pretty well understood threat model. There are a lot of tools for that.

Asian on Asian racism is a lot less talked about, understood, and challenged; but the closest analogy that I get to with 'native' Filipino contempt for the Chinese is European anti-semitism and how it focuses on suspicion of a rich, sequestered other who have an outsized influence over certain industries and can thus be blamed for all of your problems, but combined with some elements of colonial grievance. That's basically the chip that my dad carries with my brother's wife and the trigger that gets set off whenever she or her family disagress with him. Just the Chinese having their way again and not sharing or forcing their ways on us.

In 2018, my wife got the Crazy Rich Asians bug and spent part of the summer bingeing the three books. And, man, my feelings for that were complicated. Because, yes, my family had money, but we lost it. Yes, the global whisper network of globetrotting Asian socialites is real, and my mom is kind of a retired auxiliary in the Filipino chapter. Yes, my boarding school is mentioned in the book. Part of those books is based on experiences that mirror my upbringing, but it's through such a pop-cultural fun house mirror that you can't read it as an exercise to understand me.

We basically resolved that we need to go visit Manila so that she can see my homeland for herself, and honestly, for me to see it as an adult without having my itinerary prescribed by the demands of grandparents. It was supposed to be this coming summer, but then I got a job in politics, so it's going to have to wait until after the election.

But, yes, love across cultures is complicated and fraught. And there are so many ways that can make love hard. Chronic health issues. Class divides (I feel that the fact that my wife and I have families that are relatively even in social class makes certain things much easier, and I suspect that a similar relationship with class imbalance would be much more fragile). Kids. But for the right person it's all worth it. And even having the right person doesn't make the difficulty go away. It just makes it easier to bear.

But it still must be borne.
posted by bl1nk at 7:09 AM on January 4 [36 favorites]

Thanks for everyone who pushed back on the 'it's easy if you just listen to your partner' - yes, it's easier if you listen, and interacial relationships are difficult, not impossible. But a lot of it is conditioning and social expectations that, even if your partner is a thoughtful person, can be work and stress.

I mean, I've got it on relatively easy mode - I'm in an interracial and interfaith relationship, but neither of us are that religious, he passes as white, and both of us are in families where interracial relationships are as common as not. I had a childhood where I was used to being the only white person in the room, which helps with the in-laws. And honestly, when we first started dating I was also getting used to the weirdness and difficulty in the difference in social expectations that revolve dating a guy (having previously only dated women) that everything just sort of got bundled together in a 'we have different expectations and need to explicitly communicate about our wants and needs and think about our reponses' bundle. Being a woman dating a man can be difficult! Being a woman dating someone who isn't a man can also be difficult, but in a completely different way, and it's normal and healthy to talk about those difficulties.

There's also still a lot of people out there who think interracial or interfaith relationships are fine for fucking around but not for long term. Like, even Latinx friends would say that I was ruining him for the Latina he'd eventually marry by not letting him pay for dinner. White friends would just talk about it as a short term thing years into the relationship. And when we did announce that we were getting married, there were so many questions about How We Were Going to Raise The Kids. You know, the ones that I was not and am still not planning to have. But, just in case, have we thought about it? Even if you're not religious now, that might change for both of you, once you have kids (that you're not planning on having). Would my mother-in-law be okay with what we decided or would she interfere from halfway across the country? My mother interfering from a few states away was, for some reason, less of a concern. There was an extremely strong implication that if we were going to have kids, our children would be doomed to a life of unhappiness, we would get divorced, and one of us would have our wishes ignored. And when I'd question them about how they got to that conculsion, they'd just answer "that's how things happen".

I thought about posting about this a few months back, when there was that post on women taking their husbands' names in marriage, but the ethnic identity aspect was definitely part of my reason to keep my stereotypically Jewish last name. I like having a fairly obvious cultural marker, something that asserts that I am Jewish even if I'm not observant. And given how Latinx identity works, taking his last name felt like claiming to be something I'm not. I don't think he really got it until we talked about doing dual last names, and I'd pointed out that it was likely to be shortened to Daniel (something analagous to Rosencohenbaum) for him. And he was like, "wait, that's not me - that's some Jewish guy!". It's the first and only time I've heard him insist on the Spanish pronounciation of his name in English conversation.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:42 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]

« Older Cabbages on canvas and beyond   |   "So that's what redneck Versailles would look like... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments