Love. It has the ability to blind some and open up others. Combine this with two people from different backgrounds and you are bound to have a story worth telling. At one point in America, interracial marriage was illegal. Though Loving v. Virginia , a landmark civil rights decision, invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage in 1967, interracial couples these days still feel some of those remnants of archaic thinking and intolerance.
Jennifer is a Caucasian woman married to the love of her life, Eddie, who happens to be Puerto Rican. Kelly has been in a long-term relationship with her prince, Lewis, who is African-American. Kelly is Caucasian. In this second part of our interracial relationships series, Jennifer and Kelly open up on their journeys through love.
Responses have been shortened for clarity.
1) How would you describe your relationship with your ___________?
Jennifer: My marriage with Eddie is just like any other. We have similar personalities and our sense of humor is a perfect match.
Kelly: Lewis and I have been together for 12 years with many ons and offs. As with all relationships, there are good and bad days but we love each other and seem to keep finding ways to make it work. We are not married, do not live together and throughout the 12 years have had to make long distance work as either I have moved for a job and I travel for work. He has also moved for a job.
2) Was there any resistance about your relationship from your social/familial circles?
Kelly: Neither side had intimate cultural experience with the other ethnicity. So, I was the only white person around his family and he was the only black person around my family. The families (and even us) didn’t know each other worlds, life, past experiences and challenges.
Jennifer: I was actually pretty worried that my family would not be very accepting of a partner that was not white. I was very wrong and my grandparents (the ones I thought would be most against it) were perfectly fine. The only resistance I got from my family was from my great-uncle and aunt. They disapproved and made it known. They did not attend our wedding.
3) Do you remember a time where your backgrounds clashed? If so – please provide details.
Jennifer: I honestly cannot think of a time where our cultures clashed. My husband is Puerto Rican but the larger part of his life has been spent in the U.S.
Kelly: It occurs all the time. They tend to be little occurrences but when there are so many, it becomes more noticeable. For example, cooking. My mom always cooked healthy – no butter added, limited salt and finding substitutes like apple sauce instead of oil. My boyfriend grew up eating mac and cheese, greens beans covered in bacon and butter on everything. The funny thing about this is that I have the weight issues and my boyfriend is perfectly healthy. I don’t try and give him applesauce instead of butter….he will know! Our views on new people are very different. I tend to take the open arms approach and love everyone until they give me a reason not to trust them. My boyfriend typically does not trust many and has a small circle of trusted, loved ones. He does not like my approach.
4) Do you feel your life has been enriched by this relationship?
Jennifer: If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have married him!
5)Does your relationship make you more aware of the issues arising right now in your community around race?
Jennifer : Absolutely! I can say that I have experienced racism and hatred first hand and coming from a white and privileged background, it floored me; it still floors me. Now, I’m used to the strange and disapproving looks elderly people give me when I introduce my husband. Before this relationship, I truly didn’t understand how pervasive racism was and how, even if it isn’t displayed outright, hatred from others can impact many aspects of your life.
Kelly: Yes. The community my boyfriend grow up in is rattled with crime and poverty. It’s so sad and I want his nephews to have better. We watch as new politicians are elected every year yet nothing in those areas change. I just recently watched the documentary “13”..It was very eye-opening.
6) What is one thing you wish people would stop asking you about your interracial relationship?
Jennifer: I can’t say that I get many questions about our relationship aside from those from my family asking when we are going to have children.
Kelly: People really don’t ask me anything.
7) What are some things you would like people to know about interracial relationships?
Jennifer: The color of someone’s skin should not affect your ability to love – as an intimate partner, a friend, or any other kind of relationship. People are different and we should celebrate our differences and revel in them rather than blindly hating and assuming.
Kelly: Relationships, in general, are hard but if you love someone, then it will be ok.
Do you feel that different ethnicities should get married? How do you feel about interracial couples having children?
Please share your thoughts and comments below.