I’m Black, He’s White – Who Cares?

By Jazmine Hughes

I have been thinking a lot about my children lately, and not even in a “is my period late?!” sort of way like I usually do. I couldn’t figure out why until… ding ding ding, I realized: I’m black. (To be fair, I’ve had the assumption for a while.) However, my boyfriend is white. Three recent memories have stuck out in my head since this realization:

1) Two summers ago, I attended a post-graduate program at Columbia University. There were about 100 students, and three of us were black. The other black girl and I became friends, and one day, she asked me, bluntly: “So you’re dating a white guy. What’s that like?” “I don’t know,” I told her. “He’s taking me sailing.”

2) A year ago, in Brooklyn, New York, in 2012 and in Obama’s America, I was walking hand-in-hand with the same white boyfriend down the street. A woman walking in our direction gave us a dirty look, and crossed the street to avoid us. (It’s possible that she just hated young people, or too-tight H&M jeans, or smiles. I’ll never know.) A month earlier, we were walking home when we were accosted by a drunk man on the street, yelling about how people like my boyfriend— “they”— are stealing “our” women.

3) My boyfriend and I were driving home one night when we were talking about Rashida Jones. “Her dad is Quincy Jones, he’s a really big deal. You know she’s black, right?” I told him. “She is?! She doesn’t act black,” he replied.

The above situations have deeply struck me, as a woman, as a person of color, as a person in an interracial relationship. Situations like these still hurt and surprise me, even with 21 years of being black under my belt, and getting teased in school for the way I talk, and being told I wasn’t black enough to hang out with the black kids, and getting asked if my hair is a weave, and smiling politely when people around me use the “N” word  casually, and hearing “oh, but you’re not really black” as a compliment. (Once, I swear to God, I was told that I wasn’t really black because black people put a lot of cream cheese on their bagels and I don’t. I swear to God.) I have had years of experience, years to build up armor, but they still sting and burn and chip away at my confidence, at my sense of self.

And I think: if all of this hurts so bad, how is it going to affect my child?

If this is coming across as a “my boyfriend and I are definitely having babies!” sort of thing, then you must be my mother, and I am curious to know how you found out about the Internet. We are definitely having burritos sometime in the near future, but that’s about it. But this isn’t just about him— I could marry any white guy. I could marry any Asian guy, Hispanic guy. I could marry any black guy, and pop out a kid who is the spitting image of me— but will still have to deal with shit from people almost every single day, because no matter where you go, there are intolerant people. There are racist people. There are mean people. And that scares me.

It was difficult enough to grow up and be rejected by anyone, let alone people who look like you telling you that you are nothing like them— but what if no one looks like you?

I am in a constant struggle of identity: humans, particularly insecure, neurotic, coming-of-age ladies like myself, are in a constant search for identification, an anchor that we can hold onto that validates our existence and legitimizes any worries we have that we aren’t normal. I do this all the time: junior year of college I got a pixie cut, and suddenly I was all about Keira Knightley and Halle Berry. I feel less inadequate when I see other people on the subway carrying a lunchbag in addition to their trendy briefcase (tupperware is too thick!). I pay more attention to girls with large grandpa glasses like mine. I am constantly tethering. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do this in regards to my skin color… but what if no one else looks like you?

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a couple toasting their glasses with white wine

I feel as if it’s dramatic and trite to repine the plight of the biracial child in what is perceived to be such an accommodating America, especially when the white/Caucasian population of the US will be in the minority in 2043. (This will be around the time I have a child.) But this doesn’t mean racism is dead—guys, I still can’t walk down my f*cking street with the person I love without being judged! What type of reaction would someone have to my kid, a child who may not “match” their parent? It is crass. It is strange. It is heartbreaking.

I told my boyfriend of my worries about my children, biracial or otherwise—this tearful outburst came after I made him watch an episode of GIRLS, no less—and, after he told me that I was jumping an artillery of guns, we had an open discussion where we both shared our racially-based worries about the relationship (among his: “I worry that people in the street will say something mean to you, especially when we pass older white couples.”) About halfway through the conversation, I realized: I can’t be angry with him for not knowing something he was never taught. My thoughts about my children were always tinged with a fear that my white husband— if that’s who I marry— just won’t get it. I have a running list of “Things Your Black Girlfriend Should’ve Taught You About” as a half-joke, half culture class on my desktop (cocoa butter, baked macaroni and cheese, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, casual racism). But the “black experience” can’t be summed up with a chapter of W.E.B. Du Bois and a viewing of “Do the Right Thing.” There’s no class you can take or books you can read or movies to watch. There is only one thing: you must be tolerant and willing to learn. That’s all I can ask from my boyfriend—and, thankfully, that’s what he’s giving me in return.

Don’t even get me started if I have a girl.

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About Jazmine Hughes

Jazmine was once the reason a busload of kids couldn’t watch a PG-13 movie on the eighth grade class trip to DC, because she hadn’t yet turned thirteen. She mocked up a permission slip for her parents to sign; they refused, and told her to “enjoy her youth.” The tweens had to instead watch Finding Nemo, noted for lacking in fight scenes, and Jazmine has never forgiven herself. A life riddled with this sort of angst drove her to writing; a liberal arts degree and lack of talent to do anything else will keep her there. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and a rotating clown car of characters. Mexican food is a recurring theme in her work. Tweet her @jazzedloon

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View Comments (11)
  • I really loved this, Jazmine. I took my Pakistani boyfriend home to small town Texas and was presented with some of the same issues. Tolerance and an open mind are what we can hope for – though it seems crazy to me to think “wow, I hope my white grandpa will be TOLERANT of my brown boyfriend” – Thank God our world is changing, however, slowly

  • “had an open discussion where we both shared our racially-based worries about the relationship”
    This is the most important thing; communication. I’m mixed (black dad, white mom) and married to a white guy. I admit it wasn’t always fun growing up in our lower-middle class all white neighborhood. However, as I have grown a little more mature (almost 30) I’ve come to realize that there will always be *something* for others to object to, and mixed kids can grow up well if their parents can instill them with confidence and a sense of their own self-worth. Frequent and rational communication with your partner and your possible child(ren) is key to that. The fact is, we are all fundamentally unique individuals; multiracial families simply have to deal with that more explicitly.

  • Your experiences mirror many of those my wife and I have experienced. I’m Hispanic, she’s white, and we met in Tennessee. We often got the “looks” you describe. Then, living in New Mexico (where she was the minority) she sometimes got the “stealing our men” accusations. Interestingly, however, we now live in NYC, and I think we feel most accepted here.

    Regardless, it’s something we continually discuss and explore, and that’s definitely important. Because you’re right; watching George Lopez’ stand-up (however well it captures my family) isn’t a crash course in my culture any more than reading Huck Finn is for me understanding her family.

  • I saw this on Jezebel, but would rather reply here to be seen.

    I’m a white guy who married a black girl. We’ve been together for 8.5 years, married for five, and have a three year old light brown daughter.

    I grew up in the SF bay area, in a segregated middle class area. My wife wasn’t the first colored girl I dated, but the first african-american. No big deal. I wasn’t the first white guy she dated.

    You like who you like. That’s it. People are people, and if other people don’t see it that way, then fuck them.

    Sometimes, I feel bad that my wife is typically the only colored person in the room. Very rarely, I’m the only white guy in the room. Whatever. I don’t want to say that I know what the black experience is like, but I get it. I’m empathetic to what’s going on. I think there’s more than just one black-experience, just like there’s more than one white-experience.

    However, your boyfriend seems a tad naive. He’ll get past it if you guys stick together.

    Good luck, and love who you love. That’s all that matters.

  • Hi,

    I`m a Canadian girl and I`m married to a (South) Indian guy, and we have a daughter together.

    People stare at us a lot, and even more so since we had our child. People are always going to stare because they are curious.

    You just have to ignore it, and carry on with your life, what other people assume about you is none of YOUR business, that`s their own limited opinion.

    Sometimes cultural stuff comes up when you are raising a child, but that`s part of the process, and marrying someone I love far outweighs any bumps in the road.

    Negative comments happen, but we just laugh it off and carry on.

    And as for our daughter, she has the best of both worlds.

    Don`t be afraid! Follow your heart…



    P.S. My blog: http://madh-mama.blogspot.ca/

  • Thank you for writing this. We are 14 months into our parenting journey and have the most perfect, funny, healthy, clever biracial baby and it was only the other day that I came up against my first obnoxious comment. I wrote about it here http://ourmulticolouredlife.com/2013/08/26/i-assumed-youd-adopted-from-the-same-family/
    I’m not foolish in thinking that all my baby needs is love to survive in this not always nice world so I am always looking for other views on this subject. He will always come up against challenges in life and it is our job to make sure that he has the tools to concur them. :)

  • My husband is White and Im black, we have been together almost 8 yrs and These were some of the exact same questions etc I had prior to even being married. We now have a 14mth old son Henry and are enjoying trying to figure out this whole parenting thing. It was strange to me in the beginning that comments from family and friends were focused on “oh hes getting lighter huh?” and while these comments are frustrating, my husband I have been too focused on learning to keep another human alive and finally getting some sleep.

    My biggest concern is being prepared to help him and other kids we decide to spawn, to be strong confident people. Thanks for writing this.

  • This is so great…kudos to you for writing it. My boyfriend is White; and while he is not the first White guy I dated, and I am not the first Black woman he’s dated (he has a daughter from a previous relationship who’s mother is Black as well); this is the first White man I dated who 1) grew up in a predominantly Black neighborhood and 2) has NEVER dated a White woman (he kissed one once….when he was 13). So he’s very much over/used to the snide remarks he receives for dating interracially. Even so, he is not devoid of racism…and neither am I. For example, to him, race and culture are rolled up together; while I recognize that they can be very different. He’s made remarks to me about how I “don’t act like a Black woman”. I marvel at the fact that he is a young White male, but isn’t leading the charmed life that the Black community is told that White males get (he’s been looking for full time work for more than 9 months; working part-time in the meantime….but no benefits…whereas me, the lowly Black woman, has a much better job, income, benefits, etc.).

    In all honesty, I’m not too concerned about our future children (sadly, we lost our son, who was born prematurely earlier this year). For better or for worse, he considers his daughter to be Black. Not to discount her full heritage….but because that is really how this country currently sees her. I’m not opposed to this because my own father is biracial (1/2 Black, 1/2 South Asian), but has been raised as a Black man and has turned out fine in the end.

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