My husband is Black and I am not special - PART 1

My husband is Black
and I am not special.

I can’t find words – the right words. All I want to do is help, but what can I do? How can I actually make a difference? I feel so helpless.
That’s how most of my friends feel. Most of my friends are white, most of my family is white, some of my family watches what they won’t admit is hateful propaganda and until now I haven’t had the courage to fully call it all out. Most of my family is white, but not all. Now, some of my family is Black, including my amazing husband.

This is long. But the full version is reeeeeealy long. But it could be way longer…
The length and content could be overwhelming to some, or you simply don't have the time, so I am breaking this up into multiple postings. There will be action items at the bottom of each post, but for the full list, please go to the full version. Or grab a cup of coffee or cocktail, find a good chair and read the Full Version: CLICK HERE >

Recently a lot of thing happenings here in Akron have been tearing at my heart strings, punctuated by the tragic murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, I haven’t wanted to cause more drama, but enough is enough.

Now don’t scoff, it’s not like a lightbulb went off a couple of weeks ago for me. It’s been bubbling up for a long time, especially since I started dating Blair in 2011, and we got married in 2013. But this isn’t about me, I’m not special, but I have witnessed more than a lot of white people. What I’ve come to realize is that the problem is about all of you, all of us, people that were born white. I’m not racist and if you’re reading this you probably feel the same. But am I antiracist? Here is the harder part to recognize, some of what you do, or say, or laugh at, or support or vote for is in fact racist – or worse yet some of what you witness and do nothing about it, is racist. And allowing those things to be said and done is a part of the problem, dare I say THE problem. Yes, there are bad people in this world regardless, and yes, they will always do bad things, but if we as white society allow them to continuously happen, then we are to blame. White people must change.

While you could say that’s all conjecture, I’d like to tell you about some of my real experiences – some small, others big. These are from my perspective as the 40-year-old white wife of a 35-year-old Black man. I think you can more easily put yourself in my shoes. And once you feel that uneasiness, then perhaps try to dip your toes in Blair’s shoes. I have such a hard time imagining being in his shoes, not just because they are a size 13, but because I am so angry in my own shoes that I can’t imagine living with the fear and hurt every minute of every day, or becoming numb to it. I do my best to show him all the love I can, but it’s not enough, it’s not enough to keep him safe and worry-free. I hope through some of my retellings, you can identify with me, because we will never be looked at and treated poorly just because of the color of our skin.

1 – GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

My relationship with Blair started slow to the rest of the world - we had hung out a lot with mutual friends. Before our first official date we spent a lot of time messaging as I was doing a lot of traveling (and I may have dived in to quickly with past guys) but the spark was there and we barely spent any time apart after date 1. So when he officially moved in after 3 months, it didn’t seem fast to me. I regretfully admit  there was a hesitation in sharing us with the world. Blair’s race didn’t matter to me, but I wasn’t sure how my family would receive the news. I knew they would love him, eventually. But I didn’t know how to say that he was Black, and thought it wasn’t fair to him to just show up and have people be surprised. I’m especially telling this story because I’ve had several people ask me about it, not just out of curiosity, but to help them “come out” - not just for an interracial relationship, but to introduce their same-sex partner to their family. I mentioned that things started slow because I wanted to make sure the relationship was worth the impending potential drama. Just to keep it straight, the fact that I thought I needed to do this is racist. We had only been dating a  little over a month, and I was in in Florida visiting my grandparents. My Grandfather was in bad shape and it turned out this was the last time I’d see him in person. Grandpa and I were sitting together, him with his air tubes in his nose - I didn’t know what to tell him about Blair, but he knew I was with someone very special and I answered all of his questions honestly, he just didn’t happen to ask about his skin color. He told me before I left on that visit that I seemed the happiest he’d ever seen and “whole”, and to thank that young man.

For the record, my mom thinks if he ever would have gotten to meet Blair that he would have been surprised but would have given him a chance as he valued men for men. My grandma LOVES Blair. She now is in a memory care home in Florida, so we are never sure what crazy thing she will say, and I sometimes wonder if seeing Blair will through her off as she can’t even remember her kids and grandkids names, but the second he appears via Face Time, she gets a big smile and I ask “who is that Grandma?” Her reply is usually “Oh I can never remember, but boy do I love him!” Back to the rest of the family…

And here comes mom…
It was Christmas Eve and I talked to Blair, yes on the phone, and he said how he went over to his dad’s that day. I asked what he was doing the next day, Christmas, and he said “Nothing”. To give some context, Blair’s mom passed away April 2011, and we started talking that October, I think our first date was in November. So, naturally, I wouldn’t let that happen, having him be alone on Christmas. It was time to introduce Blair. My mom wouldn’t want to miss this, but she had rushed to Florida to help, so all of a sudden everything had to happen then. I called her super early in the morning. Having not had much time to prepare, I simply said “Blair is coming over.” She was excited, and then sad that she’d be missing him, and I blurted out “Mom, Blair is like Brandon.” (Brandon being one of our close guy friends in high school, and based on this post, you guessed it, Black) My mom said, “that’s wonderful!” She really liked Brandon, but she wasn’t getting what I was telling her. Then I said “Mom, Blair looks like Brandon.” She said “Ah,” and I honestly don’t remember what else she said but it was very nice, something along the lines of, whatever makes you happy and she couldn’t wait to meet him. Check that one off the list. 

The rest of our motley crew…
Now to tell the rest of my immediate family. So what I came up with because I don’t know if I was too afraid to say “my boyfriend (which I don’t even know if we had defined our relationship by then) was Black” or if I didn’t know the proper way to say it, ‘African American, etc.’…was again “Blair is going to join us.” Everyone was excited, then I said, “It’s a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner situation.” Sean, my step brother, immediately realized what I was saying, chuckled and said “Awesome!” The others didn’t pick up on it. Jim, my step dad, looked puzzled – the irony being he’s a big classic movie buff so I thought he’d be the first one to get it. Sean said “Dad, he’s Black.” Jim, “Ohhhhhh, now I get it!” He followed it with “we can go shoot some hoops after breakfast.” Yes, that is racist. While I cringed inside, I brushed it off as it also felt like acceptance to me. I had said it, they were prepared and everyone was very welcoming to Blair - I was proud. And as I fell asleep leaning on him, on the couch, as we were all watching a movie, my sister said she had never seen me at peace like that. That is love.

PART 1 - What you can do...

RECOGNIZE THE LITTLE THINGS

  • I can’t tell you how many times white men when introduced to my husband say “brother” or “my man” in a clearly 1970s-I’m-hip-to-your-jive kinda way. This is racist.
    • Not only is it racist if you think it’s calling him out by saying it. It’s also racist if you’re trying to say it to make him feel comfortable. You are not his brother, he is not your man. You just met, litmus test, would you say that to a white person you just met?
  • There have been many occasions when we get seated in restaurants near the service centers/bathrooms. Sure argue that it can’t be proven, but it never used to happen to me, and when it happens enough you start noticing. This is racist.
  • People asking Blair is he plays basketball – because he is tall, and Black. This is racist.
  • I’m not faultless, I’ve repeated jokes that I’m not proud of, and I know I’ve said before of Blair “He’s the whitest Black guy”. That is racist.
  • I’m always asked and I’ll be honest I was curious at first also if both of Blair’s parents are/were Black because he’s fairer skinned. I remember on our first date asking Blair questions to try and find out if he is biracial. I asked “What did your mom like to cook when you were growing up?” Answer: “Corned Beef,” Oh mine too! “Also, Tuna Salad and French Fries.” That didn’t point to anything specific. Later on I asked “Where is your family from (meaning ancestry)?” Answer: “Baltimore.” I just laughed.


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