Life when you're young and in love and in a mixed race relationship doesn't seem to have changed that much. Every simple decision like where you go for a drink, go shopping or buy a house because anytime soon a small minded creep can make comment or do something to invade your privacy.
The death of Bobby Byrd in Jasper, Texas, at the hands of white extremists living in the same town (and who knew him) serves to remind us all sharply of the racist lines along which we all forced to live. When living as a mixed race couple, these lines and boundaries are all the more pronounced.
In black American magazine Essence July, a black male reporter talks about what he has had to face with his white wife.. He talked about the worst reaction he got, which tended to be from white males and black women."In New York" he says, "A black woman onced stared at Donna and me on the train for the entire ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Most often we get the why are you with him stare?"
As a black woman with a white male partner, I can safely say that the grass is no greener on the other side of the fence. I get the most hostility from angry black men and white women.
Travelling in public transport, I have found, can be a treacherous experience for a mixed race couple, for public transport is public in every sense of the word. Waiting for a bus attracts stares from passers by of every race, I often feel exposed and even more so when I get on the bus, where the old couple sitting at the front whisper about us. The tube is even more blatant. Last week a young black guy who couldn't have been much older than my 17 year old brother, was trying to catch my eye. Seeing that I was paying more attention to my white boyfriend sitting next to me he reacted angrily and got his group of friends to try and intimidate as the tube drove off.
Call it paranoia, but it is incidents like this that begin to wear you down when you are just trying to get on with your life. The London underground is like a moving public thoroughfare and everyone is trying so hard not to focus on anyone, they end up totally focussing on someone and end up staring at that person. Which is what happens on the Picadilly Line which takes thousands to and fro Heathrow every day. Often Adrian and I will sit sandwiched between two fat cat Germans who in their homeland might not be used seeing black people, let alone mixed race couples. The open staring is reminiscent of looking at animals in cages in the Zoo. The imagination is fuelling thoughts about the animals you are staring at, which are very often not true.
The biggest problem with the white man and black women partnership is that the white male partner is judged as seeking a little fun, grabbing his chance at sex with a black women and often the black women is seen as a madam (in every sense of the word) who looks down on black men, or at least, sees white men as 'going places'. In my worst attacks of paranoia, if I am dressed up to go out on the razz – will I be seen as a tart? Not long ago, a black guy struck up a conversation with me and wanted to take me out, even telling him I had a boyfriend would not throw him off the tracks, until I let slip he was white. This complete stranger proceeded to tell me that my partner had inferiority complexes and that he was very disappointed at this 'tragedy'. At this point I laughed and made my way to work. First this guy insults me because of my relationship and now he wantas to make me late for work? No siree.
Tami Wright (© Copyright 1998 Wright)
If you have experiences as a mixed race couple you would like to share, send your stories to my address which you can get by contacting Val at the office address/tel no. For the next newsletter I am particularly interested in experiences of travelling abroad.
'To travel, I must always move through fear. Confront terror.' Bell Hooks: Killing Rage Ending Racism (Penguin 1996)