I have been married to my husband for 30 years. We got married when Interracial families were not as accepted as they are today. Our start was rather rocky because neither my Mother, nor his parents accepted our Interracial relationship and they were livid when we became engaged.
I am Black and my husband is White and when we met we were 20 and 25 respectively. We met in a dance club and dated a few times. We broke up and went separate ways. About 5 years later, he saw a friend of mine in a club and asked about me. She gave him my number and he called. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from him, but when he said he was divorced with two kids I was not too interested. I was just finishing up college and was not keen on dating someone with kids. I did agree to go out with him once for old times’ sake. When he came to pick me up though with his handsome face and sweet smelling cologne, I was very much drawn to him. One date turned into two, then three and before you knew it I was in love with him.
His kids were adorable and he was so handsome. He had only been divorced a couple of years, but after a year of dating, I was ready to get married and kind of pressured him to do so. He wanted to live together but I wasn’t having that. I wanted full commitment or nothing.
Color was not really a big issue to me. He met my requirements…handsome, a working man, he loved me. I had dated across the color line many times and it really made no difference to me. However, I did not realize that others would have such a strong negative reaction to our decision to marry. My husband had grown up in an all-White community. His parents, especially his father, were racist. Kenny often likened his father to Archie Bunker. But, Kenny had been on many sports teams, so he had much more interaction with Blacks then most in his community. I thought he was brave for crossing the color line coming from such a background and this was sexy to me.
All hell broke loose when we announced our engagement. My Mom refused to talk about it and would not let Kenny into her house. His Mom and Dad, refused to have anything to do with him and banned him from their home. His parents had never met me but had seen a picture of me. Kenny’s 4-year-old daughter told me that her Grandmother said, “Don’t worry, it will never last, she’s just a little black raisin.” I was stunned. Our brothers and sisters were split on the issue. Pretty much we had divided both families.
The funny thing is, we grew closer than ever. It was kind of an “us against the world” kind of feeling. I certainly did not understand the impact that our relationship was having on other people. We got advice from family and friends, such as, “Marriage is hard enough, you don’t want to make it harder by marrying someone of a different race,” or “Go ahead and get married if you want to, but don’t bring kids into it, it’s not fair to them.” I couldn’t believe the things I was hearing. The more they talked, the closer we became. It became a determination our Interracial relationship work against all odds.
So we got married….
We had a small chapel wedding. My mother was distraught but came. His parents did not come. We were supported by a small group of family and friends. We were young and idealistic.
After the first few months…
Ken and I were married in August. My husband who had previously been very close to his parents and family, had not seen his parents in months due to loyalty to me. I saw that he missed them and that it was hurting him. It was Christmas time and his family had a tradition of coming together at his parents’ home on Christmas Eve. I told him to go. He was torn, but he missed them so much. I stayed home at my apartment. I was not too upset about it. I had a lot of confidence in myself and felt that it was their loss that they had no relationship with me. In all this time I had never met his parents. Several hours after he left, several cars drove up. Kenny’s family had decided to move Christmas Eve celebration to our apartment. His Mom and Dad, nieces, sister, and brother all came over. We shared a nice evening of introductions, laughter and stories.
So, they came around.
But, you can’t get over years of prejudice in one evening. Because of our interracial marriage and biracial children, my in-laws were forced to reevaluate a prejudicial belief system that was engrained in them since birth. It took many years for them to unlearn negative stereotypes that they once held as gospel truth in regards to Black people.
My mother also, realized that her actions were due to prejudice and apologized to Kenny. She invited him into her home. It took a while for her to accept our marriage. In fact, she inadvertently referred to our marriage as a funeral several times, before catching and correcting herself.
Our brothers and sisters eventually came around as well. We have two children together and they are well accepted on both sides of their family.
Both of Kenny’s parents expressed love for me later in life. I came to love them too. They have both passed on. Kenny is one of my Mom’s favorite people. In fact, she now lives with us and they are great friends.
That’s my story…here’s my advice.
Don’t rush people. You made the decision to marry interracially. They didn’t. You can’t force others to see things through your eyes. Give them time to adjust and accept. Many people resist when they are pushed to accept things they don’t want to accept. People grow up with beliefs, and even if they are wrong beliefs, they are engrained and take time change. Count yourself lucky that you don’t have the same hang ups. Live your own life and let them come around at their own pace. Remember that if they are not in your, or your child’s life, it’s their loss.
Believe enough in yourself and your relationship that you don’t require the approval of others. You may or may not ever get their approval and you must accept this. I’m not saying that it won’t hurt, but you do have to accept it and move on. Other people’s opinions should not interfere with your relationship with your spouse and/or children. It is essential that you do not second guess your relationship based on what other people think or say.
Be all in and be strong. If you choose to be in an interracial relationship you will certainly come up against negative forces from the outside at some point. Choose and nurture your relationship first. Respect your decision to cross the color line. Create a support system. Actively search out friends and relatives that are accepting and supportive of you and your family. There are many people who love people for who they are, not the color of their skin.
Protect your children. If you have children and they are not accepted by grandparents or other extended family, you need to shelter them from words and actions that may cause them harm. Also, kids don’t need to know all the particulars about their grandparent’s or other relative’s prejudice toward them. Deal with unaccepting relatives it at the adult level and protect your kids. These relatives often eventually come around and can become very important to your child. Be careful not to set up roadblocks that may be hard to overcome later.
Know that there are many successful interracial families out there. You can successfully raise biracial children with or without the approval of your parents, but it is good to know that most eventually come around to accept and love them.
We welcome your comments regarding non accepting parents and your interracial family. How did things work out?