It was quite by accident that I fell in love with a Chinese-American man. For years, I'd said that I "...liked my men like my coffee -- black." My (mostly white) friends would roll their eyes, sigh, and admonish me that if I'd only be more open-minded, maybe I wouldn't be single.
I, however, wasn't interested in being open-minded. After junior-high and high school in suburban southern Indiana and four years at a majority white, private university, I had had enough experience being passed over by white guys. I'd been single all through high school. My first kiss was with the first (and only) white guy I've dated - an ill-fated relationship with a Jewish Texan whose family was cool with me being a shiksa, but not so much with my mocha colored skin. Or, at least that's what he told me. Plus, how complicated would an interracial relationship be? My goodness, I'd have to explain my hair (!) to him. And I was finally starting to be accepting of my own blackness thanks to moving to D.C. - how could anyone who wasn't black understand my newly developed militantness.
So for the rest of college and the beginning of my twenties, I sang the single black woman blues. I was a voracious reader of all the details about black women being single forever. I occasionally dated (using the term very loosely) the worst guys and tolerated all kinds of nonsense because they were black. And because "the media" (both black and white) had told me that I couldn't possibly expect more in a relationship...
...and I want to interrupt this paragraph to say that this article is not going to be about me dating outside my race because there's something wrong with black men. KEEP READING...
...and if I did, then I was going to be alone for the REST OF MY LIFE. So in between reading apocalyptic tales of permanent singledom and dating the wrong guys, I remained steadfast that I could and would someday find the perfect black man because that was my duty as a successful black woman. In fact, it was my responsibility to make sure that I eventually became part of a successful black couple to prove the world wrong about black men being everything they supposedly are and about black women being everything we supposedly are.
So how did I accidentally start dating a Chinese guy? Well, all I can say is that on that night in July when we met, I magically stopped thinking about the fact that he wasn't black, and was more concerned by how great he was.
We ended up talking for hours, both the night we met and then over the next few weeks. As culturally conflicted, yet militantly black as I am, he is with his Chinese culture. Yes, my afro and it's daily changes of behavior do require the occasional conversation, but it's not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be (of course, he hasn't seen me with my hair tied up and in rollers yet).
In fact, the interracial/intercultural part of our relationship is not nearly as complicated as I would have thought it to be. Yes - there have been a few hiccups and nervous moments. Him telling his Hong Kong-born mom about me. Me meeting his mom and realizing that when nervous, she's less comfortable speaking English. Me meeting the rest of his family at Thanksgiving. Him meeting my Bible-study group. But at the same time, I'm sure some of these things (family, religion) are complicated in any relationship.
And I've found that some things are true regardless of race or culture: I won his mom over by going shopping together on the day after Thanksgiving. I impressed the rest of the family by cooking pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've knitted his mother a scarf. All things I know any black mother would be impressed by, as well.
As for the rest of the world, the reaction is mixed. Mostly, there's no reaction. There are the occasional stares. Usually from older black or Asian women. Worse though, are the people who feel the need to patronize us by commenting on our Benetton-ad cuteness. Yes, we are a phenomenally cute couple. But we are neither puppies nor babies, so why do strangers (strangers!) feel the need to comment (to our faces) about our cuteness. There have been a few quizzical looks and even fewer glares - particularly when we were in DC for the Inauguration. Maybe it's just that we're in the Bay Area, but most people don't seem to care.
Which is good, because I don't really care if they care. What they think, say, or do really doesn't matter. What matters is that we're happy. And I have to say that this has been a great "accident."
Question: Will black women in interracial relationships ever stop being an anomaly? Have you ever been in an interracial relationship? Have you had any interesting reactions to it?