Maybe you've heard about this? Or experienced it, if you're a non-African American dating or married to an African American?
When I'm walking around, shopping or at the park with Sabine, I often get a dirty look or even a head shake from African-American women. It makes me feel horrible and so small. The way the look is cast, it's as if I'm in the wrong place and should be ashamed. On some level, I'd like to say that I feel none of those things and that when this happens, it makes me want to hold my head up high or display my relationship as proudly as anyone else. But it doesn't.
Instead, I think about all the men I dated who ended up with someone who was the complete opposite of me. Someone tiny and blonde. Or someone who is soft-spoken, level-headed and far less sensitive. Or someone who is easygoing. Or someone with straight hair. There were times when I thought about these guys and their new girlfriends or wives and wondered why I hadn't been right or enough.
Ultimately, I don't know why an African-American woman, who doesn't know me, looks, winces or shakes her head at me. And I will never truly know because I haven't had her experience. But based on the way I've felt, I do know that it's painful when someone, who you have a strong connection with (either physically, emotionally, culturally or ethnically), has chosen to be with someone who seems to be the farthest thing from who you are or how you look.
Over time, I've thought a lot about these perspectives and have wondered aimlessly, never actually knowing what a black woman thinks or feels in terms of this issue. Then I stumbled upon an article written by singer Jill Scott for Essence magazine. In the piece, she gently and beautifully articulates why it's painful for her, a black woman, to see a black man with a Caucasian woman (You should read it--it's short, I promise.). The reasons have to do with feeling like she's part of a group who has suffered through slavery, racism, inequality, and then to see a member of that group attach to the perceived ideal that put her and him through that suffering? It feels like betrayal.
I'm incredibly proud of my relationship, which is beautifully right (and I waited a LONG time for something so effortlessly right). But when a black woman gives me that look as I'm walking with Kadin and Sabine, the only thing I feel is empathetic. If in her shoes, I'd probably feel the same way.
My favorite Jill Scott song, Slowly Surely: