My experience compared to others of dating and then marrying a black man was relatively simple. I know others experienced far, far worse. Yet, there are stories that sometimes don’t get shared and I think it might be helpful for some to take these in and sit with.
When I started dating Vermon—a significant mentor in my life—someone I had gotten so close to that I called her “mom” took me out for lunch. She was leading women’s ministry, spoke at women’s retreats and, at the time, had been very influential in my faith. And yet never did I realize race was an issue for her until she was disturbed by me dating a black man. Over a fancy lunch, she expressed her concern that I was dating a black man, and she shared how she couldn’t understand it until her husband reflected that, perhaps while I was in Africa, I learned to see “beyond looks” and appreciate the heart of Vermon, despite him being black. Foolish me, I so much enjoyed and longed for her connection to continue (and I was young) that it really wasn’t until she missed my wedding that I realized she no longer wanted to be part of my life. And I no longer needed her in my life. She was a Christian—I’m pretty convinced of it—a leader in the church. Yet she held such harmful and hurtful beliefs.
Similarly, my grandmother (no longer living) begged me with all that she had within her that I not date Vermon. And my grandfather—who, perhaps, represents the best and most tender moments of my childhood—struggled with V’s race, but eventually came around to it.
And many who I told about my then boyfriend—when I bragged about how he went to Princeton—almost unanimously assumed he got in by Affirmative Action or via an athletic scholarship (he graduated top of his Princeton class, by the way).
My previous church had allowed a retired pastor to preach occasionally who explained biblically why whites and blacks shouldn’t intermarry—it was laughed off because of his age.
And some people joked that he wasn’t really black because he was educated: they said he was an “Oreo.”
Since marrying V., it’s died down. Now it’s subtle comments and questions that may or may not imply what I think they imply. And there are less subtle comments that I must overlook by people who should love us enough not to make those comments.
So I find it offensive when I’m told racism isn’t real or that when you look at my family you don’t see race. It’s just not consistent with my recent story of marrying the love of my life.
For the most part, these were individuals you would have enjoyed. They weren’t mean or volatile. Most (not all) were good people who impacted my life in significant ways. Many are people I will one day reconcile with—in this life or the next—thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection.
But it happened, only nine years ago. And, at this point, to love our family is to know these stories are true and shape my narrative to this very day.
These are stories that need to be told. I’m not looking for people to feel sorry for us. I do want us to just acknowledge race is bigger then we want to admit sometimes. That would be a big step for many of my white friends and family who I love so deeply.