This is the true story of a woman of color who had to deal with the racism of her white husband. The article is written based on her words.
I was born in Haiti. I am a woman, a wife and mother. I became a United States citizen six years ago in this country where the people of color are most hated. I am not accustomed to sharing my experiences with others because of the shame attached to speaking of such things. But recently I found myself crying while talking to someone on the phone and contemplating how it is that these two very different worlds live side by side.
I did not understand how it could be that social prejudice still existed and how little effort there was for us to see each other as individuals and not one whole race or country. For example, in this article, I want to share my story about my husband Michael.
How It All Began
It was clear that Michael couldn’t imagine a world where my race made me a target. Maybe his life had been different, but I could just not understand how he could be so naïve. I knew of the ways African-Americans were treated and it wasn’t pretty at all, so when Michael suggested we didn’t have to deal with racism on a daily basis anymore, I felt like I was living with a flat-earther.
Dealing with my white husband’s racism was tough because he did not exhibit overt (snide or derogatory) behaviors on a day-to-day basis, but I began to see how he treated other white people differently from how he’d treat me. We do not talk about race. At all. Yet, race is often the layer underneath our conversations. And when that layer comes into play, our conversations become strained and tense.
In the early days of our relationship, my husband understood only what I wanted him to do. The problem was that I wasn’t always entirely clear about what I wanted. You see, despite having dated many white men before him, the fact of being a black woman in America had never stopped being an issue for me, and yet I hadn’t fully articulated the extent of how much it impacted my life.
The Initial Signs
I had heard so many stories about how black women are discriminated against by white men that I was petrified of the prospect of marrying outside my race and producing a child who might possibly have to experience racial discrimination. So, I did what any discriminating individual would do. I spent plenty of time (I would estimate three years) considering the implications of a relationship with him…in my mind. Yep, I like to get all the facts before making a decision. And, besides, it’s not as if we were in a rush to get married or anything.
Day by day, I became more and more frustrated with his inability to “see” what I saw, or so it seemed. I chalked it up to the fact that he was a white man who was just disrespecting me. Whenever I saw a young black male being stopped by police officers, my white husband would tell me that he had probably done something wrong, and that this was not necessarily racial profiling. He’d say things like, the cops were probably just doing their jobs; or if they were engaging in racial profiling processes, then I should simply be happy because they would stop the right people — after all, those who didn’t do anything illegal would not be apprehended.
Society demands that we be colorblind, that we attend to something other than color when we interact with one another. Stick to the content of the character. That stuff about race? Just let it go. So I should not have been shocked when my husband, walking with me and a friend, said point blank to her that I was pretty for a black woman (it was her first time seeing me). But oh how I was shocked — and disbelieving.
I'm not sure how many of you are married to white men who are resistant to acknowledging the true depth of racism in this country. Like most grown-ups, my husband and I disagree about some things. But there is one issue on which he insists that we cannot disagree without him bringing it up at least once a week: how he refused to see the racism I experienced in my childhood, teen years, and into adulthood; how he was marrying a woman that was living with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because she had been the target of deep-seated, institutionalized racism (not to mention gender discrimination).
One of the most soul-searching and difficult decisions I've ever made was to marry a white man. Well, that is, assuming we can even agree that my husband is white. He's actually a little more on the pink side, than beige or tan or oatmeal, but that's all chaff. The point is that he's certainly not black which was my original concern when I agreed to date him, in spite of numerous mutual friends; in spite of our deep love and caring for one another; in spite of his vow never to utter the N-word nor display any other indication that convinced me he was anything but a kind and caring individual who had grown up among likely very good friends who happened to be black.
I married my husband believing he would be a safe place to fall. I did not know that, in his own ways, he would manage to cut me down. He made jokes about how white people should be able to say the N-word first, as if black pain were justifiable collateral damage in the effort to maintain white introspection.
This is a story about love—and compromise. I’m not going to say my life with P was perfect because no one’s marriage is perfect. But as much as I fought against his white world and white family, they managed to slowly win me over by how they handled my very real pain caused by racism.
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