Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"But he's brown"

I sat on the plane next to the most precocious four year old in early April on a quick flight to Seattle.  She started talking to me almost immediately after I sat down and at one point asked me why I had to read my book because it was interrupting our conversation.  She told me the man her mom was talking to was "her friend" (not her dad who it really was) and asked me all kinds of personal questions.  At one point she asked if I was married and since I said I wasn't she asked me about my boyfriend - assuming if I wasn't married I was at least in a romantic relationship of some type.  She asked to see pictures of my dog and my cat and then asked to see pictures of my boyfriend.  I have a couple on my phone so I showed her one of us on the beach.  She looked at it for a long time and then got a quizzical look on her face and said to me, "but he's brown."  I laughed and said that he was and told her that he didn't even live in America and that he spoke Spanish not English.  Her eyes were huge.

It has been something that I've thought about a lot since meeting SM.  Growing up my parents never said "you can't date someone of a different race" but it was sort of known that while they weren't prejudice they realized life would be more difficult in a mixed race couple.  I believe our society has come a long way since I was living in my parent's home but I am aware that there will be some reactions from people, especially those of an older generation, that will be wide eyed like Chloe was.

CB and I have laughed for years and years about bringing home a "black boyfriend" and what that would mean to our families.  I think in our joking we never realized we should be aware of the fact that this actually wasn't out of the realm of possibility.  All of a sudden it is reality in my life and I worry a little about societal pressures.  I was worried about my family's reaction.  I think about being outside of the DR together where white/brown couples are not at all uncommon and what that will be like.  Will I be uncomfortable?  What will the prejudices be that we face?

And now I've started thinking about our kiddos.  If we have kids, which SM really wants, what does that mean in school?  I expressed some concerns about the schools automatically placing a darker skinned child, especially a boy, in a lower position than a lighter skinned child to the girls on our recent Girls Weekend.  They are all teachers and I was wondering what their take on that might be.  Club A is also thinking about some similar issues in her life so it was an interesting conversation to have, one I never expected to have in my life.  Their insight was very eye opening and sadly not all that surprising.  They didn't sugarcoat things by saying they would be treated exactly like everyone else, especially if it was a boy, but they did say teachers obviously try their best to bring out and expect the best of everyone.  I do believe some of the policies in the districts work against kids of color in areas that are predominately white and it concerns me and they shared my concerns and expressed frustration.

It is amazing how once those issues become personal they take on a new life.  I've watched a few movies lately and read some books that talk about the struggle African Americans had in moving toward equality and how they have been dealt with in that process.  I have always been amazed by the way people treated each other simply because a difference in color of skin but now my heart has been broken by it.  I can't imagine treating SM any different just because his skin is darker than mine.  To me, that isn't really even a part of him.  Yes, his culture is different, in so many ways I'm still discovering, but his skin color doesn't make him any different than me.

I find myself noticing darker skinned people more often now and being drawn to them in a way I wasn't in the past.  I was at a book giveaway earlier today and I spent a lot of the morning visiting with the kids.  I enjoyed each of them but the darker skinned kids made my heart flip.  Some of that is I miss SM and the darker skin makes me feel closer to him but it also is just new eyes that come from life experience which has opened my world view a bit.  Or a lot. 

I never thought my story would be this but it is so I'm rolling with it.  My heart is raw in new ways.  No matter the outcome of my relationship with SM I believe it will end up making me a better, richer person.

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