Today is my 10-year wedding anniversary. It’s been a wild ride, but I can’t help but poke my tongue out and thumb my nose at some of the folks at my wedding who thought we wouldn’t last 10 months. I remember walking down the aisle; to the left of me was my family, mostly brown faces. To my right was my soon-to-be husband’s parents and extended family, white as rice.
The walk between the crowd was like parting the sea on a black sandy beach bubbling over with sea foam. Amidst all the butterflies in my belly, I thought about the chance online encounter that connected us, the family drama, and leaps of faith it took to get me to this place, looking ahead at my future husband, a wonderful, handsome man that I almost didn’t marry because he happened to be white.
There were dozens of times our marriage might not have happened. Like the time my well-meaning cousin told me that no family of my husband’s class would accept him having a black women raised by country Texas folks with an out-of-wedlock daughter. Ten years my senior, she recalled vividly (as evidence) her long-term relationship with a Jewish man that crashed and burned when his parents outright told her boyfriend that he’d be disowned if the thought of matrimony crossed his mind.
The second time our union could have vanished into vapor involved my own personal “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” moment when I visited his parents in a swanky Connecticut town and felt so uncomfortable and out of place that I hid in the guestroom and cried for an hour.
We broke up three times, and got back together three times. The third time my husband realized that he didn’t give a damn what anyone thought and put a ring on it on the evening of September 11, 2001–the day the Twin Towers were obliterated by terrorists hell-bent on indiscriminately killing all Americans, regardless of race, color, or creed. I of course said yes, because after two years of dating, I couldn’t have cared two figs about what people thought about us. It was gonna be me and him–the hell with what the world might think. Nothing like a catastrophic event to put things into perspective.
My experience in the only serious interracial relationship I’d ever had was so full of ups and downs, hilarity and absurdity, with the source of all the stress boiling down to something simultaneously small and huge, trivial and profound as a difference in the level of melanin. I wondered out loud, “How many other black women worry about this sh&$!?”
So many times I wished I’d had a confidant to prepare me for the challenges I might face, going in–sort of like a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” for interracial couples. I didn’t see it on the bookshelves–nothing even close. That’s how “Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” was born.
I was determined not to write another naval-gazing compilation about why 70% of black women are single, or how black women should lower their standards, be better, do better, act better, or be forced kicking and screaming into doing something they didn’t want to do. “Swirling” isn’t a book about convincing black women to do anything. It’s about what black women should know after they’ve decided to date a rainbeau.
Some people think the whole “interracial thing” should be given a rest, or that these stories and books are unnecessary. I’d have to disagree. Census data, released just yesterday, indicate that interracial marriage is up 28% since 2000–an all time high in the United States. But statistics don’t always tell the whole story, do they?
The term, “interracial” is wide-sweeping, and could refer to a motley of racial combinations. But the global rise doesn’t mean America is colorblind, or that there isn’t some sort of minority hierarchy when it comes to intermixing. For a variety of reasons, black women are dead last when it comes to mixed-race pairing. My research and numerous interviews revealed that the reasons have less to do with black women’s desirability across color lines (yes ladies, white guys think you’re HOT!!), and more to do with a lack of exposure and access. There’s a ridiculous amount of black women who believe that other races simply aren’t interested or just want some “jungle booty.” There’s a lot of stereotypes happening on both ends of the melanin spectrum, so perhaps more than ever, people of all races need to know what to expect before and after they walk down the aisle, if they so choose.
Christelyn Karazin is the co-author of “Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books) now available for pre-order. She is also the publisher of Beyond Black & White, a blog dedicated to African American women who are interested and/or involved in interracial relationships.
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