It seems like every single aspect of this year has come with a giant asterisk hinged to it. From vacation plans. wedding plans, NFL games, and family reunions to grocery shopping, going to work, walking the dog, buying toilet paper, and dining inside restaurants, nothing about 2020 has been simple or easy.
Dating in 2020 has been no less of a challenge, and for those of us in interracial relationships, the struggle is beyond real. Having different skin tones is one thing; add differing political views to the equation, and it becomes another problem altogether. My boyfriend and I have recently had to learn how to coexist more peaceably in spite of our differences. I am a Black bleeding-heart libertarian who wants to see a major overhaul of our criminal justice system, supports Black Lives Matter, and voted for whatever political ticket had the better chance at defeating Trump. Meanwhile, my boyfriend is a white military vet who believes solidly in the second amendment, thinks the BLM movement is a bit too overhyped, and unapologetically voted for Trump four years ago. He’s discovered just how stubborn I am about issues that are important to me and my race. He’s seen me do battle in op-eds in my local newspaper as well as talk about bias and discrimination on a couple of podcasts.
Headlines on CHAZ, defunding the police, and justice for George Floyd have been prevalent topics over dinner for us these last several months of quarantining and I’ve realized just how indoctrinated he is as a third-generation Republican. I’ve also learned how forgiving we sometimes must be in order to love who we love. Here are five lessons I’ve learned about surviving a year of civil unrest — and an election — as a Black woman dating a conservative white man.
It’s okay to not agree on everything
There is no requirement in any successful relationship for both persons’ political beliefs to align exactly with each other’s. I can be pro-choice if my boyfriend wants to be pro-life so long as we can appreciate the unique value in our contrasting perspectives. Especially in an era like this, it is important to respect the fact that different demographics will hold up different causes and social issues as being important to them and their community. Political administrations come and go. Presidents are elected, reelected, voted out, or replaced. November 3 is just one day out of 365 days. When all is said and done, and the votes are all counted, we still have to live together in this great, big world. I’m with a guy that loves me with all my eccentricities, cooks me dinner, listens to me ramble on about my day, and tolerates my very picky interests in video games. I don’t plan on giving that up over some men or women in expensive Italian suits in Washington D.C. who don’t even know I exist.
Love is seeing it from the other person’s viewpoint
Just because I believe that my candidate is the best choice, doesn’t mean that I can’t respectfully understand why my boyfriend chooses to support another candidate. When you know your significant other’s heart is in the right place, then you can trust that they are also voting for the person they believe to be the better candidate for the country. I have enough trust in my partner to believe that he sincerely expects his candidate to be fair to all Americans, of all skin tones. We both want a safer, healthier world, a stronger economy, and a more united nation. I know that as a Conservative, he endorses politicians who fight for lower taxes, smaller government, and federal programs that support small businesses. I endorse politicians whose platforms are founded on dealing with issues like civil rights, poverty, universal healthcare, and homelessness. From each other’s viewpoint, we can both see what motivated us to vote how we voted. Honestly, our differences are what drew us together in the first place.
Leave the politics out of the bedroom
It is never a good idea to go to bed debating politics. Romance and election rivalries do not mix well. Alone time doesn’t need to be interrupted by implicitly offensive political puns or underhanded verbal jabs meant to deride the other’s character. Bedroom time is when the two of you get to decompress, relax, and just enjoy each other. The bedroom should be a safe haven away from the petty partisanship that you can get enough of just by watching CNN or FOX News.
My boyfriend and I determined early into this year we would steer away from rehashing politically-charged headlines or stories while we were preparing for bed. We also refused to talk about any topics we were certain to disagree on because we didn’t want to end the night angry or resentful toward the other. Whatever controversial topics didn’t make it into conversation at the dinner table just had to wait until the next day. Setting up boundaries is important to protect people’s feelings from being hurt.
Someone always loses in an election year; don’t take it personal
The last four years haven’t been a walk in the park for us Black and brown people. We weathered a climate of prejudice that was almost daily fueled by a raging, misogynistic bigot in the White House. But after a long, wearisome year chockfull of pain, hate, uncertainty, and divisiveness, it was a welcome feeling learning that America had spoken loudly and chosen to put love first again. I text my boyfriend four days after Election Day, only just slightly gloating in the fact that Biden was finally being projected as the winner by the Associated Press. I sent him a gif of a popular television character shaking his fist in triumph. He replied back with a picture of a cat with a party hat sitting lopsided on his head, mean-mugging straight into the camera.
After the election, life goes on. Someone is always the loser in an election year. Someone has to wake up, accept the outcome, and go about their day. My boyfriend understands my point of view and he admits that the state of race relations seems to have gone back a couple of decades under Trump. He also couldn’t wrap his head around electing a 70-something career congressman to the highest office of the land so this year he chose not to vote at all.
Don’t feel the need to change who you are
I am a Black woman who voted for a Black woman for Vice President and I’d gladly do it again. Check the numbers and you’ll see the votes of Black women across this entire nation propelled the campaign of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to victory. Heroic efforts were spearheaded in historically “red” regions, like my home state of Georgia, by individuals such as Stacey Abrams, Helen Butler, and Deborah Scott. Black women influence and drive change. There’s no reason to ever dim your light, dumb down your argument, or downplay your strength to appease any man. I don’t feel a need to apologize for my beliefs or for my culture to my boyfriend, any more than I feel my Caucasian boyfriend owes me any explanation for the values and beliefs that he holds dear. The person you choose to enter a relationship with should never try to change who you are, inside or out. They shouldn’t expect you to be anyone different for their friends or family either. The right person will take you just as you are.