Again, this is an exert from my own life. Others may have had similar experiences, others this may be completely foreign. I always love to hear feedback, and if you have any questions, I am always happy to answer.
Growing up in Deptford, and going to a culturally diverse secondary school, mixed relationships were ‘normal’ to me. I don’t like the expression ‘I don’t see black or white’ because I don’t think it’s true. You DO see black and white (and others) and I believe that you should. Blanketing everyone as the same doesn’t benefit anyone, it’s important to learn the differences between people, culture, races and history, but to treat everyone with the same manner of respect.
When I was 14 or 15, I was asked by a boy in my class what my parents would say if I had a ‘black boyfriend’ I remember thinking it was a weird question, because what do you mean ‘what they would say?’ I was always raised with the ‘if they treat you well’ ethos, but I don’t actually think races of future partners had ever been a conversation around the dinner table. Another boy interjected the question with ‘my mum would kill me if I bought home a white girl’ and others agreed, male and female. Maybe some of this was truth, but at the time I dismissed it as a bit of a wind up.
A short while into our (Papa No + Ro & I’s) relationship, I had told my parents that I had a ‘boyfriend’ I didn’t bring him round for the whole ‘meet my partner’ situ, but they knew of him. However, his family were none the wiser. I questioned this, and wondered his intentions, I had conjured up a million reasons in my head as to why he hadn’t told them, and it drove me mad. I called time on us but Papa No + Ro was insistent that it wasn’t me, but he couldn’t quite explain what the fuck it was. Growing increasingly frustrated, I cornered him eight months in and demanded an explanation. It was then that it came out, ‘my dad doesn’t believe in the mixing of races’ and the mood was changed entirely. I asked an abundance of questions:
His best friends are white, do they know?
He’s raising his children in England, what does he expect?
What’s wrong with me being white?
Shortly after, I made the choice to stay. Knowing that I was choosing to be with someone who’s family may never want to know me, or our children/future children. Papa No + Ro, also made a choice. Much harder than mine. He risked losing his dad, jeopardising his relationship with his mum and siblings, for something that might not work out in the long run.
The inevitable day came, and he had to tell his dad, and he did, word for word, start to finish, everything. I remember saying just beforehand, “it will be okay, he will get over it, he has to”. The rest is not my story to tell, but it caused a lot of pain to everybody involved and it is not resolved and my words beforehand were incorrect.
During this time I thought a lot about the words the boy at school had said, I began to look at others in interracial relationships and wondered, did they have this too? Was it okay in the end? As time went on, I began to realise that this might not actually be okay in the end, and it’s something that we would have to work through. I felt (sometimes do still feel) tremendous guilt, this wouldn’t be so bad if I had left, but Papa No + Ro has always made it clear that it’s not my fault. But the feeling lingered, at times it was suffocating because it felt as if he only had me, and I panicked that I wasn’t enough.
We have had other challenges as a mixed race family. Names for children are hard, we never agree and although I loved some names suggested, I worried people would consider them names from the ‘black community’, and that using them would make me a ‘try hard’. How ridiculous is that?
We clashed on the role of parents to their children, the amount of respect a child should show a parent (he was in utter shock when he learned that we swore around our parents) and discipline, some of these differences are settled, others will continue for the rest of our lives – like it would for many that aren’t in mixed relationships.
Another issue we had early on was chicken. “Don’t you wash the chicken?” was a question asked with a grimace. Washing raw chicken? It had never even crossed my mind. Why on earth would I wash chicken? Surely that made you ill? But it’s something that is brought up now and we laugh about (I still don’t wash chicken, and actually as pescatarians for nearly a year, it’s not an issue anymore)
But religion was another thing we clashed on. I do not believe in God. I would never knock another for believing, and I sometimes consider there being a higher power, but it’s not necessarily the God that some choose to believe, I also think that I would rather not believe and I ponder about the lives of those that rely so heavily on God’s ultimate approval.
We trialled ‘grace’ at the table for a while. Rather than thanking God in particular, we thanked each other and spoke of things we were grateful for, sometimes Noah added God in, sometimes he didn’t. Papa No + Ro once or twice also expressed his interest in us all attending church, I said there would be no way I would go, but if he would like to take the boys then that is fine as I do agree that they should experience religion and it’s settings, but I don’t want them to be coerced into any faiths. These are small battles that we face in comparison to the much larger war we have ongoing with acceptance within one side of the family, but they are still things that cause small quarrels, debates and chats, I don’t regret my choice of partner but I do wonder, would it be different if we were of the same race? Do others in the same position clash on such minute things? In the dark days, I thought about some really strange shit. MAYBE, just maybe there was a reason people had an issue with the mixing of races. I think about that now and realise it’s barking mad, but when someone (and more than one) is so against something, it’s hard to not think that perhaps, you are doing something wrong.
Noah’s birthday card to me this year, I absolutely love it.