The Time Racism Crashed Date NIght
By Deanna Martinez on August 02, 2013
My husband and I very rarely have a chance to slip out for date anymore. Between swim team schedules, ballet rehearsals, choir and violin lessons for our three children, a night out is a rare opportunity.
Perhaps because it happens so rarely, it almost always ends in an argument.
Our most recent date ended with my husband declaring me to be a hardened racist.
That's right, I am a white woman, married to a Hispanic man, the mother of his three children and in his mind I am probably applying for membership in the KKK as I type this post.
You may wonder how I find myself in this predicament. The short answer is I grossly under-estimated the effect alcohol has on the brain's ability to reason.
The long answer is rather than simply resorting to negligee and romp in the sheets, I sought stimulation of the intellectual kind instead. A decision that I deeply regret as it resulting no romping only angry words and scowls.
With the subject of racism in the news and on my mind, I made the decision to discuss racism in America over margaritas and tacos.
It still surprises me that after 14 years in an inter-ethnic relationship this conversation can still cause tension between my husband and I. This is a reflection of how deeply and painfully racism and discrimination are entrenched in our society and how personally and individually this pain continues to be felt.
It also takes me aback a bit because I feel that after all of this time we ought to be more than shades of color to each other.
The realization that a life together, a family and a history does not overcome some of the differences in our skin and that we are still largely misunderstood by each other when we discuss race. Despite each of our best intentions, we are not able to really hear each other. Centuries of pain have cemented walls of misunderstanding before our eyes, so that our mouths - though they move and words come out, we cannot really see or truly hear, despite the deep love we feel for each other.
So I write here, what I cannot seem to say properly there.
It is my experience that sensitive, educated white people, due to our long history of repressing and abusing people are loathe to take on the subject of race. We (I speak for myself and what I think I understand from others I encounter) feel deeply guilty for the actions and behaviors of our ancestors. We do not know how to rectify the situation, and we are continually mortified and embarrassed that other people whose skin closely resembles ours in pigment continue to behave in this loathsome manner. We feel so badly, we are almost paralyzed to confront it and discuss it openly.
This, in part, contributes to cycles of violence and discrimination in our society. We, as white people, need to own our history and work to understand what has gone so terribly wrong. We need to educate our children to be colorblind, to judge people on their character and their actions. It is our responsibility to take the first step in talking about it, addressing it and helping to eradicate it.
However, in order to truly end racism, it must be a two way street. Our brothers and sisters of other races and ethnicities must be willing to put aside their pre-conceived notions as well and meet us, if not halfway - some fraction of the way in the middle of the conversation.
Anyone in a blended relationship has the odd and slightly uncomfortable experience of seeing their culture through the eyes of another. It can be a painful and eye-opening experience. I see the effects of racism, discrimination and a repressive immigration policy on my husband's family. I see the pain they have suffered. I also see that racism is not a white-person-only problem.
It is a societal disease that has taken root, like a cancer.
And like cancer, if we only treat one part of the body affected by the disease, the disease will eventually kill the entire body. Racism and intolerance fester and feed on hate, pain and repression. It must be cut out, radiated and poisoned from every angle, attacked aggressively and fought unilaterally.
Expressing this idea to my husband caused him to lash out at me, because I am "white and do not understand."
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