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Monday, June 23, 2008

And We Both Love Spam®. What Else Really Matters?

I'm still diggin' around in the Reader Mailbag, y'all.

Corey of Living and Loving Every Minute of It gets the prize for the deepest and most thought-provoking question:

Being the ever inquisitive and ever thirsting for a deeper understanding of people, their emotions, and their spirit, I just wondered if you have suffered much negativity, bias, or plain old dirty discrimination due to your bi-racial family? I wondered if you came from an open, loving and diverse extended family or if your relationship with Al caused any sort of ruckus in your life? Do you get ignorant comments or questions regarding Bean's race, or if she is actually YOURS? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

This topic - life as an inter-racial, bi-racial, multi-racial family? I'd say it was actually one I feel very passionate about except for one tiny little detail: It just doesn't come up all that often.

And at my age, it's hard to work up a lot of passion about a thing if it's just gonna go to waste.

Which I suppose is an answer in and of itself, isn't it?

For Al and me, having different colored skin has been a complete non-issue. And that's all it is, to us. Al and I are so much alike, really, in the ways that really matter. We're not a cross-cultural couple - which would be perhaps harder to navigate. The two of us are mostly of one mind in our values and approaches to life. We were both raised in relatively rural settings - small Southern towns - by conservative parents who valued education, self-reliance and (though slightly later in my life than in Al's) the Christian faith.

Both of our parents insisted on honesty, respectful behavior and decorum and as is the case with most Southerners, we've each had a little bit of redneck and a lot of dignity built into us over the years. Ours has been an easy relationship from the start, with little friction along cultural lines. Heck, since we've known one another, even our somewhat strongly opposing political views have begun to gel somewhere in the middle, and we may even both vote for the same candidate in the upcoming presidential election. We strongly disagree with one another in two areas: football and which utensil is the RIGHT one for eatin' watermelon.

But I won't lie to you, those two areas of conflict do make for some heated debates at times.

Although we have HEARD that interracial couples often suffer discrimination or even hatred, the two of us have never experienced anything more than what seems a genuine curiosity from the occasional stranger. Our marriage was and is absolutely celebrated among our friends, but not because of or in spite of our physical differences, as I think those differences fade quickly in the eyes of those who know us well, and what stands in the forefront of our life as a couple is our alikeness, and the joy and gratitude we feel just being together.

I hope so, anyway.

As for our families, not one word was ever said by our parents or siblings about the fact that he is black and I am white. It's a non-issue to them, as well, as far as the two of us can tell by their words or actions. But I won't candy coat it -- older generations of my very Southern family have and do express sentiments that I would say qualify as racism. Thankfully none of them have ever been directed at my husband, and they didn't express any opposition to our relationship directly to me. If they said anything to my parents (which I doubt) my parents prudently chalked it up to ignorance and let it go.

We do seem to get attention from people that I don't recall getting in relationships with other boys or men. In Atlanta, where we dated and married, and here in the Chicago suburbs, interracial marriage isn't particularly common yet, but it isn't unheard of, either. I think, if anything at all, our outward differences make us more memorable as a family, and therefore we seem to be more readily recognized and remembered (in a positive sense, it appears) as we run across people more than once.

Honestly? I think we are treated better socially than I've been treated in my same-race relationships, although I am not 100% sure that's because of our different skin.

The key ingredient, I think, is that both Al and I firmly believe that what you put out into this world is what you get back. And we try to ACT on that belief no matter where we are, what we're doing, or with whom we're doing it.

Do I think we might see more hatred or discrimination if we were on the look-out for it? Or if we felt defensive about our own choices? Possibly, yes. The thing is, we just don't entertain those thoughts or positions. Just like any other two spouses, we each married people in whom we saw values similar to our own, people whom we trusted and enjoyed, and by whom we were inspired in many ways.

See, I don't look at Al and see "my black husband," nor does he see me as "his white wife." And we don't walk side by side conscious of any huge, glaring juxtaposition. Our hearts are generally as together as if they beat in the same chest (unless it's a football Saturday). So why, in today's society where who we are as a couple is perfectly legal and growing more common every day, and where racism is, at least in mainstream society, considered backwards and archaic (I know it's still out there though. I'm not totally blind to it), should our contrasting skin-tones get more of our attention or anyone else's than the different eye-colors of our samish-skinned married neighbors?

They shouldn't. And they don't.

I know! Preach it, sister.

On to the questions about Bean.

You know what? Bean looks like Shirley Temple. We get a TON of interested (but not ignorant, by my standards, anyway) questions about her hair. And about her eyes, which combine my green with Al's brown into a very unusual shade of bronzy-gold. Beyond the questions, we get a lot of very enthusiastic declarations about her appearance, all of them positive. The kid is cute, ya'll, and she looks exactly like both of us, in different ways. No one has ever asked either of us any questions as to her biological origins - she's pretty obviously genetically us, combined. Because her skin is fair and her hair blond, Al used to joke that I shouldn't leave him alone with her at the grocery store for fear that someone would think he was kidnapping her. But in all honesty, no one has ever even cast a sidelong glace at either of us alone in public with her.

We had one interesting encounter with a young girl at our church in Atlanta. But she had her own reasons for approaching us and her intent wasn't to attack or do harm, only to vent her own fears and insecurities and to have her curiosity satisfied. We were neither startled nor offended by her questions, just maybe somewhat amused by her intensity.

The bottom line? It seems to me that where real love, acceptance and contentedness are obvious and transparent, hatred, divisiveness and judgment just don't bother to come knocking.

30 comments:

  1. Such deep thoughts so early in the AM! It is 7AM here and I thought I was getting a jump on the day, but you beat me. Good post. Isn't your brain tired now? Love, Mom

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  2. That was a great post - very uplifting on an early Monday morning!

    In my experience with friends, I think you're right - most of the "issue" is a mental one for the couple themselves. When it is a non-issue to them, it's usually a non-issue to others. It's not that easy for everyone, though...
    You're so blessed, Megan!

    And by the way, forgive me - I should have posted a "No Pregnant Women Allowed" sign on my sad posts last week. :) I always hated it when I was pregger and someone just had to tell me the inevitable tragic story. As if...

    So take a deep breath and try to forget about all that...
    And have a happy Monday!

    Jen

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  3. Well. That was just plain inspiring for any old marriage! :)

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  4. Another Jen comment...

    I didn't even know your husband was black. I grew up most of my life being the minority ("skinny, little white girl") so my "racial" past was usually the other way around. Moving to Springfield was so strange...so many white people!

    I like you Megan because of you, your life and how you write. Everything in your life is another ingredient to your recipe. That's why I keep coming back!

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  5. I'd say you tackled that question with finesse and the look of ease, although I know writing that had to take something out of you.

    It is beautiful and awe-inspiring, not because of the fact that you are different shades of the same color, but because it is so incredibly OBVIOUS that the love you share is real, which pretty much negates all the other.

    Well done, my friend.

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  6. What an excellent post!!! It put a smile on my face this morning! :) Very inspiring!

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  8. Great post!! My nieces are bi-racial and when I see all of my son, nieces and nephews together I love noticing that none of them see the difference.

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  9. What a great post. I love your blog and I think Bean is about the cutest kid on the internet. Thanks for sharing this.

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  10. What a great post! I'm so happy that you haven't had any big issues because of race. I appreciate your honesty and openness on your blog and this is another example. And yes - Bean is just adorable!

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  11. Oh, so well said. This is a great post, thanks for sharing.

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  12. Okay, you should totally win some award for this post. I don't know what kind, and I don't exactly have one to give, but if I did, you'd get it! Fantastic writing on this one!

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  13. I love the last line of your post!!

    Beautiful and true!

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  14. WOW Megan! YOur answer was so much more than I ever imagined. I loved each and every word of it. YOu are such a wonderful woman, and I am honored to know you. :)
    Thank you for taking my question, and answering it in such a well thoughtout, and incredible way.

    I am thrilled that the ignorance I see in my life....isn't something you have to deal with.

    hugs!

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  15. Why can't everyone in the world live like this? This post was so beautiful and well written.

    I love the feeling and truth behind it. I related to so many parts.

    Thanks so much.

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  16. Awesome post! We attend a very diverse Christian church down here on the Texas Gulf Coast, with several bi-racial families amongst our membership. I love the fact, that while our family is all white, our daughter is growing up with families comprised of white/black, white/hispanic, and black/hispanic composition. She is seeing people the same way God sees them ... as PEOPLE, His children, beautiful whatever "packaging" they may come in. Having grown up with some narrow-minded relatives so many years ago, I'm grateful that God has put us in a church family that negates that mentality.

    You have a beautiful family, and I'm looking forward to seeing the little Peanut, too! :)

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  17. Excellent post. It's obvious y'all have a great marriage.

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  18. This is my first time here, and what a lovely post to happen upon. I'll be back to read you and get to know you better. Seems like this blog is a keeper.

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  19. Great post - thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  20. Amen!

    My husband is part-Asian, so our skin doesn't match. (Which really bugs me in the summer, because he tans in one day what will take me the next three months to burn. I mean earn!) But like you and Al, it's really a non-issue. It's just ... us.

    By the way, I thought the comments about Bean were hysterical. I can't tell you how many times I've been out with my daughter (who looks a LOT like my husband, especially in her coloring), and people will accept us. But then they see Corey and they say, "OH! Now we get it!"

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  21. "What you put out into this world is what you get back."--Great point. I think most people respond more to personality than to outward appearance. Strangers often commented on my brothers and sisters being "triplets" but 2 out of 3 are adopted and their skin tones run the range from milk to sweet tea.

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  22. OMG...I LOVE Fried Okra...I just discovered you on Crooked Eyebrow's site. I wish you could be with us on July 12th at our bloggy meet up. I will try to order Fried Okra in your honor if they have it on the menu. Wonderful meeting you...

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  23. Oh Megan --- you certainly have a way with words. What a great post. When I began reading, I fell in love with you and Al not knowing anything about you except what you wrote. And then, one day you posted about being a bi-racial family and it never occurred to me that it made any difference. Al sounds like such a wonderful husband and father. Who wouldn't love him? And you, oh you keep me laughing, and smiling and going when I don't want to. You're an inspiration and I love ya! No matter if you're purple, black, white, fat, skinny, headless -- you get my drift. I'm glad ignorance hasn't made it's way to you all yet and I pray that God puts protection around your sweet, adorable Bean.

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  24. Don't you love the Chicago suburbs? One of my favorite things about my neighborhood is that my kids are ACCUSTOMED to people from all over the world. They think nothing of the different tones of skin nor the varying accents with which our neighbors speak English. It's just the way it is.

    Love it.

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  25. Love, love, LOVE this post!
    I have not seen this issue spoken of in quite this way before & it's so refreshing to read.

    Cute story:
    The pastor of the church we attended early in our marriage is black & his wife is white & with German ancestery. Hutch is vocal about his racist past, he hated white people & played football so he could hurt them legally. He later became a Christian & came to love all people equally. He likes to say that although he hated whites he now pastors a (mostly) white church, is married to a white woman & their kids are little German chocolates.

    God bless you & your beautiful family!!

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  26. ROCK. ON. SISTER. FRIEND.

    Beautiful post.

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Thoughts?