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Despite the fact that my own parents had been married for 45 years, I learned early that marriage for whites and blacks was distinctly different if it happened with blacks at all. I once knew a single black woman with a thriving career as a civil engineer and co-franchiser of a Subway sandwich shop, who told me, “I’m still holding out for my black man”. In her church, work, or circle of friends, she could not find one single, solitary black man who could fit the bill.
In my pubescent, wide-eyed youth, I remember, hands clasped against one cheek, sighing my dreams of love, marriage, mutual understanding and cooperation to some friend or relative only for them to scoff, “Thats some fairytale-white-people-shit.”If black women – regardless of class and education – were really honest, most will tell you that their ideal mate is a black man. I don’t care if he’s a Fed Ex carrier, I just want a good one”, she had said.
I sometimes think about that person who once told me that marriage was a fairy tale in which white people cornered the market. Imperfect and glorious, this little black girl got her fairy tale ending.
My marriage works, just not in the confines of tradition or with the ease of anonymity.
I wanted to jump the broom my entire life, but when I fell in love with a white man, I thought everyone would scoff at me. I think that I missed this “must want the same race” gene, I really did.The first time was in elementary school; a blond boy with dirty clothes and flies perpetually circling his face spat the word at me while on a swing. ”“Not at all, I said, full of cosmopolitan bravado. Almost immediately after, a white pickup blazed passed us, a little too close to the curb. Then it had happened the third and final time.“Nigger! My coworker, who was white, seemed incredulous, almost embarrassed, and a little scared. ” Then, he looked at me and saw my face, brown and burning, tears swelling against the bridge of my nose. I’m sorry.”I remember thinking at the time about how absurd it was. Did he think that I would hold him responsible in some way, like some collective condemnation for all bigots of the world? I grew up in the eighties, but I was only one generation removed from drinking out of the “Blacks Only” fountain. I began to overanalyze the incident, rewinding and replaying. Because no matter what, nothing changed the fact that we loved to cook and garden together, and debate the latest outrage in in bed on Sunday mornings.Then it happened again in high school – some cowardly adolescent thought it was funny to yell out the slur while I was walking alone from school. I was walking alongside a coworker passing out notices to home owners about freeway work to be done in Costa Mesa, California. He knew my intended was white, and asked me about it.“What’s it like? Then, unsure of what to do, he chuckled nervously, “You’re not offended by those jerks, are you? Seeing us laughing and walking together must have looked like intimacy to those men. Ghosts may be dead, but they find ways to make you see them. It didn’t erase that we completed each other’s sentences.Tall and short, skinny and portly, black and white.Someone stares a millisecond longer than what is comfortable, and then you wonder. You weren’t invited to a party and you can’t help but think, is it because my husband is white? I have been called a nigger three times in my life. Before that incident I lived in a bubble of self-imposed denial about what it would be like to be married to someone white. Then we went on, one foot in front of the other, down the aisle.