Yes! We’re Together!

Living in America as half of an interracial couple isn’t that unique these days, but it doesn’t feel all that common when my wife and I interact with the general public.  I will not discuss overt acts of prejudice or racism.  That will have to wait for another day.  My focus now are all the subtle actions from others that send the message to my wife and me that we don’t belong together.

Here’s a situation that happens quite frequently:  My wife and I are standing side-by-side at a check-out counter of some store and the store employee addresses her or me, “Hi! How can I help you?”  It seems quite normal, until the transaction is complete and the checker turns to the other one of us and asks, “Hi! How can I help you?”  That’s when we annoyingly respond, “We’re together.”  In response, we’ll hear an embarrassed, “Oh!”  Sometimes one of us will raise the ring finger for extra emphasis.giving the (ring) finger  I guess that’s one way to send someone a message by giving them the finger.

Another case: We’re walking through a crowded area like a busy sidewalk, a fair, a sporting event, etc.

People are socially conditioned to try to move through crowds without splitting through a group walking together.  It’s customary to move to one side or the other of a group and one typically moves to the right in the US.  So, as one ambles through a big crowd, his mind subconsciously groups people based on how close they are to the people next to them and the speed at which the group is moving.  When there isn’t much space between groups, our minds pay attention to other details (without our awareness) that enable us to determine the likelihood people of ‘being together.’ In essence, our brain is trying to form groups when it can’t see obvious groupings.holding-hands  Well, more often than not people will split right between my wife and me, unless we’re holding hands.  This tells me that their minds are signaling to them that the Black man and the White woman are not together.

Since most couples in this country are not interracial, it may be natural for one’s mind to split groupings of people based on race.  Although, if you saw me and my wife in a group of ‘mainstream’ Americans, you would probably consciously group us.  She looks like a hippie and I look like a Rasta.  That’s not too much of a difference when placed in the context of most people out there.

Maybe it’ll just take time for our unconscious minds to catch up to what we know are socially acceptable beliefs about race, love and marriage.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the response. It’s good to get some insight from someone who’s had similar experiences. I really like that story you added at the end. Well done!

    Oh, and I will try to focus on the positive things in life. This is a point my wife frequently makes.

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  2. Living in America as half of an interracial couple isn’t that unique these days, but it doesn’t feel all that common when my wife and I interact with the general public. I will not discuss overt acts of prejudice or racism. That will have to wait for another day. My focus now are all the subtle actions from others that send the message to me and my wife that we don’t belong together.

    MY RESPONSE: I think that there are more interracial couples now (out of the closet so to speak) than there were years ago. I was one of them. I personally think that it’s just something that ‘society’ has and is accepting. I know back in 1981 (which wasn’t that long ago) my relationship with my child’s father (who is black, I’m white) was like this. HIDE HIDE HIDE – I had to duck down NOT to be seen because he was AFRAID someone would kill him. Also, it was a ‘very’ small town. Anyway..I think that you should NOT look for these actions but just enjoy one another. Thank God you found your match for life.

    Here’s a situation that happens quite frequently: My wife and I are standing side-by-side at a check-out counter of some store and the store employee addresses her or me, “Hi! How can I help you?” It seems quite normal, until the transaction is complete and the checker turns to the other one of us and asks, “Hi! How can I help you?” That’s when we annoyingly respond, “We’re together.” In response, we’ll hear an embarrassed, “Oh!” Sometimes one of us will raise the the ringer finger for extra emphasis. I guess that’s one way to send someone a message by giving them the finger.

    MY RESPONSE: This happens to me now and I’m not in a interracial relationship. I don’t think that they (the store clerks) really mean anything by this. Just my assumption though. Once they get to know you as a couple they won’t keep asking. I like the showing of the ring finger. Cute.

    Another case: We’re walking through a crowded area like a busy sidewalk, a fair, a sporting event, etc. People are socially conditioned to try and move through crowds without splitting through a group walking together. It’s customary to move to one side or the other of a group and one typically moves to the right in the US. So, as one ambles through a big crowd, his mind subconsciously groups people based on how close they are to the people next to them and the speed at which the group is moving. When there isn’t much space between groups, our minds pay attention to other details (without our awareness) that enable us to determine the likelihood people of ‘being together.’ In essence, our brain is trying to form groups when it can’t see obvious groupings. Well, more often than not people will split right between my wife and I, unless we’re holding hands. This tells me that their minds are signaling to them that the Black man and the White woman are not together.

    MY RESPONSE: HOLD HER HAND. You can’t expect people to KNOW that you and your wife are married. It’s really NOT common to see a interracial couple together. It’s just not. I think you are making way too much of this. Relax and enjoy each other. Those other people that perhaps look at you strangely in some way don’t make you and your wife happy. It’s ok. I have a story to tell you at the end of this also.

    Since most couples in this country are not interracial, it may be natural for one’s mind to split groupings of people based on race. Although, if you saw me and my wife in a group of ‘mainstream’ Americans, you would probably consciously group us. She looks like a hippie and I look like a rasta. That’s not too much of a difference when placed in the context of most people out there.

    Maybe it’ll just take time for our unconscious minds to catch up to what we know are socially acceptable beliefs about race, love and marriage.

    MY RESPONSE: Regardless of your looks you are a COUPLE. ENJOY it. Now socially it’s still ‘not’ accepted in some places. Some places it is. But haven’t you ever seen a person walking with a very strange walk? limp? Do you really LOOK at them? That’s what people are doing to you and your wife. It’s not that society doesn’t accept it, but not fully yet I think. Society today seems to be more focused on THEIR lives and THEIR families, perhaps you should do the same.

    STORY: I have a daughter that is 25 and is biracial. I can recall back in 1983 when we would go to the grocery store I would have her sitting in the buggy. I remember this VERY, VERY well. Two older ladies walked by my buggy and immediately started ‘whispering.’ I couldn’t hear them, but I saw them look at my daughter, then me and then began whispering again. The lady looked back and I said, “Isn’t she beautiful?” smiling…the little old lady replied, “why yes she is just adorable.” “Thank you” I replied and was on my way.

    Sometimes you do have to put people in their ‘place’ when it comes to your relationship, it’s just all in the way you do it. The holding up of the ring is AWESOME! Love it! Take care and try to focus more on the positives in life…negatives are good for no one.

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  3. You would think that in todays world people would be able to look past colour and race, but unfortunately this is the sad would we live in. What is important though is that the two of you are happy and in love, love will conquer all!! Good luck.

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  4. too funny! my husband is white and i’m filipino so there you have the contrast of dark and light skin. we often get many compliments on our kids, who without bias i will say are pretty cute people. yet the subtlety of racism (if that’s the right word) came up last night when i went to our local grocery store. there is a lady there my husband often talks to when we shop there and last night she treated me different. in fact i don’t think she even recognized me which surprised me because i have had a pretty involved conversation with her and i know she knows my husband but the fact she overlooked me made me realize where her bias is. anyway that may sound strange…yet coming from the midwest (illnois) i always felt the differences in race there stronger than here in southern california so i was a little thrown off because i don’t experience race being an issue since living here (unless i’m oblivious). but it makes sense. my husband is an attractive, nonthreatening caucasian man, which seems to kind of be a token in our society. i have to wonder if we get the “are they together?” more often than not. great post. i can relate 🙂

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  5. Thanks for the responses!

    @J: I think aversive racism, the subtle form of racism, is something that many people inadvertently exhibit. As in the example you shared, it’s likely the woman had no clue as to what she was doing. It’s difficult to get people to come to this realization without upsetting them or making them feel uneasy. I find that talking to friends about this subject matter usually leads to positive gains.

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