Yesterday's post about interracial (henceforth, "IR") relationships got me thinking about reactions to me and my partner, since we come from different races and different faiths. My fiancé is the first non-Christian I've seriously dated, but I've always felt more "visible" as a Black/White couple than as a Christian/Jewish one. I think I take our being accepted for granted, both because we've been together for a long time and because we live in a majority-Black neighborhood. (I'll save my thoughts on why I feel more comfortable in an IR relationship in majority-POC spaces for another time.) But when I think back to other guys I've dated, specifically White guys, an uncomfortable thought persists:
I was an "acceptable" black girl.
Before I break down what I mean, disclaimer: I'm talking about how I feel I was perceived by others. This is not about policing other black folks. Similarly, when I talk about "acting" Black and White, I'm deliberately dealing in stereotypes and perceptions to make a point.
When I say "acceptable", I mean that for those guys and their parents I was just like a White girl. I come from a middle-class, two-parent home; I have a name that doesn't necessarily read as Black; I didn't talk about movies or food or music that reflected Black culture (a choice I now realize was deliberate). And the messed-up thing was, when a boyfriend or friend's parents didn't treat me with disdain, I felt grateful. I thought I'd lucked into a family of well-intentioned liberals who "didn't see color", though I realize now that if I had proclaimed my love for Ashanti, or invited those guys over to my grandma's on the South Side for fried catfish, or introduced them to my siblings and cousins with identifiably Black names, they would've seen my Blackness all too clearly.
I don't know what all of this means, or even if it matters to me now. I've grown to be unapologetically Black and committed to my people and my culture in ways I wasn't ready for in high school. One of my favorite things about my fiancé is how eagerly he's joined my family and gotten invested in what's important to me, from natural hair to trying (and trying...) to replicate my grandmother's mac n' cheese. And even before we got engaged we had discussions about what blackness and Jewishness would mean to our potential future kids. But in certain situations I still make myself a little bit more...acceptable. Sometimes it's just easier that way.
*Thank you to the GTers who encouraged me to write and share this post. I really needed and appreciated the encouragement!
**For the love of fishsticks, please no mainpaging!