Racism In Relationships: ‘People Hate The Fact We’re In Love’

Racism In Relationships: 'People Hate The Fact We're In Love'

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by Grazia |

Another week, another UKIP plunder. Yesterday, Mark Walker, a would-be politician shortlisted as a candidate to be a UKIP MP found himself in the headlines after he shared a racist link on Facebook which said that relationships between races 'amount to genocide' and damned 'the plague of inter-racial marriages'.

Extreme, yes - but, sadly, not an isolated incident. Here, Lucy Dartford, 30, who has a black boyfriend, explains why the idea of a 'post-racial' society is a joke...

'Walking along the street hand in hand with my boyfriend Raymond, we were oblivious to the van that pulled up alongside us. Until, that is, the driver – hatred etched on his face – wound down his window and screamed, ‘w*g meat’ at me before speeding off.

I want to say this is unusual, but depressingly, it’s far from it. Why? Because I am white and Raymond is black. And the sight of a mixed-race relationship – in the middle of London in 2014 – is still enough to evoke overt racism from complete strangers.

So when I heard that a recent study had claimed my generation believe we’re living in a ‘post-racial’ society, I laughed out loud. Apparently Millennials believe racism is more of a problem for older generations and admit they are ‘colour blind’… in other words, a bit confused about what racism actually is.

I don’t know what world the people surveyed by MTV live in, but it’s not the same one as me. Indeed, they’re either very lucky or very naïve. Because, despite the massive steps we’ve taken as a society, racism is - sadly - alive and well.

And it comes in many forms – the public hatred from the van driver through to subtle racism from friends who would insist they’re only joking when they nudge and ask if ‘it’s true what people say about black men’.

Before I started dating Raymond, 34, an engineer, 18 months ago, I was obviously aware of racism, but had never had any personal experience of it. I work in PR and was raised in London and have friends of many nationalities, cultures and colours.

I heard their stories of experiencing racial abuse in the street, or of feeling discriminated against at work. I read about racist attacks in the paper, and saw footage from EDL marches on the news. But while I was aware of what other people experienced, as a white British woman I was protected from it.

Racism didn’t happen in world, until I fell in love with Raymond who is British and of Caribbean descent. We were introduced by a mutual friend in an east London bar in 2012. I was instantly attracted to him and luckily he felt the same. Yet while we were experiencing the heady days of our early relationship, I was also getting my first glimpse of what he sadly may have had to face all his life.

Some of my (white) friends seemed almost scandalised by our relationship. We all love a gossip about a friend’s new boyfriend, but this was different. ‘What’s it like dating a black man?’ they would ask, practically whispering, as if we were discussing something taboo. ‘Is his body really… you know… ‘different’?’ They acted as if I was doing something rebellious by going out with a black guy, or he was some sort of accessory I’d picked up to court attention.

I didn’t see the point in being confrontational so I would simply reply by saying he was exactly the same as their boyfriend or husband, and change the conversation.

This subtle, casual racism is something we face all the time. Even now we get comments from people about what ‘a gorgeous couple’ we are, and what ‘adorable children’ we’ll have together. I know if we were both white or both black, we wouldn’t be told that. It’s like our different skin colours make us a bit of a novelty, as opposed to just a normal couple.

If I’m being generous, I don’t think people are even aware they’re being racist. Yet comments like that are simply not appropriate. Raymond and I don’t react because what’s the point in becoming embroiled in one uncomfortable conversation after another.

Harder to ignore however is the aggressive and frightening racism from strangers. I was stunned – not to mention devastated – the first time Raymond was called a n****r by a stranger in the street. He shrugs it off, saying it’s nothing new to him and he’s learnt to ignore the abuse and threats, but it’s horrific. In what is meant to be a progressive society, how can a person’s skin colour still be a reason to hate them?

I’ve also experienced reverse racism when recently I was out with a friend of a friend, who is black. At first, she was really friendly but when Raymond arrived, her manner changed instantly, and she became cold and withdrawn. Shortly afterwards, I noticed she had tweeted that ‘white women shouldn’t be stealing black men’.

I can’t help but think she was referring to me; that she believes we should stick to our own colour when it comes to relationships. So is this the ‘racism by stealth’ Dawn French was referring to last week? The comedienne spoke about the racist abuse she and Lenny Henry suffered when they were married, including an arson attack on their home and having excrement smeared on their front door by members of the Klu Klux Klan.

While Raymond and I thankfully haven’t experienced anything as extreme as that, we’ve certainly experience the disapproving looks from strangers, the inappropriate comments from acquaintances… it’s as dangerous as someone screaming abuse at us in the street because it goes under the radar and isn’t reported.

But what saddens me the most is that I am no longer shocked when we encounter racism. Recently an elderly couple in a restaurant sat staring at us, with a mixture of confusion and disgust on their faces. I simply carried on looking at the menu.

The UK isn’t getting any less racist despite the fact there’s never been more mixed race couples, and with parties like UKIP growing in popularity, I fear we’re moving in a very worrying direction. I’m also scared when a generation are saying they don’t think racism is going to be a problem for them. By ignoring the issue, it will only get worse.

So no I don’t believe we’re in a ‘post-racial’ society. If I have mixed race children I think they would be very likely to be discriminated against or even possibly physically hurt just because of the colour of their skin. How is that ‘post-racial’?

Yet I’ve got a message for all the haters… you’re not winning. Far from having a negative effect on our relationship, experiencing racism as a couple has only made us closer. We feel a sense of solidarity against the people who hate the fact we are in love. And if colour is such an issue to them, I pity them and the sad little lives they lead.'

‘I’ve dealt with racism my whole life’

Lucy's boyfriend, Raymond, says, ‘I hate the fact that Lucy has experienced racism as a direct result of being with me. It’s a burden I carry around. I know I’m not to blame for other people’s ignorance but I wish she didn’t have to experience such hatred and disdain because of who she loves.

My parents are from the West Indies and Guyana, in South America, but I was born in the UK and brought up in a small town outside London. In my school there were only three black children - two of whom were my brother and I. So I have grown up sticking out because of my colour.

Lucy’s not my first white girlfriend, I’ve had several, and dated black women too. It’s the person I’m interested in, not their skin colour.

Black female friends have openly told me they think as a professional, successful black man I should date a black woman, and keep myself for my ‘own kind’. I think that’s ridiculous.

Racism isn’t a new thing for me, I’ve dealt with it all my life and I know first-hand we’re not living in a post racial society. I wish we were.’

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