The courage this couple needed to have is amazing to me. When my children’s father and I got married, even in 1992, a lot of people were against it. Whispers here. Murmurings there. Slight looks. Knowing nods. Others verbalized that we were choosing to make our marriage harder because of the race difference, harder than marriage already is.
Our response was that we were going into our marriage having discussed those differences at length, understanding the challenges and the unique stressors that we were up against, and then we laid them all out on the table to deal with them. And we discussed that in fact there were similar, but often unaddressed issues, with couples who ARE ethnically the same, but deal with similar class and family issues, that can undermine all new marriages. In my own family alone, my dads father did NOT like my mom, and made it very clear, simply because she was from the “hills” of Berkeley, while my dad was from the flatlands. And he thought my mom was conceited simply because she wanted a college education….. Same color. Same European ethnicity even.
Then, when all hell broke loose in my marriage, some people responded with,”well, what did you expect? You should never have married the ‘black’ guy to begin with.”
My response, even after dealing with years of reverse discrimination in family law and with legal authorities? No. Drug Addiction. Mental illness. Childhood poverty. And unaddressed trauma and family violence know NO color barrier. And while institutional racism and personal discrimination DID shape and color his life, and our marriage, it was not the root cause of our struggle. We didn’t have our problems because he was “black”. We had our problems because he was human. And he needed to be held accountable to restore justice because he was a human who had hurt another human, not because he was a man of color.
But maybe our American culture, rather than writing off groups of people as being different and therefore a threat, needs to address the humanity in all of us, and make sure that we all have access to the quality care and help that would make us equitably healthy individuals in the first place. Adults will still make choices, some of them horrific and despicable ones. I know. My kids and I are the recipients of them. But if we never grow healthy children of all colors, tax brackets, and geographic locations, the scales are tipped before the weigh-in even begins.