“Does he look like Sidney Poitier?” my mother inquired cautiously. “Not really mom,” I replied. “Um, he doesn’t look really black, does he?” she asked hesitantly. “Well, sorta...” I replied. He describes himself as ‘paper sack brown and curly headed’ but she would not know what to say to that, so I don’t tell her. There is no good way to tell your white mother and your Sicilian father that you are engaged to a black man. Born in 1937, my mother simply couldn’t comprehend that in 1990 her daughter would date an African-American without so much as an apology. She just couldn’t understand the attraction unless, of course, he looked like Sidney Poitier.
Five years later while my mother lay dying my husband, the 46 year old black man that had not been welcome at a single family gathering, signed up to take a shift to care for her while she died at home, which is tradition in my family. Lou took the night shift. He carried her back and forth to the commode, rubbed her back, recited poetry to her, and held her hand as she dozed. With her strength nearly exhausted, she apologized to Lou and I. “I know why you love him now,” mom confessed. “It’s because he is a high quality human being.” There was only one black pallbearer at mom’s funeral, but he carried her proudly.
Although interracial couples of any race were rare in the early 1990’s, this is not the case today. A host of famous and not-so-famous couples now crowd the interracial relationship pool, and society seems not to notice at all. Have we really come so far that interracial marriage, which was illegal in Alabama until 1999, is no big deal? Probably not.
Today’s interracial couples still face a myriad of complexities not typically found in same race couples. Resistance or even ridicule from extended family, loss of friends, social embarrassment when strangers stare or comment loudly about the objectionable nature of the couple are all still part of the package. Coming from different worlds can also cause cultural collisions within the relationship including different sense and sensibilities over parenting philosophies, dietary choices, financial management strategies, use of space and dozens of other daily issues that are managed differently across cultures.
So why do it? Why date outside one’s own race if the challenges are momentous? Do it because sometimes your soul mate doesn’t look, or think, or feel like the rest of the people you love. Do it because you will learn so much, and your world will become larger as you embrace more approaches to life than you ever knew existed. Do it because it is fun, and it feels terrific. Do it because it suits you and you suit it. But most of all, do it because you know that high quality human beings come in all colors, and because you can’t answer the unimportant question, “What color is love?”