Now the TheReasonableBachelor is certainly, as of today, not a politically charged site. I am just a regular man with thoughtful perspectives on being single. By no means an expert or a self-proclaimed guru. And I, like the rest of America, was taken aback when Nita Hanson, calling under the pseudonym Jade, reached out to a Dr. Laura Schlessinger for some insight on how to approach the issue of tension in an interracial relationship. (A woman who by the way is a doctor of Physiology not Psychology, and certainly no more qualified to give an opinion on anything race or relationship related that I am) And Jade certainly asked a very legitimate question. She was concerned about the growing tension between her and her white husband caused by the insensitive commentary of her husband’s white family and friends. And more specifically she was expressing her feelings of resentment towards her husband for not stepping up to put an end to such commentary.
As any person who is a member of a minority group can attest, it is a very awkward moment for you when you first start to experience insensitive behavior that is based upon some sort of ethnic, gender or religious stereotype. Women face it all the time in male dominated workplaces. Not knowing how to react when a co-worker makes a sexually provocative joke about what he would like to do to her. Muslim people can’t even get through an airport security gate without being flagged for a “random security search“, that they were supposedly electronically selected for when they purchased their ticket. And people of color endure the awkward tension in professional environments whenever they hear such common questions like…….Can I feel your hair? Why do Black people all like chicken? Are you the first black person in your family to go to college? And honestly, a lot of these questions would not really offend me so much if I could sincerely believe that these people where trying to ask legitimate questions and not just make some not so clandestine attempt at making a joke based on old cultural stereotypes. So when Jade expressed her anxiety over people making comments around her that were stereotypical and insensitive I knew exactly what she meant before she even began to explain.
I can completely understand why Jade would not immediately erupt into some anger filled tirade that would reinforce the stereotypical mindset of the people who were making a mockery of who she is. It is truly an awkward spot to be caught in and you cannot always predict how you will react. But the more important issue is how her husband, who is white reacted…………“crickets”. He reacted with silence. And that is where the relationship aspect of this whole thing kicks in. Overshadowed by the politicized racial component that has dominated the news cycle for over a week now, is the fact that there is a disconnect in her relationship. And how should such an issue be addressed? What is the proper reaction in such a scenario? Is this the type of thing that should have been talked about before hand?
This is really a no-brainer in my book. People tend to take liberties when they are feeling very comfortable with their surroundings. The family and friends in this situation that made the uncomfortable remarks were clearly in the majority and feeling very confident in making insensitive remarks and passing them off as jokes. Well the key here is to make those people feel a little less comfortable and make them become a little more respectful. And it was her husband’s job to do that. As soon as his mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor or co-worker said anything remotely less than respectful, he should have given a very direct reaction that expressed his disapproval. He should have protected her. And in the reverse situation she should always do the same for them. Even though I am sure they can stand up for themselves, in situations like this it always means more coming from the person that is not the direct victim of the abuse. If my father makes a poorly worded comment towards my girlfriend, I should be the one to immediately express my displeasure. Not my girlfriend. And vice versa if her mother said something to me. Obviously this take a different tone when you are talking about unflattering remarks by out-of-pocket parents , as oppose to consistently offensive racial commentary directed to a black woman.
The fact that Jade’s husband did not immediately address the issues says a couple of things to me. Not that he does not love his wife, but that he does not know how wrong this is. Because he is so desensitized to hearing this stuff from these people before that he does no see the real sting in this type of talk. Previous to the couple getting married I am sure that Jade’s husband heard these very same people say much worse. So measuring it against that scale, he may have thought that these comments were not such a big deal. And while I don’t think that this makes her husband a closeted bigot, I do believe that he is a man who has not unlearned the insensitivity that naturally exists when you are a part of a majority group that only becomes a glaring deficiency in your life when you interact with a minority group. And him being married to a Black Woman, he should have been given the cultural adjustment handbook while going through marriage counseling.
Now upon reflection, the main question that I have in this situation is, Did you two not talk about these issues before you were married? I think I have a whole handbook of questions that I have formulated with things that absolutely have to be asked before I get married. Some of them are things that I need specific answers to and others are just topics that I need to know how a woman feels about. And in the instance that I were to marry a woman of another race, that list of questions grows by at least a third! It is naive of me to follow the mantra that love conquers all. Life isn’t a fairly tale and marriage shouldn’t be handled like one. You have to do some serious vetting when you talk about spending the rest of your life with someone. (I love how the whole country throws around the term vetting ever since it was popularized in the 2008 presidential election). Talking about issues of race is an easy subject to duck and dodge, but it is of the utmost importance that people in relationships embrace the conversation as oppose to avoiding it. Because, eventually it will come up. And if you are not strong in your understanding of your partners feelings then your love boat is going to sink faster than the Titanic.
Like any other relationships, interracial love takes work. Maybe even more work and even more understanding. There is so much more to cover. But in the end, people cannot be out of touch with what their partner finds offensive. And most importantly they cannot be dismissive about what they find offensive. Clearly that was Dr. Laura’s problem. Her insensitive commentary is a reflection of her dismissive opinion on how minority people feel. And when she starts telling people that they need to “expect certain things when you marry outside your race“, it subtly speaks to her opinion on interracial relationships to begin with. So goodbye Dr. Laura. You won’t be missed. And for every person seeking an opinion on relationships that you spurned by calling out the N-Word 11 times, I will gladly embrace and try my best to approach their concerns with the dignity and compassion that your Dr. title deceived people into believing that you would have. Your loss…My gain.