In All Conscientiousness, Interracial Relationships

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Never     have    I ever…   dated outside of my race

WAIT__  Have I ??    Nope ”’WELL, wait…

I’m brought back to a discussion I had the pleasure of taking part in, late July of 2009.  If I recall well it was I, in a circle with three Women under the sparkle of a deep black sky in Cuba.  A Dominican sister, a Mexican sister, and a sister who shared Ecuadorian and Puerto Rican roots.

“Have you ever dated white?” was the question; a prompt which to my surprise had acquired a yes from at least one, and if i am not mistaking, I believe two of the others.  My own response is one I’ve often shocked myself realizing, and in effect, was surprised to observe it not seeming to surprise them; “I have not.”

I say this because while I know each of our four to be some of the most race conscious Latino’s I (or you) will ever meet, through the work they’ve done around Pan-Afrikan history/culture/systems of belief,  those three sisters were bar-none greater engaged in our African ancestry than me.   And when you are that militantly bound to your own, love takes on a significance which speaks to preservation and cultivation of ours.   Though even Malcolm had his past.

Incidentally we’re talking about a conversation on interracial love, on an island whose culture is dominated by food, music, lingual aesthetics and genetic traits that are an infusion of Indigenous, European, and African influence  ;  the Mexicana glistening of red clay; la Dominicana, a beige favoring shade of light brown; and the Ecua-Boricua sister an almost strawberry.

I could go on and give some sensational description of my own body suit but for the sake of de-mystifying my assertion, you may poll that I fall somewhere along the more European end of the totem.

..Which is for me where the question hadn’t then, but does now, in-lie.

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My first love was an Afro-Boricua (Black Puerto Rican) sister.  Actually, I stand corrected..  or,      do I ??

Her father was half Syrian, half African-American; hence, he was a Black man of African and Syrian ancestry.  I mean, there are Africans of European descent who identify as racially White (check Dave Mathews).   But he was Black on account of his skin being identifiably (by common U.S. American social accounts) BLACK (dark Brown).

And her mother was Puerto Rican, like me.  ..But, in terms of race, what does that mean?   Sure her skin was ‘lighter’ than you’d probably imagine if I told you she might be a Black woman, but it was something of my own, or darker; a hue that browns like buttered bread on a hot pan come the summertime;   her nose, distinctively high and wide.

Before I was with Indra, I had a brief romance with an east Indian and a longer yet none the less loose commitment with a woman who was Ecuadorian and Dominican.  My daughter’s mother is Dominican and Puerto Rican.  At this current time I am seeing a Black woman born in Liberia.

I have never kissed, exchanged numbers with or courted an Italian, Irish, Russian, English, Greek, German, or any other variation of a Caucasian/ White identified woman.

…But here’s the kicker:  I’m not quite sure that means I haven’t been in an interracial relationship.  Each of the African prominent woman I have been with reminded me that from their perspective (respective of them) I am a white, albeit Latino, male!   Which in essence calls me to reflect on how whether I was conscious of it at the time of our discussion under the gorgeous Cuba sky, or not, I indeed have..  been in interracial relationships?   Only, in the context of race in those relationships, the white individual, was I.

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It is a question I will wrestle my whole life to digest, is race.  For a lot of Latinos it is that way.

Despite a shared historical generality in so much as the legacy of colonialism over the western world fundamentally shaped the interrelational reality between peoples;  neither the genealogical nor the social dynamics of race have evolved parallel between the respective northern and southern continental America.  Thus, to some degree  the processing of race  amongst people of the Caribbean, Central and South America  bares complexities  that are unique in contrast to how race shows up in the United States.

My biological father bares resemblance to Tom Selleck and my mother is a yellower Phylicia Rashad.  My grandfather, like my father had straight hair, white skin, a narrow nose and he married my mulatta grandmother.  Great grandma looked like an old Hungarian villager and great grandpa, a Moorish Algerian.   The fact that the three generations  who precede me (the only 3 I’ve had a visual of) in my direct lineage, comprise  what would be by U.S. standards determined mixed race couples, is telling.  Our people have been mix breeding for centuries.  And while taboo whispers do circulate about it, we really didn’t/don’t have the same (past and in some cases still, contemporary) legal and institutional barriers to domestic interracial affairs  that Blacks and whites have faced here in the U.S.

All of this to say that I’m coming from a people for whom  the interracial relationship has been relatively normalized.

If anything it is outside of the microcosm of my nation that I begin to see a more typical apprehension of Puerto Rican’s to embrace non-Puerto Ricans, and that’s a whole other conversation (one focused on the influence of nationalism as opposed to race per se).  It took my daughter being conceived to a half Dominican mother to discontinue the absolute Puerto Rican blood-line I was born into.   A conception that is ironically, although not atypically common considering there prevails for some a prejudicial rivalry of sorts.  By the by diasporic Puerto Ricans have for the most part dated within the nation because patterns of migration re-concentrated us amongst our own.  And if we weren’t dating other Ricans we’ve by an overwhelming margin dated within Latino.  But we’ve been here long enough that a couple of factors have begun to influence a change.  Boricuas in the military and those who’ve gone away for college transition to day to day lives with a more diverse demographic and tend to date outside in higher numbers.   There is also the suburbanization of the Puerto Rican family.  And with every generation born here our culture and the notion of nationhood becomes that much more alien to our youth, thereby distancing them from a notion of family that inherits, values, owns, passes forward the identity of it’s ancestry.

Now, nationality is nationality.  As a Puerto Rican, enlightened to the endangerment we already face (eventually losing our language and customs/identity/history, before being totally co-opted by mainland U.S. citizens locating there)  as a prospective 51 st state,  the Puerto Rican family for me, requires our conscious concern as a people.  Although, I honor choice as an individual right and respect all of my people the same irregardless of how you marry/date/mate.

Race is another thing.  After everything I’ve shared concerning race and nationality I must be careful not to blur the two; I must put forward that normalized relative to the U.S. or not racism remains an issue amongst Latinos in our own right, and that as an Boricua who can come here and ‘pass’ and in fact, as a Boricua who on the island would likely be classified as white, I really can’t speak for Black/Brown skinned Ricans in the context of preservation as it relates to race.   While I acknowledge that I am Afro-Boricua by descendance from a Black Rican greatgrandfather and those who came after, it would be disingenuous and perhaps even dangerous for me to totally deny my white skinned privilege.  I must respect that the struggles intricately specific to   someone like Tego Calderon whose afro ( that I don’t have)  triggers in him a consciousness that might rebuke my notion that interracial relationships amongst Puerto Ricans are somehow without resistance.   No intent of righteousness can pardon me from the reality that in doing so I threaten to co-opt and patronize the struggle of Black latinos.  His idea of preservation might provoke him to protest discovering his sister seeing someone of my complexion.

What I CAN speak to though, is how interracial relationships are informed by nationality when we (regardless of color/race) come over to the states.  And it goes the same for how in a larger scope inter-Latino relationships are emboldened when we come here.  A Puerto Rican living on the island may not imagine he/she can project to be with a Dominican, and vise-versa, but when that same Puerto Rican and that same Dominican comes and lives in New York for five years, we generally find ourselves in the same socio-economic circumstance opposite whites (stratified neighborhood and resources/ prejudices) and the same cultural circumstance opposite African-American Blacks (common language, foods, etc).  Such factors tend to bring us together so that although most second generation Latino Americans remain 100% descended of his/her mother nation, a good many ARE born to a Latino mother and father of different countries.   Then inside of that phenomenon you have the duality of cross-mixing between race unifying across nationality, as well as different races of the same nationality finding love within the nation; and so it goes that Black Puerto Ricans marry Black Dominicans and the more Spaniard leaning Puerto Ricans find love amongst Dominicans of the same phenotype…  while on the other hand a white Puerto Rican who in Puerto Rico may have had little probability of marrying an Afro-Boricua , in New York internalizes a greater probability to marry her because in New York the bottom line is that they are both Puerto Rican!

For Puerto Ricans in New York City, there is an especial history of children born to interracial union with African Americans (and to a lesser but significant degree, even, Italians).  We were really the first dominant Latino group to populate this city (40’s & 60’s), preceded by Cubans but by no comparison in measure.  And of course because we were agricultural and factory workers we settled in the low-income areas of the city Black-Americans had been relegated to in the face of discrimination.  In effect, it was us, and Blacks (with whom we share cultural commonalities per the African influence on the island, in the first place); if you dated outside of the nation the chances are you dated an African American.   It wasn’t until the 80’s that Dominicans began to come in waves, while the 90’s really began to usher in Mexicans and other South and Central Americans.

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In light of the historical and cultural circumstances I’ve just presented, the question of interracial relationships takes on broad consideration for me.  Either way, love is in and of itself the determining factor for whatever union manifest between people.  Love recognizes the universal emotions which so define it, beyond any human construct.   So I do not rule out that I’d date or marry or have a child with someone outside of my race or nationality;  but I can by this point in my life assess that it doesn’t seem very likely I’d be able to bond with a white identified Caucasian.. it doesn’t seem likely I’d grow an affinity for Asian women even (although I do favor Filipinas).   But I bare that on nobody else..  that’s just me.

I do however, encourage anybody who does date outside of their nation or race, to keep firm to the things you hold sacred; and to take into consideration that such things as language/customs/history, are the right of your children to inherit.  That your sharing a life with somebody of a different background by no means should command you to drop your identity or to compromise it, and it is up to you to reinforce these things in your relationship;  have that other person respect and accept you, and vise versa.

🙂

Tone Are

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FOR RELEVANT READING AS IT RELATES TO THE BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITY, I RECOMMEND YOU SCROLL DOWN TO THE NEW YORK TIMES LINK BELOW:

Marriage has declined throughout our society, but more so for African-Americans, and in particular black women, than anyone else. The shortage of stable and successful black men is a big part of the reason. 

– Stanford Law Professor, Ralph Richard Banks

If a black woman happens to be single, it is not necessarily a commentary on black men as eligible partners or an indication that her ultimate goal is marriage in the traditional sense. Some black women are single by choice. Some are unmarried but are in relationships where they choose to cohabit or live separately. Some don’t exclusively date black men. Some are lesbian, bisexual or transgender and may not be interested in relationships with men at all. Black women are not a monolith. We are diverse, dynamic and have options.

– Angela Stanley of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

A black woman with a postsecondary degree is more likely to be married than a white woman who dropped out of high school. A black woman with a personal annual income of more than $75,000 is more than twice as likely to be married as white women who live in poverty. White women living in New York and Los Angeles have much lower marriage rates than most black women who live in small towns.

– Associate Professor of Psychology at Howard University, Ivory A. Toldson

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/12/20/black-men-for-black-women

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4 responses to “In All Conscientiousness, Interracial Relationships

  • the wildflower

    fyi
    i gotta get the citation for you, but in this graduate level soc class i took at CUNY on race and family, one of the things i found most interesting (and new) was research that talked about how it’s predominantly the women in interracial/intercultural relationships who end up guiding and defining the racial identity of their children and who bear the the weight of passing on history, traditions, language etc, unless the daddies in those relationships are real real vocal….

    • Tone .Are

      I totally get that too. Actually I was speaking to my mother the other day because she wants one of us to have a baby boy, my sister and I only have girls (her 2, me 1). And I basically told her that although it would be nice to have a boy, there’s really no difference between having a boy and a girl, and in fact, if anything having a boy in the long run doesn’t have the impact on the family a girl does. I was speaking in terms of how it is typical for boys to grow and when they marry, to really leave the home and in a sense, the larger family that raised him to spend the bulk of his holidays, get togethers, etc. with the wife’s side of the family. Vise versa, a girl grows up to typically anchor the nuclear family towards her larger family, they receive the children and the husband in that marriage at their gatherings much more often. It’s how the traditional family (or the socially dominant tradition) operates, and the nuances of such a dynamic carry with it the passing of traditions via the maternal as you point out. In fact, nations are intently preserved that way. For ex: to receive full acknowledgment and baring of the customs of Judaism a child of Jewish heritage must have been born to the mother being the Jewish parent.

  • Ron Pledger

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  • Wendell Gangwer

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