One of the first things people notice about us when they see our picture, when they get past the fact that we’re both women, is that we’re an interracial couple. We mention it in passing in our first video, but I thought that perhaps some people might appreciate hearing what kinds of issues or struggles I might have faced along the way.
Truthfully, there haven’t been many, and our in our day to day connection as a couple, our difference in race doesn’t really enter in much.
First off, I think this has to do with my own background and connections and choices as I came out and got older as an adult. I grew up in a largely white, Jewish suburb of NYC, and went to a small, largely white, liberal arts college in Vermont. In the ’80s, I got connected with the academic community in grad school, the feminist/queer activist community, and the “progressive spiritual” (for want of a better term – you know, Buddhist/Pagan/Progressive Christian,etc.) sub-cultures. Almost all of my friends hail from one or another of these subcultures. I’d had a number of white girlfriends before Ruth and I met, so it wasn’t at all a stretch when we started to date.
So that cultural resonance that we share is part of the picture. Also, part of the picture is our deep connection to spirituality, and the central role it plays in our lives.
It might have been much more difficult to be in this interracial relationship, except that Ruth knows and understands white privilege. She listens, and really hears (and wants to understand) how my experience walking around in the world is different than hers. She takes it in, and doesn’t take her own experience for granted. For instance, when I came home after having been stopped by a cop, she understood that my interaction with him was bound to be more complicated than hers would have been.
That was definitely not the case for a couple of my other girlfriends, and it makes a big difference in my day-to-day life. Their inability to see their own privilege meant that the intimacy we were working to build wasn’t as deep or as complete as it could have been. It was hard for them to see the places where I might run into trouble where they would not (like in a store in the middle of nowhere.)
In any difference we have with a partner, building intimacy takes listening and a willingness to know. With an issue as complex and messy as race (like some others – differences in class, abilities, gender presentation and/or identity, citizenship status, etc.) it sometimes takes some additional openness and willingness to set aside our own experience and see our privilege for what it is.