An Interracial Marriage

An Interracial Marriage: Seeing life through the eyes of the other

by Guest Contributor Michael Dobson

Dobson Christmas

It’s hard to write about your spouse or your marriage, but easy to write about love. When writing about both, it’s a story of humanity, of our world and the lens through which we see and experience our journeys.

Nearly 20 years ago I called my eldest daughter Mia and told her that her dad was about to do something radical, that I was about to marry a white women. She was happy for me. There were few interracial marriages then. When we married In Leon County those 20 years ago, to some, we were pioneers of some sort. We were radical   “cool”… the interracial couple, not just living together, but married and raising a family. With the Tallahassee community being more  “liberal” than some others,   we never thought of any backlash.

For us, the issue of race was never a  concern. That’s not how we were reared.  My wife and I are children of the 1960s , but by living in completely different worlds, we saw those years through starkly different lenses.  She was reared in the white suburbs of Chicago, while my early years were mostly in Jim Crow era Florida, with annual sabbaticals to Elizabeth New Jersey.. only to keep returning to Florida. We both saw the 1960’s riots on TV, when  Watts and Detroit burned. Being black and white then, meant living in completely different worlds. We saw America come of age with the assassinations of JFK and  Bobby Kennedy,  and of   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.   We viewed, from different racial camps, America’s struggle to reform itself  after the passage of the civil rights act.

In the intervening years, we’ve all seen race relations harden and change for the worst. At the same time, paradoxically,  we’ve  seen the number of interracial families quadruple along with a spike in  interracial dating, paralleling the changing attitudes about sexual orientation. We have also witnessed an uptick in  interracial and multiracial couples  in film and on television.  In the early days of our marriage, whenever my wife and I left our safe enclave of Tallahassee to travel the back roads, we’d invariably find ourselves at a restaurant or store…. whereby someone may look at us sort of askance, or stare just a little too long. At store checkout counters in Tallahassee, we often had to correct the cashier to advise them that we were together.. apparently, not an assumption easily  made in those days. That’s changed. But, there are a few actions by others toward us, which still elicit some pain, once remembered.

Despite having to withstand occasional displays of bigotry, my wife and I are  ordinary people in an ordinary marriage.  When my wife is upset with me, which may be today, it is never about race. Our marriage is like any other. Ordinary.  It requires constant work, is dependent upon patience, commitment, love, understanding and forgiveness.

What I can say is this:  The experience of walking through life with the women I married and  love (through good and bad times), who just so happens to have a different pigmentation than I, has provided a view of our  humanity not shared by many. It’s  a unique gift. As a black man, I get to see the world through the eyes of my wife.. a white women. I get to understand her and those of similar backgrounds whose family’s journeyed to America from Ireland, and their struggles to get their footing in the Midwest; me know their family  tragedies, their loss, heartbreak, grief and celebration;  the loss of dear relatives over time ( cousins, aunts and uncles), and  knowing the tapestry of her life.. her white life in America. Through her eyes, I get to better  know the struggle for equality for white women, just as I also know of the   struggles faced by my mother and the other strong  black women in my life, of  their humiliations, the  physical brutality overcame from their oppressor and the accompanying bondage,  and their dreams for their sons and daughters.  I got to see my wife fiercely protect our children from the rare teacher who practiced their own version of bigotry and racism ..not quite feeling this whole interracial thing. Through my eyes, she knows that  Dr. Benjamin E Mays is correct when he said “He who starts behind in the  great race of life must forever remain behind, or run faster than the man in front” meaning a black man has to work twice as hard to make the same dollar.  Through my eyes she saw the way society sometimes reacted to my skin color, that  black men are indeed treated differently than their white counterpart.

Through each other’s eyes, we understand the world and people better.  What we have been privileged to see through each other’s eyes, while warring  communities  struggle on the issue of race,  is that God does not have a favorite, that trials and tribulations are visited on the comfortable as well as the afflicted,  that people are good, that they have great hearts , that everyone has a story and a worry… that we are the walking wounded..  a part of our shared humanity. Through each other’s eyes, we’ve learned that our hearts and what breaks them does not change based on race or religion. We’ve learned that we endure each day with bright sunny smiles, with exclamation points on Facebook … i.e.  “Congrats”, with a “Awesome”,  or  an simple “Great” when asked how are you, even while some  are dying inside. We’ve learned that tragedy strikes us all and with the same intensity of grief regardless of race. Through my wife’s eyes and the experiences shared with the blending of our extended families; we have learned that regardless of race ethnicity, culture or sexual preference, we all want the same things out of life and care about the same things. Together, we’ve seen that irrespective of race, we all love our children, wanting them to have opportunities that escaped us; we want them to be healthy,  all have personal freedom to pursue our dreams,  have health care, a job that pays a living rage; we all  want a place to live, respect, food to eat.. just the basics, and to have those we love out of harms way.

Through each other’s eyes, we see our sameness. Through each others eyes,  we see the unfathomable ridiculousness of bigotry and racism; we see it for what it is.. its fear.  We know that what passes as racial indifference or bigotry is not based on any thing rational, but instead fear .. fear of what is different. Seeing life through each others eyes, we are more humane, and forever have our hearts and our minds open to live in wonder, not fear. Through each others eyes, our love and respect for all things in us and things that are different, is strengthened.

Michael Dobson, is a long time Tallahassee based governmental relations professional and columnist; President/CEO of Dobson, Craig and Associates (aka Dobson and Associates), and renewable energy policy leader as founder of Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. Can be reached at michael@michaeldobson.org or Michael@dobsonandcraig.com

This article first appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat and USA Today. Michael Dobson has given Project RACE his permission to reprint the original essay.

Famous Friday

Seth DeValve

seth and erica devalve

 

My last Famous Friday was on Cleveland Browns QB, DeShone Kizer, who two weeks ago was dreaming of winning the starting role. Since that time he has not only secured the starting position, but he’s achieved hero status here in Cleveland. Today’s Famous Friday features another kind of Browns hero (even though his wife asks that he not be viewed in that way), Seth DeValve.

Yes, my Dad played most of his NFL career with the Browns and, yes, I am still a fan despite their streak of losing seasons, but the choice of Seth DeValve really has nothing to do with those things. I chose to feature Seth DeValve because he took a bold stand against racism. Last week Seth was the first white player to join the social-consciousness protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year. Seth joined with several of his black teammates during the anthem to kneel in prayer for our country,

“And also to draw attention to the fact that we have work to do,” the 24 year old player who is in his second NFL season out of Princeton University said. Explaining that he didn’t want to offend anyone, Sean said, “It saddens me that in 2017 we have to do something like that, I personally would like to say that I love this country. I love our national anthem, I’m very grateful to the men and women who have given their lives and give a lot every day to this country and to serve this country, and I want to honor them as much as I can. The United States is the greatest country in the world. It is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody.”

Just a week ago Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett asked white players to join in the protests and Seth was the first to take a knee.

“We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there’s things in this country that still need to change. I myself will be raising children that don’t look like me, and I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now,” DeValve said.

Some people have chosen to focus on the fact that DeValve has a personal interest in this issue because he is recently married to African-American woman, his college sweetheart, Erica Harris. And Seth did point out that the couple, who met at a Princeton church group, will one day have multiracial children. But Erica penned a response this week that asserts that her husband would stand up for what’s right no matter what race his wife was.

My sisters both won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations when they were high school juniors. That award was instituted by the Princeton class of ’66, which was almost entirely white. My family has always been inspired by that class and their selfless focus on racial justice. People like those in that class and like Seth and his wife understand that racial justice is just, and no matter what race you are that is something to work for.

Thanks, Seth for taking a stand… while taking a knee.

Karson Baldwin, Project RACE Teens Co-President

Photo Credit: Heavy.com

Commentary

Commentary in The Orlando Sentinel by Susan Graham, president of Project RACE:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-biracial-conundrum-over-which-box-to-check-20170814-story.html

Living AFTER Loving

Living After Loving

by

Susan Graham

June 12 is the 50th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark decision by the Supreme Court that made interracial marriage legal in the United States. We were legally able to marry someone of another race, which I did in 1981. Life didn’t change much for my husband and me in those days. No one taunted or insulted us and we rarely got those crazy stares that some interracial couples report. Then we had children.

My children are multiracial. You might also call them biracial, mixed-race, or other terms. Terminology is important. We choose to use “multiracial” because it is inclusive and covers people who are not only two, but even more races. A Pew Research Center analysis recently found that one-in-seven infants were multiracial or multiethnic in 2015—that’s a whopping 14% of the population and is nearly triple the number in 1980. That’s huge. In Hawaii, 44% of infants are multiracial or multiethnic. Our children’s population will only continue to grow. What we call them—and what they answer to—will be vital to their future. I personally do not like the term “mixed.” It just hits me the wrong way, so I really thought about it one day. Why do I find the word so distasteful? I think it’s because “mixed” is the opposite of “pure,” and do we really want to separate people by purity? Perhaps it’s my Jewish heritage that puts me at odds with that terminology.

Multiracial Heritage Week (June 7 to 14) is also celebrated to coincide with the anniversary of the Loving Decision. It is a national celebration of multiracial children, not interracial marriage. We hold this annual event because inclusion also matters and there are real benefits to seeing yourself represented. At 14 percent of the population, you bet multiracial people matter. They matter to elections, advertisers, corporations, media, and the United States Census Bureau, which tracks them as “two or more races,” over the preferred terminology of “multiracial.” Our families have to live with that for now, but certainly not forever. Diversity starts with the decision makers, and the bigger the multiracial population gets, the more they will listen to us—at least that’s the hope.

 

NEWSFLASH!

NEWSFLASH! AARP becomes part of the federal government!  Thumbs Down

If you thought the American Association of Retired Persons was going to stand up for the rights of senior citizens, you were wrong. In an email dated 5/18/2018, AARP wrote to Project RACE that they must use the federal government’s racial categories. That applies to federal agencies; therefore, AARP has determined they are a federal agency. That also means they will sanction whatever the federal government decides is the best for the elderly population when it comes to healthcare, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Further, AARP has stated that “there are now more grandparents in the U.S. than ever before—some 70 million, according to the latest census.” The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the federal government and is sacrosanct to the AARP. AARP wants to follow whatever the census folks do. They have made that very clear to us.

AARP refuses to even recognize multiracial children and grandchildren, according to their letter to Project RACE. In addition, they wish to hyphenate multi-racial. Multiracial children are not hyphenated Americans. They are whole people.

AARP is a huge organization. They are a non-profit, but they have a massive lobbying arm and use your money for their lobbying activities. Because of AARP’s vast membership, it is able to generate its own income without being dependent on government grants or private donors, though it does receive both of these for specific programs.  How can they lobby against legislation and executive orders that will harm older American citizens if they are part of the federal government? Yet, they apparently consider themselves a federal agency. It does not compute. Incidentally, Project RACE does not apply for nor accept government funding, as it would be a conflict of interest. Take note, AARP Board of Directors.

AARP does not understand that multiracial children need appropriate names for their races: multiracial or biracial are the two most respectful terms that are used. Would they want us to refer to seniors as “OLD PEOPLE”? No, because words are important. They just want us to use their words.

Project RACE Grandparents has actively tried to appeal to AARP. We have not been successful. OK, so maybe AARP is not really a federal agency and they just act like one, but do you really want to back any organization or program that will not respect multiracial children? Think about it.

Thumbs Down

Famous Friday

tam adam

Tamera Mowry and Adam Housley celebrated their 6-year wedding anniversary this week, and they are also the perfect candidates for this week’s Famous Friday. The perfect pair tied the knot on May 15th, 2011. Since they have brought two beautiful multiracial children into the world. Their eldest child is a sweet boy named Aden, and their youngest is a bubbly baby girl named Ariah.

Tamera Mowry was born in Germany in 1978. She is a self-proclaimed ‘army brat’ due to her family’s militaristic background. She is also a very talented actress and talk show host. You may remember her and her twin sister Tia from their hit show Sister, Sister. She is currently working as a talk show hosts on one of my favorite shows, The Real. On the show, she often speaks of her family and the highs and lows of their interracial journey.

Adam Housley was born in 1972 in Napa, California. Since graduating from Pepperdine University he has won many awards for his journalism. He is also a former professional baseball player, and he currently works as a senior correspondent for FOX news.

The couple has a combined net worth of 11+ million dollars. More importantly, Tamera and Adam are phenomenal parents. I am so excited to see the leaps and bounds that their children make in the multiracial community in the future. Don’t forget that you too can make an impact in the multiracial community by celebrating the upcoming Multiracial Heritage Week in June! Visit projectrace.com for more information.

 

 

 photo courtesy of OK magazine

Famous Friday

Ryan Gosling

This week’s Famous Friday features interracial power couple – Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. According to US Magazine, The dynamic duo quietly tied the knot in early 2016 after being together for over 5 years. They have two beautiful multiracial daughters, Esmerelda and Amada.

Eva Mendes was born in Miami, Florida, and she is of Cuban-American descent. She is a singer, actress, model, and designer. You have probably watched her in major films like Hitch, Training day, and Stuck on You. She has also been the face of several advertisement campaigns for huge companies including: Revlon, Cartier, and Calvin Klein.

Ryan Gosling is of English, French Canadian, and Scottish descent. He is an actor most famously known for his role as Noah in The Notebook. You may also recognize him from his role in La La Land, Crazy Stupid Love, or my personal favorite Remember The Titans. Over the course of his career he has racked up multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

One time when asked about his family Ryan said, “It’s heaven, it’s like walking through a field of flowers everyday – I live with angels.” I love that we are beginning to see more and more interracial power couples in Hollywood. I also love that I am seeing more interracial couples on sitcoms and commercials. It is awesome, especially considering that not even 100 years ago interracial marriage was illegal. Remember to take time to celebrate interracial couples and multiracial people everyday, and especially during Multiracial Heritage Week which is coming up soon.

Photo courtesy of US Weekly

Thumbs Way Up!

Thumbs UP to Behr Paint for their commercial featuring an interracial family!

A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story

A Washington Bad Cop/Bad Cop Story

by

Susan Graham for Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally)

Everyone knows about the U.S. Census Bureau (CB), but not everyone has heard of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CB counts important things in the United States, including people—by things like race and ethnicity. The OMB decides what race and ethnicity people can be in the United States. They are both bad cops. Sometimes they try and play a game called Bad Cop/Good Cop, in which they go back and forth trying to get the public to place blame on the other. The 2020 Decennial Census is only a few years away. Planning for it takes a great deal of time and actually began as soon as the 2010 Census results were made public.

The CB recently released its recommendations for approval by the OMB. Project RACE had attempted to have input into both the CB and OMB by letting them know how we wanted the multiracial population to be listed, counted, known, treated, etc. The CB pretended to be the Good Cops and pretty much said they cared what we had to say. OMB played the Bad Cops and would not return our calls, email, letters, etc. or answer our questions.

I will cover some of the more salient requests and salacious responses to revisions to OMB’s Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. Most of the items had nothing to do with the multiracial population, so first I’ll cover those that did. It’s a very short list.

  • In addition to people being able to check all of their races, we gave many examples of how to include the term “multiracial,” which is very important. Correct wording in race and ethnicity is very important, particularly for children. Just ask the people who were once “Colored,” then “Negro,” then “Black,” and now “African American.” Yes, terminology is important. However, CB and OMB will not call the multiracial community “multiracial.” We were denied even though they were taking “Relevance of Terminology” into consideration. For the next ten years, we will remain the “two or more races.”
  • Some people write in “multiracial,” “biracial,” “mixed” or some other term instead of checking the little boxes. They should be put in the category of what is called “two or more races.” They are not. They will be placed in the “Some other race” category. They will not be multiracial. Denied again.
  • It appears that the way the race question is asked is important, although not important enough to use the wording that our community wants. What they have decided is this. Drumroll please. Instead of instructing people to “Mark all that apply,” we will be instructed to “Select all that apply.” That’s what we got. We’ll know when we see our 2020 Census forms.

Project RACE is not recommending that our members bother to write further comments to the Census Bureau or the Office of Management and Budget at this time.

_________________________________________________

So there we have it. If you’re interested, a few other interesting things having less or nothing to do with the multiracial population were put forth for further input. Well, not really. CB and OMB have actually already decided on the following points, but they very quietly put out a Federal Register notice for comment.

  • A new category will be added for Middle Eastern or North African people. The acronym is MENA. You can be a MENA person or you can still report more than one. By the way, Israelis are now Middle Eastern. If I had been checking say “White” for my entire life, but was now given the choice to be MENA, I would probably check white and MENA, but that’s just me. They still don’t seem to know if a MENA will be a racial or ethnic category.
  • The Subgroup proposes that OMB issue specific guidelines for the collection of detailed data for American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White groups for self-reported race and ethnicity collections. However, the Subgroup plans to continue its deliberations as to whether OMB should require or, alternatively, strongly support but not require Federal agencies to collect detailed data. If you know what this means, please let me know.
  •  Should it use the NCT format, which includes separately Native Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Tongan, Fijian, and Marshallese? If neither of these, how should OMB select the detailed Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander race and ethnicity categories? Apparently, these small populations are more important than the multiracial population.
  • Relevance of Terminology: The Subgroup proposes that the term “Negro” be removed from the standards. Further, the Subgroup recommends that the term “Far East” be removed from the current standards.
  • The Subgroup proposes further clarifying the standards to indicate the classification is not intended to be genetically based, nor based on skin color. Rather, the goal of standards is to provide guidelines for the Federal measurement of race/ethnicity as a social construct and therefore inform public policy decisions.
  • The Subgroup also considered whether referring to Black or African American as the “principal minority race” is still relevant, meaningful, accurate, and acceptable. Given that many of the groups classified as racial and ethnic minorities have experienced institutionalized or State-sanctioned discrimination as well as social disadvantage and oppression, many consider it to be important to continue identifying the principal minority group in Federal data collections and reporting systems. However, it is not clear if the referent groups should change given changing demographics. Whew!
  • Should Hispanic or Latino be among the groups considered among “principal minorities”? Would alternative terms be more salient (g., “principal minority race/ethnicity”)? Hispanic or Latino usually is considered an ethnicity while “minority” is usually used when referencing race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Friday

Ginger McKnight-Chavers

Giinger 2

 

Ginger McKnight-Chavers is a multiracial woman who writes about multiracial topics and characters. Her debut novel, In the Heart of Texas, was  released in October of 2015 and is the winner of the 2016 USA Best Book Award for African American Fiction.

In the Heart of Texas is reviewed as “a wry, humorous commentary on the complexities of race, class, relationships, politics, popular culture, and celebrity in our current society.”  Ginger also currently blogs for the Huffington Post and The TexPatch.

Ginger 1

Ginger is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School.  She grew up in Dallas, Texas but currently lives in New York, with her husband, daughter, and dog, which she describes as “an overweight West Highland White Terrier”. Before living her dream of becoming a full-time writer, she spent 20 years as a corporate and arts/entertainment lawyer.

Here is a plot summary of her award-winning novel:

“Pitched as “a poor man’s Halle Berry,” forty-one-year-old soap star Jo Randolph, has successfully avoided waiting tables since she left Midland, Texas at eighteen. But then, in the span of twenty-four hours, Jo manages to lose her job, burn her bridges in Hollywood, and accidentally burn down her lover/director’s beach house—after which she is shipped home to Texas by her agent to stay out of sight while she sorts out her situation.

The more Jo reluctantly reconnects with her Texas “roots” and the family and friends she left behind, the more she regains touch with herself as an artist and with what is meaningful in life beyond the limelight. The summer of 2007 is cathartic for Jo, whose career and lifestyle have allowed her to live like a child for forty years, but who now must transition to making grown-up decisions and taking on adult responsibilities.”

Ginger said that the book’s success  “has helped me create a platform and gain the confidence to finally call myself an “author” instead of a “recovering lawyer.”

She is currently working on her second novel, titled Oak Cliff, which will focus on female friendship set in the rapidly gentrifying Dallas neighborhood where she was raised.  She recently published an article about Beyonce on Essence.com and is hoping   to meet “Queen Bey” someday.

She is also helping her elderly mother, Dr. Mamie McKnight, write a memoir and family history. Her mother is a longtime educator and historian who is in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

– Karson Baldwin, Project RACE kids president