How Interracial Breakups Are Differentby Chiara Atik on May 21, 2012
Yesterday’s Modern Love essay in the New York Times makes the point that the end of a relationship will leave you slightly different than you were before: this true for every breakup, but especially for interracial couples.
The author, a white American woman, met and fell in love with Daniel, a Jamaican/British black man. Throughout the course of their relationship, Kate was privy to all sorts of latent racism that white people frankly don’t usually experience or see, on the account of their being…white.
Not that she was blind to racial injustice before dating Daniel — in some respects, she was probably more attuned to it than many. But as she rightly points out in the essay, being aware of racism, and even incensed by it on principle, is different from seeing it happen to a loved one.
But regardless of my relative awareness of the racist structures I lived within, it was hard for me — it’s hard for white people, period — to feel racism personally. Racism can matter to us, make us angry, but it usually isn’t personal. Personal is yourself, or your mother, or your child.
Or your partner. Understanding intellectually that black men are at risk in this world is one thing; fearing for Daniel’s safety was something else entirely.
So here comes the tricky part: Daniel and Kate break up. So what happens to her newfound racial awareness? It certainly doesn’t dissipate. Now Kate is a white woman, with the awareness of a person-in-color. She fears that dating a white man will be difficult, because how can he possibly understand what she does?
Well, he can’t. But, just as Daniel was able to impart a new awareness of racial inequities to Kate, so can she, and should she, impart this learned awareness to the next guy she dates.
Because breakups will leave you slightly different, but they’ll also leave the next person you leave slightly different, too. A good reminder to learn what you can from everyone you date, and pass on the good.