It happened again.
I was walking along in a store, as I often do, minding my own business when I looked up into the eyes of a man glaring at me with contempt.
What was my crime, you ask?
I'm black and my husband is white.
I understand, but I don't understand. On one hand, let's face it: interracial couples are still somewhat of a novelty in some areas. People in Los Angeles and New York don't bat an eye when they see a married couple with an obvious difference in skin tone.
What I don't understand are the harsh looks. This gentleman, a good looking, clean cut father of two young boys, glared fixedly in our direction, as if trying to melt us with his transmutation death ray. I almost saw the red laser beams shooting from his eyes.
It's funny what certain people see. He looked at me and saw something displeasing. On the other hand, I saw a handsome young man with sparkling blue eyes and neatly combed strawberry blond hair.
The minute our eyes locked, however, my smile faded. His expression was hateful, and busy beaming the following message: "What you are doing is wrong! You don't have the right to walk around town flaunting your mixed marriage because I don't like it!"
Oh please, I wanted to say. You know nothing about me. You do not know that a single menacing glare in my general direction is not going to faze me. I have faced much worse than you. When our eyes first met, I had no opinion of you. But you quickly revealed your true heart to me. I know what's inside you now. I may never see you again, but I know after two seconds of looking into your eyes that you are prejudiced, and apparently quite proud of it.
It's sad that some people cannot look at a person and see, well, a person. It's sad that many people see skin color first. A negative impression may be the result of personal experience or choosing to believe that Hollywood has the monopoly on defining minorities. In any case, it's almost universal that some people see a couple of the same race in love and go, "Ahhh, that's nice," but if another couple is of two different races, suddenly something is very wrong and perverted. Why? Should love discriminate based on color?
Some people believe so. Every time I get the evil eye of condemnation, I want to shake my head and say, "Do you know that I am a whiz at extemporaneous speaking? That on Jeopardy! I get better than 60% of the answers correct? Did you know that I am a freelance writer with well over one hundred publishing credits? How about the fact that I can read Greek and Hebrew?"
I think that gentleman thought he was doing me a favor, perhaps by scaring me out of my wits with his spiteful glower so I dont dare leave my house again. Perhaps he thought he was being very courageous, especially when he looped an arm around his two beautiful children and herded them away, as if to shelter them from the aberration passing by. Courageous? Let's talk about courage.
Courage is not looking down a freckled nose at a Nubian princess married to an ivory prince. Courage is packing up your three children and moving across country after a painful divorce. Courage is starting all over in a new place thousands of miles away from the only home your children have ever known. Courage is the long process of making a whole new set of friends because your previous friends took sides during your divorce, and concluded that you were the problem. Courage is believing that the new love in your life will help replace the pain and loss of the life you left behind, but only if you come to his home turf in hopes of a happily ever after.
Finally, real courage is putting up with judgmental, crusty looks from hopeless know-it-alls who make my run-of-the-mill shopping excursions very unpleasant.
Despite all that, I am deliriously happy.
My brave husband and I have endured open stares and dropped jaws while we try to have a meal, as well as whispers and pointing as we walk through the mall. Our favorite is the woman who ran her shopping cart into the curb as she struggled to make sense of our apparently unique pairing. The very worst experience happened during my first week in the rural west. The clerk in a large retail store rang up my then fiancÚs purchase. She smiled at him, bagged his purchase and told him to have a nice day. Then apparently not connecting that we were together, she rang up my order without so much as looking at me or speaking to me. She did not announce the total due and she did not bag my purchase. She left the items on the conveyor belt for me to take care of, and turned to the next customer, a white gentleman, with a huge smile.
It hurt. But I keep smiling. Why? Because I have culture, breeding, and manners. I have a college education. I love classical music, not rap. I'm for education. I vote every election. I pay my taxes. I'm a good citizen.
I have lots of friends who figured out, well, I'll just say it--that I'm a darn nice person. And I'm funny. And smart. And someone worth knowing--despite that white guy I married.
People are free to fall in love and marry the person who celebrates their worth as a human being. For this black lady, that man just happened to be white.