Have you ever had one of those moments in time that you know will stick with you forever? The moment is so vivid and detailed in your mind. The smells, the room, the people you’re with are so clear in your mind. It’s usually a realization or enlightening moment that completely changes your perspective of things.
As most of you know I spent the past year working and living in New York City. My decision to live in New York was personal in nature. I spent the past year living close to the person I love most in this world. For those of you who have spent time away from your significant other know how difficult it can be. Prior to my experience in New York I spent about 4 years living in Philadelphia attending Temple University. After graduation I decided it was time to move close to my girlfriend so we could spend more time getting to know each other.
The past year was truly an unforgettable experience and being close to the person I want to spend the rest of my life with was amazing. The decision to move back home to Pennsylvania was a difficult but necessary decision.
I’m from a white, affluent, mid-size suburban, Bible belt, Amish, emerging art scene community. A lot of my friends from high school went to college and are either married or engaged. I think I was at four weddings last summer. It has been great being home and catching up with friends and family. Coming home has been refreshing and frustrating at the same time.
I attended one of the most diverse Universities in the world and lived in two major cities in the past five years. I reported in neighborhoods in North Philadelphia and served as a Resident Assistant in one of the most socially conscious organizations I’ve ever been a part of. I’m not saying all this to put myself on a pedestal or even establish credibility but to highlight the importance of diverse social interaction.
I attended a party last weekend with a few friends. Beer pong without Alcohol was the perfect welcome back to Lancaster I could have received. I was having fun and joking around with guy I just met playing non-alcoholic beer pong. After the game I sat down and eased into a conversation with a few friends. My one friend commented how cute one of the girl was at the party. I jokingly replied “Yeah she is cute but she’s not black (Referencing my beautiful brown girlfriend).” The guy I was just playing beer pong with over heard our conversation and interjected.
“Wait are you really dating a black girl?”
“Yeah man I am.”
“Are you really?” He said.
“Uh…yeah I am.”
His shock and disbelief was concerning and surprising.
“Are you serious man? You don’t want to date a darky.”
At this point you can probably imagine my rage and quietness that enveloped the circle. But he proceeded with his racial slurs and obvious lack knowledge, logic and experience.
“You really don’t want to date them. Why do you think black guys date white girls? Because even they don’t want them.”
I was so shocked at this blatant racism but also his total disregard for my feelings as a person. First of all a house party is not the place to discuss this kind of intellectual issue/lapse in judgment he was having. Have you ever heard someone say something so idiotic that you’re not even sure where to start making fun of them? I think I should clarify that I have the tendency to joke my way out of situations because I think I’m either afraid or uncomfortable to be real with people sometimes.
I proceeded to mock his ignorance and poke fun of his high school education. When my friends saw how quickly this was escalating they told me it was time to go. Before I left I told him that I needed to get to another clan meeting and that we should talk again soon some time you f***ing hick.
I was so incredibly angry. I admit that I probably didn’t handle the situation the best I could have. I could have risen above and used it as a teaching moment or just quietly walked away. The entire circumstance was incredibly awkward and weird. However, as I walked away I realized how close to home racism was living and breathing right next to me.
I will say that I think there is a fundamental flaw to someone who disapproves of an interracial relationship. To believe that races should not date other races is incredibly illogical and completely absurd. But mostly I feel pity for people with these kinds of ill-advised opinions. The value of an open-mind for new experiences is invaluable. The friendships I have made over the years with people from many different ethnic backgrounds have opened my mind to new possibilities and perspectives. I am grateful for my education and friendships. I guess when my commencement speaker said “You will have many obstacles to overcome,” I guess this is what he meant.
This is a poem I wrote shortly after the incident.
Her brown skin
Soft and warm to the touch
Her loving embrace
Her auburn eyes
Our white and brown hands interlocked.
Standing in solidarity
My voice will not be silenced