Interracial Marriage Is Hard
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Interracial Marriage Is Hard

What I learned about the power of white privilege after getting hitched.

Marrying a white woman was the hardest thing I have ever done. Not in the moment. Dating her, courting her, and falling in love with her was easy. I married a truly special woman. When I vowed to spend the rest of my life with this white woman there was no uneasiness or trepidation. A decade later all of the ramifications of being in an interracial marriage become noticeable. Interracial relationships are easy. Interracial marriages are hard. The merging of cultures and sometimes classes is precarious if not disorienting. Interracial relationships are breezy, interracial marriage is laborious. That is what they don’t tell you. I am black. My wife is white. I thought I was fluent in white culture, but I was wrong. I now know that I only possess conversational fluency, but have not mastered the intricate details and absorbed all of the nuances of whiteness.

I was not prepared for the entitlement and privilege that white people use, so effortlessly, in their day-to-day life. I have lost count of how many times my wife has performed an action that no McFadden, in the history of McFaddens, has ever performed. From getting us bumped up to business class from coach on an international flight or bringing food from a different restaurant into another restaurant and eating it there. My wife and her white family, take full advantage of their whiteness each day and I am astounded by how straightforward and uncomplicated they make it.

Yet, my wife was ignorant of black culture. I would argue that she did not have any black friends prior to our union. She had never watched any of the many black-created movies, other than the blockbusters. She did not listen to any black music. She did not know who Beyoncé’ was married to. Her knowledge of black history was that of a white person who was educated in predominantly all-white institutions in Texas. She had never read the Autobiography of Malcolm X or any novels by Toni Morrison. Slave narratives by Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs had never crossed her path. Her perception of black people was largely constructed by the news and media. She knew that slavery had occurred but had never heard of Juneteenth. She knew Martin was assassinated but had never heard of Fred or his assassination by the Chicago PD.

Related: White People Should Have To Work On Juneteenth

My wife was a typical white person in America. A person who has never been proximate to black people until we were married. As I grappled with whiteness she clashed with blackness. A condition that was meager to her lived experience as a socially and economically mobile white woman. Blackness was suffocating and stifling for her. She immediately acknowledged its limitations. She refused to accept the confining nature of blackness for me, her in-laws, and her future progeny.

This is the source of the tension in our marriage. We do not fight over in-laws or money. My wife and I are on the same page regarding raising our bi-racial (read black) daughter. Our strife is rooted in the gifts of whiteness and the curse of blackness.

Photo by Nevels Media on Unsplash

My wife dated all white men before she married me. All of her siblings dated, married, and divorced nothing but white men. Her nieces have all dated, married, and divorced, white men. My wife was able to see her father as a model of how men should act. Then she met me. She fell in love with me. She married me, a black man. Who was raised by parents who attended segregated schools in Arizona. I am the grandchild of people who were in their middle age before their right to vote was fully recognized and protected. We were raised differently. My parents don’t send food back at restaurants. My parents do not demand a new hotel room if it will take them less than 10 minutes to clean it. My parents only leave their blackness when their children or grandchildren are on the line. My education was paramount to my parents. This is the only area in their life where they impersonated whiteness. Other than this one well-defined facet of their life, they stayed in the lanes dictated to them by white supremacy.

When my wife marries me, we now start having to wrestle with the things that I am comfortable doing and the things that she expects her husband to do. It is during these moments that our problems can be identified. This is not a discussion of typical-gender roles, but accessing and wielding whiteness as a property right. Even though I am married to a white woman, her gender does not allow me to usurp any of her whiteness to utilize for myself. My marriage to a white woman does not give me proximity to whiteness. Compare that with a white woman who marries a white man, she amplifies her own whiteness. My wife’s whiteness is hers and hers alone to harness and weaponize. It is the very definition of separate property.

I believe this must be the greatest tension in white/black interracial marriages: the access to whiteness. Her white friends who are married to white men have unfettered access to whiteness. When we were selling our house, my wife recognized the world that we live in. After 10 years together, countless arguments, and me pointing out whiteness and white supremacy she came to a realization that spawned two epiphanies. The realization was white people have racial bias and that racial bias can f&*k with our money.

“Tell me who I have to be (who I have to be)
To get some reciprocity
See, no one loves you more than me (more than me)
And no one ever will (no one ever will, yeah)” — Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill

That realization was profound for her. Her father died before we were together, but he told all four of his daughters that if they ever brought a black man home he would shoot the black man and then shoot the daughter. As I said, this was a watershed moment for our relationship. That realization begat ephinany number one: we must remove all signs that black people live in this house before any inspector or appraiser comes to issue judgment on our home. Ephinany number 2: when these people come to the house only she would be there to greet them.

I agreed, and we removed all of the pictures of our family from our dwelling. She sent my daughter and me out for sushi, whenever the home appraiser or inspector came to render judgment on our home. Normally, the husband would stay home to greet an inspector or appraiser, but my wife is intelligent. She has read the news stories of homes that appraisers or inspectors believe to be owned by black people receiving a lower evaluation, than if they believed it was owned by a white person. When she was a social worker in St. Louis, she participated in stings to see if rental agencies would rent to her and a white man posing to be her husband, when they told black people they had nothing available. Y’all know they offered my wife the rental. Accordingly, she was not going to let racist white men mess up her bag. So we as a family made the conscious decision to bend the knee to whiteness.

In order for whiteness to exist it had to create blackness. Then it foisted blackness on us, on the descendants of enslaved people here in America. Whiteness meant you were free. Blackness meant you were enslaved or could become enslaved. Whiteness allowed you to live wherever you wanted. Blackness restricted your options for housing. Whiteness insured that your life mattered. Blackness depreciated the value of your life unless your life was in furtherance of whiteness or the goals of whiteness. Whiteness allows you access to one legal system where freedom and justice are easier to obtain especially the higher your social economic status is, but blackness condemns you to a legal system devoid of justice and equality.

My family was exorcising all aspects of blackness from our home in order to obtain the full value of our home’s worth. We were bending the knee.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

However, before she reached this level of enlightenment through living with me, reading black authors, watching black media produced and developed by black creators, and spending increasingly more and more time with black people, she operated from a different mindset. In the early days of our union, when she felt aggrieved or slighted she insisted that I go and complain. If the reservation says 3:00 PM and it is 3:07 PM she demanded that I go confront the worker and request compensation for this affront. If she ordered something and she did not like it, she instructed the staff to take it back and bring her something that was more to her liking. If I ordered something from a restaurant that is blah she would nag me to return it and have them bring me something else.

This is the culture of whiteness that I am fascinated with. I would be lying if I did not say I was not impressed. I am an attorney. I am the father of a black child. When my daughter was in the second grade she tested consistently in the 99% for both reading and math in the state of Arizona. Her teacher stated that our daughter was average in reading and I unloaded my righteous fury on this white teacher. My wife was taken aback by this torrent of passion used to advocate for our black daughter. After the parent-teacher conference had ended and during the car ride home, I justified my statements and actions with a reasoned analysis of the evidence. If our daughter scored higher than everyone else in the state of Arizona, consistently, but this one teacher is saying that she is mediocre who do you believe: the teacher or the standardized test? I also found it absurd that the one time a standardized test helps a black student, the teacher wants to dismiss it. The next morning she became furious after she wrestled with my arguments overnight and invoked her whiteness on our child’s behalf.

“No matter how I think we grow
You always seem to let me know” — Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill

I once got called out by the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association to come to their office and say what I was saying on Facebook to their face. Y’all know I put on my best three-piece suit and rolled up all by myself and said everything to their face: ten toes down. I have no problem standing up for myself or my family, or my community when it is warranted. However, if I order something and it is well made, but I just don’t like it, I accredit that to the dining experience. Part of the pleasure of dining out is experimenting with new fare. Sometimes you can unlock a culinary treat that makes you question how you lived for so long without knowing it existed. The converse is also true. Sometimes you eat something that is so disgusting you feel you were robbed of your innocence. That is what makes dining out fun for me, adventure. Therefore, I feel it is irresponsible to make someone else have to be responsible for my daredevil ways. My wife was not accustomed to this way of thought. In the world of whiteness, your comfort and enjoyment are the responsibility of others. Anything that interferes with your merriment must be opposed. The significance of the insult is not taken into consideration, it is the fact that an affront has occurred and must be redressed: immediately.

As I type these words I start seeing other examples of whiteness in action. After Brown v. Board of Education, the white families who could not afford private schools or did not want to spend money on them, before Brown, decided to close their public schools in order to avoid the perceived insult of allowing their children to be educated in the same school as one black child. Black teachers were purged from the teaching ranks because whiteness would not allow their children to have to obey a qualified black teacher. Towns across America drained their public pools and filled them in with concrete because whiteness could not endure the indignity of sharing the same chlorinated water with black people.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Now armed with this historical context, my wife and I have worked through some of our impediments. If she does not feel that we should wait in line (don’t ask) then I tell her to go do that white people's stuff for us. This is my way of informing her that what I believe you are doing is frivolous, but I love you and support you in your escapade. Many times her gambits and ploys are successful. I learned this about whiteness, by watching the way it works, it desires beauty. My wife is beautiful. I know, every spouse has to declare that their loved one is beautiful, but mine is. She is almost 50 but looks younger than her age. The reason that I mention this is because whiteness appreciates and curates beauty on its own terms. There are non-white women that whiteness recognizes as having reached their self-anointed standards of what is and is not pretty. These beauty standards dictated by whiteness are ignored by the greatest benefactors and proponents of whiteness: white men. Historically, white men have craved and lusted after black, Asian, and Latino women. Go to any black family reunion and you will see the evidence of white men’s insatiable appetite for the flesh of black women on full display in the varying gradations of skin hue on display.

My mother-in-law was married to a man in the KKK and had two daughters with him. They divorced and she then married my wife’s father. Her ex-husband was about that KKK life until it came to his penis. His penis desired, craved, and longed for Asian women. After his divorce, he has lived his life between Asian women. Never marrying them but cohabitating with them for years at a time. That is his oath to the Klan: I will f__k as many nonwhite women as my heart desires, but I will never give them the exalted title of Mrs.

Related: A Politician Was Once Again Seen Wearing a Ku Klux Klan Uniform Because America

Whiteness also cherishes and respects hierarchy. My wife has earned her Ph.D. She has held prominent positions in government, on non-profit boards, and on Mayor’s commissions. Here in Arizona, many people know both of us. We have many friends in common. Even more, since we have been married. Yet, a startling very few recognize that we are married to each other. Through her title: Dr. McFadden, her proximity to power, and her upbringing she has not allowed any of her whiteness to become devalued. Granted it would have been immensely increased if I was a white male, but she has retained the value of her whiteness. I have seen other white women who are in interracial marriages have their whiteness devalued.

Photo by Désirée Fawn on Unsplash

My profession affords me a certain level of respectability in the hierarchy of whiteness. My Juris Doctorate is a subtle clue of my intelligence. It is a warning to mind your tongue for fear of being annihilated, cognitively, by a black man. Nothing is more violent to one whose value is tethered to whiteness than to be routed in a battle of wits by a black person. A public disgrace at the hands of a black person is impossible to recover from. Two of the most despised Republicans, by the MAGA movement, are John McCain and Mitt Romney. Their unforgivable sin was getting beaten by a black man. The contempt for these two men is insightful about the mores of whiteness.

My perceived intelligence, my profession, my actual intelligence, where I obtained my degrees, and my status in the world of politics allows my wife to retain all of the value she has in her whiteness. It is the hierarchy of whiteness that must bend its knee to us and not us to them.

It is hierarchy or the social order that makes service providers in restaurants, hotels, car washes, and dry cleaners the recipients of scoldings and beratement that we do not see happen to doctors and lawyers. Only on rare occasions will we see unattractive people castigate attractive people for some fantom slight.

My interracial marriage is hard because whiteness is sometimes overt but many times works in a whisper. I hear the high pitch frequency of its torment, but too many times it has been imperceptible to my wife. It is gaslighting that confuses and conquers many interracial marriages. When I declare something to be true, because I have studied it, surveyed it, and even set down my observations in a journal I am met with resistance because these concepts are foreign to her. When one lives their entire life unbothered by race, because it has no import on their life it is jarring to be confronted with all the pernicious ways race corrupts our nation.

Picture of the author and his wife taken on their 10th wedding anniversary. Picture provided by the author.

Our marriage is strong. Our marriage is valued. Our marriage is a testament to a commitment to becoming more enlightened each and every day. It is a vestibule of the promise of America. A declaration that what we desire we must fight for each and every day. It is a meditation in grace. A study in compromise. It is plagued with the same ennui that befalls many marriages. It is fraught with the same highs and lows found in any other union. We had to forge a culture that encapsulated our love. We needed to invent a language that we could use to communicate with one another about topics and subjects that others do not because they are of no concern or the couple is already on the same page. Through this process, our love has become resilient and our bond has become tempered by the hammer and anvil of life in America.

Interracial marriage is hard. Love is hard. Living in America is hard. Yet, we persist.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of Garrick McFadden's work on Medium.