When I’m out and about with my boyfriend there is one very striking thing about us that seems to make people want to stop and stare as if we are circus freaks; he is very light skinned while I am dark skinned. I’m not quite sure why we garner so much attention, seeing as my boyfriend is Hispanic, and many people like to say that Hispanic men and black women together “don’t count” in the realm of interracial dating. Never the less, wherever we go out, we get double takes and sour puss looks from absolute strangers. Old women clutch their pearls in dismay. Okay, that one may be a little bit overboard, but I’m simply preparing you for what’s to come.
I personally tend to ignore the disapproving glares that we get while my boyfriend expertly seeks out like missiles and proceeds to do his “haters gonna hate” dance. Thus far, we’ve been lucky enough that no matter how haughty the attitude, people tend to keep their thoughts to themselves.
That is, until this past weekend. My boyfriend and I were trekking from his place in Staten Island to Foodswings, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn I’d been dying to try. The arduous journey included a bus, the ferry, two trains and a dash of racism.
Upon boarding the bus, we immediately became aware of a group of rowdy young men congregating in the back of the bus. Within minutes, they turned from their previous conversation to randomly yelling out, “aye yo, follow me at [insert Youtube or Twitter handle here].” It took me a few moments to realize that the catcalls were directed at me, but by that time, they’d moved on to exchanging highly explicit freestyle lyrics loudly among themselves. Again, I’m not sure if it was for my benefit, a modern day version of showing bravado or something. Either way, I was not particularly impressed or inclined to respond.
The bus made it to the Staten Island ferry a lot quicker than we expected and as my boyfriend and I walked toward the waiting area we linked arms. Suddenly, some familiar voices piped up behind us. I don’t remember most of what was said, but my ears perked up when I began to hear words like ‘cracker’ and ‘loser. ‘ These words were being directed at my boyfriend.
Up until this, we were ignoring the riot behind us because it was simply a group of random young people yelling out equally random words and phrases. Then one of them said something about the Sonic the hedgehog cap my boyfriend was wearing, finally indicating that this ‘random’ yelling was not so random after all.
“Yes, it’s pretty awesome isn’t it?” my boyfriend replied, adjusting the cap to his head. After that things went so fast I can hardly recall half of what was said, but I do know that something was said that prompted my boyfriend to kiss me. The group continued with a slew of insults, throwing ‘loser’ out a few times among things. I had become completely fed up and could no longer remain silent.
“And by loser you mean US Marine right? What it is that you do?” I charged at them.
I hadn’t realized in the moment, but my boyfriend pointed this out after the fact, and I definitely remember seeing this myself. The ring leader of the group, the one who had called out the Sonic hat distinctly paused upon hearing that my boyfriend was a Marine and shock sprawled all over his face. While he was previously advancing toward us, he quickly began to rebound backwards.
“I have a million dollars,” he said as he now began to weave in between people in the ever-growing crowd.
“Sure you do, when you close your eyes in your dreams,” I replied.
He threw a few more insults our way as he disappeared into the crowd. All of his friends, who were previously widely encircling us, were now also nowhere to be seen. Moments later, the doors to the ferry entrance opened and crowd poured toward the boat.
I have no idea how my boyfriend was feeling, but I was extremely rattled and beyond upset. I was in complete disbelief at what had just happened. Being apart of a handful of interracial dating communities online, I am more than used to witnessing the borage of ignorance among the interwebs. But experiencing it in person was completely different territory.
The incident has been mulling in my mind since then. Most poignant about it is that they actually called my boyfriend a cracker without pausing to consider that he’s not even white. Admittedly, my boyfriend is fairly racially ambiguous. Having mostly Hispanic heritage, he is also mixed with black and white. To date only one of my friends has pin pointed the Latin in his look. Another friend thought he was biracial. My mother even asked what his last name was simply to refrain from flat out asking about his background.
But whatever anyone thinks his background is, I cannot fathom why anyone would think it okay to call him a cracker simply because he is holding my hand. The incident reminded me of one that took place online a few weeks ago. A commentary website released a critique of several black women’s interracial dating websites including Black Female Interracial Marriage run by web-mistress Evia. Among ridiculous propaganda detailed on the post, it included a photo of Evia and her white husband; to which many commenters stated that Evia “could do better” than her husband. They came to this conclusion with no information about him except for a photo.
And I thought, what gives these people the right to make such an assumption? Why? Because she is not with a man they deem physically attractive? Because he is not black? She can do better than what? A man who has clearly made her happy enough for her to dedicate her life to encouraging other black women to go out and find men who will treat them just as well?
Similarly, my boyfriend has brought nothing but joy, contentment and quality to my life. But his Sonic hat and light skin makes him a ‘loser’ because he is holding my dark skinned hand. Because he dares to love me and give me more than those men that attacked us could even fathom, someone thinks they have the right to call him a ‘loser’ – a loser, because he treats a black woman right.
Now I know myself and my confidence in my writing; in black and white words I myself can sling about a lot of bravado and rhetoric, and my convictions in my heart are as equally strong as my words. But in the face of hate and harassment of someone I love, I admit I was not so strong. My voice broke and my knees rattled with anxiousness. While most of the attacks were directed at my boyfriend, he ended up being the one having to comfort me.
But as the ferry approached Whitehall Station in Manhattan, my boyfriend and I walked to the exit so we could get off quickly. Several dividers separated the exit into three main sections. My boyfriend and I stood in the middle section and for a moment my eyes gazed to the right and I noticed some of the young men who had harassed us. They noticed us too and said nothing, but rather slunk behind the divider and out of our view.