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Forget Southern Comfort
We southerners pride ourselves on having close knit families that love and respect one another. Which is why I was completely flabbergasted and heart broken when I received a phone call from my family in Mississippi over spring break.
From my earliest memories of childhood, I remember all of my elders telling me to be proud of who I was and do to whatever makes me happy – as long as it wasn't something stupid like drugs. As I got older, and began to enter the dating world my two sets of parents (biological and might as well be parents) reminded me to just be myself and find a guy that likes me for who I am, a guy that respects me, and above everything else – makes me happy.
Through my dating escapades, I've met players, liars, mamma's boys, and just complete idiots, however, I've met a guy that truly makes me happy. His name KJ, my boyfriend. Although he and I have only been dating for 4 months, I can honestly say he is the only boyfriend that I really consider a “real boyfriend.” By that I mean he actually respects my values and beliefs and my family, which are things no other guy I've dated respected.
There is only one thing that some people may perceive as a problem with our relationship, KJ is black. Yes, even though America has moved on from this backwards, ignorant, disgraceful point of view on the “place” of a black person, it appears that some people in the South think otherwise and oppose the idea of interracial relationships. By some people, I mean my Mississippi family.
“Hey, Mamma Katy what's up? I've been trying to get a hold of you for a few days to see if I can visit over Spring Break.”
“Raina we need to talk, look um who is this black boy with you in all these pictures on facebook and why is he kissing you?”
“Ha ha, I know I didn't call you like I usually do when I start dating someone, so I can see why you are surprised, but hakuna matata he's not some psycho – just my boyfriend.”
“But why is he black?”
“What do you mean?” (Que the awkward tension)
“He's black Raina, why are you dating a n*****?”
“Excuse me, KJ is not a n*****, he may be black but that doesn't make him a n*****!”
“Uh it kinda does.”
“No ma'am, it doesn't n***** means ignorant and he's not. What's the big deal so he's black that doesn't matter.”
“We did not raise you to be like this. To go off being a n***** lover.”
“No y'all didn't. Y'all raised me to not judge a person based on the color of their skin and to date a guy that makes me happy and guess what he does! And if you can't accept that then I am completely embarrassed to even consider you as family.”
“Raina, just think about what people will say and how people will treat you. I'm not trying to get you upset I just want you to stop and think for a second. What would your mother say.”
“Ok listen. I'm really not trying to be rude but if that is the only way to get the point across so be it. I don't give two shits about what people say because they aren't the ones in the relationship – I am. I'm the one that's in it and I am perfectly happy. If people want to be ignorant, they are free to think whatever they want because the only thing that matters is what me and KJ think. If we started listening to people like you then there is no way I would be as happy as I am. And how dare you bring up my mom, like you know what she would say. She wouldn't care as long as I'm happy and I was til I answered the phone.”
“No, don't Raina me. I'm done either you can accept my decision to be with a guy that makes me happy or I will just not talk to you while I'm in this relationship.”
After that phone call, I had a wave of emotions wash over me, I was engulfed in a sea of rage, betrayal, and embarrassment. Moments later, KJ walked through the door and was completely horrified by my state. Once I explained the phone call, and how I felt, all of the present problems in our relationship drifted away. There were no questions about if we still cared about each other or if we should really be together because I stood up for us. I stood up to my family and demanded that they open their mind for the sake of my happiness and – it was the riskiest, rudest, and best thing I have done in a long time.
Looking back on the conversation and reaction I had, I still want to believe that racism isn't a huge deal in our society. However, with the fear of the unknown and unfamiliar in older generations like our parents and grandparents, I feel like a certain prejudice lingers over my generation as we try to bridge the gap between races and the “ideals of relationships” set by people that are 30 to 40 years our seniors. Forget Southern Comfort, I think interracial relationships are a good thing. Not only do interracial relationships provide individuals with the unique opportunity to learn, experience, and appreciate different cultures and backgrounds, but also the opportunity to see the beauty in different nationalities and peoples. We are finally learning that the outer shell of a person does not change who they are on the inside. I believe that interracial relationships strengthen individuals and build harmony between different races.