This post was written for the Race in America series on the Kindred Blog
When you think of mixed-race families, it seems that my parents broke all the “rules.” My dad is white, which, in and of itself, is rare among mixed race couples. I never really thought about it until I started hearing, “Wait. So your dad is White?” I met a woman recently who studied sociology and criminal justice and she explained to me why it’s rare to see a White man and a Black woman together.
In the historical order of things, White men have always been regarded as the “ideal human”, and as such, they carry the most privilege (thus perpetuating the myth of White Supremacy). Black men, despite how we see them treated today, were given rights that women did not have, positioning men as better than women regardless of race. Therefore, a Black woman is treated societally as the least of these. carrying the least amount of privilege (which is still reflected in the wage gap—Black women make $0.62 for every $1 a White man makes, compared to the $0.79 White women make). For a White man to marry a Black woman used to be seen as him marrying down, which is why you don’t see it as frequently with mixed-race couples as a White woman marrying a Black man.
On top of that, my dad grew up very poor. So poor, in fact, that he lived in a Black neighborhood in Boston. My mom grew up with her grandparents, who were prominent business owners in Savannah, Georgia, prior to moving to Boston when she was about five. When my parents decided to get married, they moved out west to protect their future children from the kind of overt racism that they had both grown up experiencing.
I grew up in northern Arizona and was surrounded by a mix of kids of different races – mostly Navajo, White or Mexican. My experience of racism was always as a witness to someone else being subjected to unsettling comments. I understood the concept of racism, but at the time, I really believed I hadn’t been on the receiving end of it.