When I was asked to write an essay about my relationship in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I accepted immediately. I've been in an interracial relationship with my fiancé Fred for two and a half years (and dated a bevy of men from different cultures and races before that), and I was raised by my parents to believe in Martin Luther King Jr's philosophy: All men are created equal. So who better than me to write on this topic? But after staring at a blank document on my computer screen for over 2 hours, I wondered why I was still struggling to put thoughts to paper.
And the answer is this: To me, Fred is not black. And I'm not white. We are Fred and Colleen, and we are in love. I know that sounds simple, possibly naïve, and definitely romantic—but it's true. About a year ago I interviewed Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of Grey's Anatomy, and, at the time, I commended her on creating one of the first television shows to portray a multitude of interracial relationships without it being the central issue. In fact, race is never discussed or even alluded to on the show. She replied, "I think that issues of race are a larger conversation that people project on a relationship, but for the two people in it, that's not the primary thing on their minds."
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I had never thought about it that way before, but it struck a chord because it's so true. Fred and I rarely discuss race because it's not the biggest difference between us. What is? We went to rival colleges: He's a Georgia Tech grad, and I'm a UGA Bulldog. We still can't sit next to each other on the couch on game day. He watches movies with the lights on; I like complete darkness. He has to have a fan on while he sleeps; I pile on the blankets to compensate.
That's not to say race doesn't affect us at all. In a perfect world, it wouldn't, but we don't live in a perfect world. When we visited a church in Savannah, GA, an older white man one pew up spent the entire sermon with his head twisted around, staring at us. When we got in our car, we both looked at each other: "Did you see that man?", we both asked. We assumed it was because we're an interracial couple, and he didn't approve, but we'll never know for sure.