I Thought I Understood Racism. Then I Married A Black Man.

White fragility and interracial coupling do not go hand in hand.

Woman thinking hyejin kang, CoffeeAndMilk, Volodymyr Melnyk | Canva 

On our third date, the man who would become my husband told me, “You get it.”

The “it” he was referring to was racism. At the time, I was flattered to have a Black person acknowledge my wokeness. But I’ve since realized that three dates in, I didn’t get racism at all.

Of course, even after 17 years, I don’t fully “get it” and never will. When I venture out into the world, I still do so with white skin. But I now feel racism in my bones, just about as deeply as I can feel misogyny — and I see both reflected in my bank account, too.


Over the last decade and a half, I’ve:

  1. Bailed my husband out of jail with the last $200 I had in my bank account and hired a lawyer to fight a fabricated felony charge against him. He was facing 20 years in prison, and the whole ordeal cost us $11,000.
  2. Filed a police report against my stepson’s (white) grandfather, who threatened to put my husband’s “Black a**” in jail if I pursued a restraining order against his daughter. (“I know some guys,” he told me.)
  3. Emotionally and financially supported my husband when he: a) couldn’t find a job after finishing EMT school because of the number of times he’d been pulled over, b) was fired by three different white bosses, and c) was failed by a white woman in his graduate fieldwork placement. I’ve written emails calling the white people in charge out on their racism, helped him pursue a lawsuit against one of them, held his hand through bouts of anxiety and depression, and had to find ways to make up for tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages.
  4. Found a basement apartment on Airbnb so our family could lay low for a few days when we thought white supremacists might be plotting an attack on our home.
  5. Bought my husband Mace (just last month) because the security guards at the building where he works as a hand therapist were following him after dark in the parking lot.

And those are just the first five things that come to mind.


RELATED: I Always Saw Myself As White Until I Encountered Racism

There was a time when I believed that interracial relationships were The Answer.

I envisioned a world full of Brown babies and multicolored families, a world in which relatives of various complexions gathered around barbecue grills, swapping jokes and spinning stories.

When my husband and I got married back in 2008, our wedding did indeed represent a version of this fantasy. Near Mt. Shasta, at a cluster of rustic cabins 11 miles on a dirt road from the nearest town, 80 some-odd people — Black, white, Filipina American, Lebanese American, gay, straight, Buddhist, Mormon, ex-hippies, ex-soldiers — danced the polka, did the electric slide, passed joints, and tapped kegs.


Fourteen years later, guests still talk about what has been popularly deemed the “best wedding of all time.” But of course, as the wedding drew to a close, the shared bond that united our guests for three days and two nights rapidly dissipated. We all retreated into our separate worlds.

For me and my new husband, the simplicity of sharing food, music, time, and nature with people we loved quickly gave way to the complexity of navigating our daily lives.

RELATED: 11 Struggles Only Interracial Couples Understand

By the time we got married, we had already been dating for three years, living together for two years, and co-parenting the boy who would become my stepson.


Our lives were already intertwined.

I knew we were an anomaly. Yes, interracial couples are on the rise, but somehow, even in 2022, we’re still something to note, if not gawk at. So it wasn’t the stares on the street — sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile — that threw me for a loop. I’d more or less expected those.

I was amused when restaurant hosts asked us if we were together, even though we’d entered the establishment holding hands.

I shrugged it off when conversations around us abruptly ceased, as though the mental processing of such a visually striking couple demanded silence.

I quietly laughed at the baffled stares from passersby when I took my father-in-law out to explore our new hometown of Washington DC. No one seemed to be able to fathom why in the world a young white woman would be walking around with an elderly Black man.


But ultimately, the stares and the sometimes ridiculous questions have merely been the amusing footnotes to the real stuff — the “real stuff” being the insidious ways that racism seeps into the cracks and crevices of everyday life, in ways most white people aren’t aware of, or even vehemently deny.

White people who believe that Black Lives Matter are aware of police brutality, but rarely stop to think about the multitude of other ways that racially biased police officers can wreak havoc on people’s lives, from ruining their driving records to fabricating charges that threaten their livelihoods, to inspiring fear in the institution whose very purpose is to protect and serve.

White people who understand the concept of microaggressions still fail to grasp how quickly these “small” expressions of hostility against people of color can stack and build, how they culminate in antagonistic work or school environments that leave no margin for error, no leeway for the unexpected things that happen in our lives from time to time.

And when the cumulative effect of these microaggressions results in lost wages and the inescapable cycles of debt that plague those without job security, there is no legal recourse. Come on, you can’t prove anything. It’s not like anyone said the N-word.




White people who call themselves allies still often refuse to acknowledge their own racial bias or the hurtful things that their friends and family are capable of saying, even if the intention is not malicious. Racism is something “over there” — in the South, yes, and in rural areas of the North, and interspersed sporadically throughout the country, but certainly not in our families or our circles of friends. (Except, of course, for crazy Uncle Joe, but that’s just crazy Uncle Joe.)

I have been guilty of all of the above. Back when my husband and I started dating, I considered myself one of the “good ones.” I thought of myself as an ally even before being an ally was a thing. I was a white person who “got it.”

Except that I didn’t. It’s taken years — years of active listening, years of bearing the emotional and financial burden of racism, years of fearing for the safety and well-being of my family — to even begin to get it.


What astonishes me is that so many white people who couple with, and especially who procreate with, people of color are not even close to “getting it.” Some are not even trying.

RELATED: How I Dealt With Racism As A Latina In An Interracial Relationship

I still maintain that interracial relationships can be powerful tools for breaking down barriers and bridging divides.

They can bring together families and friends who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to interact. They can make racism more personal for white people, opening their eyes to the nuances and relentlessness of racial oppression in ways they may have previously only understood on an abstract level.


But if a white person enters into an interracial relationship with a defensive mindset — unwilling to acknowledge the daily realities of racism and their insidious effects, or unwilling to confront other white people when their partner or children are unfairly treated — interracial relationships can become the antithesis of The Answer.

They can harden interracial resentments and produce disoriented, alienated, baffled offspring who don’t know when to trust their parents, or even when to trust their own experiences.

Of course, any relationship thrives when both parties come to the table from a place of empathy, humility, fortitude, and curiosity. But these mindsets are paramount for any person who has benefited from white privilege and is entering into a relationship with someone who has not.




So while I hope to see more interracial couples in the years to come, in the cases where one-half of the twosome is white, I’d like to suggest some shared agreements.

My fellow white compatriots, let’s prepare ourselves to share in the mental and emotional toll wrought by racism. Let’s commit to listening to and advocating for our partners and children. Let’s teach our children about their heritage and celebrate their ancestors’ contributions. Let’s learn how to do their hair.

Let’s try — really try — to “get it.”


RELATED: What It's Like To Have "White Husband Privilege"

Kerala Taylor is an award-winning writer and co-owner of a worker-owned marketing agency. Her weekly stories are dedicated to interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. She writes on Medium and has recently launched a Substack publication Mom, Interrupted.