Biracial Couples: How To Be Supportive Of Your Black Partner Who Is Struggling With Inequality, Racism, And Discrimination

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Biracial couples, also known as interracial couples, comprise approximately 17% of married couples today.

Over the past couple of months, African-Americans have awakened to the untimely deaths of African-Americans, young and old, male and female, at the hands of active or retired police officers. To say the news of these killings was not jarring for both minorities and non-minorities would be a lie.

Unfortunately, for most minorities, the constant barrage of African-American killings (Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and more recently, Rayshard Brooks) have made it nearly impossible to ignore, dismiss, or discount this reality.

Living in the US as a minority

Living in the US as a minority and, specifically, as a Black American has, at times, been depressing, confusing, angering, and frustrating. It is something most African-Americans do not talk about – at least with those outside of their immediate families or “friend circles.” In fact, most simply chalk it up to living in the US, while “Black.” 

These tragedies have become constant reminders of the omnipresent reality of the inequality, discrimination, prejudice, and racism that many, if not most, African-Americans face daily. It is these racial barriers, prejudices, and biases that socially and systemically damage the lives of Black Americans. And, many times these actions not only take an emotional toll of minorities, but also their loved ones. This is especially true when their loved ones belong to the “majority” (White Americans).

Chronic discrimination

Studies suggest that chronic discrimination is linked to a variety of harmful physical and mental health consequences, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, phobias, panic attacks, chronic stress, high blood pressure, insomnia, and psychosis.

But these negative effects do not only affect people of color. No, they also affect their non-minority friends and partners.

This begs the question…

How can you help your Black partner if you are not Black? How can you show support to a partner who is constantly bombarded with disparaging media reports and societal messages (through continuous news broadcasts, unfiltered social media posts, and inconspicuous chatter within “friend circles”) that suggest that Black lives are not as important as other lives.

Better yet, how can biracial couples resume their normal, daily lives as individuals and as a couple, when faced with prejudice, racism, discrimination, police brutality, and racial profiling?

How can you stand by your partner, who fears for his or her life regularly, when you have never experienced this fear? 

Is it even possible? YES!

Skip to Actionable Steps




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Longer Version


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Relationships form the foundation needed to have a well-adjusted, healthy, satisfying, and happy life. They are also essential for creating daily routines, traditions, habits, beliefs, activities, histories, emotional connections, and shared experiences.

And, guess what? Relationships are unique to the individuals in them. This can be said of all relationships, but for this article, the focus is on romantic relationships, specifically biracial ones.

The Loving’s story

The truth is the concept of “race” is a social construct that largely depends on the location, the population, and the era. This has never been more evident than in the story of the “Lovings.” In 1958, a biracial couple (Mildred and Richard Loving) from Virginia faced fierce opposition, violence, and racism because Mildred was Black and Richard was White. In fact, Virginia’s Racial Integrity Law of 1924 made romantic relationships between Whites and Blacks and any subsequent biracial marriages illegal.

Society (at the time) also deemed it unnatural for minorities and non-minorities to fall in love, date, or get married. Add in a biracial child (Mildred became pregnant with Richard’s child at 18) and the situation became even more volatile. Mildred and Richard were abused, mistreated, threatened, and jailed simply because of their love. As a result, the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to get married because it was legal there.

However, an anonymous tip prompted cops to raid the home of the Lovings. Their marriage certificate was considered invalid and the couple was arrested. They were later convicted of “illegally cohabitating as man and wife” and sentenced to one year in prison unless they agreed to leave the state of Virginia. They agreed and moved to Washington, D.C. where they lived with their children (they went on to have two more children) for 25 years.

Frustrated that they could not return to Virginia to visit relatives, the couple sued the state of Virginia in 1964 for racial discrimination. With the help of the ACLU, the case traversed through the branches of court until the charges were officially overturned.

In 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the ban on biracial marriages was not only unconstitutional but also in violation of the 14th Amendment. Still, many Southern states fought this ruling, continuing to taunt, arrest, discriminate, and even harm biracial couples.

Current day racial struggles

Recent studies suggest that young people (children, teens, and young adults) are more favorable towards other races and biracial dating and marriages now. Why? Well, primarily because the era and population have changed.

In other words, beliefs and opinions changed over time with young people becoming more accepting of “differences.” Yet, there still remains some opposition towards romantic relationships between minorities and non-minorities.

Studies suggest that your “perceived” racial category plays a significant role in how you are treated in the US. And, with the recent killings of African-Americans at the hands of cops, there is no question that your race, culture, and the color of your skin can negatively affect your quality of life (systemic racism or disproportionate degrees of inequality, privilegeprejudice, racism, discrimination, and aggression).

The truth is this inequality not only applies to people of color but also biracial couples, who simply want to be together.

What it means for biracial couples and your black partner

Biracial couples not only have to grapple with “normal” relationship issues, but also with the complexities that come with being with someone of a different race and culture. Navigating these rocky waters can be stressful, depressing, frustrating, and confusing.

And, although opinions have changed somewhat through the years, there are still people who simply do not approve of “race-mixing.” As a result, these couples often have to contend with disparaging remarks aimed at one or both partners. They also have to contend with dirty looks and even acts of violence from opposing members of society.

Even if you are not being directly targeted by police brutality, racism, or prejudice, but your partner is, it is extremely important that you fiercely support and defend him or her.

Why? Your partner is most likely grappling with the emotional effects (i.e. fear, confusion, anxiety, anger, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, depression, etc.) and physical effects (i.e. high blood pressure, high-stress levels, fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal distress) of inequality and discrimination. Thus, your partner needs you more than ever.

That is why it is important to fight for him or her. You may never fully understand what your black partner is going through but you can walk beside him or her as he or she fights for equal rights and fair treatment – even if it’s difficult to do so. The best things in life are the things you support and fight for.

So, show your partner that you have his or her back – always. Be brave and speak out when you see a person of color being mistreated. Use your voice. Together, you can be a force to be reckoned with – just like the Lovings. But, first, you must take a stand.

If you are wondering how you can support your Black partner, while he or she fights for justice, keep reading because listed below are ways you can ease his or her stress and fight for the causes that mean so much to him or her and those in his or her community.

Actionable Steps


1

Do your research

One of the best ways to be supportive of your Black partner is to do your research. Educate yourself on Black people, culture, history, and experiences.

However, don’t expect him or her to be your personal Google search box. Take the initiative and try to learn for yourself. Then, if you still have questions or want clarification, ask him or her. But, be proactive and show your Black partner that you want to learn and understand him or her better.
 
Note: Even if your partner is a social justice activist that doesn’t mean he or she is obligated to give you a lesson on racism. And, please do not ask him or her to “teach” Black history facts to your friends and relatives at parties, celebrations, events, or family functions because that can be extremely awkward for everyone involved. Sometimes Black people simply want to have a good time – without delving into racial issues.
 
Books that can help you learn more about the “Black Experience” in America are An African American and Latinx History of the United States, Chokehold: Policing Black Men, and What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays.

2

Listen to your partner

Another thing you can do to be there for your Black partner is to listen to him or her. When your partner shares with you times when he or she experienced racism – listen – really listen to him or her without interjecting or voicing your own thoughts, beliefs, or opinions on his or her experience.

Also, don’t diminish what your partner is saying by comparing your own experiences to his or hers because, most likely, they are different. Simply listen and empathize with your partner’s past and present reality. And, remember, this is not about you.

3

Say or do something

More specifically, speak up when you hear racist comments from anyone – even your friends and family members – and intervene when you see racist behaviors. If friends or loved ones are being racist or it feels racist to you – before you “pop-off,” ask them questions about race and stereotypes.
 
Share what you’ve learned by dating or being married to a Black person. Talk about how you have grown as a person because of your relationship. And, if you were “mistaken,” judgmental, or even racist in the past, share that with them as well. Others need to see how you have grown so they can see that it is possible to change.
 
Be honest and admit to them that you don’t have all the answers, but are trying to learn so you can fill in the gaps. When other White people bring up the topic of race engage with them. This is a “teachable moment.” The truth is you, as a non-minority, have more influence over other non-minorities than Black people have on racial issues.
 
Note: Conversations about race at family get-togethers can be particularly complicated. However, ignoring that aunt, uncle, sibling, parents, etc. that makes disparaging or hurtful remarks about your partner or Black people, in general, is not OK. This is when your African-American partner needs you to speak up. Take a stand – even if it is painful. 
 
Also, intervene when you see someone (anyone) spouting racist insults at any person of color – not just African-Americans. The offending party will most likely be more responsive to you than a Black person, so this is important. And, if you see a person of color being mistreated by cops or others, record it on your cellphone, if possible.
 
If recording the encounter is not possible, audiotape the conversation or write down the details of the encounter, including badge numbers, license plate numbers, time, date, the names of those involved, the races and ages of those involved, and any other pertinent information about what happened. Then, give that information to the police (if they are not involved) and the victim(s). Be a witness.

4

Be anti-racist

What does that even mean? It means that being non-racist is not enough, especially if you are dating or married to an African-American. Being anti-racist means being proactive and actively fighting against racism. It means getting involved with organizations like the NAACP, National Urban League, Black Lives Matter, Dream Defenders, Know Your Rights Camp, and Live Free USA that fight for equality and racial justice for minorities.
 
Offer your skills and talents (i.e. teaching) to organizations that are devoted to improving the lives of disenfranchised people in this country. Set-up workshops and meetings so other non-minorities can learn about Black people, history, culture, businesses, etc.
 
Speak up when you see minorities being mistreated in society, by the police, in your friend and family circles, at work or school, etc. Join protests and/or donate to human and civil rights organizations like the ACLU. Be anti-racist every day – not just when it pertains to your partner.

5

Be a “safe place” for your partner

Lastly, be a “safe place” for your partner. Be that non-judgmental ear, hug, and kiss, defender, and ride-or-die partner he or she needs you to be. Show him or her that you are always in his or her corner and that your love is stronger than the hate that surrounds you. Allow your partner to speak his or her mind freely – without becoming offended. 
 
Remember, your partner isn’t referring to you, but to racists in the community. Your partner loves you or he or she wouldn’t be with you. So, be there to listen and help him or her work through issues plaguing his or her community. Be that open door that your partner can walk through anytime he or she needs to.

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About the Author


Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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