Let's face it: When you're in an interracial relationship, people around you have certain expectations of you and your partner. Your relationship is constantly on display, whether you're aware of it or not. There are a few ideas submitted by our readers included in this article that may give you some insight on "how to act" when you're in an interracial relationship.
Eight years ago, Haley Peterson, then Haley Thomas, was a 17-year old college freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. She'd been sheltered for the majority of her seventeen years, and was eager to finally live her life the way she wanted to. A few months into the second semester, she met Craig Peterson, who was then a 20-year-old junior at the same university. As time passed, the two grew closer and eventually formed a relationship. This didn't come about without the usual obstacles:
#1: Haley's overprotective parents objected to the relationship. "I didn't realize it then, but I honestly believe my parents valued me less and began questioning my morals after I told them about my relationship with Craig."
#2 Her friends objected to the relationship.
"Craig & I lost a lot of friends after we decided to "go public". There were the faithful few that supported us and even encouraged our relationship, but there were too few of them and far too many people who were against us. It was rough."
#3: Haley also had problems making new alliances because of what people had to say about her and Craig.
"Although UT has a huge campus, it didn't stop our enemies from spreading rumors about us and getting even more people to hate us, which was ridiculous because half of these people really had no idea as to who Craig and I were. I really hate to sound like I'm naive, but at that time I couldn't figure out why people had a problem with us being together. It simply didn't make any sense."
The problem was the fact that Haley was white and Craig was black. Craig and Haley dated for almost a year before Craig told her why it was such a problem for people to see them together. "I still couldn't understand it. I kept thinking, 'Why does it matter? It's not anyone else's business.' Our relationship hit a low point during that time. Craig thought I was too ignorant to understand why people had a problem with my being involved with him. I thought he was too calloused and insensitive to care about how I felt."
Haley went on to say that things eventually got better later on, and they continued to get better once the couple made alliances with people who were accepting of their relationship and/or in a similiar relationship themselves. But the negativity surrounding them didn't exactly go away. "But there were those people who said I was a bad person for dating a black guy. I heard it all the time. I was always like 'love doesn't see color!' I really wanted to tell people that. But, it wasn't worth my energy.
What about Craig?
Craig Peterson, up until this point, had not been in an interracial relationship. He hadn't even considered it, but he certainly did not have a problem with it. Craig recounted his college experience with Haley as the three of us hung out in downtown Houston.
Craig isn't big on specifics, so his quotes are a bit short.
"I met Haley at school in '94 and we really hit it off. We had some problems; by problems I mean people were all hyped up about us and it bothered us sometimes. It really bothered Haley. But, we got over it and our relationship got better because we decided to ignore the negativity energy that surrounded us."
Haley and Craig knew that they were constantly being watched whenever they went somewhere. " A lot of people would bend over backwars to get a look at us, or twist their necks trying to stare. I got to me for awhile, but I eventually learned to just get on with it and ignore them."
Here's how she handled being under a microscope:
#1: She didn't complain.
"Craig & I'd been through all my whining and both of us were quite sick of it, to be honest. Whenever I spotted a "rubbernecker" staring at us, I either smiled at them or simply them. Our relationship became so much easier once I started doing that."
#2: She put her many "admirers" on display.
"There wree those special occasions when some man or woman would have the gall to say something to us about our being a couple. I'll never forget the time when these two black women confronted me at a restaurant. We were visiting Craig's family in Dallas when we went to the Reunion Tower Restaurant ( which is probably one of the swankiest hotel restaurants in the U.S.). These two chicks were checking Craig out, dropping things as they passed by our table, and made a big production of picking them up again. When that method failed to get my baby's attention, they both came over and him their telephone numbers. After that failed to get a rise out of either one of us, they went back to their table, and I thought the whole ordeal was over. But they proved me wrong. I got a phone call not too long after they sat down again, so I went out into the hallway to talk. These two *expletive* followed me out into the hall and they had plenty to say. The fat one started speaking first. 'Hey, white girl. Hey you, white trash *expletive*. We wanna talk to your trailer park *expletive*. What the *expletive* are you doing with that fine-*ss nigga.?' I started not to say anything, but I was talking to my best friend, who is also black, and she'd heard everything. Long story short, she told me not to argue with them, called the restaurant, and spoke to the management with me on the other end. They sent two waiters to escort these women back into the restaurant to get their belongings, but of course, they didn't go quietly. They were cursing at me and making threats. I ignored them completely, so I really can't say what happened after that, except that the authorities were waiting for them downstairs."
Due to continuing server problems, the rest of this article will appear along with Part Two in the February issue.