“‘How many white women have you actually dated?’ I sent the text in the thick of a conversation we’d been having about us being different. It was just a few weeks into talking, going to lunch…dating?
‘None. Never seriously dated a white woman. That makes you like…a pioneer. lol.’
I read his text a few times, a knot forming in my stomach tying down all the swirling butterflies. I responded with what felt casual and not at all a reflection of the panic and excitement going on inside of me: ‘Okay wow, well that’s an honor.’
‘I’ve never imagined myself with a white woman, I’ve never really trusted or felt safe around white people.’
This made sense to me. I wasn’t offended, I was honored that we were even having this conversation. This conversation alone meant safety can cross racial divides.
Kevin wasn’t the first black man I had kissed or kind-of-dated, but I was starting to wonder and maybe hope he’d be the last. Even though I knew I wasn’t in an ideal place to be dating or beginning a relationship, I didn’t want to let a good man go. But we would see; for all I knew, I was just another fling for a hot minute.
Any time I have been slightly interested in someone, my mind goes straight to, ‘So Maybe I’ll Marry This Man.’ I can’t help it. I’ve been that way since I can remember wondering if I’d marry Preston Green or Colton Neuschwander or Payton Moore, all before I hit the ripe and ready age of 10 years old. Since my divorce, I had realized that about myself, and tried to keep it in check.
But it’s hard, you know? It’s hard not to wonder if you’ve found someone that can love you as much as you know you’re able to love, who might want to be healthy and safe and wonderful with you.
And then the layer that he is black? It added in an entirely new layer of honor, of wanting to be safe, of wanting to hold his heart.
Our dating turned into a relationship, one full of intensity and complexity. Intensity because we are both intense — we both have big opinions and feelings, ideas about how the world is and how the world should go, stubbornness and pride and all the human flaws people can have.
Complex because we both have kids, which means we also both have other ex-partners in our lives.
Also complex because he’s black, I’m white. But adding to that…he is HUGE, towering over my 5-foot-2-inch figure at 6-foot-3-inches of muscle and mass.
‘You two are healers…your relationship is a healing one, I can see it and sense it. It is healing you both and it is healing the world.’ An older black woman at my church said this to me and my eyes welled with tears. I really hope her words are true.
You see, I am a mom of two 3-year-old boys, one who is biracial black/white. When I was a foster mom, I had three daughters of color. Before any of these kids entered my family, I was learning how asleep I had been in regards to the racial divide in our country. But now I know more than ever just how deep that divide runs. And also how we can work to knit it closer together, one day at a time.
Before I was ever dating a black man, I asked one of my black friends, ‘Odell, you have only ever dated black women. Is this because there is a level of safety and being known that is not possible with a white woman?’ I knew the answer, but thought I’d ask anyways.
‘Of course,’ he said. It made sense.
So when Kevin decided choosing me was worth it, I knew and continue to know it is a place of honor for me. That he would choose to be with a white woman, someone who cannot fully understand where he comes from or what his life has held or what it is like to live in his skin…that he feels safe with me? Wow. It blows me away every time I sit down and think about it.
I also think about how there is loss for him with this. I think about how he likely imagined marrying or being with a black queen for his forever. And we aren’t married, but I’d like to think and hope we will be one day — and if we do, I create space for the loss of him not having a black queen as a wife.
I make space for me knowing I cannot meet him as closely as I want to in those spaces of being completely known, but I will work so hard to be there. I will work hard to set down any weird and unnecessary need to defend whiteness or explain white people away (whitesplain), which I never feel I need to do. Just as I hope he would not defend men or mansplain towards me when I experience injustice as a woman.
People have looked at us in all sorts of ways – some looks feel encouraging, while other looks I let go of. I was recently called a disappointment to the ‘non brown community’ for dating Kevin, and we both recognize him dating me comes with tension in some of the black community.
We get the CRAZIEST looks when we are out and about with our kids though! And we laugh all the time. His kids are biracial, (Samoan/black) one of my kids is biracial, and my youngest is white white WHITE. I imagine people are wondering if I went off and cheated on him or something.
At the end of the day…we love the little blended family that is forming. I know — and am not afraid of or offended by the fact — that I have lived a totally different, privileged experience as a white woman than my man, his kids, and one of my sons. I know I get the privilege of noticing the space needed for that truth, and the reality that comes with it. I know sometimes people suck and systems always suck and we get followed by police and watched in stores more than I did before — and I am not going to sit around and try to explain it away to make myself feel some façade of comfort.
The other day my phone rang when I was working at the coffee shop. I ran to the back to answer, ‘Hey babe, everything okay?’ He didn’t usually call me if I was at work. ‘I was just pulled over, for no reason.’ He said, I could hear the annoyance in his voice. ‘I asked the cop why and he stuttered through about how I didn’t use a blinker to get into the left lane…honey, I was not even IN the left lane.’
My heart raced. I was grateful he knows how to remain calm and keep his hands visible, knowing any false or quick move could cost him his life; I hate the unjust fear that comes with these moments. There was no crime here, his only ‘crime’ is being black, this reality being handed to me years ago the moment my son’s birth mom placed him in my hands as my own.
Being a white woman dating a black man —three of our collective four boys being black —feels beautiful and normal. It feels like a glimpse into heaven, where we are all family and safety is felt across barriers that are there no more.
But it can also be heavy, knowing the world carries false perceptions, embedded biases, incorrect ‘knowledge’ about the ones I love the most, simply because their skin is brown and hair is textured. And then I think: how much heavier it must be to live in those beautiful, melanin-rich bodies.
My hope is to hold this man’s heart, to be the keeper of it, and carry the honor of being one of the only white members of his family. May I do it well, honoring all the pieces of us.
Love you, Kevin.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Brenner of Portland, Oregon. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook and her website. Learn more about her book here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read Natalie’s powerful backstory of meeting Kevin:
‘I can’t introduce you to my kids until I know. They’ll attach to you, and I can’t break their hearts.’: Girlfriend nervous it’s ‘too soon’ to meet boyfriend’s kids, feels anxious to not ‘replace’ mom
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