Ask Lisa Advice: Am I in an Interracial Relationship or Not?
This Week’s I counsel a Biracial, Black/White woman whose sister says she’s “swirling” by dating a White man. The woman’s sister, whose fiancé is Black, does not consider her own relationship Interracial.
I hope you can settle a debate between me and my sister. We’re both Biracial, Black and White. She is engaged to a Black man and I am living with a White man. She says I’m in an Interracial relationship but insists she’s not. I say, since we’re both Mixed, either we’re both in Interracial relationships or neither of us is. She is lighter than I am, so there’s just as big a color difference between her and her guy as between me and mine.
The only thing I can guess about her logic is that our father is Black and for her to be with a Black man feels more like how we grew up. Still, it bugs me when she says I’m “swirling” because I think she’s looking down on my relationship, like my boyfriend and I are only together out of some fetish.
I got that off my chest. Who’s right?
There is no right or wrong here. Your relationship is your relationship and hers is hers. How you and your significant others choose to define yourselves is entirely up to you. Please be aware, however: Anyone who sees you with your guy will draw their own conclusions about whether you’re in an interracial relationship or not. As you must know by now, the assumptions of outsiders are par for the course when you’re Multiracial. But being aware of those assumptions doesn’t mean we must own them. Commonalities drew you and your boyfriend together. As long as those remain strong, your relationship will too, no matter what people speculate.
Regarding the discussion with your sister, let’s consider her motivation for labeling your relationship. On one hand, she may be genuinely concerned. If your sister considers sharing Black heritage non-negotiable in a romantic relationship, she may simply want the same for you. Perhaps Sis doesn’t trust your boyfriend, seeing as he doesn’t share your father’s background as her fiancé does.
On the other hand, if her assessment of your partnership is purely critical, that has more to do with her identity—her feelings about Blackness, Whiteness, and loyalty to the former—than it has to do with you.
I don’t know the dynamic between you and your sister, but I can’t help wondering if she’s being deliberately provocative. I’m guessing the two of you have had numerous conversations about this and that she knows her depiction of your relationship as “swirling” bothers you.
Since there’s no point in arguing about who’s in an interracial relationship and who’s not, why take the bait? Why do her implications get under your skin so much? Ask yourself if some part of you subscribes to her beliefs. Do you feel guilty for being with someone who’s a different race from your father? If your sister’s words were not hitting home on some level, you might take them with an eye-roll, or at least a grain of salt.
In any case, how you go about nipping these debates in the bud depends on where your sister is coming from. The only way to understand that is to talk with her. Invite her to lunch and ask her—calmly, with pure curiosity—why she categorizes your relationships differently. Listen to her response with an open mind, then share your feelings and opinions with her. Even if you don’t agree, the conversation may deepen your understanding of one another and take you to a higher level of mutual respect.
What’s most important is that you both feel comfortable with your guys—no matter how you label yourselves. And remember, there is no shame in being part of an interracial relationship; you’re the product of one, after all!