RA: What about the town where you live? Are interracial relationships generally accepted there?
LIBERTAD: We are pretty much in New Haven, CT. It's a somewhat diverse town but the only interracial couples you typically see are between Asian women and white men or black men and white women, but the aw/wm is more common. People try to pretend they don't notice interracial couples but you can tell from the stares that they do. Interracial couples aren't not NOT accepted but you do get the looks.
RA: How have your families handled your relationship?
LIBERTAD: Hmm...our families? Well his family is much more diverse than mine. Many of his siblings date interracially and have mixed race or multicultural children. So sometimes I feel accepted but there have been some instances where I didn't. With some people of African descent, there is a lot of internalized racism and I've definitely felt it from his Haitian side.
My partner has very pale skin & light brown eyes. Naturally his black side praises him for this, because he appears "white". When I first met his brother, who is from Haiti, I heard him ask him, "What are you doing with that black girl? I thought you were dating a "Spanish" girl. Why would you want a black girl when you can have a Spanish girl." I was really hurt. Here comes this guy who looks more like me than my boyfriend does and he doesn't think I'm worth anything. And to top it off, he judged that by my dark skin that I couldn't be Latina. There have been instances like that from his Haitian side, too many to mention. But with the Haitian side I don't always feel welcome.
As far as my family goes, they aren't as bad as his. They accepted him from day one, with some few exceptions. …Culturally there were some prejudices our families had had. When my family discovered that he was both Haitian and Colombian, they jumped to their first thoughts about those particular cultures. Which were pretty much unfair stereotypes.
RA: I'd like to go back to the problems you've had with the Haitian side of the family. Most of us light skinned people are accustomed to hearing about racism against people who are different, but you describe a racism against people who look similar, and for their similar traits. The first time I was introduced to this concept I was completely surprised, and I imagine that some of our readers are, too. What do you think spawns this kind of thinking? Why would dark-skinned people value light skin over dark?
LIBERTAD: Well in the Caribbean, especially the Spanish speaking countries, The term "Blanqueamiento" to "mejorar la raza" is a common practice. The word "Blanquemiento" means to whiten and "mejorar la raza" is "to improve the race".
What it basically means is that little brown and black kids are raised to believe that you never marry or have kids with someone darker than you. If you are black, you must be with someone white so that your children won't be "black". There are benefits to being closer to white in Latin American countries whether people want to admit it or not. Lighter skinned people are more likely to get better jobs, get treated better, you won't see black people on TV in Latin American countries and they are not taught about black history in these countries. It's a very sad reality that is engraved in our history. In these countries being white or mixed with white means you'll have an easier life than someone who doesn't. So even though it's wrong, it's never going to stop.
Looking back at Haiti's history with the Dominican Republic is painful. Here are these neighboring countries that have rifts because of race alone. In the 1930's more than 20,000 Haitians died in the Dominican Republic because of their race. I'm exposed to both cultures where I live and to be honest, it's hard sometimes to tell the difference between a Haitian and a Dominican. Why? Because both have people with deep roots in Africa. When a Dominican person gets mad at me for accusing her for a Haitian I know why. Because being Haitian means being black. Some Dominicans don't want to refer to themselves as black.
So imagine being from Haiti, how badly you're treated by people that look like you, and with the exception of language, are you. You become resentful. You become hurt. You begin to hate what you are. And that's why some darker skinned people prefer lighter skinned people. It's a sad, sad reality.
RA: That whitening business is really is sad, and reminds me of Hitler and his determination to improve the race *shiver*. As for the problem between the Haitians and Dominicans, I think it's tempting for those who aren't in the middle of the conflict to see everything in simple categories of black/white/Latino/Asian, etcetera, which clearly isn't accurate. Thank you for reminding us that the world is much bigger than we sometimes like to think. You said 'it's never going to stop'. Can you imagine any way that it could be resolved?
LIBERTAD: Can I imagine any way it's going to be resolved? That's a tough question. I think the first step is teaching young brown and black children early in schools about the contributions brown and blacks have done for their countries. I remember meeting a little Panamanian girl a few years ago(she was black btw) who wanted to be an actress. I told her that's a great idea, you'd make a wonderful performer and you know what she told me? "How can I be an actress, Soy Negra y no soy hermosa como yo(I'm Black and I'm not pretty like you are). Take in mind that she wasn't American.
In Panama, you don't really see blacks on TV. I was shocked. She thought that by the color of her skin that she couldn't do something. And I'm sure she wasn't satisfied with her looks because she was black. I kinda wanted to cry because she was so young and she felt this way about herself. She didn't think black people could be certain things because they don't learn that black is beautiful in Latin America.
We all think that Brazil is this diverse, happy place where everyone gets along because they all claim to be Brazilian and aren't defined by their races, but I just found out this year, that even that is some fantasy. Blacks are just having their "Black Pride" movement now, something here in the USA has been going on for 50+years. It's kinda crazy,lol.
Will it stop? No, not as long as white supremacy has these countries by the neck. But the same thing happens here in the USA, we just haven't named it.
RA: Thank you for sharing that. It's so sad, but maybe if more people become aware of the problem, they'll be able to do a little something to offset it. Something my husband and I both strive for in different ways is to get people to see others as equally valuable and neither inferior nor superior. The idea is that teaching the majority/'in' crowd that others are not beneath them is maybe even more valuable than teaching minorities that they are valuable. But anyway, back to your partner. You mentioned that your family had some stereotypes about Haitians and Columbians. Will you explain what you meant by that?
That he was a practitioner of Haitian Voodoo and could not be trusted. After extensive research I later learned that Voodoo is a religion, it is not some dark art people practice to use witchcraft and make people their slaves. No, it's a legitimate way of life and beliefs. My grandmother practiced Santeria until she turned 50. Santeria a is just about the same thing as Haitian Voodoo. And no it doesn't involve shrunken heads or sticking pins in a doll. Once I explained that to them they stopped with the "You better not leave loose hairs around him, he might use them to put a spell on you". Ridiculous, right?
That he had AIDS. Which I'm not sure where that rumor came from, that all Haitians have AIDS, like who makes this stuff up?
That he can't articulate himself well in Spanish. The last time I checked, Cubans spoke the most informal Spanish out of most Latin American countries. And I was quick to tell my family that making words up on the spot does not count as proper! Cuban people have a tendency to make up words on the spot when they don't know the Spanish word for it, this is mainly Miami natives though. For example, El centro means "Downtown", in Miami downtown is now "El dountoun". That left them in silence.
That he does drugs, sells drugs, transported drugs...they just connect all drugs to Colombians. My boyfriend is American, so yeah he wasn't doing any transporting.
Colombians are gang members. Social Intimidators.
RA: As you said, stereotypes are unfair, but in his case, were your family's assumptions of your partner's genes grounded in personal experience (meaning your family had had negative interactions with people from these countries), in media, or in something else?
LIBERTAD: Well in Miami, where my family used to live, we were surrounded by a lot of Haitian and Colombian people. Miami is home to tons of immigrants. Haitians made up about 6% of the population, Colombians about 2%. That doesn't seem like a lot but it was. These were things they either heard floating around or knew people that fit their ignorant views.
Lots of times my family chooses to omit that my boyfriend is mixed race. They will simply say he is "Haitian" when he comes up in conversation because they've determined that they prefer Haitians over Colombians. It's just kind of obnoxious.
RA: You've shared some very insightful viewpoints with us, and I thank you. You have such a unique perspective on the topic of interracial relationships, and a much better grasp on their complexities than I could ever have. Still, I'll keep trying! In closing, I'll ask you this: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing on the topic of interracial relationships and be sure they would hear it, what would you tell them?
LIBERTAD: Hmmm....I suppose I would say be sure to learn something from the experience of being in an interracial couple. Everyone always says Love is love and all that stuff doesn't matter, but I think it does matter. Take the time to learn about each other's different experiences. AND LISTEN, don't ask any questions until you fully understand what is being said to you. Parts of the reason I like being in an interracial relationship is the learning experience that comes along with it. If you've learned nothing, you may have missed out on an amazing experience. There are also some downsides, so don't think being in an interracial couple makes life easier. Being in an interracial relationship can be difficult because sometimes it can alter people's perspective of you and you spend a lot of time trying to figure out why. But all in all, you just be open to learning. Never assume things.