It’s a topic we’re going to really delve into here and in the book, so we need your help in getting some perspective on this issue. Put simply, if you are dating or married to an ethnic man–Asian, Latino or Middle-Eastern and others–you are hereby not allowed to lurk! Doing so will automatically result in waking up with a giant, pulsing pimple on your nose tomorrow morning.
Since my co-author, ace boon coon, bootleg psychologist, and mentor, Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn has a dance card that looks like the United Colors of Benetton, I thought I’d have her take the lead on this one.
Give her a warm BB&W welcome!
Okay, at the behest of my co-author â€“- and after much kicking and screaming — I am joining the Beyond Black & White discussion. Nothing against any of you–Iâ€™m just a little e-shy when it comes to blogging. I have been happy to let Christelyn take charge in the social media sphere while I quietly busy away on the book.
But as I’ve been reading the post discussions of the past few weeks, I realized that much of the chatter has been decidedly black and white. So in the spirit of our book — and this blog — it’s time for us to go â€œbeyond.â€ So Iâ€™m jumping in to add a little swirl to all this relationship talk, most particularly as it relates to culture and stereotypes.
Now I consider myself pretty open-minded about race and culture mixing, as I’ve had a colorful, cross-cultured, interfaith upbringing. When it came to dating, it was always the man, not his color or culture, that mattered most. Bijan*, however, was something new.
Persian and six years my junior, I was more than a little surprised when he expressed an interest in me. I’d never known any Iranian men who dated outside of their culture â€“ and those that did, didn’t go black.
We met at a class, and hit it off immediately. He was smart, creative and ridiculously handsome. We spent weekends at the movies, going to concerts and museums, hanging out at the mall (he liked shopping for clothes almost as much as me); having lunch, going to dinner. I introduced him to mustard greens, black eyed peas and Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. In turn, he taught me how to kabob the hell out of anything and perfect several basmati rice dishes like a Persian pro. He even attended church with me â€“ and really got into it (okay, what he really loved was â€œthe bandâ€).
Then 9/11 happened. His frustrations with ethnic profiling in the aftermath mirrored complaints my brother would lobby about Driving While Black incidents (which would happen even while not driving) or my dad shaking his head when some white women squeezed their purses a little tighter when he walked by. Of course I had felt the sting too, every time Iâ€™ve been shadowed by a sales clerk in a high-end boutique who was hovering not to help but to make sure I wasnâ€™t trying to get a five-finger discount.
But there was no need to minimize his pain. Mine was no greater than his; just like the horror Jews suffered in the Holocaust is no less or greater than horrors African Americans feel about slavery; nor less or greater than the horrors of the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans.
And yet it’s not just about empathizing, but learning to understand that is key to healthy, successful intercultural or interracial relationships, says Detroit psychologist Gail Parker who specializes in this area.
Although my relationship with Bijan got a little hot and heavy, things eventually cooled down between us. The ink on my divorce papers had barely dried, and he was ready for a girlfriend and someone with whom he could eventually settle down. If the timing had been right, I wonder how we could have navigated through our cultural differences. Could I have learned Farsi? Would he have embraced my faith?
Having serious relationships with men with strong cultural ties (Middle-Eastern, Hispanic and Asian) often comes with familial pressures to marry their own, religious conflicts and certain gender biases. I’ll be uncovering these issues and how conflicts can be resolved (or not) as I continue writing the book.
And speaking of which, I’ve really got to get back to work. Nice chatting with you all…
*Name has been changed