Beyond Black and White Interview Spotlight: Jasmine and Lorne
By: Tacicia Bryan
This interview was with Jasmine, who shared about her 30-year interracial marriage in Canada. Fun fact: we’re actually from the same town. I hope you enjoy the interview!
What are your names?
Our names are Jasmine and Lorne. We’ve been married for 30 years and we also have two children, Michael and Steven. We married in 1988.
How did you meet?
We met at a blind date during my final year of university. My roommate and her boyfriend decided to connect us together. My roommate had asked me multiple times to go on a date with him, but I said, “No.” Her boyfriend finally asked me to come to a double date, and I decided to join them. The free tickets to dinner definitely sweetened the deal. We were supposed to meet up at an apartment, but when I arrived, Lorne wasn’t there yet. My roommate and her boyfriend were starting to worry about me, and assured me that he would be there soon. While they were apologizing to me, he showed up. Lorne came in with his leather jacket and motorcycle. I was very impressed. I thought he looked very cool.
What are your cultural or ethnic backgrounds?
I am a black woman from the Caribbean. My mom is Jamaican and my dad is Anguillan. I was born in England, but I moved to Canada. Lorne is white. He is Canadian – his mother is Scottish, and his father is Canadian.
When did you know it was going somewhere?
Fairly early on in the relationship, I started to feel like our relationship was getting pretty serious. I think he started to feel the same way about seven months later, when he invited me to dinner with his parents.
What is your ideal date?
We really enjoy travelling and going to different places. For example, we like going to a UNESCO site, with a curator working beside us. That is a great treat. Lorne, my husband, is really interested in history and walking, so we plan our ideal dates around that.
What is the best thing that you like about each other?
Frankness and honesty are really important. Also, we make allowances for educational experiences and being teachable. You don’t know what you don’t know, right? It’s so important to listen to understand.
What is the best part about being together?
Definitely companionship – We got married when we were young, so, we weren’t just marrying each other – we were marrying each other’s families. Both of our families were there for guidance. We could talk to each other’s parents at any time, for advice or for company.
What challenges have you faced?
We did have some major issues throughout the years, but most of the issues were pretty minor. Many years ago, the occupancy rate used to be zero in Toronto. We were young and married, just looking for a place to stay. Lorne’s grandfather invited us to stay with him at his place in North York. His apartment was a key apartment – almost like a gated community. His grandmother was already in a nursing home, so he had more than enough room for us.
The one thing I noticed was that there were no people of colour in the building except for me. However, we didn’t have any problems until his grandfather became sick rather quickly and passed away. We weren’t yet on the apartment list but we decided to take over ownership of the unit, as we had been living their previously. That created a lot of problems for us. People constantly kept knocking on the door to ask us questions about the ownership of the unit, or about family members who were visiting us. We had a small baby at the time, so things were rather rough. The building owner was threatening lawsuits and implying that visiting family members were moving drugs in and out of our place.
After their filed a claim against us, we counter-sued. As a settlement, we were offered another place to stay in Scarborough. The other apartment offered to us was filled with all-black and lower income residents. After moving to this new place, we quickly realized that while it was more diverse, the environment was not what we wanted for our family. From there, we decided to move to Mississauga.
The other incident affected my husband at work. About five or six years ago, it was my son’s birthday. My husband decided to rent an arcade to celebrate. His boss attended the event. He seemed really surprised that my husband was married interracially. Not too longer after, he lost his job. Thankfully, he was able to find another position somewhere else and get back on his feet.
I’m currently in school studying Education Policy and Leadership. It makes me more aware of racism and colourism in Canada today. For kids of different heritage, the colour of your skin can determine how you experience of racism, how much and how often. My older son gets stopped and carded by the police so often that he sees it as normal. On the other hand, my younger son doesn’t have that experience. There are many areas in Toronto where black male profiling occurs.
Do you find that your location helps your relationship to thrive?
Oh definitely. My husband and I have a very good life here in Canada. We don’t face many major issues. The most common reaction we will get is staring. One time, my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and I were all walking down Yonge Street. There were stares, but I didn’t even notice them. My sister-in-law was upset for me, but I’ve gotten so used to it by now. If I am with my children, I have had people question if that was my child – even at the hospital.However, I think the worst experience that we have had was in Halifax, Nova Scotia (note below). At a restaurant, the waitress didn’t even acknowledge me or address me.
At a recent party we went to, in Mississauga, all of the children came from different walks of life, but they all looked alike. Mississauga is more welcoming. Yes, we get stares, but I don’t even notice the stares. I just live in my own bubble.
These days, I live in a high-end condo with a president of the community. Recently, we went to a community event. One man saw us and greeted us. He assumed that we were new. He had been there 12 years, but we have lived there for 20 years. We have movie nights in the park by the tennis courts. Life is great.
How do you deal with difficult times?
Issues involving race and racism are new for my husband, but we discuss it all the time. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow. Comedy is a great way to move forward as well. Just laughing it off awkward situations and weird moments just brings us closer together.
I have decided to take a more active role in shaping the world around me. I’m working on a PhD on racism and implicit bias. I am also facilitating workshops on race and racism. These sessions help to enlighten people about racism, anti-black racism and bias. I’ve also found writing to be really therapeutic. For instance, I’ve written about my experiences in Toronto. (A link to that work is at the bottom of the article.)
How has your family reacted (to your relationship)?
About five or six months in, I told my parents that he was the one. My mom was telling me not to say that so soon. I had kept myself really busy at that time, and it was a new relationship – a first-time relationships for me, in fact. So I could see why she was worried at first. Colour was never an issue for them though. They loved him from the beginning. I talked to Lorne about how his parents would react when they met me. He said that it would be no problem, as they eat the same food and enjoy the same activities. I think that our shared Canadian experiences really helped to bring us together. His father is a professor and mother is a housewife. Back his Scotland, his mother spent a lot of time with African neighbours who were studying medicine, so she was used to interacting with people from different background.
My relationship with his family is great, and he loves my family. My mother-in-law treats her like her own daughter. My mom, my mother-in-law and I will spend time together. My mom adores my husband. Our family has a house together in Anguilla, my brother and husband will go to the house every so often with the father to fix up the house. Lorne will also help my mother with house renovations and things. We have a really great family dynamic.
How have your friends reacted (to your relationship)?
Well, one of them did bring us together. No one was negative. For the most part, there was no big reaction. Things were just normal. My friends were just excited for me, and wanted to hear about how things were coming along.
Is this a new dynamic for you?
Yes, it was a new dynamic for me, as this was my first serious relationship.
What are some of the expectations you had before your relationship?
I grew up near Bloor West (Toronto suburb) – you know, ethnically diverse but a rather homogenous life, economically speaking. I had always planned to marry someone who spoke something other than English. That didn’t happen. I also wasn’t into clubbing and that scene. I wanted someone who liked different things, and I was able to find that.
Looking back on some of those expectations, how have they changed now?
We were very practical with how we approached our relationship. We knew that I was a little further along in my education, so my husband decided to focus on my degree while he worked. He would work as a manager and a bartender. He worked days and some nights, while I went to school.
Once I graduated, I had an account manager position where I always travelled. I used to travel a lot, so I started to take my family with me, to spend that time together while working. Sometimes I would bring my husband or kids and sometime both. When we had to leave the kids behind, our family really helped us out with childcare. Lorne wanted only our family to look over the children, so both sides of our family helped out if we couldn’t watch the kids.
After a few years, I wanted a fresh start, so I decided to make a change. I switched to teaching for my family, while Lorne focused on general management.
What are some of the things you do to keep your relationship growing?
Time is so important. We spend lots of time together. We’ll bike together, go to the bar together with friends, travel, and go to dinner a lot. It’s so good to have very similar interests and activities. It brings us closer together. I can be more extroverted, while he is an introvert – it depends on the situation. Lorne doesn’t see me as something exotic, just a typical Canadian. He really takes the time to learn more about my cultural background. We eat typical Caribbean food. He’s been to Anguilla and Jamaica.
How are the kids raised, considering they are biracial? How were their experiences growing up?
While my children are technically biracial, I don’t like that term for them. My first son, Steven, is more racially ambiguous, and could pass for black, Indian or Middle Eastern. On the other hand, my second son, Michael, could pass as while. Due to one drop rule, and how it affects our country, I decided to raise my children as black and I identify them that way.
My kids have a really healthy understanding of who they are. Take Michael, for instance. Kids at school were so confused that this white-passing, red-haired child was describing himself as “black” and “Jamaican.” I kept asking him every day how his school day went and about his interactions with other children. I really wanted to see what kids would call him and how they identify him. After I asked him a few times, he told me that the kids just call him, “Michael.” At that point, I decided to leave the racial discussions with the kids until they faced those issues.
What advice would you give to others?
Race is a social construct, so it is not an issue for us. However, it is still something that affects our society. It’s important to be open and talk things out. Conversations are really crucial.
Keep the family involved and talk to the parents, if you can. You can get a lot of help, wisdom and support from family members. There is so much love in our family. His mom is my mom and vice versa. When his mom or my mom comes to an Open House event at her school, I introduce them both to my coworkers as “mom.”
Jasmine has written about her racial experiences in Canada inside of this anthology. Feel free to have a look if you’re interested: https://www.amazon.ca/Shine-Like-Diamond-Compelling-Victories/dp/1988867002/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1546273329&sr=8-1&keywords=shine+like+a+diamond%3A+Compelling+stories+of+Life%27s+victories
Nova Scotia, a Canadian province, has a very complicated racial history. Their dynamic is very similar to the United States.