With 49% of Brits still fearing backlash for dating someone from another ethnic background, interracial couple Tineka Smith and Alex Court share the lessons they have learned.
In their book, MIXED UP: Confessions of an Interracial Couple, Tineka Smith and her husband Alex Court open up about their interracial relationship for the first time, writing about the challenges of navigating race and relationships in the 21st century head on.
In this exclusive writeup for Melan Magazine they reveal some important relationship facts, dos and don’ts of life as an interracial couple.
The ‘race talk’ needs to happen at the start of the relationship – Tineka
My husband and I didn’t discuss race at the start of our relationship and this caused problems when we had racist or discriminatory encounters that we weren’t prepared for. While every relationship is different, it’s vital to have open conversations about race at an early stage. And for many people, it’s not an easy topic to bring up. According to the MIXED UP IN LOVE report from Inner Circle, only four in 10 respondents would start a serious conversation about race after seeing their partner experience racism. And 36% said they would only talk about it if they noticed their parents treating their partner differently.
So, what happened when #Meghan, the #DuchessofSussex and Prince Harry sat down for an exclusive almost two-hour interview with Queen of Chat, @Oprah? https://t.co/rY0qGcQGQy pic.twitter.com/Crbx0xeUWx
— Melan Magazine (@Melanmagazine) March 10, 2021
Ignoring the racial aspect of any interracial relationship is bound to bring up issues later on. Speaking openly about this added layer in any relationship allows a couple to build a supportive and honest relationship with each other. This ‘talk’ should also extend to families in serious relationships. We didn’t talk about race with my in-laws either and lived under the assumption we were all on the same page about race. However, once my husband and I started talking openly about our experiences and lessons about race and relationships we received racial harassment from relatives we didn’t expect.
People will question your relationship – be prepared – Alex
During our marriage it has been surprising how many people have told me that my wife is Black or that I am married to someone who has a different racial profile to me. I’m talking about close friends, colleagues, acquaintances. A bubbly white woman I chatted to at a dinner once even provided her shocking sentiment that it must be “so hard being married to a Black woman”. I find it frustrating and difficult when strangers think they know more about your life than [me], but it is a real part of life in an interracial relationship. Sadly, research from the report shows these types of reactions are a major fear for people in the UK with 49% of respondents stating they were afraid of backlash from friends and family for dating outside their race.
The phrase “Love is colourblind” is a myth -Tineka
Our race and culture is a part of our identity and to deny that aspect of ourselves or anyone else isn’t fair to any relationship. We’ve learned that when it comes to interracial relationships, it’s a wonderful thing to embrace the aspects that are different which also gives us an opportunity to learn about another person’s perspective. We don’t focus on the colour of our skin all the time in our relationship, but we can certainly see the differences in our skin colour.
Accept that you see the world differently – Alex
We’ve learnt that we can be in the same place at the same time and see totally different things. For instance, Tineka and I were on a train once and an elderly woman approached Tineka and spoke to her in a condescending way. What Tineka saw was racism. What I saw was less sinister.
Our racial profiles influence the way people treat us and what we expect from other people. As a white man I expect to be treated respectfully because that’s what happens most of the time. For Tineka that’s not the case. As a couple we must accept this sad reality, speak about it openly and support one another.
It’s vital to stand up for each other when racist comments are made – Alex
Racist comments hurt. But what is the best way to use that pain? We’ve learnt that pretending it didn’t happen isn’t an option. We’ve also realised that the best reaction can depend on the situation. For instance, we were at a dinner with friends and someone said something with racist undertones. There was a feeling which built up within as we realised what had been said wasn’t acceptable. The next step isn’t necessarily shouting at them or throwing your food in their face. But it is 100% necessary for people in interracial couples to pull them up and protect their partner by pointing out that its not OK to make that kind of comment. I’ve learned that recognizing racism, when it appears, and then reacting appropriately isn’t always easy but it’s essential.
Mixed Up: Confessions of an Interracial Couple by Tineka Smith and Alex Court is out now in paperback, published by Headline. Buy the book here.