It’s the holidays, and holidays means travel for me and my family. The nucleus of both of our families live below the Mason Dixon Line, and so we make the 8-hour+ trek from The North to The South. This is something that I dread and look forward to at the same time: I like being with my husband and sons for a long period of time. I loathe being trapped in a car. Also, travel can be stressful, especially driving through particular states.
Anyway, my husband is a fan of Cracker Barrel, a place that I had never been to before. My parents just never took us there… I don’t think there were any locations near my home. Last time we made this trip, my husband suggested that we go to one as our breakfast stop instead of the usual IHOP. I was game. After going through the super tacky gift shop, you sit down in a fun decorated area, and you are given THE BEST BREAKFAST EVER. Ohhh my goodness.
But this is not an advertisement for Cracker Barrel. We decided that, instead of ever going to IHOP, we’ll go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast from now on. Great. So this time around, we stopped by a place conveniently off of I-95 in Connecticut, north of New York.
Service, great. Food, great. Other patrons, awful. And I’m going to get real specific for a second, because I need to call out my people. The Black people at this place were awful.
Not for any of the stereotypical stuff. This was super personal. There was a Black couple there and a Black family there, each seated near my interracial family of four. And they each, in their own way, proceeded to make me and my children increasingly uncomfortable. For some reason, our family–two adorable children, a white man and a Black woman–is utterly offensive to their eye. They stared. They gave disapproving looks. The mother in the one couple discouraged her son from exchanging silly faces with mine. They were rude. They were mean. And for what?
To be clear, most of the white folk there were falling all over themselves to look at, smile at and wave at both of my babies. They are gorgeous and well-behaved.
Now, of course, people choose to judge my marriage early and often. I have family members who still have a problem with the adorable and smart white boy that I decided to bring into the fold. They complain without subtlety nuance or shame. That’s fine. They’re blood. You bear the burden. When strangers do it, I generally take note, but ignore it. This time around, I was angry because it eventually hurt my son’s feelings. My son is 2. Don’t punish him with your bigotry.
The thing about this story that makes it worse is that this has happened before. I have often gone to places that I consider to be potentially hostile white situations with my husband, where I will see other Black people and relax. That relaxation turns into deep sadness when it turns out my allies are actually my enemies. For example, our first year in The North, we went to Cape Code for a little R&R. I was nervous, not really knowing anything about the racial context was there. We end up at an IHOP (heh.) to eat and I immediately feel better when, in the whole of the dinning room, there are two Black young men sitting at one of the booths. My husband and I are seated, we have a lovely time. As the two brothas are leaving, one says on the way out, slowing down so as to be sure I hear, “it’s sad to see a woman like you be in the room with someone like that, sista.” He didn’t turn around, he just decided to make a cowardly statement as he left without any possibility of reply or rebuttal on his part. And it really got to me. All sense of security that I had from the presence of these two men, the sense of security that I thought I had through racial unity and shared experience was just gone. My husband, oblivious, asked me later what had shaken me so. It took a long time to explain to him just exactly what had transpired.
Back to present day: I just want to put on the record. Of the 8 or so times that I’ve had to deal with bullshit regarding my interracial marriage, 7 of the incidents have involved other Black people and me directly. White people seem to have the sense, the shame, the class or the cowardice to keep their prejudice in this regard to themselves (at least, here on the east coast. I’m sure if I were in the deep south or midwest, it would be a different story).
I’m not sorry that I didn’t choose to be lonely. I’m not sorry that I chose to follow my heart and instincts and choose a great partner. I’m not sorry that I have a powerful and balanced marriage. I’m not sorry that I have beautiful children.
So if you are a bigoted Black person, you can suck it. If you are a bigoted ANY type of person, you can suck it! My marriage is awesome.
And Merry Christmas. I hope you ask for some grace from Santa.