How many of you watched this and said: 'Ive GOT to get one of those watches!'?
"Interracial intimacy is subversive of the racial order."
Rachel F. Moran, Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance
Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. I love going to movies alone, dining at a table for one, and wandering through the grocery store at my leisure. I embrace “awkward” moments of silence during conversations, and I welcome moments of solitude. I don’t make small talk on airplanes, I avoid sitting next to people at bars, and at schmoozing events my priority is finding a strategic location to camp out that’s equidistance to the bar and where the food comes out. In those types of settings, I think the most important people to know are the wait staff and bartenders.
I also love challenging the assumptions and expectations others have about me, which is the only way I can explain my impromptu infiltration of a “White Dance Circle” (WDC) at our friend’s birthday gathering some time ago. As we sat with our friends and their other guests in the venue’s lounge, I noticed a translucent curtain sectioning off our group—a mix of black, brown, and white people--from the group next to us that appeared to be entirely white except for one black guy. To protect his identity, I’ll simply refer to him as “Undercover Brother” (UB).
Now, like the lone black guy in the other group, many of us have experience being "the only." Typically this occurs when you walk into a setting-- maybe it’s a networking event, a classroom, a meeting, a conference, a boardroom, a country club, a job fair, a Justin Beiber concert, a fish fry, a rodeo, a Renaissance fair, a step show, a cruise ship, Congress, wherever--and it appears that you share absolutely nothing in common with anyone else in the room. Generally, if you are “the only” and you happen to see another person with whom you sense a connection, it’s common courtesy to smile, make eye contact or give the “wassup” head nod. But I suspected that UB suffered from “White People Territorialism” (WPT, also known as ‘These-Are-My-White-People!’ Syndrome) a condition stemming from extreme insecurity. Symptoms of WPT include jealousy, rage, or passive aggression (similar the behavior exhibited by toddlers and infants competing with newborn siblings). Because once our group arrived, he was no longer “the only” no longer “special,” “unique,” “unconventional,” or the only person on the dance floor presumed to have rhythm. And he confirmed my suspicions when I overheard him say to one of his friends: “Watch out, there’s a black girl dancing behind you.” Now, I’m not a violent person, but the “PG” in me wanted to hand my husband my purse, take off my shoes and earrings, tie my hair up in a bun, tap him on the shoulder, get up in his face, and say “I bet you won’t say that to my face if we step outside.” But I thought it better to just let it go.
So as the night progressed I took note at the circular formation in which UB’s group danced, and I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “Watch, by the end of the night, I’m going to be in the middle of that dance circle.” And that’s exactly what happened. A couple of songs later, the curtain had been pulled back, I was hi-fiving a bunch of strangers, and Mission: Dance Circle Infiltration was a success. While chatting with a friend about everything that happened, I was surprised to hear about the extreme discomfort she feels as the only black woman in a group of white men. I just couldn’t relate, and I didn’t know why. We both grew up in the same geographic area. Attended similar schools and attained similar levels of education. We’re both “introverts-who-happens-to-be-personable” and throughout our lives we've both worked in professional fields and institutions dominated by white men.
But when I think about that night and similar social settings, I wonder whether my marriage to a white man, and the implications of that aspect of my socialization, produces a sense of ease when I’m in a room full of people who don’t look like me. And taken to an extreme, does my interracial marriage give me the privilege of connecting with a racial group different from my own, in a way that I wouldn’t but for my interracial marriage? To what extent does my husband’s race connect me to a group of people and social context different from the one in which I grew up, or the one in which I would function if I married someone on the same race or ethnicity?
However intimate the relationship, I don’t think that interracial intimacy guarantees complete and automatic embrace and identification with another culture. Like the curtain separating our groups at the party, it may be translucent, and it may get pulled back from time to time, but it’s still hanging in the room.