By Bianca Alexander
Before getting married, my life was like a rerun of Sex & the City. On an endless quest for Mr. Right, I dated every loser in the book. The nice guy next door: he was a perfect gentleman but boring in bed; the jet-setting playboy who made my spine tingle: he was a verbally abusive philanderer; the freakishly handsome jock with 6-pack abs but the IQ and emotional maturity of a 12 year-old; the artistically talented but tortured artist with an incurable drug problem; and the brilliantly insecure attorney who wanted me to shelf my career to become his stay-at-home trophy wife. I could go on, but I‘ll spare you the drama.
This chapter in my life came to an abrupt halt ten years ago when I tried breaking up with my then-boyfriend, a possessive commitment-phobe. He mocked my dream of marrying “the one” but was unwilling to let me go find him. That night, out of anger and desperation, he brandished a shiny 9-millimeter and pointed it in my direction. Other than TV, I had never even seen a gun. My life flashed before my eyes. I saw family and friends mourning at my closed-casket funeral over a life cut short. Fortunately, I was lucky: he let me go with just a scare. On the teary drive home, I decided to no longer settle for less than what I deserved. After deep soul-searching, I resolved to stop dating all together until I found my soul mate.
Following advice I’d read in a self-help book, I began envisioning my ideal mate. On a legal pad, I wrote down everything I wanted him to be and slept with the list under my pillow. Almost like magic, exactly two month’s later, I met Michael. We literally bumped into each other at the least likely of places—a gay party in West Hollywood. The attraction was instantaneous: He was tall and handsome; witty with a fun-loving personality; romantic and adventurous; artistic and entrepreneurial; a yogi, and most of all, spiritually grounded. He was everything I wrote down on my soul mate list, and one thing I hadn’t: he was white.
Though initially, skin color wasn’t important enough to include on the list, after meeting Michael, the thought of dating outside my race gave me pause. Would dating a white man make me a “sell out” to my race? Would he ever understand how it felt to be a black woman living in America? Would our parents approve of an interracial marriage?
After a few amazing dates, it didn’t take long for us to figure out we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Nevertheless, our first two years together were difficult. Growing up on opposite coasts, we had dramatically different backgrounds and experiences. I believed most white people in America were inherently racist; he believed that other than LAPD and back-country hicks, racism only existed in people’s heads. Whenever the topic of race came up, it always ended in an argument. So we skirted the issue. One day, walking in New York City, a black man called Michael a “white devil” to his face. That’s when we knew it was time to confront the pink elephant.
We decided to rent the 1977 award-winning miniseries “Roots”, based on Alex Haley’s best-selling novel about his African ancestors’ journey to America. Watching the film, we cried together for almost eight hours straight. It forced us to confront our nation’s painful history and come to terms with how it made us feel. We talked about how it felt to live in a country that in some states, outlawed interracial marriage until 1972.
By asking one another powerful questions, we stopped making fear-based assumptions about one another’s differences. In creating a space to share honestly without judgment, the defenses slowly started to come down.
Today, I’ve come to accept that being racist has nothing to do with skin color. Other than occasional insensitivity, we’ve transcended the illusion of race—at least with one other.
As soul mates, we face the same challenges and arguments most relationships do. I hate picking up his dirty socks. He thinks I talk too much. Despite that, we have an unshakable connection that given its unique circumstances, has forced us to dive beneath the surface that dooms many skin-deep relationships. There, we’ve discovered the universal truth that despite being different “colors”, we share one love.