Kanye West spoke about his relationship with wife Kim Kardashian, saying they had endured ‘two years of people not understanding an interracial relationship’ [Getty]
This week, the Office for National Statistics has released figures revealing that one in 10 couples in England and Wales involve two people of different ethnicities. In total, 2.3 million of us are now living in inter-ethnic relationships. So why are interracial relationships still taboo?
We spoke to PR Lucy Dartford, who faces regular abuse simply because she is white and her boyfriend is black...
‘Walking along the street hand in hand with my boyfriend, Raymond, we were oblivious to the van that pulled up alongside us. Until, that is, the driver – hatred etched on his face – wound down his window and screamed, “w*g meat” at me, before speeding off. I want to say this is unusual but, depressingly, it’s far from it. Why? Because I am white and Raymond is black. And the sight of a mixed-race relationship – in the middle of London in 2014 – is still enough to evoke overt racism from complete strangers.
‘So when I heard that a recent study had claimed my generation believe we’re living in a “post-racial” society, I laughed out loud. Apparently, 20-somethings now believe racism is more of a problem for older generations and admit they are “colour blind”… in other words, a bit confused about what racism actually is.
‘I don’t know what world the people surveyed by MTV live in, but it’s not the same one as me. Indeed, they’re either very lucky or very naive. Because, despite the huge steps we’ve taken as a society, racism is, sadly, alive and well. And it comes in many forms – the public hatred from the van driver through to subtle racism from friends who would insist they’re only joking when they nudge and ask “if it’s true what people say about black men”
‘Before I started dating Raymond, 34, an engineer, 18 months ago, I was obviously aware of racism, but had never had any personal experience of it. I was raised in London and have friends of many nationalities, cultures and colours. I heard their stories of experiencing racial abuse in the street, or of feeling discriminated against at work. I read about racist attacks in the paper, and saw footage from EDL marches on the news. But while I was aware of what other people experienced, as a white British woman I was protected from it.
‘Racism didn’t happen in my world until I fell in love with Raymond, who is British and of West Indian and South American descent. We were introduced by a friend in an East London bar in 2012. I was instantly attracted to him and luckily he felt the same. Yet while we were experiencing
the heady days of our early relationship, I was also getting my first glimpse of what he sadly has had to face all his life.
‘Some of my (white) acquaintances seemed almost scandalised by our relationship. We all love a gossip about a friend’s new boyfriend, but this was different. “What’s it like dating a black man?” they would practically whisper, as if we were discussing something taboo. They acted as if I was doing something rebellious by going out with a black guy, or he was some sort of accessory I’d picked up to court attention. I didn’t see the point of being confrontational, so I’d simply say he was exactly the same as their boyfriend or husband, and change the conversation.
‘This subtle, casual racism is something we face all the time. Even now, we get comments from people about what “adorable children” we’ll have together. It’s like our different skin colours make us a bit of a novelty, as opposed to just a normal couple.
‘If I’m being generous, I don’t think people are even aware they’re being racist. Yet comments like that are simply not appropriate. Raymond and I don’t react because what’s the point in becoming embroiled in one uncomfortable conversation after another. Harder to ignore, however, is the aggressive and frightening racism from strangers. I was stunned – not to mention devastated – the first time Raymond was called a n****r by a stranger in the street. He shrugs it off, saying it’s nothing new to him and he’s learned to ignore the abuse and threats, but it’s horrific. In what is meant to be a progressive society, how can a person’s skin colour still be a reason to hate them?
‘I’ve also experienced reverse racism when I was recently out with a friend of a friend, who is black. At first she was really friendly, but when Raymond arrived, she became cold and withdrawn. Shortly afterwards, she tweeted, “white women shouldn’t be stealing black men”. I can’t help but think she was referring to me; that she believes we should stick to our own colour when it comes to relationships.
‘So is this the “racism by stealth” Dawn French was referring to last week? The comedienne spoke about the racist abuse she and Lenny Henry suffered when they were married, including an arson attack on their home and having excrement smeared on their front door by members
of the Ku Klux Klan. While Raymond and I thankfully haven’t experienced anything as extreme as that, we’ve certainly had the disapproving looks from strangers, the inappropriate comments from acquaintances… it’s as dangerous as someone screaming abuse at us in the street because it goes under the radar and isn’t reported.
‘The UK isn’t getting any less racist, despite the fact there’s never been more mixed-race couples, and with parties like UKIP growing in popularity, I fear we’re moving in a very worrying direction. I’m also scared when a generation are saying they don’t think racism is going to be a problem for them. By ignoring the issue, it will only get worse. If I have mixed-race children, I worry they would be very likely to be discriminated against or even physically hurt just because of the colour of their skin. How is that “post-racial”?
‘Yet I’ve got a message for all the haters… you’re not winning. Far from having a negative effect on our relationship, experiencing racism as a couple has only made us closer. We feel a sense of solidarity against the people who hate the fact we are in love. And if colour is such an issue to them, I pity them and the sad little lives they lead.’