Navigating Around Racism In An Interracial Relationship

Sean & Chikumo

I’ve had a few questions recently around being in an interracial relationship especially at this time with the Black Lives Matter movement. With the overload of information we’ve all consumed recently, I thought this would be a good place to write how I feel so you can check it out whenever you’re ready.

Where do I even begin?!

If this time has taught me anything it’s that firstly, I wasn’t as open enough with Sean about some of my experiences and that was mainly due to the fact that I’m so used to getting on with life until I literally can’t cope.

He once saw me fall and bruise my arm really badly. This bruise lasted weeks and he commented on the fact I didn’t cry which surprised him. He looked at me at that time and thought I must have a really high pain threshold. The fall really hurt but I think about that now and how mentally as a black woman, we’re so used to having to deal with mental and sometimes physical pain that we just get on with it. It’s been proven that even in hospital settings, a black person is less likely to be taken seriously about pain so when you grow up being told that, what else are you meant to do? At least that’s what I thought but now, I know I need to stop doing things like that or he’ll think I’m okay when I’m really not.

In general, we’re used to being stared at when we’re together. We’re used to the fact that there are some black people who don’t think I should date a white man and there are some white people that don’t think he should date a black woman… Obviously, none of these examples are things that anyone should be used to but that’s been our life. Sometimes it gets to him, sometimes it gets to me and sometimes we don’t notice it. If anything, he notices it more than me but its become so normalised now that most of the time, we just get on with what we’re doing and don’t allow it to bother us.

In our relationship specifically, I’ve found that honesty is the best policy. However, couple my brutal honesty with two very stubborn people and I bet it would make for some interesting viewing for a fly on the wall.

Sean is a white, 30+ Irish man who has benefited from white privilege all of his life and grew up in a time where the first black person he ever saw was a black British soldier. He didn’t grow up in a diverse world and this means during our time together, he has had to unlearn some of his behaviours and call others out on theirs.

The one thing I have always appreciated about Sean is that no matter how stubborn he is or how much I think he hasn’t heard what I’ve said, he always comes back and finds a way to reassure me he has. Like I said, Sean has grown up with white privilege and has no idea what it’s like to be black, never mind what its like being me so he is my best example to the fact that behaviour can be unlearned as long as a person wants to and that it doesn’t take much to be a decent human being! I will also take this point to point out that Sean has never been racist so when I talk about unlearning behaviour, I mean day to day ignorance’s.

Being with me recently has meant having to deal with my elevated anxiety, my anger and my tears, especially at a time where I can’t even get a hug from my parents. Sometimes I sit and wonder what its like for him to suddenly have to deal with my mind erupting because it clearly isn’t easy. How can it be when I can’t even explain how I feel sometimes?

The education process works both ways because we grew up in such different worlds but that’s something we understand. Before we can even look at our relationship, what works and what doesn’t, there are factors out of our control that affect our relationship and that takes some patience. It can be hugely frustrating sometimes but we have our boundaries and we’ve always agreed that our relationship and our home has to be a safe place and that is something we work on.

We have had to talk about so many uncomfortable topics that he definitely never thought off e.g. having children. I’ve had to explain things like how I would be 5 times more likely to die during child birth than a white counterpart mainly because of systematic racism and the difference between what his niece would be taught vs what our kids would HAVE to be taught. We’ve had to navigate how we communicate racism and prejudice especially from family and friends. Ultimately, we have had to also learn how to shut off from it all and find our moments of happiness because that’s what really matters.

Our relationship is by no means perfect, but I am lucky enough to be with someone who loves me for me. Someone who pushes me to be the best I can be and someone who believes in me.

The things we have to deal with won’t change overnight but I really hope people keep fighting even once the momentum dies down. Keep educating yourselves, keep spreading love and keep spreading hope. That’s the only way we’ll see change!




  • Elle

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I’m in a similar position and I try my best to educate my partner before we have children as they will ultimately have their own struggles being of mixed heritage!

    • chikumo

      Thank you. I didn’t realise how important it was until I started to actually imagine us having kids. It’s scary!

  • William Hutchinson

    You say your boyfriend has “white privilege” because he is a working class white person living in a mainly white area. Wasn’t you privileged enough in Zambia to have servants and maids (modern day slavery?). I’m sure working class people don’t have servants and maids.

    • chikumo

      First of all educate yourself before using words such as modern slavery. There are people who work as butlers etc. Would you call that modern slavery? You’ve also never been to Zambia so yes in some ways people have privilege but again, educate yourself on the term white privilege. The point is that people get things in life because of the colour of their skin and some (no matter how educated) are not given opportunities because of the colour of their skin.

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