Below is an exclusive extract from interracial couple and co-authors Tineka Smith and Alex Court’s book 'Mixed Up: Confessions of an Interracial Couple'
'That black guy is looking at me after I kissed Alex,' I started thinking. I know that look… Maybe if I cross the street he’ll let it go. After crossing the road, I stole a peek over my shoulder. 'Sh*t,' I said to myself, 'he’s still following me – this isn’t going to end well'. It might sound like I was paranoid – I mean how can someone tell what another person is going to do just from the look on their face? But I knew something was going to happen because I have experienced it before. I knew what the disapproving look meant, and the sucking of teeth and shaking of the head. Sometimes I have heard people shout, 'Stick with your own!', but typically, people keep walking, muttering indistinguishable comments under their breath.
As I quickened my pace, I started to turn my head to see if the man was still following me, and before I could even turn fully around, a big loogie landed on my neck. Yes, that’s right. He spat on me. I froze, stunned. What the hell just happened? I had never been spat on before. Of all the names I have been called, and the aggressions I have experienced as a Black woman, I now know being spat on is the worst. It made me feel dirty. It made me feel like I was less than nothing.
Spitting is the most effective and universal way of saying 'f*ck you' to someone without having to utter a word. After a few numbing seconds of trying to compute what had just happened, I wiped the spit off the side of my neck and grew hot with anger.
I never thought someone would do that to me, let alone someone from the Black community. I always assumed that prejudice would only come from white people, as I grew up being taught that they were the only ones who cause minorities to feel oppressed and marginalised. To this stranger, I did not belong. I was a traitor to my own race and deserved to be punished.
While it was wrong what he did, I can perhaps imagine how he felt. In a world where he has likely been through hardships based on the colour of his skin, and probably experienced daily aggressions and racism at the hands of white people, it could have been very hard for him to see a Black woman show affection to someone from a race that has caused him to hurt. That’s what racism does to people who are on the receiving end. It hurts, degrades and can create a sort of anger and bitterness that is very hard to ignore.
When I was a child, before the realities of life hit me, I used to be a carefree person. I used to be trusting to a fault. I used to be naïve about the reality of the world around me. I am not those things any longer, because of the effects and horrors that I have experienced based on the colour of my skin.
Experiencing racism has taken aspects of myself away from me. In order to protect myself and my sanity I have less patience. I am less trusting. I have to stand up and fight for myself more. I am constantly thinking about whether a negative slight is based on the colour of my skin, my gender, both or neither, and to constantly have to pass through the world thinking that way is a sad thing. I don’t want to do it. I don’t enjoy doing it. I don’t want to be strong all the time. I don’t want to fight all of the time. But the racism embedded in our society forces me to be this way.
I want to be sweeter. I want to be kinder. I want to be more trusting. I want to be more patient. But I am not able to be those things. It is savage to refuse to see fellow people as human because of the colour of their skin. And for persons of colour to be used as a symbol of something hated is disheartening and speaks to the sadness that is our society, our reality.
Racism affects white people, too. For those who wield it, it chips away at what could have been goodness within them. Racism creates a reality that is less loving, less trusting and less unified. It tricks people out of experiencing the richness of different cultures, viewpoints and personalities. It promotes a bland, cold world with no feeling or understanding of human dignity. I am proud to be a part of my Black 'race'. But I want to be even prouder to be part of the human race.
Mixed Up by Tineka Smith and Alex Court is available to download as an Audible Audiobook here.
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