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Our Daughter, Ourselves

I met "Tiny" at a gig. He is a drummer - I am an ex-musician/non-profit computer drone. He is black - I am white. He is 35, I am 38. He is working class, I am privileged middle class. He was born in Virginia, I was born in Manhattan. We met nine years ago and have been together for six and a half. I love his playing. I love his talent and passion for music. I identify with his need to play, perform and listen. We have the same values - we are not drinkers, druggers. We feel passionately about issues of injustice and prejudice. We both work very hard and we make an excellent team.

We still have problems. He is the black Ralph Cramden - in his gruffness and loudness. Sometimes I don't know whether to attribute our differences to race, culture, gender or class. My gut instinct says gender and class. Race becomes an issue in the public world but seldom in our private world. We often joke about it - he says I have a lot of "soul for a white girl" - I tease him about his greasy do-rag. We live in Brooklyn and know at least 4 other "mixed" couples. The very few negative reactions we have experienced have been from my crazy step-mother. Our parents never made it an issue. Our friends never really made it an issue. Strangely enough there have only been a few uncomfortable moments in our almost 7 year relationship. People at my job don't bat an eyelash. I guess we keep expecting something to happen.

Yet there is definitely a self-consciousness as a couple. A survival "look over your shoulder" instinct when you are in a strange or foreign place. Travelling is scary. We worry about being pulled over by crazy young racist cops. I worry about him being killed by a policeman. He worries about me being raped. We have been trying to move for 2- 3 years. We never know if the problem is our working poor income in this inflated real estate market, our dog, our toddler daughter or the fact that we are a mixed couple and real estate agents don't want to have anything to do with us. That's when the issue of face interferes with our lives and asserts itself as an ugly, nasty fear.

Our arguing style is very different and is the main cause of friction. He is angry, paranoid and very concerned with preserving his male dignity. I am very emotional, need to communicate constantly, impatient and outspoken. The personal difficulties I think are gender-role based. He doesn't like to talk - I like to talk too much.

It is in the raising of our daughter that we are most conscious of race. The world will see her as a black woman though her mommy is white. This is why we have chosen to try and stay in Brooklyn. When we move out of our neighborhood (which we cannot afford anymore) we will probably move to a thriving immigrant community (Central-American or Caribbean). We put her in a diverse daycare (mostly Latino and black) so she wont become isolated in her difference. She has a doll that looks like her daddy and dolls that look like her. She has books about Vikings, Baba Yaga (my father was Danish, my mother is Russian), West Africans and slavery. She listens to James Brown and Seamus Eaghan. She knows four bi-racial kids that live within 1 mile of our home. I want her to feel that bi-racial is an identity unto itself. In our community this is common. I want her to be prepared for the racism and sexism she will encounter outside of our neighborhood by having her own strong sense of ethnic identity - both white (in my case Scandinavian and Russian) and black (West African, Southern US, Trinidad). Our Family will provide her with that strength to transcend the narrow definition of race our society will try to impose on her.

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