At first, she was too young to fully comprehend it. She knew it was dark and ugly, but the reality of it was too hard for her to comprehend. Until the day she faced its raging eyes of condemnation head on.
As a 12-year-old girl, she became aware of the effect it had on others. So she cunningly implied to her friends that her new boyfriend was white. She had never heard his unique name in her limited circle, so she assumed it wouldn’t alert them to her secret love. It was simply easier to use his first name, Jonathan. It was a familiar name, and it must’ve worked because no one in her white-majority middle school even thought to ask about the color of his skin. She dared not even tell her aging grandparents that she had connected with someone, fearing they would ask too many questions. They proudly wore the ugliness she desperately wanted to ignore. The shame and devastation her secret would bring weren’t worth it when their hearts and bodies were already failing. It was a secret she kept to herself while living in two different realities.
Upon moving to a more diverse area right before high school, the secret weighed on her. She had matured a little and felt released to stop hiding her truth in some circles. The news of her black beau surprised them. The responses of her peers revealed that the ugliness had been passed down. “You’re too good for him,” a few boys taunted, disguising their disgust with flattery. “She’s the one who thinks she can just steal our guys,” the black girls scoffed as she walked by. “Why can’t you just find a good white boy?” they insisted. “Black guys don’t even like skinny white girls,” some teased. “He doesn’t really want to be with you.” Sadly, he wasn’t there to fend off the lies, so she did her best to let the words dissolve before they penetrated her heart. She couldn’t believe the dark places she hadn’t chosen to face before and the insecurities that ensued within her. Suddenly, the segregation of cultures in the cafeteria was blatant to her. The tendency for most to stick with their own kind was strong. The reality of hate and racism hit her like a brick on a windshield.
Different days provoked different emotional responses. Some days she wanted to hide, while other days she deeply desired to flaunt her relationship to prove she didn’t care. Her experience was so confusing and isolating. She would hear from the one she loved that everything in his circle was totally normal (his school wasn’t even that far from hers). It didn’t make sense. She counted down the hours until she could break away from her reality to her safe place. All races, all shades, accepted at all times in her near perfect youth group. For a few hours a week, she was normal in this space of amazing love.
The guilt she felt when her grandparents began to die was pitiful. She was devastated to see them go, but there was a wounded, honest part of her that was finally free from hiding a part of herself. It had been a strange burden to carry. She slowly adapted to and passively accepted the sneers and biased opinions toward her relationship. She made it through high school with a few close friends and the anticipation of graduating as quickly as possible.
She fantasized that freedom would reach an ultimate high when the two of them were married. She naively thought that adulthood would silence the hatred and those that carried it. Nothing could have been more false. But together, it was easier. To display their love and adoration for one another was irresistible, and the haters simply had to endure it. Onlookers were provoked to state their objections, but the rings had been placed, their hearts now one. The stares and whispers weren’t unnoticed, but they eventually lost their influence on her. Over time, she realized that she wasn’t a victim, and she stopped feeling sorry for herself. Her compassion was now directed toward her enemies, the protesters and hate bearers, the ones who couldn’t find the truth.
Today, that little girl is a woman who prays. Not for herself or for her interracial family. She prays for the ones crippled by the ugliness of hate. She prays for those that didn’t ask for it to be passed down to them. She prays for the ones who can’t seem to find freedom from it. Because in another world, it could’ve been her trying to find a way to love.
Hate is such a strong word but only because people give it strength. We must decipher what makes this world beautiful and give our strength to things that contribute to that beauty instead of strengthening the very things that tear us apart.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on whatlifewrites.com
Featured Image by Steve Johnson