I’m in an interracial relationship. A week before I was to meet my fiancé’s family for the first time over thanksgiving he casually mentioned the fact that many people in his family are huge Trump supporters. I waved away the rest of the conversation and asked him why he didn’t think to mention this before.
“Does it matter?” he asked.
Does it? You see, I’m Latino, and recently the fact seems to matter more and more to the people around me. Random acquaintances and strangers have begun to make increasingly racist comments and my facebook timeline is increasingly filled with vehement messages and equally vehement counter arguments about the dangers of illegal immigrants (Mexicans in particular). It made sense for me to be apprehensive and try as I might I couldn’t get any more details about how much I should actually be worried.
“You’ve met my parents, they don’t care. What does it matter what a great aunt or a couple of cousins think? What are you worried about?”
I worried mostly about there being a scene and I worried about losing my temper. I went through a million different scenarios in my head that began with a comment and ended with a fistfight, or worse, tears.
We arrived after most of his family was assembled and I felt a hush fall and all eyes being drawn to me. I like to think that I imagined the disdainful looks. My future mother-in-law rushed forward with a hug and a drink and took me around to introduce me to everybody. A sister, two brothers and a family friend were safely handled when a cousin loudly asked where my parents were from. My fiancé (who generally missed hints even when they hit him in the face) quickly stepped in with the answer and deflected the conversation into another channel.
I suspected that subtly coordinated efforts were made to keep me away from some of the more inflammatory Trumpets, but they weren’t always met with complete success. One person made vague references to my citizenship and another actually asked me if I was ‘legal’. My mood plummeted. I relaxed a little when dinner began, thinking that perhaps everyone would be too busy loading their plates to notice me anymore and decided that I may as well enjoy the food.
As I stood in a corner picking at some mashed potatoes, a young woman whose relationship to the family I couldn’t remember came towards me and started a conversation about clothes. She noticed my bad mood eventually, I suppose, because she soon stopped, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Why do you care what these people think?”
“They’re his family-“, I began before she cut me off again.
“You’re not marrying them, their opinion doesn’t matter. You’re a smart, beautiful woman and from what I’d heard about you I hadn’t expected you to let a bunch of racist ignoramuses get you down.”
I realised that she was right. Why did I care about what these people thought. I was engaged to a good man who loved me very much , I was successful for black women white men dating, reasonably happy, surely these people, these bigots had no power to affect me if I didn’t let them.
The loud cousin came back for another round and asked me where I’d been born. I smiled sweetly and replied, “The hospital.” My father-in-law-to-be caught my eye and winked.