There is a quote by Santosh Kalwar that states, "Love has no culture, boundaries, race, and religion. It is pure and beautiful like early-morning sunrise falling in lake." While this might be true, the year 2020 has made us more aware of the different experiences we face in this country based on the color of our skin. With this year's cultural climate shift, I was curious to learn more about the experience of being in an interracial relationship during this time. While I believe every relationship is different and has its own nuances, what does it look like when race has played a part in the relationship, if at any point at all? I was able to speak to two couples who offered some perspective on how they navigate everything together.
Courtney & Jackson
Courtesy of Courtney & Jackson
Courtney: We had been friends for 10 years and have been a couple for five. We basically met through mutual friends. Before I met Jackson, I've mostly dated within my race or been with men of color. With Jackson, for the more serious relationships, he has dated women of color before he met me. As far as race being an important part in our relationship, it is not something we center our relationship around. We talk about race a lot, and learning about Jackson's childhood was different than what I had expected. Hearing that he grew up in the inner city and he was around people that looked like me kind of checked me a little to not be as narrow-minded.
Jackson: I do feel that I have a different perspective than the average person from the South. I spent a lot of time in neighborhoods where I was the only white person. So I was exposed early on to the mistreatment that happens in communities and by law enforcement. Even in those moments, I knew I was treated differently than the people I was hanging out with.
Have you ever felt that you are treated differently by family and friends because you are in an interracial relationship?
Jackson: My parents were gracious when they didn't understand why I would bring black women home. So they have been working on things before they met Courtney. But with the recent Black Lives Matter movement, there have been great conversations.
Courtney: With Jack's parents, they grew up traditionally Republican. They also have a son (Jack) who dates black women and is a criminal defense attorney, so they get tidbits on how unfair the justice system is. With George Floyd, they were made aware of so many things at once. They have had some really in-depth and hard conversations with us as a couple, saying, "'We weren't fully where we are now and we want to talk about. We are a little upset we weren't there before, but we are here now and we want to ask and learn more.'" I think that's been one of the beauties of us being together in these times.
What is a misconception that you often face as an interracial couple?
Jackson: One misconception is that people don't understand that you are still handling things as a unit. People think that because we are in an interracial relationship, we [either] have things figured out, or the opposite, [with] people thinking that everything is screwed up in the relationship because of the crazy times. Neither one is true.
Courtney: For me being a black woman, I get put in this stereotype of white-washing my culture and intentionally trying to be with a white person instead of me being with the person I love. It's a little bit harder because if you speak to him and talk to him, you can understand why I'm with him. But on the surface it might not look that way, especially during the pandemic.
"As far as race being an important part in our relationship, it is not something we center our relationship around. We talk about race a lot, and learning about Jackson's childhood was different than what I had expected. Hearing that he grew up in the inner city and he was around people that looked like me kind of checked me a little to not be as narrow-minded."
Are there any things you had to unlearn about race in order to gain an understanding of each other?
Jackson: One thing that I will say in general—something that she repeats—'All skin folk aren't kinfolk.' Everybody that you expect to be on your side, whether they are related to you or because they look like you, is not always going to be on your side.
Courtney: That is something I am actively practicing, too, not just for people who look like me, but for people I have known my whole life. I am just trying to learn more about people because not everyone wants to learn more, and even though they look like you, you can't make them do anything they don't want to.
Ashley & Chea
Chea: We met for the first time at the Jay-Z and R. Kelly 'Best of Both Worlds' concert. I had recently gotten out of a relationship, and she was in a relationship at the time. She actually grew up with one of our mutual friends, Jero, who I ended up working with, and we would intentionally continue to cross paths and got introduced to each other.
Ashley: We were friends for four years before we started any commitment. We had a really deep friendship, so we both trusted each other. To be candid, at the time, we were just having fun. I wasn't thinking about being with him forever. So I didn't take his race into consideration. When I became pregnant, that is when race started to become a topic to discuss more.
Chea dated any woman he was attracted to regardless of race before we got together, where I specifically dated black men. I grew up in a pro-black community. So for me, when I visualized my life, I thought I was going to have dark brown babies like myself, marry a dark-skinned man, listen to Talib Kweli, and burn incense. It was intentional, but it wasn't exclusionary.
How do you educate one another (and yourselves) on your racial or cultural differences?
Chea: When we started our relationship, we really educated each other around the black culture and practicing [Islam]. She learned about my father's side and Buddhism. If we knew there was something that was important to us, we would share that with each other. I think what I have been mainly focusing on the last five years years is bridging the gap between what I've learned versus what I know from how I grew up.
I grew up in a majority-white neighborhood. So, 2020 has been an eye-opener where I'm not doing something correctly or no matter what I say, it's not making a substantial change. Whereas with Ashley, she's not at the point to sit down and educate people on how it is to be a black woman in America. She has been doing this her whole life, so she stands for educating yourself.
Have you ever felt you were being treated differently by family and friends because you were in an interracial relationship?
Chea: My mother is Caucasian and my father is Cambodian. It's layered, but on the surface, my mother's side was more accepting. We would go to family gatherings and there wouldn't be any issues really. On my father's side, the Asian side, the biggest pushback came from my stepmother. Both of my parents remarried, but with my father's side, there was confusion on how our relationship was coming together. You know, when people don't have an actual issue with something until it actually affects them? I think that's something you can apply to a lot of different things. Everything is great until it impacts you. Now five years into our marriage and 10 years into our relationship, I feel we are at a place where things are copacetic, but there are still those things that need to be worked through.
"I grew up in a pro-black community. So for me, when I visualized my life, I thought I was going to have dark brown babies like myself, marry a dark-skinned man, listen to Talib Kweli, and burn incense. It was intentional, but it wasn't exclusionary."
Were there things you had to teach your partner about being black in America that they may not have understood before?
Ashley: That's the thing about being in an interracial relationship. Chea doesn't experience the world the way I do. Even when I am getting profiled in a store, he is still existing in his own bubble. I sometimes would have to point it out to him and make him walk into a store and see who speaks to him. Now, watch when I walk in. I think these are things that white people miss everyday. When you are not existing in these spaces, you have the ability to look at things from an objective point of view, whereas we don't.
Chea: It's a very true experience and it's dependent on where we are, whether it's online or in-person.
"When you are not existing in these spaces, you have the ability to look at things from an objective point of view, whereas we don't."
Are there any things you had to unlearn about race in order to gain an understanding of each other?
Ashley: The growth for me came from within our marriage. I stopped looking at his Asian family as racist and started diving deeper into understanding where they are coming from having immigrated to this country. I don't think his family was being intentionally racist to me, they were just ignorant. But as soon as they got to know me, most of them changed immediately.
Chea: The thing that I had to unlearn is that every scenario doesn't always have the same outcome. For example, the police brutality, I think the common discourse for people who are not black is that, 'What did so and so do to get to this point?' That was my common way of thinking. Whether it was good or bad, something must have happened. I learned to let go of that and empathize more, regardless of what happened before.
Race aside, what is one thing that you truly enjoy about your partner?
Courtney: Jack is widely empathetic. He is able to relate to a lot of people on different journeys because he listens and can be present with them.
Jackson: There's a ton, but if I have to pick just one, it would be her creative spirit. I admire that about her and hope that her creative spirit sparks some creativity in me.
Ashley: Chea always felt like home to me, even before we were serious—when we were just friends. He is honestly one of my favorite people in the world. He is very loving and is a good person to everybody, not only to me which is important to me. If I had to choose one thing it would be his heart. Because that's where all of his good qualities stem from.
Chea: I feel like throughout various stages of our relationship I have loved her, and I just keep finding my love for her growing bigger. I can't really explain it. As I am trying to become a better person, she has been forcing me and helping me because she can see things I don't see. So I love her for that reason as well.
The two important things to know about relationships, whether you and your bae are of the same race or different races, are to be understanding of one another and to make your own rules. When you are intentional about knowing your partner's likes and dislikes, how you complement one another, and being empathetic to each other's experiences, race does not have to be a huge factor.
There will always be different obstacles that can make things challenging, but once you know who your partner is as a human being, you are able to create your own blueprint in order to make it through together. You should not go by other people's opinions or what others expect your relationship to be and with whom. At the end of the day, it is about what makes both of the people happy. Everyone is different and in the words of Chea, "Your results may vary."
Featured Image by Shutterstock
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
I tried sliding into my crush’s DMs like Vanessa Hudgens successfully did to her soon-to-be husband, Cole Tucker, after she met him during a Zoom meditation group call. For me, it was akin to a backfired romance in a Mara Brock Akil comedy series.
At the wiser age of 30, I stopped side-eyeing online dating and acquiesced to the possibility of finding love in the digital realm. My one rule: He has to take the lead. I wouldn’t strike up a single conversation once the confetti cues burst that we’re a match. That rule trotted out the door once I swiped on a presumably tall, brawn, and accomplished venture capitalist sporting a million-dollar smile.
The clock was ticking; our match would expire in mere hours if one of us didn’t take the gambit. Screw it. I made the first intro, and the suave VC responded. Turned out we had a close mutual friend, too.
He had an upcoming business trip but said he’d reach out once he returned. I never heard from the VC guy until one year later when I mistakenly ambled into what felt like a zombie ambush at an intimate Thanksgiving gathering our mutual friend held. Then and there, I vowed never again to take the lead at the precipice of dating!
At 36, however, I surreptitiously stumbled across a mutual acquaintance who left me breathless at one of my girlfriend’s husband’s 40th surprise birthday celebration.
Mobilized by swoon-worthy anecdotes from countless women who successfully found love because they weren’t too shy to slide into their dream man’s DMs, I heeded the enticing call to a fortuitous meme: “Ladies, this is your sign to shoot your shot.”
He strolled into the decorated backyard, late, while the rest of us were enthralled by illusory magic tricks performed by a bookish magician; the real enigma was, who is this man who’s left me utterly captivated?
I tried to excavate more intel from my girlfriend, but she was incredibly tipsy from one too many of her husband’s themed cocktails to divulge. From the time I sashayed to the bar to standing across the extended dinner table for 30 – where we locked eyes and grinned at one another – until the end of the night, where I lolled in line for photo booth fun, I noticed Mystery Crush staring back at me.
“You have tree shrub on your butt,” a handsome guy with a stocky athletic build, who’d later introduce himself as B. warned me with a heavy southern drawl, as he and Mystery Crush chuckled. I blushed in embarrassment and swept the debris off my derriere.
Bright, professional lights flashed. I shook off the flub and angled every curve on my body, accentuated by my slinky black, backless dress.
“Let’s take a pic together,” B. smiled. I peered over my shoulder, watching Mystery Crush gazing back. Why couldn’t he be as vocal and proactive as B.? I agonized.
Later, as celebratory glasses clinked, B. boldly asked for my number, in hopes of snagging a copy of our photo and getting to know each other over lunch.
“I haven’t dated anyone in almost two-and-a-half years,” I hesitated, conjuring up any truthful excuse after B. casually revealed he was close friends with Mystery Crush.
Still, my racing heart couldn’t leave the party without officially meeting Mystery Crush. I had to know if his voice, intellect, and character matched his sultry vibe.
Channeling my inner badass Beyoncé, I meandered to him and introduced myself as I firmly shook his smooth cocoa hand. Aside from us exchanging names, no in-depth camaraderie followed.
That should’ve been a clue to relinquish any lingering feelings, but as a single woman who often comes across a smattering of gentlemen who rarely generate a mutual, palpable connection–coupled with a recent missed romantic opportunity in Mexico, I felt compelled to take the leap.
Hey. It was really great meeting you. You seemed afraid to talk to me, but I was really wishing you weren’t…
I hadn’t expected him to respond, however, within a couple of days, he DM’d me with his number. I replied with mine, squealing in excitement. Maybe taking the initiative favorably worked after all?
“Don’t call him. Wait for him to call you.” My sage hair stylist instructed me as she ran her fingers through my curly coils. “Of course not. I believe in attracting, not chasing.” I grinned.
Seven days passed since I first slid into Mystery Crush’s DMs. My optimism waned as calls from family, friends, and aggressively pesky scammers filled my phone log, but none from him, leaving me temporarily deflated. I resurfaced feeling empowered for confidently seeking after what I wanted–not from a place of desperation, but from a well of self-certainty and wholeness.
I’m a type A, go-getter accustomed to proactively risking it all for the unknown and receiving unrequited outcomes. It works wonders for my career; my love life… not so much.
A month prior, I’d just returned from an invigorating solo trip to Cabo, where I met two, late-30-something eligible men while I was enjoying an al fresco brunch buffet, overlooking the Sea of Cortez. One included a charming Black resident doctor who lived near me in LA. He struck up an amusing yet fruitless conversation while we picked over steamy mini waffles and dispensed fresh pressed juice. His geeky friend, however, mustered the courage to ask for my number.
As I was boarding my flight home later that day, a white middle-aged couple, who recognized me and my flowy white linen maxi dress from brunch, probed if the cute doctor connected with me after he expressed he was smitten.
“I told him he should’ve asked you, but he said he didn’t think you were interested,” the wife lamented. “That’s too bad, because I was waiting for him to ask me.”
The doctor’s misinterpretation of my interest and lack of initiation fueled my otherwise reserved proclivity to slide into Mystery Crush’s DMs.
I’m still a traditional millennial woman who appreciates the chivalrous elements of courting, and I’m perfectly content in waiting for my future love to spark the dating communication.
That’s how I’ll know he’s divinely meant for me.
Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images