THE BLOG

Interracial Relationships: Have We Really Moved On?

25/11/2016 14:45
Nicky Brown

At first sight across a dance floor my boyfriend and I fell innocently and completely in love. We were soul mates - so why did our society, the country of our births, tell us that our love was wrong and worthy of punishment through verbal abuse, physical attacks and rejection? Because we were a mixed race couple. He was black and I was white. He was a black boy above his station, a professional footballer - and I was a traitor to the white race. This was Britain in the seventies.

Jump to 2016, and my mixed race daughter and her white boyfriend return from a night out, She's upset after being racially abused and told; "Why do all you black girls think you can take our men?"

"Surely this can't be happening" I think. I'm standing in our most culturally enlightened age. So why have I been transported straight back to 1976? My belief is that Britain hasn't come as far as it thinks.

Queue the shocked silence - we are a country that believes that we live in a land of racial equality and that the colour of a person's skin is no longer an issue. As a white woman, I have often been asked why I am so invested in issues of racial segregation - and that's just it - as a white woman - not a woman, or mother, but as a race. Doesn't it affect all of us, regardless of our own colour?

Being in an interracial couple in the seventies and eighties incited extreme reactions from people; causing situations that a same race couple wouldn't have had to endure -and we were not alone in this experience. Racist abuse - "Nigger Lover, Filth, Traitor, Can't you get a white man?" to "No decent white man will touch you now", being spat at and physical attacks were commonplace for us and within our group of friends, many of whom were also in interracial couples. Shockingly, some old friends on both sides turned, disowning each of us because we each chose another race. No we didn't, we chose each other.

As an interracial couple in the public eye peoples attitudes didn't change, they just disguised it. It's surprising how people can overcome their prejudice when they want front row tickets to a match, but it still didn't stop a letter bomb being posted through the door.

I'm not saying that we only had negative experiences As a young couple it was exciting being at the forefront of a new movement- we had ideals of living in a world without racial boundaries - we were seen as rule breakers and we loved being representatives of a forward-thinking culture. We were invited to parties; people wanted to be seen with an interracial partnership - apparently we were 'cool'. Looking back, I recognise that we also served to appease the consciences of people who wanted to be seen as 'open-minded'.

I still see this in some underlying attitudes- the token "United Colours Of" stance that pretends to accept race as unimportant, but that actually demonstrates just how forced this attitude is. I'm not damning the effort - I just believe that real racial unity needs more than pretty pictures and advertising campaigns: it needs positive education, a dedicated belief in progress and realism.

So herein lies my point: I can see that we have progressed - the power of music has united generations of different races, sport has a more inclusive attitude than ever before, and my daughter and her boyfriend don't expect to be spat at in the street. But...today's society still carries a condescending fascination with interracial couples - it is woven into the fabric of the second glances, the questions that people just can't help but ask..."What is it like to sleep with that race", and poorly judged statements -"Your babies would be so interesting". Interracial couples today still face an acute awareness that they are a new concept. I am heartened by young generations of British people from all races, cultures and beliefs finding common ground in our arts, our passions and British culture in itself. But until my daughter's choice in partners is defined by "Is he a good man?" not "Is he a white man", then we still have one foot in the 1900's.

Nicky Brown tells her story in Whites vs Blacks: How Football Changed A Nation on Sunday 27th November, 9pm on BBC Two.

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