For a long while, I felt the struggle for equality and social progress was being squashed under the weight of Trumpism. So I let out a sigh of relief once Joe Biden had reached 270 electoral votes and officially won November’s election.
But for Black American women like me, the real victory is Kamala Harris. What she has accomplished is no mean feat: the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris is the first woman of colour to be elected vice president of the United States of America.
Not only that, but with her husband Doug Emhoff set to become the first ‘Second Gentleman’ in US history, Harris is also the first candidate in an interracial relationship to ever be elected to the White House.
This is an important milestone. Here’s why.
Over the last four years, my country has shown me racism isn’t being stamped out – instead it is only becoming more insidious. The rise of white supremacy and open racism under Trump has caused people in mixed-race relationships to re-evaluate the difficult racial dynamics of their relationships. And I say that from personal experience as an African American woman married to a white British man.
“When America elected Obama, many heralded it the dawn of a new post-racist world – as if a Black man becoming president of a country with a brutal past of slavery proved humanity had moved beyond racism.”
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained significant momentum this year and deeper conversations on race were sparked across the country and in my own relationship, I found myself becoming more of an advocate for racial equality. But while Biden and Kamala’s election win gives cause for optimism, I am cautious to embrace that times are changing for the better.
You see, when America first elected Barack Obama in 2008, many heralded it the dawn of a new post-racist world – as if a Black man becoming president of a country with a brutal past of slavery proved humanity had moved beyond racism. I admit I was one of those hopeful people who thought a new era of racial equality had begun.
Fast forward 12 years and the celebrations that followed Biden’s election victory over President Trump seemed more akin to the end of an authoritarian regime. For what the last four years of Trump’s presidency has shown me is that the idea that our nation is ‘post-racism’ is nothing but a myth.
Strange as it might seem, race wasn’t really something my husband and I discussed early on in our relationship. But the more race became a matter of vehement discussion in public arenas, the more it manifested in our personal lives – from strangers in the street contesting our interracial relationship to racially inappropriate comments made by our friends where my husband would not even perceive these as problematic.
Yes, love brought us together. But the gaping disparities in our lived experiences in our lived experiences were, at one point, driving us apart. Where I needed empathy and support, he inferred that I might have played a part in provoking my aggressors or perhaps that I was on the receiving end of someone who was simply having ‘a bad day’. I never expected my husband to doubt that I was a reliable witness to my own Black experience.
When a man spat in my face after he saw me kiss my husband in the street, only then was he really able to see the multi-faceted experience of the discrimination I faced – not just from some white people but those in the Black community who perceived me as some kind of race traitor. Confronting his ignorance has been a long and difficult process but was all the more necessary as we navigated the world as an interracial couple together; not least in a world that was appearing to regress under populism.
“When a man spat in my face after he saw me kiss my husband in the street, only then was he really able to see the multi-faceted experience of the discrimination I faced.”
Kamala and Doug’s new precedent should pave the way to a world more welcoming of diversity – not just in professional spheres, but in our personal lives too. To an interracial couple such as my husband and me, Harris and Emhoff personify unity. They symbolise that, in today’s world, two people can come to love each other not just despite but also because of their cultural and racial differences.
With the globalisation of the Black Lives Matter movement and now Harris’ election, maybe interracial and diverse relationships and families are going to see better representation than ever before. Christmas adverts this year, and in recent years, are a testimony to this: Argos made an all-Black family with queer parents the centre of their festive narrative; Debenhams did a modern take on the classic Cinderella fairytale with a Black ‘prince’ and white ‘princess’; John Lewis told the story of Moz the Monster and his special relationship with a mixed-race boy.
I’m hopeful that the tides will continue to change. And I’m hopeful that Kamala Harris will, among many things, use her incredible profile and platform to effect a collective shift in mindset – not just in those who inwardly oppose biracial unions but for those in interracial relationships to engage in honest and, yes, uncomfortable discussions about what it means to walk hand in hand through life together in a post-Trump world.
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