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In My Own, I’ve Learned That Interracial Relationships Won’t Work If You Run From The Hard Stuff

In a sea of olive skin and dark eyes, there’s a tuft of blonde hair with baby blues. That guy with blue eyes is my person. At every christening, wedding, or birthday party, where there’s me, there’s my boyfriend. We go together without thinking, and I feel fortunate that I’m at a point in my life where bringing my boyfriend to family events is a given.

Throughout my dating life I’ve been asked “What you don’t like Latinos?” and “Will you ever date someone who isn’t white?” by friends and family alike.

Wandy Felicita Ortiz

For those asking: I do, and I have, but not with the frequency that the people asking those questions would like.

My grandparents came to the mainland in the 1950s and my great-grandfather, though born in Puerto Rico, was still considered a citizen of Spain. In comparison, his family lineage in the U.S. goes so far back that you can trace it to the Mayflower.

Often, I get called an “Oreo,” too white-minded to be Latina, and too dark-skinned to be white. I’m conscious of our differences, but I don’t date my boyfriend to be a living educational exhibit. I refuse to be fetishized or exoticized. I am who I am.

Even so, I have a lot to learn in terms of how I project some old cultural customs, be they sexist or racist, onto people I love.

Wandy Felicita Ortiz

My boyfriend and I aren’t afraid to talk about it as a couple or as friends.

The upbringing I have had, as traditional as it is, has led me to be judgmental, private, and less open. Meanwhile, he is open to my family and my culture. Where he jumps head-first, I’m hesitant to do the same because I’m afraid to lose sight of who I am.

Comments on my being one half of an interracial couple have always made me feel like my romantic relationships aren’t my own, and that to be in one, it had to please the people around me.

Yes, I do believe that your friends and family ultimately want the best for you. And yes, Latino families are sometimes so on our cases we don’t know where we end and they begin. It’s the positive danger of coming from a culture that’s close-knit, regardless of whether or not you want it to be. But, you learn to work with and around it.

I’m sure that when my loved ones ask me these questions, they do so less out of malice, and more of concern. Maybe to them, by being with someone who doesn’t share my cultural upbringing, I’m missing out on the best parts of my heritage.

In this relationship, I do see color.

Wandy Felicita Ortiz

We are two completely different people. Racially, and in turn socioeconomically. These two things play a key role in our relationship. Our interactions consist in “we don’t do that” or “you can’t say that,” and “when you say that, you sound like,” fill in the blank.

I call him out when he says something culturally insensitive or racially charged. I tell him when his privilege is showing. He lets me know when my upbringing doesn’t allow me to express thoughts and ideas I have due to fear or being shut out by others in my Latino community.

My boyfriend was never a dance partner at a quinceanera, he has never seen a quenepa up-close, and bendiciones to the elders was a foreign concept that he’s continually being introduced to. But although he’s new to all of those things, he embraces them.

When I say that, I don’t mean that he works to be or act Latino.

I do mean that he works to see the value in these things that are foreign to him, but non-negotiable as part of my life, and in turn, our partnership.

He seeks out this understanding. He asks questions about what he can’t relate to through personal experience and admits that there’s more to the Latino community than he realizes.

Together, we are on a journey to unlearn the bad and embrace the good in both of us. It’s hard, it’s messy, and there are fights. But this is the future, one of color-conscious love that, as a result, allows the best of us to shine through.

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