I had the opportunity to answer from my opinion Why I don’t date White men. But, like I said, this is only my opinion, it doesn’t speak to all women of color. Each person’s choice valid and important for her. But, I thought it only right to invite someone to answer the question of Why She Does Date White men. I asked my mom who has, been married to a White man (my dad) for almost 50 years and she said, “No.” But after some convincing she decided that she did have something to say about her marriage. Written by my mom, Helen Whitfield:
It’s Clear! My message is less about an interracial marriage and more about choices. I never purposed to date a White man; Why would I? I was born and raised in the South in a Black community within a White farming community. My mother died with I was 6 years old and when my dad was not able to take care of 5 children, my godmother became the parent for me, two sisters and a nephew. She was young; single strong minded with a steady job and inherited land. She had only an eighth grade education but she was well respected among all peoples and she taught us to be respectful, go to church, get an education and to be somebody. She, like all the other Black folk taught us that we would never ever socialize with White people even if and when we liked each other (often happened in farming). I was perfectly satisfied among “my own kind” and with my Black dates. My course was set at my Historically Black College where the Civil Rights Movement was at an all time high in the 60s and I was destined to get a Bachelors degree to help my people.
How did I meet this White man? I meant to travel beyond the farm to the city. The Presbyterian Church presented that opportunity—to Brooklyn, NY in 1966 to work with Black children in a church summer program. In 1967, I was hired by Ben, my future husband, a McCormick Theological Seminary student determined to create a most diverse staff of nine to work in his summer program of inner city Black youth (many whom he had taught high school math and others from rival gangs on near North side of Chicago).
We worked well together in that REACH program among politically correct people of like-minded activism. He was from Texas and I was from North Carolina—both well aware of the taboos of interracial dating. Our Chicago colleagues didn’t mind, but back home a lot of people were opposed. It took us 8 weeks to take the dating plunge.
It’s about choices. We listened to the other voices but followed our hearts. My college peers and Civil Rights activists asked if I had lost my mind and abandoned the cause. Job opportunities got blatantly closed or narrowed. My mother was petrified that my college degree would be interrupted. Everyone kept saying, “think of what will happen to your children”. It got even worse when Ben’s dad threatened to kill him if he dared to bring me home (an opinion that lasted until the first baby was born). My mother cried that it was a shame and a disgrace to the family and community. Naturally, Black love prevailed and she told me to come home any time.
We married in August 1968 at our work church surrounded by the greatest, supportive, hospitable congregation. We did not apologize for our birth races. We formed a remnant always of some like-minded people even among the diverse friends. We committed to teach our children to identify as Black and to study their history from the Black perspective. As our daughters aged I tried to drill each one to anchor her soul in Christ Jesus to ascertain a strong, immovable, eternal life.
We had prejudices that needed daily resolutions—age, biases, male/female roles in the home, romance issues, hot peppers, bank accounts, major income providers, who gets to drive the car or get picked up after work, who cares for the pets—arguments that drove us and our closet friends crazy for the first three years and into professional counseling another 12 years. We were immature, striving for absolute control. But, God always surrounded us with supportive people who listened and did not take sides. We did not run to relatives nor stay together for the sake of the children. We struggled to love and be truthful. We got a wake up call when the attorney challenged us to quit acting and even using the term “divorce” while we were still saying that we wanted our marriage.
Forty-nine years and we would again marry each other (maybe with counseling initially to resolve the cry babies). Thanks be to God our great transformation was to agree to forgive and to commit. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.