Filipina in America · Marriage

THE COLOR OF LOVE: Talking about Racism in a Multicultural Marriage

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color”

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When my husband Dave was coming home to the Philippines for the first time, I told him –” When you hear the words “puti” (white) or “kano” (Americano)- they are referring to you.”

Dave and Ivy going home with me for the first time

I came from a generation and  a country where a person’s race, color or regional origin, is used as a  point of differentiation. It is a simple adjective. Not to demean or put down. It is neither good nor bad.

The events of the past months created a radical shift in my psyche. In retrospect, I asked myself-

In the past five years of being in the US– have I encountered racism?

Were there instances that I was treated differently than I know my husband would have been?

In the workplace- did I get fewer opportunities because of my skin?

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Was I ever denied a request for a meeting because my accent was heavy?

Did white colleagues think less of me and were just being polite?

I became introspective, too.

If this “racial war” happened three years ago, would I  be scared of marrying a white man?

Would I have second thoughts about bringing my Asian mother here for vacations, for fear of racial slurs?

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In our three year marriage, we have challenged all manner of  cultural and racial differences. But a new conversation is evolving. It is  one that I tread on very lightly and carefully.

I began to ask, my husband, these questions.

What is white privilege, exactly?

Why is there so much divide?

Why is the divide not so defined with whites and Asians?

These are questions I sincerely ask because I am ignorant of the subtle clues of the culture

I am  married  to a man who  is about as white and anglo  as can be. He is of Irish-German descent.

While this topic is not the preferred subject for pillow talk, it happens in the privacy of our marriage.  His answers are guarded at best and defensive at worst.

I can sense Dave’s hesitation and discomfort.  How often did he talk about being white?  It’s his cultural wall paint.

Sometimes, I wonder if he feels attacked when I ask him questions. Maybe in the current “cancel culture” in the United States, conversations between a husband and a wife can now feel like a public statement.

I need to talk about racial issues in the safety and comfort of my marriage. I do not have the time to read history books.

What I want my husband to know

I  feel your pain as you see your country being torn down.  I can see the struggle as you try to make sense of your  history that is now being toppled one statue, one monument at a time.

Let me share this time with you.

I need to understand what’s going on. I cannot pretend that this affects everybody else except me.

After all, I am colored, too

I am brown. I was born and raised in the Philippines

I speak the  English language well but I have an accent. You will know I am not from here.

This is important to me. Families should share a sense of history. These moments will be the fabric of our conversations in the future. Real intimacy happens when we can connect on a gut level.

I need to frame all these and form my own opinion. Because I need to have this conversation with my children, too.

Our marriage is a silent protest against racism. There is nothing that breaks racial barriers more than a multicultural marriage.

I’ve met your family and friends and haven’t experienced anything but respect and friendship.

It is true what Luther said, we marry individuals, not races

I am not here to judge your history. I will never fully understand the pain and the wounds from a racial level. But I need to understand, at least, from one man’s narrative. Yours.

In another generation, our marriage wouldn’t be possible. I’m glad I met you at this time.

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