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Eyes on Us: Interracial Couple in Paris

by Entertainment Writer 2 years ago in humanity
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American Dating a West African in 2019

This is not him and I, but we are all smiles when together.

Are you with me on this? Hello 2020! Welcome to metropolitan Paris where nationalism is rising along side populations of immigrants. Interracial couples dot the streets of Paris as often as bakeries and baguettes. Since entering my own mixed coupling, I have begun gravitating towards these couples. I feel just one step away from asking them on a double date with me and my African beau! I have been accosted with a sense of 'other' since stepping outside as an interracial couple. I want to explore why this relationship has me backed against a wall of pressure, stress, and doubts I have not faced in same race relationships. Let me start from the beginning...

According to the 2015 Paris Census there are 9 million residents in metropolitan Paris. 20,000 are Americans and over 150,000 are West African. I admit, I avoid Frenchmen like a kid avoiding stepping on cracks (does anyone else find them arrogant?). Hanging out with other internationals and foreigners who are also struggling to learn French is more my crowd. My new beau and I met while volunteering with refugees over the summer. Meet cute!

By Creative Hina By.Quileen on Unsplash

We are goofy and laugh easily. Our entrepreneurial interests, love of dance, humanist values, and general good vibes glue us together. We've both relocated to Paris - a city of charisma and history! Within our friend group of volunteers, we can be purple and green for all anyone cares. This group is comprised of West Africans, North Africans, Middle Easterners, and French. Many call themselves humanists, walk their talk, and seek to build bridges between cultures. When my man and I are with this group, we are relaxed, joking, swapping stories, philosophy, or asking advice. In this group, I feel accepted, safe, unquestioned. Here, it is a bubble from the outside world, or at least from the prevalent society of Paris.

Right, now let's talk about the rest of society.

Some areas of Paris we pass invisibly. In the 17th district of Paris, we walk hand in hand as curly haired mixed race children run passed us. African barbershops snuggle next to Mexican Taco shops which lapse into Turkish and Vietnamese cafes. Here mixing is normal. No one blinks, in fact, they nod in approval in our direction. However, if we are close to the Eiffel Tower or in shopping malls, we are greeted by eyes both curious and suspicious. On the steps of Trocodero there is a great divide between tourists and the undocumented souvenir hawkers from Senegal. This territory is divided by the have and have-nots of travelers. The legal versus the illegal. The Senegalese examine both our clothes and mannerisms to surmise how and why we are together. The native Parisian smirk as we pass them. The air is tense in these areas. As political agendas are continually pushed through news narratives, black people and Africans are viewed negatively, especially to native populations.

It is my sense that most onlookers gawk and stare because we are not simply different skin colors, but our union represents a political perspective. Our union brings up questions. Our union is politicized. Why is it when we hold hands as a black and white couple I feel brave? Why is it that holding hands can create waves of political statements?

It is not my intention to make waves by my choice of date! Love is love, right? But what happens when our love doesn't quite fit in? Even more worrisome, we don't look French. I am an American with Western European/Mediterranean mixed blood (tall and white!) and he is purely West African (athletic and dark!).

By Lians Jadan on Unsplash

How strange it feels to be inside a relationship that stirs up controversy to religious levels. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book, 'Americanah', She wrote, "Race doesn't matter when you are alone together and it is just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters". That hit hard. Sadly, the stares have begun to affect my beau and I even when we are alone together. Just yesterday, we were talking about matching clothes and outfits (you know, being a cute couple), when he cast his eyes down at the floor and said, "I wish I was white so I could match you". I was struck! This vulnerable admittance contained the black pit of our sick society. He was not alone in this sentiment either. I, too, had recently begun imagining myself to be black! This surprised both of us! A devilish thought trickles in my ear.. 'If I was black then we can exist in the same world without questions or stares.'. Oh, the yearning to be 'normal'. The need to be accepted by a society that is, unfortunately, skeptical of interracial couples. (Side note: don't worry, neither of us really want to change our skin color, that was just a singular moment, you know).

Also, I found out some friends held bigoted beliefs. When I first mentioned I was dating a nice guy who happened to be from Africa, my white friend group exploded in a tizzy of warnings against AIDS, being used for my visa, mal-treatment against women, warnings against Islam, and finished by asking how large his member was. Ahem. Biological racism was even explained to me over dinner one evening. Whew! I knew these friends for five years. This was challenging to us all. (And no, I have not introduced my boyfriend to these friends yet!).

By Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At this instant, I became an ambassador to my own friends. I stepped into this role with a sense of destiny. I hold the principle: If one cannot make peace and tolerance with friends and co-workers, how then, can there ever be world peace? I believe both peace and war begin in ones own backyard. Therefore, I must set the ripples in motion within my own circles.

I didn't expect any of this to happen. My naive bubble as burst. Society is racial. I knew that, yet find a new understanding through first hand experience. I find myself somewhere new - not because I am in a new exciting relationship, but because I am on the inside of an intercultural and interracial relationship that brings out opinions I have not needed to interact with before.

This is nothing new. This is an old battle which has seen many wars. Whether it be race, religion, caste, or creed. But it is the issue I face now and I am turning to the internet to discuss anew. What do you think? What happens in mixed and multi-cultural cities? Is it better or worse than more homogeneous cities? What has been your experience?

By Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

In this new relationship, not only do I have the normal feelings of doubt and butterflies, but the eyes of polite society. Sometimes, I wonder if I will be strong enough to endure.

I suppose we must create the world we want to live in. For my beau and I, it would mean moving into a mixed race immigrant neighborhood with nice parks and schools. (These districts dot the outline of Paris.)

For now I don't speak much about my relationship and prefer to pass the time in the company of people who understand different skin color and country of origin create a rich tapestries, rich exchanges, and yes, opportunities for love to flourish.

Yesterday began 2020. A new year, a new decade. Here's to hoping that the bounds of love are stronger than the fears woven into our society.


About the author

Entertainment Writer

Written and researched entertainment articles written by an insider based in Paris, France. Articles have been republished in France, the UK, Australia, the United States in tech, luxury, lifestyle, and entertainment journals.

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