My cell phone vibrated as I gathered the dishes into the sink. Shifting it out of my pocket and quickly glancing at the screen, I saw it was my boyfriend and smirked. I answered and then wedged the phone between my ear and shoulder. “Hey Howie.”
“Hey Neko*. What’s up?”
“Nothing really, just finished dinner. You?”
“Same. What did you have?”
“Spaghetti.” He gave off a short snirk. “Those seem to be our basics.”
I returned the laugh. “I guess they are.”
My boyfriend and I have been together for about 2 years. It’s been an interesting ride, but a lovely one. For us starting off as unexpectedly as we did (a story for another time), we have a good amount in common. For instance, we’re both rather silly, love art, are very sentimental, spend way too much time on the computer, and have pretty offbeat tastes. But we do have plenty of differences. For example, he’s an avid gamer whereas I’ve only touched “Bejeweled” and “Dead or Alive 2″. He’s most comfortable in nature and the woods while I love the hustle and bustle of the city. He likes the simple things while I aim for the ornate.
…Oh, and he’s a White American and I’m a Black Ghanaian-American.
There’s a lot that can be said here about this fact alone. Though we as a society have progressed when it comes to acceptance of interracial couples and marriages, racism and discrimination is still a prevalent issue. If you need confirmation of that, you could read about the reception of the interracial family in the Cheerios commercial or, more recently, of the criticisms Tamera Mowry has been receiving about her marriage to a White man. Luckily, we haven’t had to face much of this kind of opposition yet, but it’s an inherent concern when it comes to our relationship, though perhaps not as obvious to some as to others.
It’s needless to say that we have our differences in understanding each other and our separate cultures. While I was growing up in predominately Jamaican and Haitian neighborhoods, he was born and raised in a town with a population of about 80% Whites. After reblogging an article about an issue prevalent to Black America, I would find myself explaining to him the history and feelings behind the topic. After commenting on political candidates that I simply could not understand why people rallied behind them, he would explain the viewpoints of the majority around him that support said person. We’d grow saddened hearing of a race-motivated crime. It would become apparent to us that our potential future sons would have a higher risk of getting pulled over, arrested, or killed than their father will ever have. Chats on privilege, representation, history, education, and more have abounded between us. Those talks caused us to expand our viewpoints and we’ve learned from them.
But as a Ghanaian and an African, I often feel like I am not doing enough to share that side of my culture, or I know more about Black American culture than African culture. He would tell me about his local legends, how Johnny Appleseed came from his area and how America emerged from his backyard. I would tell him the stories of my childhood, the plentiful gold and the Ashanti chiefs and warriors. But what else can I say? The longest I’ve stayed in Ghana is about 3 months, and I don’t even speak the language. Do I really have any right to tell him, or potential children, or anyone else, anything about the land of my heritage?
“Is there something I should know before New Years?” he asked me, preparing to see my extended family.
I thought for a moment. It wasn’t his first time being around my family, but it was still something to consider. “Well, we can’t be mushy or touchy.”
“I remember,” he said, the smirk audible in his voice. “Anything else?”
“Always greet the adults around you. And greet people with your right hand, never your left. Though my sister is left-handed, so that might not be a big deal.”
“Can I try and weird people out?”
I chuckle. “No.”
Between finding ways to learn Twi and planning for an eventual trip back to Ghana, I guess all I can do is do my research and do my best. I may not be the model African, but it’s still my homeland, heritage, and culture. For now he’ll tell me about Assasin’s Creed 3 while I’ll tell him about Lupita Nyong’o and we’ll both rave over Attack on Titan. Either way, the bridges are still being built between cultures and lives. But isn’t that what the human experience is about anyway?
“Hey,” I tell him, “I gotta run; I still have dishes to do.”
“Alright, I’ll talk to you later tonight.”
“Okay.” I smile. “I love you.”
I can feel the warmth from the other end of the phone. “I love you too, Neko.”
* Neko: Japanese for “cat”. Yeah, we’ve gotten that question a lot.