What is the Colour of Love?

My greatest passion is Race and Racism. This intrinsic compulsion to use my voice and support my community is everything! For me everything starts and ends with these two things. A lot of differences between us as people are invisible and unless voiced can go undetected. Race however is visible. The first thing we notice about a person is the colour of their skin. Don’t believe me?….Why is it when a person is described, their race is mentioned first then followed by their gender? A black woman, a white man. Race is the first thing we notice.

Growing up I tried tirelessly to go undetected. This ‘blending in’ opened up my eyes and ears to how sly and at other times overt people could be. I was regularly floored by the racist comments people would make in my presence. Backtracking at the last minute; explaining that what they said didn’t apply to me because I am ‘different’. What difference were these people seeing? A lot of these comments were often made when I was the only person of colour in a space. Were they seeing my ‘difference’ as a compliance to their way of thinking? As a child, I didn’t have the confidence to speak up and challenge these racist comments; some of which were made by acquaintances. These so called ‘innocent’ throwaway comments have been added to the fuel that ignites my drive to be a part of the movement to change how we relate to each other.

Little did I know my personal relationship would play an important role in my journey to blocking out the rest of the world and learning how to listen with my heart and soul.

I started my working career in the music industry where I met my future husband. After a 6 week period of illness, I returned to the office to find someone sitting at my desk. I had been pushed out, moved and replaced. I was not impressed. Hurt and humiliated, I looked on coldly. I had no place to sit and store my belongings. A few of my colleagues welcomed me back. Then the new face at my desk came walking towards me. He was bold, yet friendly. I was curious. He held out his hand to introduce himself. There was no malice. His energy was good! I look back at this moment with mixed emotions. The man who stole my desk is now MY man! 

I can remember the night I tried to explain the enormity of what we were taking on being a couple. My husband is from a very small town in Ireland which played a huge part in his downplaying of the magnitude of our coupling. I can remember trying to explain to him that although our family and friends may be ok with us, there will be trouble along the way. I really wanted to share his outlook and believe that the world had moved on, but I knew different.

As I walk hand in hand with my husband, I am aware of the stares that penetrate my body. Yes, MY body. I am no-one’s property. The stares are not of admiration, but of contempt and judgement. The stares take a hold of my very being - leaving me questioning my sanity. How do these people see me right now? I shouldn’t care. But I do. As we continue to walk hand in hand, I am aware of my grip increasing in intensity. My husband offers a gentle squeeze and I breathe. I feel safe with him. Our relationship is based on honesty and trust. The breath I take regulates me and makes space for me to remember that not everyone sees love the same way I do. Why not though? Why the hell not! I’m not saying that my way is the best way, well actually yes I am. My way is the only way to combat Racism.

As a Black woman, I feel I hold a special position. I am what I like to call part of the premiere league - the elite - where I am able to intimately love a man who resembles one that has hurt me and my family. Can many people say that? Now, I know I am not alone in this elite. The members of this league are exceptional. We are able to connect with the heart and see beyond the deceptions. Along the way there are always casualties, but those that remain close and loyal are sworn in members of the cohort.

I want to share something really personal with you. Controversial in its delivery, yet the truth it expresses is painful to the core. I have often wondered, what is the colour of love? Can what I feel for my husband be true or are we both fooling ourselves. This picture perfect painting in my head of he and I bound together by this strong emotional attachment of love, that no man can put asunder is at times blurred by the thoughts in my head. Am I looking at the picture using the correct lens? Could what we are living be a modern day version of slavery times. As a child I was always made aware that my appearance would be a barrier or hinderance to opportunities. Work 10 times harder than your peers I was told. Those words ring constant in my ears to this day. As a Black woman, I have had to go above and beyond to prove my worth. Demonstrate my intelligence and throughout be grateful to those that have given me the chance to shine. My husband, the head of the house, the man in charge of our finances and me the loyal black woman, the bearer of our mixed heritage children.

The world sees us!

As they look at my husband walking with his head held high with his black wife in tow. No shame, no guilt, no apologies. There must be an element of servitude to this relationship. No one in their right mind would make a decision to be with a woman of a different race to their own. Would they? Is it love? Or is it control and power? Should I be grateful to my husband for taking me on? Or should I challenge those that question our unity because of their unconscious bias?

My best friends are in same race relationships, so can only offer advice and suggestions when it comes to the uncomfortable race conversations that I experience. I often wonder what brought my husband and I together and I have a lot of thoughts about it, but that’s another article! As a black woman, being intimate with a man that looks like a man that could also hurt you racially can be tricky. Leaving yourself vulnerable and feeling sensitive. Needing support and validation from a safe pair of hands.

Why does it bother me so much? The simple answer is, my children. My children although not “Black” are by default labelled as such because of the racial construct. This label leaves them open to the racial hurt that has riddled my life. It saddens me and fills me up with anger when I think of my babies being discriminated against because of ME. Not because I am a horrible person, not because I have hurt someone, because the colour of my skin is undesirable and was once seen as property - an asset to be bought. Wasting energy on such negativity isn’t helping anyone, so I choose to be different. This problem WE are facing, yes, WE,! YOU, ME, US! is called racism. Racism is a virus, it’s contagious and lives within us all. It has made its way around the globe, spreading its lies, and infecting the vulnerable.

As a child, I was always told that as a Black woman I am powerful. The power I possess would make others fear me. Don’t rise up to it, I was told. Let those that are fearful name it and then challenge it. Don’t challenge the fear with anger, attack them with love! 

Nowadays organisations and institutions are focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). This is great and very much needed. However, I’d like to offer a discussion on another branch. The social construct of race definitely needs breaking down, but in order to do that, we need to give those that are not affected by the systems in place a step up. DEI focuses on differences, yet those that see the differences are failing to look at themselves and the systems in play and reflect on why these so called differences are deemed to be threatening. These differences are essential. As a whole, we make up a group of diverse humans, unique in our make-up on the outside but on the inside, one and the same.

The pain my ancestors endured and survived. The pain I have endured from individuals and groups who see me as less than and inferior, yet survived knowing that the one thing missing from this world we all hold inside of us is LOVE!

As a therapist I see clients from different backgrounds, some very similar to my own. In all my clients there is a connection that I always hold on to; we are all hurting, we all feel pain and we all have a story! We can all combat these big feelings with a small act of love.

Are those that are undeserving of love needing to fit a certain type? The messaging we receive would have it that as a woman, I must be a perfect size 10 with flowing blonde hair and blue eyes to be deserving of love.

To show love, you don’t have to be IN LOVE or physically attracted to the person . To show love, you have to come from a place of compassion. As therapists, as professionals possessing the willingness to be open and understand the suffering that has been experienced and to show concern is what is needed. Compassion is the key to solving racism. Love is a part of that, where by we as people are already tied together and have a strong affection. To tap into that, we need go back to the very beginning….

Today our lens direct us to see colour or race as them vs us….we communicate from a place that highlights our position in the world as we perceive it.

To awaken our lens we need to look deep into ourselves, reflect on all we know and all we believe to be true. The world we live in is full of hurt, pain and suffering. There are some that step forth as saviours, but are they? Voices are needed, conversations are necessary, but whose voice will be heard? Sometimes the loudest voice comes from the one that feels threatened, experiences fear, concern and worry for their existence. The discomfort is overbearing, but can you imagine having to live in a world where your existence and worth is questioned just because of the colour of your skin.

As a mother to mixed heritage children is the colour of my love different to their father? They say love is blind, but we all see colour. To not see colour is to be blind and to deny my experiences and my very existence. To not see colour, is to not see me!

As a psychotherapist, a wife and a mother, the world of race and racism collides. I am challenged everyday to share and communicate from a place of love. The colour of my love in these areas are not dismissed, they are well received and welcomed. Why is that? The answer is simple. I have and continue to work on myself and have the necessary uncomfortable conversations with those I come into contact with about racism, sharing my experience and learning from others about theirs. 

An ode to my husband and our babies…

‘Just like Romeo and Juliet my love for my husband to some should be hidden.

They see it as unnatural, confusing, disgusting and should be forbidden.

The power of Love holds no boundaries, it doesn’t see colour. Once you are open to love, it has one destination, the heart. When struck by love , the fire inside burns bright and warm!

The strength it has reaches great depths that moves beyond the realms of the naked eye. It consumes, envelopes, puzzles yet never dies.

Love that is questioned by others is hard to navigate

We are all under the same spell that likes to see woman like me as undesirable and often humiliate.

The spell for my husband and I is broken. We journey on through this race as a family of four. Entwined, swirling, mixed.

We know our truth, we know the path we journeyed to get to where we are. The unpacking, the pain, the misunderstanding, the empathy, the compassion, the love. Love is what keeps us together.

They tried to tear as apart. Now we have a small army. We are ready and waiting with our arms wide open, minds ready to hold and hearts longing to share. Are you strong enough to withstand the force of love?’ - by Nerissa McDonald

Racism is a game, a game we all have a part to play in which is all about RACE! What side do you want to be on?

If you see me and my family, what will you do? Will you bear arms and battle with prejudice and fear? Or will you join our army? We are recruiting. Wanted: Open minded individuals who see colour and are ready to awaken their colour lens using the universal language of love that is inherent in us all.

I may not be free in the true sense of the word, but my mind most definitely is FREE to LOVE and be LOVED by ALL.

i

The Sunflower Network provides a platform for professional community members to publish articles on this website. The views expressed in this article are those of the article author.

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I am a Black Integrative Child and Adolescent psychotherapist. I have a BA in Music Industry Management and Marketing, an MA in Integrative Child Psychotherapy which I gained at the Institute for Arts in Therapy and Education (IATE) and am also a Certified Cyber Therapist. I am a registered member of BACP and a UKCP accredited Child and Adolescent psychotherapist. I work with a cultural lens creatively with children to help them understand and make sense of their story.

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