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Sharing Their Story

I was sitting on the edge of my seat, fists clenched and anxiety through the roof. My hand was over my mouth for most of the movie, and I constantly found myself glancing around the theater to see if people just saw what I saw.

Get Out, a suspenseful, romantic thriller directed by Jordan Peele, was perhaps the most insane movie of 2017, and maybe ever. A lot of people, as well as bloggers, examined Peele’s film, looking into certain characters and things that may have had a deeper meaning.

I’m still realizing little things that I may have missed along the way. Perhaps the most exhilarating part of the film, other than the experience of seeing it in theaters versus at home, was the makeup of the audience. To our left, sat another couple, but five or six rows down sat a group of middle-aged women. It was sold out everywhere, and images from the movie were (and still are) floating all over Twitter.

Ironically, about a few weeks prior to seeing it, I sat down with my older sister and mom in the kitchen and somewhere in our lengthy conversation, we had gotten on the topic of relationships. Since I can remember, my mom has always known the right thing to say, and most of our conversations have ended with me feeling secure, confident and open-minded about my decisions in life.

However, there is one topic, my sister and I have never really agreed with her on and that’s interracial relationships. Now I want to clarify, my mom is in no way, shape or form against them, but she has always made it clear to my sisters and I that it adds a different element to a relationship. It took me a long time to process that most of this uncertainty came from her growing up during the Civil Rights Movement with my grandmother, who lived through segregation and discrimination as well.

These are women who didn’t have the right to really date outside their race, so their perception of interracial relationships will always be different. This made it difficult, however, for my sisters and I to date when we were young, because both of my parents didn’t grow up in the same times, and school system where we did, so they didn’t understand the desire to be with someone who didn’t look like them.

I had the opportunity to have an amazing interview with two Ohio University students on the topic. Aida Diop and Russell Baldrick, both freshmen, are from the same hometown. They went to different high schools, but met when they were still in high school. They have been together for two years, but still look at each other like they are meeting for the first time.

Photo by Nick Oatley.

They have refreshing and happy expressions on their faces when I first sit down with them at Court Street Coffee, and were sitting confidently by each other the whole time. The positive energy is the first thing I noticed about the two, because I wasn’t interviewing them about their favorite color, but about how and if not being the same skin color affected their relationship. It could have easily been tense and awkward, but they didn’t allow it to be.

While sitting down with them, I got two very different opinions and feelings. Aida, who grew up in a primarily white neighborhood, expressed more of an open conversation around race. She expressed that during her time here, it’s become very clear who is in support of interracial relationships, and has been made a much bigger deal.

Photo by Nick Oatley.

“I get frustrated sometimes,” she said. She explained that every now and again they will get looks from people, but she just ignores it. She did say that sometimes she will see a different reaction from people, in which they may dap her boyfriend up or high five him, which is usually black men.

Russell, who has a very quiet, but insightful demeanor, expressed his need for not letting race become a prominent part of their relationship. He shared that he doesn’t believe it should be a “thing” and he doesn’t understand why people allow it to have such a negative connotation.

Photo by Nick Oatley.

Although this is where the couple had different stances, they didn’t seem to allow it to affect their relationship. It actually seemed to strengthen it since they were able to communicate and accept that in each other. They explained that they were thankful that both of their parents have accepted the relationship, despite whether or not they initially did.

“I don’t think my parents really wanted me to date anyone back then,” Diop giggled, in which Russell stated that he has always wanted to strengthen his relationship with her father.

This was a big moment in the interview because it was the one moment where I realized why this relationship has lasted for two years — they are still trying to embrace each others’ families, culture and differences. The fact that it is has been this long, they are still young, and he still wants to have a relationship with her father, speaks volumes and I think it should be acknowledged.

Photo by Nick Oatley.

After a few weeks passed from the conversation I had with my mom, seeing Get Out, and conducting this interview, and I was able to process the encounters, I see exactly where my mom is coming from, in the respect that we will always have to experience things in relationships, so the person you’re with shouldn’t be written off just because they’re not able to identify with you completely.

No one in a relationship is able to identify with someone completely — that’s why it’s important to embrace all differences, not just how we look. The other perspective that I have that I think resonates with most people of color, is that race should and needs to be addressed. Far too often, people who are in interracial relationships believe that maybe if we pretend it’s not a thing, it won’t be a thing, but I think this is the worst thing you could do.

It is your duty to ensure that you have open communication about all things that may affect a relationship, and that’s just relationships, in my opinion. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making an effort to talk to your significant others about the experiences they are having, and if racism and discrimination is one of them, I think it’s important that you’re there for them and don’t allow it to break your relationship.

We live in a world, where yes, it’s getting better, but just like many other things, we have a long way to go. Be open, be communicative and be willing to learn even the hardest and most uncomfortable things, even when you don’t want to.

For more by Lindsey Mathews, click here!



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