I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone, your father has forbidden me from seeing you in person. I’m sorry, he just cannot support your lifestyle anymore, he will not be speaking to you again, he asked me to tell you.
Ashley Miller’s father disowned her, just after Thanksgiving, because she’s dating a black guy. Her stepmother called to tell her the situation.
Your lifestyle is just not OK with him, he has bent as much as he will bend. He has bent so much and you haven’t bent at all.
I insist on clarification, “My lifestyle?”
Yes. Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix. It was the final straw. He loves you, he just doesn’t like you.
“So, this is entirely because he’s black?”
I told him it didn’t matter to you, that all you cared about was that someone didn’t believe in God and nothing else. But he just can’t bend anymore. You knew this would be his reaction.
I was admittedly worried he’d disapprove, but then he’d meet the boyfriend and like him and it would be fine. Also, my boyfriend isn’t even atheist.
We’ve gotten to the point in race relations in this country where we assume that acceptance of interracial relationships is a low bar to clear. We still argue about institutional issues like college admissions policies, mass incarceration, and racial profiling, but we don’t often hear about opposition to interracial romance.
However, Ms. Miller’s father is not alone in his belief that “races just don’t mix,” and he probably insists that this does not make him racist.
Take a closer look at this:
Your father is an old Southern man, he was raised like that, he was raised to believe that races just don’t mix.
That “belief” is not an evidence-based one, but it has resulted in copious, utterly unproductive misery for centuries. Races do mix, and there are a lot of people who wouldn’t exist otherwise. The entire racial group we call “Hispanic,” for example, is a result of “The gang’s all here!” reproductive interaction.
The explanation is that Ashley’s father was raised with a belief that interactions such as his daughter’s current relationship are not acceptable, and that he is addressing the conflict by cutting ties with his daughter rather than by challenging his beliefs. This belief, that racial boundaries are set in stone and some lines must not be crossed because “old Southern men” say so, is more important to him than his relationship with his only child.
This is why, whenever I hear someone support some nonsensical practice with “It’s tradition!” I am unimpressed. One might even say I’m skeptical of the idea of tradition itself. Some traditions are innocuous and fun. Some traditions are oppressive, nonsensical and break up families. The stepmother’s defense of her husband as “he was raised like that” is an appeal to tradition, and a strong example of why any idea whose main defense is that we’ve always done it that way, deserves our scrutiny, not our deference.
Alyson Miers is the author of Charlinder’s Walk.