Beyond Loving: Intimate Racework in Lesbian, Gay, and Straight Interracial Relationships

By Amy C. Steinbugler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
White Racial Identities through the
Lens of Interracial Intimacy

I’m very much empowered [as a White person] more so than [Mabel]
is as an African American, as a Black woman in society…. When we
go to New Hampshire, we go through the whole summer and maybe
see ten other Blacks, twenty at most…. I’m surrounded by Whites. I
think that’s a problem for her. I don’t think, I’m sure it is…. They’ll
actually come up and want to get close to her and see her hair. But
even that is hard, to be different. For me to be different is an exciting
adventure. I’m the man, I’m strong. [In majority Black settings,]
people look at me and think I’m a lawyer when I’m the only one in
the room and I wear a tie; they thought I was a lawyer or elected
official. I’m empowered greatly by my Whiteness, unfortunately;
it’s unhealthy and it doesn’t feel good. It puts me on a level that I’m
trying to get out of because I want to be on the same—I want to level
with people. I want to communicate with folks.

WITH THESE WORDS, we can see that Hank Renault’s racial orientation differs from the White racial habitus of most Whites in this study. A fortyfive-year-old community activist and politician, Hank is also the White husband of Mabel Renault, an African American woman. The Renaults have been married for thirteen years and have three mixed-race children under ten years old.1 The family lives in the same neighborhood where Hank grew up—a racially diverse community in a historically integrated area of Philadelphia.

Hank knows that he lives in a racially stratified society, but unlike many other Whites in my study, he understands that as a White man, he benefits from this stratified system. He explains: “When you are White you have a

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