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

By Amy C. Steinbugler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Intimate Interactions: Racework as
Emotional Labor

I said to [Nancy] because I don’t think she had been with a Black
woman before … I said, “You know, you have to think about
this—being in a relationship with a Black person. When we go to
restaurants, you get slightly different treatment. Sometimes people
may take a long time to seat us or we might get sat in a particular
corner. Or we don’t get really good service because they make
assumptions that we’re not going to give them a good tip.” … Because
she hasn’t always had this experience, she hasn’t had to devise a
strategy for keeping her psyche intact. So in some ways that can
be, that sort of makes me tired in a way…. You have only so much
energy, so I’m frequently thinking about how to replenish my
energy…. Not only [to] support myself but to support my relationship
and help my partner along in being in a relationship that’s not
acceptable by the larger society. And sometimes that gets a little
challenging…. It’s one thing to deal with the race issue alone but it’s
another thing to deal [with it] with another person.

THIS DESCRIPTION OF HOW race works in Nadine’s relationship makes visible a set of interactions that go largely unseen in studies of interracial intimacy. Nadine Allen’s account of everyday racism begins in public spaces, but her narrative quickly moves to another level—the intimate sphere. At forty-seven, Nadine has had decades to establish the daily habits by which she maintains her energy and steels herself against racial animus. By contrast, Nancy Taylor’s Whiteness has exempted her from the need to develop similar habitual actions and accommodations. Before this relationship with Nadine, Nancy rarely noticed racial prejudice and had a less

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