Interracial Identities: Racework as
I think that some White people have a very stereotypical view of
what interracial couples are, you know? White women who can’t get
anybody else, with no teeth. And Black guys that take advantage of
them and don’t work and live off them—stereotypical. As to whether
that’s the real truth, I don’t think so. Maybe in some places, in some
areas. And you do still see it, where both Norman and I will look
at ’em going, “You give interracial couples a bad name. You are
so stereotypical. You are what people hate. And fear.” … [People]
don’t think about [interracial couples] making good money, college
educations, being together, having a family.
WITH THESE WORDS, Trudy Crenshaw, who is White, describes a powerful stigma attached to interracial intimacy in the United States. This pejorative account is not at all how she sees her own relationship, however. Referring to her Black husband, Norman Crenshaw, Trudy says, “He loves me and I love him. He’s a pain in the neck sometimes, but he’s a good person, and he has a good heart.” Trudy and Norman relate to each other with the ease and comfort of old friends—teasing and correcting each other’s inaccuracies as they recount old memories. But when they describe themselves as a couple, they inevitably bump up against persistent images like the one Trudy describes. Whether interracial couples accept these stereotypes as true or not, they encounter them frequently in everyday life. In this chapter, I explore how both heterosexual and same-sex interracial partners interpret characterizations of interraciality. I also show how they use the last of the four types of racework—boundary work—to create interracial identities that allow them to separate themselves from others’ perceptions of them as deviant.