Malcom and Maria are a couple from very different cultural backgrounds. Maria is from London, with Caribbean heritage and Malcolm comes from Hartlepool in the North East of England. In their 19 years of marriage they have grown to understand and appreciate their differences. They tell us that this has strengthened and enriched their relationship as well as adding zest to their cooking!
Did you face any opposition when you started dating?
Maria: No, although I felt it necessary to say to a few people that my boyfriend was white.
Malcolm: No, but my church and friendship group was multi-ethnic anyway.
Malcolm — can you think of an example when Maria has experienced racism that shocked you?
Malcolm: Maria has shared with me stories of incidents which have shocked me but I can’t think of a time since we have been together when Maria experienced racism that was so overt. Often when we visit places where Maria is the only black person, I see how people look at her as someone different. That would be true of my home town in Hartlepool. When we had been going on holiday to Spain with friends all was well, but when our friends wanted to go to a resort in a different country, Maria instinctively said, ‘No!’, because of her fear of racism there.
How important is it to listen to each other’s experiences, particularly during a tragedy like the murder of George Floyd in the US?
Maria: What the murder of George Floyd has done is bring up things from my past, things that Malcolm didn’t know about. So Malcolm has had to listen more intently and understand the depth of emotion that it stirs up when something like that happens. It makes me feel for my ancestors more and what they had to go through and that causes me anger inside.
Malcolm: We watched the memorial service and funeral service, which is something I wouldn’t normally have done, but it gave us space to talk about the issues it raises for us.
Maria: We stood in our lounge when they held silence for the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that the policeman held his knee on Floyd’s neck. I wanted Malcolm to feel the sense of injustice that black people have endured over the years.
Malcolm: We also recently watched the stage play of the book ‘Small Island’, which tells the story of coming to England from Jamaica and some of the racism that people like Maria’s parents faced. It provided us with a context to discuss some of the things that have shaped our lives.
In the past we have watched films like ‘Billy Elliot’ which is based in the north east of England and draws out some of my background too.
How have you come to understand your differences? How does that strengthen your relationship?
Maria: The benefits it brings is that we can understand people more, we’ve been able to connect with people from a wider range of cultural backgrounds. We’ve also combined our food preferences so it’s more of a fusion of Caribbean and English styles, so a Sunday dinner would often be a roast dinner with ‘rice ‘n’ peas’ and yorkshire pudding! I would insist on washing the meat with lemon and seasoning it overnight, whereas Malcolm would throw on the seasoning and put it straight in the oven so I’ve taught him to do it properly now!
Malcolm: What was striking when we came together was how much we had in common. On the outside we looked very different and our parents had different cultural backgrounds. But we both had parents who had worked hard to afford to buy a house; we both had families that gravitated towards the family home and would come together on special occasions to eat together and all talk over each other; we had both grown up in Baptist churches so our way of doing church was very similar.
What advice would you give an interracial couple to help them understand one another better?
Maria: Every couple needs to sit down and talk and work out what their differences are. This goes for any couple. Then you can try and talk things through.
Malcolm: I think it’s particularly important with interracial couples to look at their parents and see where their cultural traits have come from. We often carry the customs and traditions through to our own relationships and maybe looking further up the line we gain more clarity regarding where the differences are coming from.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN…
Download Toucan Today
Toucan helps you make the most of those spare moments in your day to start investing in your relationship.Sign up for free