“Did I just take a step back in time or did you really just say that?”
That’s what I said to Paul when he dumped me because I am black. His strict and very traditional Albanian parents wanted him to be with someone of his own ethnicity. I was used to being dumped because, “it’s not you it’s me.” I never thought I would hear, “It’s not you, it’s your skin color.”
Unlike past breakups where emotions ran high due to a bruised and battered heart and ego, this cut me deeper. As a woman of color, I know how far we have come as a society and a community. But with racial tensions quickly rising this last year, I am much more aware of the adversities that we – I – still face. I just never thought I’d be discriminated against in love.
But that’s exactly what happened. One Saturday evening after a few days of awkward interactions, Paul finally broke things off.
“I’m a bad person.” he repeated over and over again after telling me it was over.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He had yet to tell me why he was breaking up with me.
“You shouldn’t be with me, you deserve someone better,” he continued.
I contested the breakup to no avail; Paul stood firm. Our relationship was over as fast as it begun – and I had no idea why.
After some time Paul and I finally spoke again and he came clean. “My parents are not racist at all,” he explained, “and even though you are a very sweet girl they would never accept us being together seriously because you are not Albanian.”
I laughed. Not because it was funny but because I thought he was joking.
“There is nothing that will change their mind and I respect them too much to go against them,” he affirmed. “Yes, I like you and I generally like black women, but I also know that my parents won’t approve. If things get more serious, we would have to break up down the line.”
I thought, this is no reason to end a relationship. I mean, this could be fixed, right? So I did some research. I scoured forums and Googled myself silly to find ways to “fix” this issue. I was determined to mend his parents outdated mentality. When I returned with my findings and researched suggestions, Paul shot them down – including the one where I suggested I’d adapt to their language and culture.
“I’m sorry,” was all he could say,”…that’s just how it is.”
I felt rejected and dejected. And whenever anyone asked why Paul and I broke up, I couldn’t bring myself to tell them the real reason. Healing from this took more time, patience and intense self reflection than with any other other breakup. Because this cut was more than skin deep.