For over a year now our daughter, “Ann,” who is of Northern European descent, has been dating “Hank,” an African-American man. Their relationship has grown such that we believe Hank’s proposal of marriage to Ann is imminent.
To be perfectly clear: We are not, in the slightest degree, racist. So the problem is not, in and of itself, that Hank is African-American. As a person we like Hank very much: He has admirable values and a wonderful career. He even comes from a prosperous, respectable family.
Our concerns about the possibility of this marriage transpiring are strictly practical ones. Mainly, we worry that Ann and Hank would have to face problems with their marriage that couples who share a common background never have to face. And those problems will only be exacerbated when/if they have children, since the children of marriages such as theirs typically struggle — more than children usually do — to find their own sense of identity, their own place in the world.
We’re quite certain (or at least hopeful!) that the day is fast approaching when Ann will come to us, seeking our input on the subject of her marrying Hank. When that moment arrives, we want to be sure to advise her in a way that is loving and wise and serves both her interests and Hank’s, in the short run and the long.
We’d be interested in hearing how you might advise us to advise her.
If your daughter comes to you wanting to marry Hank, then your response should be your basic: “Yay! How wonderful! Fantastic news! We’re so happy you’ve found someone you love so much! Congratulations!” and … like that.
But that’s for the future. For now, I would implore you — and I mean full-on beg you — to look long and hard at where, in your letter to me, you employed the word “even.”
As in, Hank “even comes from a good family.”
Please dedicate some real time to reflecting upon why exactly you chose, at that moment, to use that word. Think about all that choice means. Think about all it says. Think about all it reveals.
Please also do yourself — and your daughter, and Hank, and the world — the favor of deeply contemplating the relationship between these two truths: For countless generations white people have been the ruling class in America, and a fish doesn’t know it’s living in water because it has never, for a moment, known anything else.
I’m a senior executive at my firm. I work hard; I’m respected at my job; I play by the rules.
My problem, in short, is that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for one of my employees. I know it’s wrong; I know I should forget all about becoming involved with this young woman. But the heart wants what it wants! Can you please help me before I do something I regret?
Ah, yes: “The heart wants what it wants.” If it’s a good enough excuse for Woody Allen to give Time magazine for why he just couldn’t stop himself from getting involved with the sister of his adopted children, then I guess it’s good enough for you, too.
But … really? Do you REALLY think your heart wants you to be the kind of creepy moral reprobate who hits on their employees?
C’mon, buddy. Be better than that. Find someone who doesn’t work for you to fall in love with.
(My friend Carol Colby chimed in with this gem: “Option B for the employer is to change his or her job before asking their employee out on a date. Let the employer decide whether pursuing this romance is worth upsetting their own career before they decide it’s worth upsetting someone else’s.)
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