Editor note: Tessie Tracy and Bruce Elebee were interviewed by Carla Romo. This is their story, in their words and told by them.
Tessie Tracy is one of my closest friends. We discuss anything and everything from our workouts to our relationships with our partners. Her fiance, Bruce Elebee, is black and Tessie is white. We’ve had numerous conversations about her interracial relationship and how to create inclusion. Having conversations about this has helped me come to a better understanding of the challenges they face as a couple.
Considering the ongoing racism in America, their story is necessary to share. From both a personal and professional perspective, as a social activist and a dating and relationship coach, I’m always looking to improve my understanding of the differences and challenges that people face in different types of relationships.
Tessie and Bruce met while both working at the same crossfit gym in West Hollywood, CA. Their connection was instant, and after a few years of friendship, an unexpected romance sparked for them and they’ve been in love ever since. A few years later they got engaged and are now living in Denver, CO.
This is their story of what it’s like being an interracial couple in America:
What are your roots…
Tessie: My mom has always shared stories when her family moved here from Slovenia. She’d tell us that growing up they were told to only speak English and that they shouldn’t speak or learn their native language, for fear of discrimination. On my Dad’s side of the family, we’re Scottish and Irish that I know of. Oh, and apparently I had a relative who signed the constitution.
Bruce: So that ‘all men created equal’ thing was not at the forefront. That’s one thing I really have to look into, where my family came from. I was saying today I want to do a 23andMe because
Tessie: Because it’s part of the racism that you don’t fucking know where you’re from.
Bruce: All I know is I grew up in Louisiana and my parents did too. Going further than that I don’t necessarily know. I do know growing up I’d look through these photo albums. I’d see my Dad and his Dad. Then, as I flipped through it I started noticing white people. I was told that they were our relatives. It was black and white pictures of older white people. That’s basically what I know about my family.
Stereotypes from your own race…
Bruce: When it comes to how other people seem to react, I’d say my family has always said that whoever you love we love.
Tessie: When white people have seen Bruce and I together, I’ve gotten a lot of, “are your parents ok with it?” “oh is that hard?”, “has anyone ever said anything?” “are you worried about the world your kids are going to grow up in?”
Bruce: Once I was Christmas shopping at Macy’s in the Beverly Center and I walked up to pay for Christmas presents and the black cashier said, “you can’t find a black woman to make you happy?” I’ve experienced looks and under the breath kind of comments from black people.
As a black person I’m hypersensitive to changes in people whether it has anything to do with race or not. I love Tess, but do I think being black could be a discussion within her family? Yes. In her immediate family at the beginning I thought, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out.” The realistic part of it is, if I was white I’d probably have a different relationship with her family than I have being black. There will be some type of experience where I’ll think, is my skin color a problem? Is it not a problem? It’s kind of hard to explain.
Tessie: Yes (being in an interracial relationship) has felt harder.
I’ve always been the black sheep, no pun intended, and one that follows my own heart. My family feels I’ve chosen the “harder path” in more ways than one, and why couldn’t I have fallen in love with someone they can relate to completely. That 100% has made it feel hard. I am grateful they do their best to be loving and accepting, but to say it hasn’t felt sticky at times, and that I haven’t questioned if it’s because he’s black would be a lie. Not in any sense that I’d change anything but it’s just interesting.
What you face together…
Tessie: There was one time we were going to a friends house and I got pulled over for my tail light out.
Bruce: Oh yeah, you were driving.
Tessie: It was so weird. Both of us had had this same thought that it’s two white cops. We both had a fear rise up in us. It wasn’t a fear for me it was a fear for him. Are they (cops) going to assume things are not ok? Or are they going to start asking him questions? It sucked that both of our minds went there.
Bruce: As a black man you have to have a police checklist. You could be having the nicest day driving and singing to songs. As soon as you stop at a corner and see a cop, that anxiety hits. Is the registration up to date? Is my tail light out? And if they pull me over where is my license? Do I have to dig for anything?
I was telling Tessie the other day. I once was walking down the street in LA and the cops pulled me over. I said hi to someone who passed by and they thought it was some type of drug deal. It’s one of those things where anxiety hits when a cop car is in the vicinity.
Something you wish people knew…
Tessie: I wish people knew that if they have a question it’s ok to ask. A lot of hate and ignorance often comes from being scared of what we don’t know. Sometimes when we don’t know something we make up our mind about what it is or what it means or what the other person’s experience is.
Tessie: There’s a difference between saying “Oh, I don’t see color”. There’s a difference between that and also assuming that maybe it is a certain experience. It’s not about ignoring that it is an interracial thing, but more importantly it’s not cool to assume it means anything either, if that makes sense.
You love who you love, you get along with who you get along with, you are attracted to who you’re attracted to. Sometimes I feel certain assumptions because of the white girl black guy thing.
A white girl is a certain type of way like “oh she likes a black dick.” Those assumptions I wish would stop. No ones walking around with two people of the same race asking: Why are you not with someone outside of your race? But then it’s always something the other way around: Well, why aren’t you with someone that’s your race? This question is normal.
Bruce: It’s a relationship. It’s nothing more. We don’t fight differently because she’s white and I’m black. We don’t make up different because I’m black and she’s white. It’s a relationship.
Yes, I have outside sources that will hang over my head like, “you’re not with a black girl.” But, you think about things that any person in a same-race relationship. We want to be successful, get married, have kids, etc.
What makes it difficult being interracial…
Bruce: People on the outside make things difficult for people that are in interracial relationships. It’s not the people that are in interracial relationships that find things to gripe about. It’s those outside sources, “what do your parents think?” “Do you get along with her family?” Then I say wait a minute, if she was black would you ask me if I get along with her family?
I’m not that person that’s going to educate you on, ok, this is how you’re in an interracial relationship. If you want to experience it you experience it based off of the way you were brought up or based off of your ignorance, you’re the one that decided I just wanted to date within my race. That’s your choice.
I’m not going to go up to someone of the same race as me and ask, “how come you don’t date a black guy/girl?” Regardless of our skin color it’s still a relationship. A love, hate, get on your nerves, pick this up, kind of relationship like everyone else has.
When I see an interracial couple black/white it’s like “Good for you. You didn’t stay in your bubble.”
Tessie: As a world we’re becoming more mixed as a human race. We are a huge melting pot.
Bruce: If you’re an interracial couple and you make it, then it shows you’re a strong couple. You do have to deal with a lot more stuff than your normal couple. I’ve asked Tessie before, “We have kids, how do you explain to our kid that, once upon a time, people of my color once owned people your color?”
Tessie: Or explain that you’re going to be called black even though you’re half white.
Bruce: You don’t get a pass. Everything that’s been going on and being a black man, you have no idea how fed up I am about everything that’s going on. Don’t look at us and see an interracial relationship. Look at us and say they don’t get along or they love each other.
Grow up. It’s time to get past all of this stuff because at the end of the day, I can’t change my skin color and she can’t either. That’s not going to change and if you don’t like it, look the other way.
Just let us be a couple. Help us create a world that’s ok. That’s what it comes down to. Forget the race and forget the color, just help us create a world that is just normal.
On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court issued its Loving v. Virginia decision, which struck down laws that banned inter-racial marriages as unconstitutional.
Resources to educate and learn more about racism in the U.S.:
Becoming, Michelle Obama: Order Here
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates: Order Here
Citizen, Claudia Rankine: Order Here
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson: Order Here
From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Order Here
How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi: Order Here
Me and White Supremacy, Layla F Saad: Order Here
The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander: Order Here
White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo: Order Here
13th – Netflix
Now They See Us – Netflix
The Loving Story – HBO Go
Whose Streets? – Hulu
What Happened, Miss Simone? – Netflix
Places to donate:
Color Of Change: Donate
Black Lives Matter: Donate
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Donate
Louisville Community Bail Fund: Donate
Official George Floyd Memorial Fund on GoFundMe: Donate
The Liberty Fund: Donate