Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Association Bylaws Cause Strife in Relationship

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been involved in my cultural community for many years, and I feel strongly that I should support our causes and work to build up the community in any way I can. I am African-American, and I understand the issues that we face; I have marched and petitioned and participated in Black Lives Matter and other things over the years to support my people. I am very active.

I joined an organization a few years ago, but I didn’t really pay attention to the bylaws. I have now learned that this particular group has a rule forbidding marrying a white woman. I get their point: They want black people to love and choose one another. The thing is, I met and fell in love with a white woman. I don’t want to walk away from my community, but I do want to marry this woman. What should I do? -- Racial Divide

DEAR RACIAL DIVIDE: This is such a prickly topic -- for you as an African-American and, dare I say, for many people of all ethnic backgrounds. For generations, the tradition for most people has been that people marry within their groups -- whatever those dividing lines may be. In this country, it was illegal for many years for blacks and whites to marry. This was called miscegenation, and it often came with penalty of arrest, ostracism and even death by the community at large. In reaction to the extreme practices of racism, some groups chose to create their own rules to protect their communities and keep them strong. This may be why your organization made this bylaw.

The realities of love and intimacy have always been different from those of the law. When people fall in love and choose to build their lives together, it’s not automatically based on their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Many prominent African-American civil rights leaders were married to white people. They had their personal lives AND stayed in the struggle. I say choose love. You can leave that particular group or try to change its bylaws, but don’t allow it to stifle your joy.

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