As protests start to die down and the real work of pushing conversations about race in America moves forward, a lot of people may find themselves out of their comfort zones. It’s not a new topic of discussion for interracial couples and their families like Dock and Ashley Simpson.
“When I look at her, I don’t look at her as a white woman,” Dock said. “That’s the love of my life. I look at her as somebody that I fell in love with.”
He’s Black. She’s white. They’ve been together for 10 years and married for three.
“There has been a few extended family members that made comments that kind of rubbed me the wrong way on both sides of our family,” he said.
But most of the people close to them have been supportive.
“It wasn’t so much our families,” Ashley said. “It was the outside people that didn’t know him to know his heart, his soul, and probably the same for me. And we still get that more than we would like from strangers.”
Dock says there’s a certain look they get all the time.
“You might be walking in the store and we may hold hands and we might see somebody give us a look. We know that look too often. We know what it means. It’s one of those things that actions speak louder than words so we really don’t have to hear them say it to know what they’re saying,” he said.
And Ashley says she gets it in her Facebook messages when she talks about her mixed family.
“’… you’re an abomination for being with a Black man and you brought kids into this world and that’s wrong,’” she recalls in a previous message.
She says before they were together, she would post on social media asking why everything is about race. But over the years, she says she’s gotten to see a side of race in America that she never experienced first-hand as a white woman.
“It’s been several times he’s tried to return something for me at Walmart and they give him a hard time if he didn’t have the receipt and I will take that same item back — literally he walks to the car and I walk in and have no problem whatsoever,” she said.
And then there was the time Dock got pulled over and had guns pulled on him for an expired tag.
“An honest mistake that we didn’t know and I’m driving down the street and I look over and see my husband pulled over. There were like 11 cops over there over nothing but an expired license plate. It was completely ridiculous. And I promise you as soon as I pulled up there and I said this is my husband everyone left but two cops,” she said.
According to the Pew Research Center, 3 percent of married couples in the United States were interracial in 1967, the year laws banning interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional. It was 10 percent as of 2015 and trending up.
Pew research shows 17 percent of newlyweds in the country are intermarried. And nearly 40 percent of adults say the growing number is good for society. That’s up from 24 percent in 2010.
“I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve had people tell me Black and white people aren’t supposed to be together, and then they’ll say ‘that’s the way I was raised,'” Ashley said. “Well, that’s the way you were raised. It’s not the way I was raised. The way I was raised is to love everybody and to treat everybody equal.”
And that’s how they’re raising their children, who they say are sometimes confused about where they fit. And they tackle the race conversation together.
“It may be certain parts of the conversation that I can explain more about than she can being a Black man,” Dock said. “But it’s mostly something we tackle together and letting our kids know that you can’t let racism bother you. You can’t let it dictate to you who you want to be and where you want to go.”
“We’re raising the next generation,” Ashley said. “So, my hope and prayer is when they have kids, they’re going to teach their kids everything about race that we have taught them.”
Dock said he thinks through this generation of kids, there will be less racism.
The Simpsons believe there is a lot the country can learn from the growing number of relationships that look like them.
“Anybody that’s in an interracial relationship is the definition of: this thing can work between Black and white coexisting together,” Dock said.
The first legal interracial marriage in North Carolina was in 1971. That was four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was legal nationwide.