Amaris Koga, a Romanian white woman, never really dated outside of her race before she met Richard Tisdale, an African-American Naval officer from Florida.
Now, the couple share a home together in Ford’s Colony with their children with plans to marry in the future.
“There are complexities of having a blended family,” she said. “Add race, it becomes more complex.”
She met Tisdale online and they both have kids from previous relationships: Koga has five children with her Romanian ex-husband and Tisdale has a child from his previous marriage to his African-American ex-wife.
Recently, the couple gave birth to a son, Cristian, who is half black and half white.
Since moving to Williamsburg, they have had to deal with racist sentiments from Koga’s family and stares from strangers in the Historic Triangle.
Koga’s family doesn’t talk to her because they don’t approve of her dating a black man, she said.
“Better to have a dead daughter than to have a daughter with a black man,” Koga, a Riverside family physician, said.
Her parents have attempted to brainwash her five kids, teaching them racist language and suggested she give the baby or “it” up for adoption.
Concerned and upset, she turned to a local Facebook group, asking for biracial families to hang out with her children to let them know it’s okay to have a blended family with different races.
At least 20 mothers reached out to her via Facebook and countless others shared their support.
Because of the response, Koga is thinking about starting a Facebook group for interracial couples and biracial families.
“I need the children to know it’s okay,” she said. “I want them to be part of a generation that educates society.”
In the Historic Triangle, Koga said she and Tisdale, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, can’t even go to the grocery store without getting second looks.
“There’s still a lot of this stigma,” Koga said. “We’re upstanding members of society and we get looked at as trash.”
Most of the looks come from black women and white men, Koga said, each race feeling they have lost one of their men or women to another race.
There was a time when she went to the movies with Tisdale when “a bunch” of black women started saying nasty things to her, suggesting she was with her partner because of “sexual prowess,” a stereotype of black men.
“We laugh now because we’re used to it,” Koga said. “We call it our ‘stereo’ vision.”
“It can be overwhelming,” she added. “Williamsburg isn’t really the place for an interracial couple.”
So when they run into another interracial couple, they smile.
Another stereotype the family deals with? Her mixed-race child.
Koga said random people constantly approach her commenting on Cristian’s appearance, with comments ranging from “the baby is gonna be so cute” to “oh, I hope he has straight hair or “he comes out with light eyes.”
Her mother has inquired if the baby looks more black or more white.
“Your baby is so dark, who does he take after?,” Koga said other people have told her, adding sometimes they are unaware of their insulting comments.
“His black dad,” Koga responds.
She said she feels she has to carry around a sign saying she is married to a black man with an essay attached to answer everyone’s questions such as their taste in music, their socio-economic status and job security.
“No, we don’t rap at home, no we’re not on welfare,” Koga said. “He [Tisdale] has a security clearance,” she added.
“You get lumped into this bad category and you have to explain yourself and my life, the size of my family and the black guy,” Koga said.
As a mother, Koga wants to raise her child so he doesn’t get frustrated and is educated about society and by extension the racism he might encounter.
“I don’t really know what these things are,” Koga said, adding she doesn’t know how to act as a black man or what to do if her son gets pulled over by the police.
“I’m still trying to deal with everybody,” she added. “To me, it’s all new but we’re both adults, it’s the children we are all worried about.”
Tisdale is in California on orders to the naval postgraduate school.
“To me it’s kinda a personal experience that I always knew,” Tisdale said in regards to race.
When he started dating Koga, he found it curious and even interesting that she hadn’t had these particular experiences such as being the only black person in a room.
“The only thing unusual is taking her sons from a previous marriage,” he said. “People just assume right away that these aren’t my kids.”
Tisdale said he is used to the extra attention being a black man.
“There were certain things she didn’t quite understand,” he said, adding it wasn’t until she had their child did she start understanding racism. “It’s different for her. After a while, you get so many questions, you just get numb.”
Tisdale said he has no concerns raising their child — having a conversation with his child about race relations will have to happen much earlier.
“People will say something and people will hurt them,” he said, adding it was important to prepare children for the world or end up being hurt by the world or naive.
Racism in America
“We already have biases and prejudices in place,” said Billy McIntye, chief operations officer at the Hampton Roads Diversity and Inclusion Consortium.
While McIntye has no personal experience being in an interracial relationship, he does understand racial prejudices and stereotypes present in society.
“I do know there are some instances black females will frown on a black man being with a white woman,” McIntye said, adding he feels it ties back to a person’s past experiences. “They can sometimes categorize and classify other people of the same race.”
“Generations today are more in tune not to take on those racial tendencies as compared to the baby boomer generation and older,” he said.