Race-related tension is evident in communities across the nation and it seems everyone has a story to share. The good news is, not every account is negative.
Coweta resident Shelly Martin said she was never taught prejudice in the home, but has always been aware of the opposing opinions of others around her, particularly in her formative years.
Martin has always dated outside of her race, but it isn’t something she has ever felt the need to hide from her family. Her mother, a white woman, remarried when Martin was around ten years old, to a black man.
“My step-dad is black, and it never bothered me,” Martin explained. She noted that she and her siblings had always been well-loved by the man her mother chose to remarry.
In fact, Martin’s biological father, who was noticeably absent through much of Martin’s childhood, has long-since welcomed the second father figure.
“My real dad has said that he has a lot of respect for my stepdad,” Martin said. “He has said he is thankful to him for raising us.”
Martin said that she never really considered the differences between her family and other families. She added that after her mother remarried, her family lived in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and she recalls always having been treated equally — “like any other child outside playing.”
Though her own memories did not include negativity directed her way from other children, Martin does recall that her step-dad was ridiculed.
“He worked as a truck driver,” Martin explained. “When we rode around with him in town, other drivers would talk about him on the CB radio. They would make horrible comments.”
Years later, when Martin began to explore her own relationships, and found that she was attracted to men and friends outside of her own race, which, to her, seemed natural.
“But for my friends in high school it was different,” Martin said. “I knew of other white girls who were sent away for dating outside their race. One friend was forced to go to another school, one that was mostly white.”
Martin noted that the classmate, whom she reunited with years later, seemed to have changed her entire personality, a repercussion Martin described as sad.
“Things are different now than they were when I was a child or when I was a teen,” Martin said. “Most people won’t say anything hateful to your face anymore. Most people aren’t going to come to you and tell you what they think.” Although, the local added, that doesn’t mean they aren’t judging you, they simply aren’t doing it blatantly.
Martin is now a mother of three children, two girls and one boy, and all were products of an eight-year relationship she had with an African-American man. Martin noted that her own mixed-race children have never returned home from school with reports of a negative experience based on racial differences.
Her oldest daughter, at 19, is described by her mother to be a strong girl with a big heart.
“Once, in tenth grade, someone used the n-word,” Martin said. “and she completely flipped out on him. She told him he shouldn’t use that word and needed to leave the table she was at.”
As for future relationships, Martin said any man she chooses to date will definitely have to accept her children, and their skin color.
Black, white or whatever, “I couldn’t date someone who had any kind of issues about race or being mixed-race.”