“My wife is a medical doctor”, whenever possible I insert this sentence in a suitable or unsuitable place. I do this in full awareness of what I am doing. A part of me inserts the sentence with a bad feeling, a part of me with pride. “My wife is a medical doctor”. How is that relevant?
Why do I almost feel compelled to say this? Actually, I’ve celebrated enough successes of my own. “My wife is a medical doctor,” I say, whether the occasion warrants it or not. “My wife is a medical doctor, my wife grew up in Nairobi, my wife studied at the Charite in Berlin, I met my wife in Hamburg, my wife is great. My wife got her German passport because she has been here long enough and pays taxes. My wife comes from a good family, her father is an architect. My wife DOES NOT NEED ME and that is good.“
I think I’m saying all this because I want to pre-empt your question, “Where did you two meet?” – actually a nice question when it comes up in a nice conversation with a couple of friends on a Sunday afternoon. Over a cup of coffee and sunshine. But it’s not a nice question when it comes out of nowhere without an announcement. When it is borne so transparently out of a stereotype according to which the white, rich old man brings a beautiful black woman out of poverty.
My wife is black, I am white, and so I try to escape this stereotype. To make it clear, this form of racism comes across to me, but at least I have a choice, I have chosen my wife, I am white and so I live an undeserved and unreasonable privilege.
Similar to the way black people in Germany are always asked where they come from, with mixed couples like us there is ALWAYS the question in the room, where we know each other from and how we met. Certainly, in some cases it is curiosity and I admit it to good friends. But it is significant that this question really does come up on all sorts of inappropriate occasions. And then with pleasure with the hint, who has a black wife over six corners, like ” the brother-in-law of my cousin has a friend and he is married to a Nigerian woman…”.
“My wife is a medical doctor.”…
Jochen Baumeister (Founder Urban Change Lab)