7 Racist Things I’ve Been Told for My Own Good

Reflecting on “well-meaning” advice about my biracial relationship

Martina Petkova

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

“What you’re going through now is what people in biracial relationships experienced here in America over half a century ago,” I was told by a very wise and dear American friend when I shared with her how people around me were reacting to my new relationship.

I am white and my boyfriend is not. He’s Roma, or — to use the more popular term in the West — Gypsy. The “problem” is not just his darker skin, though make no mistake, dark skin is not celebrated here in my home country of Bulgaria. The “problem” is the ethnicity. The Roma are the most marginalized minority in Europe. Over half of them were murdered during the Holocaust, their homes have been systematically burned down and their communities destroyed, they’ve been enslaved, sterilized, and — to this day — people disenfranchise them and taunt them with this history of violence.

In Bulgaria, the word “Tsiganin” or “Gypsy” is used as an insult. Darker-skinned people of different ethnicities or nationalities are called “Gypsies” as a put-down, and we have an endless list of descriptors like “lying like a Gypsy,” “lazy like a Gypsy,” “ugly like a Gypsy.”

Anyway, I fell in love with a Gypsy man. I knew I won’t exactly see approving looks when we walk down the street hand in hand. I was prepared for people’s hostility and for being shunned. I was friends with him for a year before we got together and became very close with the entire Roma community he’s from, so I already knew a lot about the extent of racism in Bulgaria.

What caught me off-guard was the “well-meaning” advice. The kind, sweet, absolutely-not-racist but just-concerned advice from the type of people who believe themselves to be open-minded, definitely not racist, but just looking out for confused little me.

Here are some of the things I’ve been told for my own good.

1. “He can’t recommend books or movies.”

Starting off with the funniest one. It was preceded by “This is not the type of man I can picture you with” but since it’s hard to elaborate more without sounding racist, apparently I’m most easily pictured with a man…

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Martina Petkova

In my Medium writing, I explore the human psyche, our many contradictions, mental health, & the signs and causes of abuse. I also write about racism.