Media people

Erin Aubry Kaplan on love, race and death of a spouse

alan-kaplan-kcet.jpgLos Angeles author and journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan lost her husband two weeks ago. She had written about her life with Alan Kaplan multiple times, since he was white and she is black and there were lessons and stories in making their way as a mixed-race LA couple. She writes at KCET about love across the color line. Kaplan was a long-time teacher at the Hamilton High School humanities magnet. Excerpt:

Fourteen years ago I wrote an article for Salon.com published for Valentine's Day about how I met my husband, Alan Kaplan. I ended the article on a cautionary note: our hugely improbable, racially romantic story did not mean that we'd solved the problems of the color line. Far from it. Strip away the circumstances that I was a reporter and he was the reluctant subject of an interview for a story I was writing at the time, and we were merely a black woman and a Jewish man from different parts of L.A. who shared the same politics and bottomless outrage about the historic effects of that color line. He taught about it--for 33 years at Hamilton High School's humanities magnet-- I wrote about it. That was the most obvious thing we shared in common, but there were other things too, ordinary couple things like a complicated love of the Dodgers, eating out (neither of one us cooked), movies, sifting through stories in the latest issue of the New Yorker or the Atlantic Monthly. A few years into the marriage we discovered that we both loved dogs, and rescuing dogs; we adopted one post-Hurricane Katrina and eventually accumulated a whole houseful.


And yet matters of the color line suffused all the small and wonderful--and not so wonderful--things that make a relationship. I don't mean it smothered our marriage or tempered the joy. I mean that race was always present, like any other condition you might marry into. I know people prefer to think that intimacy is colorblind by definition; they assume that to be racially conscious of someone you love, especially your own spouse, must be the very antithesis of happiness. But that view is based on an ancient American fear of difference, not on reality. Alan and I knew that.

Early on we accepted the fact that whether we were getting along splendidly or getting on each other's case, he would never stop being white and I would never stop being black. Love would never negate the truth of our respective experiences of being black and white that were painstakingly designed over hundreds of years to be oppressive and hierarchal, not equal. So it was no surprise that at charged moments I called Alan on exercising white privilege, for being thoughtlessly self-centered in a way I was never allowed to be, and he shot back that that I was blaming privilege for some of my own problems of self-definition. Sometimes we were both right….


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