Interracial couples on how they’re talking about race, love, and Black Lives Matter: ‘The conversation took a far deeper meaning’

  • June 12 marked the 53rd anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that legalised marriage between interracial couples in the United States.
  • It comes in the midst of a global reckoning on race relations, following the death of George Floyd, which has jump-started a nationwide discussion on racism and privilege.
  • Insider spoke to two couples in interracial relationships on how they met, fell in love, and how race has influenced the way they navigate the world together.
  • Bedford and Chelsie told Insider different experiences like being pulled over by the police led them to have larger conversations on race in their relationship.
  • Bree and CJ told Insider the recent wave of Civil Rights demonstrations across the country have inspired them to speak out on their social media platforms and to their families.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, has triggered a global conversation about racism, anti-racism, racial bias, police brutality, how non-Black people understand their privilege, and how to be an effective and genuine ally.

But for many interracial couples, conversations about race and privilege have always been part of their lives.

The ongoing protests calling for change and recognition have continued into June. This coincides with Loving Day, commemorating Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that, in 1967, legalised marriage between interracial couples in the US.

Today, interracial couples make up 17% of newlyweds a year in the US, according to Pew Research, and the demographics of couples on TV and in movies are changing.

Insider spoke to two couples in interracial relationships on how they met, fell in love, and how race has influenced the way they navigate the world together.

Bedford and Chelsie Dort didn’t talk much about race when they first started dating, but now they do

Chelsie and Bedford Dort

Chelsie, 30, and Bedford, 35, told Insider they didn’t think much about race when they first started dating. While Bedford is Black and of Haitian descent and Chelsie is white, they both grew up in Utah which is 90.7% white, and both come from a Christian background. Bedford said that might have influenced their conversation on race as a couple. The only big question on Chelsie’s mind when they first met was how Bedford would react to her having a son, which had been a dealbreaker with other dates.

“Naturally, because of how we were raised and maybe even because of the location we were raised, it was just an automatic. ‘Oh, I’m Black, she’s white,'” Bedford said.

However, while their families were both welcoming to one another, some people still made microaggressive comments about their relationship that brought race to the forefront of their minds.

“A little after we had started dating that someone had made a comment to me a little along the lines of ‘Well, your kids will never look like you,'” Chelsie told Insider.

“I was like ‘Isn’t that crazy?’ and he was like ‘That’s actually not crazy. I’ve had quite a few people break up with me for that reason. Just because their kids will never have blonde hair and blue eyes, their genetics don’t necessarily shine through in that way.'”

“After that conversation, I feel like it opened up doors for us to have more conversations about those things.”

Since getting married in 2014, they have had three more kids, and now work together as content creators.

Bedford: ‘The first time that I got pulled over, it was kind of a big deal’

Chelsie and Bedford Dort

[This transcript has been edited from a conversation between Canela López, and Bedford and Chelsie Dort.]

Bedford: I had expired tags so technically I was in the wrong. But with expired tags came seven police officers, being handcuffed in the parking lot, and being taken away.

We were all meeting at a restaurant and I got pulled over about a block from the restaurant, my family’s there, her family’s there, we were all together for a birthday.

I remember her getting kind of riled up and my family saying “You gotta calm down. The last thing you can do is bring any sort of emotion, intensity into that situation.”

Because I know that, more often than not, police officers are scared when they pull people over, and some of them are scared of me. So coming in and my wife wanting to fight, scream, yell, be emotional, I’m like “No, this is going to be a whole lot worse if we don’t keep our heads.”

I remember having the conversation afterward, and she said “Is this really what it’s like” and I said, “Yeah, this is why I act the way that I act when police are around.”

When we had those conversations, I think it was eye-opening. Now, she realises this is everyday life. It’s not something that happens every now and again or once a week, there are things I think about and I’m aware that she is fully cognisant of because of our relationship.

Chelsie: ‘I took time to research’

The Dort family

Bedford: The riots are happening, and we’re aware of it. It’s disappointing that the riots are happening, but only because riots occur only when people aren’t being heard. I understand people are frustrated with things being broken, but at the end of the day, it’s been hundreds of years of a demographic, of a group of people who have not been heard.

I think one of the biggest things she [Chelsie] was scared of is what it looked like for other Black people if we all got lumped into a riot. And there have been negative things that have happened to people who have nothing to do with or were peacefully protesting only because they were Black in an area.

We had a conversation and she said “Are you scared?” and I’m not anymore scared than I’ve ever been and I think that was kinda a turning point for her when she realised “this is the unsettledness that you feel all the time, this is how you feel.”

Chelsie: I told Bedford, “My fear with the riots is it just makes the police more afraid of you.” Because we were talking one time and Bedford said, “You know, it’s hard as a police officer in this situation if someone’s walking towards you, how much time do you give them to find out what their intentions are?” And that’s what’s scary for me because I was like, “Well, you have good intentions.”

At first, when the riots started, I was like “I hate this, it’s making it worse,” because that’s my experience and my fear as a white mother of people fighting power with power. But then, after I had some time to research and think about it, then I was like, “well there’s only so much sometimes you can do before you feel backed into a corner and then you fight your way out.” I think that some people feel like it’s their only option.

Bree and CJ Koegel met modelling for Wilhelmina Models in 2016

Bree and CJ Koegel
Bree and CJ Koegel Christie Caiola

Bree Koegel, 31, met CJ, 35, her now-husband and soon-to-be father of their first child, through their work as fitness models for Wilhelmina.

Bree and CJ told Insider they spent the first months of their relationship having deep conversations and building a strong friendship. While their conversations oftentimes focused on serious topics, race isn’t something that immediately came up for the two.

“This isn’t the first interracial relationship I’ve been, and Bree had known that,” CJ said. “I think between her and I, there was this lack of us going into some of those deep conversations because I think we both automatically felt we stood on the same principles.”

CJ: ‘Listening to Bree speak has taught me how to expose these microaggressions, which in the past I wouldn’t have seen’

[This transcript has been edited from a conversation between Canela López, and Bree and CJ Koegel]

CJ: There’s people in my family who I don’t see eye-to-eye with on these topics. So, I’ve been having these conversations with my family members, my parents.

I look at it from my perspective and said, “Well, if I have things I need to unlearn, better believe the people above me in my family have things that they need to unwind too because they have gone through a lot of stuff in this world too.” I’ve watched after my conversations and how I saw certain things being handled. It’s simple things that I saw like getting into my dad’s car on the way to the store and when he turns the car on, it was on a station of a history channel based off of learning about the inequalities of the Black community.

It’s difficult to look at your family and see things that you know need to be changed. There’s some people in my family who didn’t go to my sister’s wedding based off of the fact that they didn’t want her to marry a Black guy.

So you see that and it’s disheartening, but at the same time, the same way I have a voice in everything else, I need to stay with that voice and maintain that leadership, even knowing that these conversations are going to be difficult, but knowing that they need to happen.

Bree and CJ Koegel
Bree and CJ Koegel Christie Caiola

Bree: ‘I could see CJ just get paralysed in thought right after the Ahmad Arbery video footage surfaced’

Bree: He was like, “I don’t know why this is just hitting me different. I know that this happens, and I know that we’ve seen injustice caught on film before, but this feels different.”

I said, “I think it’s because we’re about to have a son.”

That was when the conversation took a far deeper meaning because it was more than just, “What do you think?” It was like, “So what are we going to do? And how are we going to be part of the change? And how are we going to make this world better?”

Then to see George Floyd days later, and the whole world’s reaction, all of a sudden it didn’t feel taboo or aggressive to post about it. It was like, “Oh no, you know what? This isn’t just a problem inside our relationship to address, this is a problem the world needs to address. If we can expose our conversation to the world, and help them move this along, then by all means with these, our platform to do so.”

I think it’s been really interesting as a Black person, kind of zooming out and zooming in. Because I’ve been saying to CJ, there are days that I just get exhausted from all of it and I’m like, “I need a break.” And then he picks up the slack.

I think these conversations with me now being empowered and me now, not really giving a cr-p about offending somebody, it’s going to change the way that we engage in this world, for the better. And it’s going change the way we engage as parents for the better. As scary as everything has been, I’m excited for the revolution, because of what it means for our child.

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