'What color is love?'

Sunday, March 06, 2005By Linda S. Mah
lmah@kalamazoogazette.com 388-8546

Pam Coffey, who is black, says she would like her daughter Yolanda, 16, to marry an African-American man someday.

She says this as she sits close to Patrick, her husband of five years, who is white.

"I believe strong African-American families do exist," Pam says, sitting in her Kalamazoo Township home. "I think our men are poorly represented. The ones who get noticed are those who don't carry themselves with dignity. But more so than marrying an African-American man, I want her to marry a Christian man with integrity who loves her."

When Pam made the decision to marry Patrick, ultimately her choice was not based on race but on the deep Christian ties they share and the love they feel for each other.

"I have friends who think there's something wrong with me or that I'm a sellout. I married a Caucasian, but it is not because I didn't believe in African-American men," says Pam, 45.

"When I was in my 30s, I wrote down everything on a list that I wanted in a mate, and then I met Patrick. I had a conversation with God. I said, 'He's everything I wanted in a partner. I never thought to ask you to make him black.' It's like the Cinderella story. He's the slipper. He fit."

Pam and Patrick Coffey are among a minority within a minority within a minority. Interracial couples constituted only 2.9 percent of the married couples in the United States in 2002, according to U.S. census data. Among those couples, 23.6 percent were black/white marriages. And in that group, marriages of black men to white women were 2.4 times as common as marriages of white men to black women.

The Coffeys acknowledge the reality of racism in the world; they've seen evidence of it in both the black and white communities, but they say it has never had a significant impact on their married life.

As to how they met, Pam and Patrick Coffey attended the same church and his daughter had even tried to set the two up on a blind date, but they never crossed paths. Then serendipity stepped in, and the two saw each other at a dance.

"She had dignity and bearing," says Patrick, 55. "That was remarkably noticeable."

"He was walking toward me and I thought, 'He's very attractive,'" Pam says.

Patrick, who is a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, and Pam, who is a hair stylist, dated for six years before marrying five years ago. Their children and their extended families have all been accepting and supportive of the union. Patrick has two children, Sarah Coffey, 32, of Los Angeles, and Patrick Coffey, 25, a student at Grand Valley State University in the Grand Rapids area.

The Coffeys choose to look at race from a Christian point of view. They attend the Christian Life Center, a nondenominational church that has a multiracial congregation.

Patrick says when he was in his 20s, he was working on the streets of Detroit as a missionary. He went up to one man and asked if he wanted to hear the good news. The man, who was obviously a mental patient, opened his jacket to expose a machete and challenged Patrick, "What color is God?"

He stumbled for an answer and then blurted out, "What color is love?"

The man was appeased, closed his coat and wandered off, leaving Patrick with a revelation.

"The source of racism is not color or culture or economic or social," he says. "Racism is a spiritual malady. In order to be better than someone, someone else has to be less than you. Love doesn't have a color. Joy doesn't have a color. Spirituality transcends everything."

© 2005 Kalamazoo. Used with permission

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