As I grew up, my mother was clear, "Don't bring no white person home."
She told me. She told my brother. Her warnings began before I ever considered having a boyfriend - and definitely before I considered inviting one to our home.
At my first real "big girl" job in DC, a friend and I would walk to lunch together. He was much older and a father figure to me. I can remember many times that he pointed out the men glancing my way. He would ask if I noticed this or that person looking fondly in our direction. I would say no. Eventually, he caught on and asked if I would ever date outside of my race. I explained that I never even considered it an option. I tried to say this without sounding racist or prejudiced - although I knew in my heart that it sounded exactly that way.
I would give white men, and men of all races besides Black, cursory looks at best. I just didn't consider them for me - as if I were diabetic and they were a sugary sweet that would send me to the hospital. Although I had never dated outside of my African American race, I believed the wives' tales I'd heard. They'll fetishize you. They only want you so they can brag to their friends about what it's like to be with a Black woman.
Even though I had a diverse group of friends and enjoyed their company, I didn't allow myself to consider that I could date outside of my race. But I'm starting to see and feel something in the zeitgeist that tells me this conditioning is hurting us.
I can remember in early college noticing that my Black male friends weren't afraid to notice women of other races. They liked what they saw. They compared demeanors and physical attributes.
I felt that was taboo. And I felt a little bit hurt that they could see beauty in a place I hadn't allowed myself to explore.
We would joke, "You only like them because they are submissive. You only like them because they believe your dumb lies." But whatever the joke, my Black male friends had allowed themselves to step outside of their community's expectations. I believe it is time for Black women to reclaim their time; their desires; their curiosities; and their lives.
We tell ourselves we can be and do and have whatever we want. But if we are refusing to consider that we may find love in a shade and a hue and a culture that is not originally our own, we are closing ourselves off from the possibilities of life. Granted, the relationship might not work. He might be a jerk. He might be better or worse than what you've experienced before. But you should get out there and live a little.
Recently, singer Chris Brown came under fire for his "Need a Stack" song lyrics where he declares he "only f*** Black bitches with the nice hair." The collective was offended and his response to the backlash reeked of insensitivity and colorism. I'm not surprised. Anyone paying attention knows what the women look like who have been associated with him recently. But if that's his preference, what's the rub?
I think it has something to do with a latent resentment that our men allow themselves to explore and express preferences. And so often our women don't always feel we have the same liberties.
In The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae suggests that Black women and Asian men should consider dating. She posits that Black women are deemed too independent/difficult and Asian men are emasculated - why not consider each other? I haven't always been ready to hear that type of advice, but now I am. I have overlooked and ignored potential suitors to appease society's expectations but I'm the only one following those rules. My Black male counterparts are throwing caution to the wind and dating who the f*** they want.
I don't have a problem with Chris Brown's preferences. I like chocolate chip cookies; maybe you prefer cake. But if you never allow yourself to consider dessert, I guess you would be a bit resentful of all those who do indulge. I wish preferences weren't seen as an attack on others. And I wish more Black women, speaking to myself mostly, would feel enabled to look beyond our upbringing and conditioning.
There might be a good relationship waiting for you just outside of your normal dating pool.
I wonder why it has taken me so long to get here. I see myself as progressive and open-minded yet I blindly accepted people's pronouncements over who I could date. I would never allow that type of limitation in other areas of my life like my education or career. Adjusting my thinking on this issue is erasing the vestiges of conditioning that no longer serves me. I am aligning with my spirit.
To give myself permission to do what my male counterparts do is freeing. I will say yes to life and to relationships that nourish me. I will focus on shared values over shared skin tones.
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