“Come back to the good side.”
While minding my business at the grocery store, I received this unsolicited advice from some Black guys who were unimpressed with my choice of partner: a White man. I was being reprimanded by total strangers who attacked my lifestyle, loyalty, and essentially, my Blackness.
When you’re in an interracial relationship, sordid statements and serious side-eye are always on the menu. This is particularly true for Black women. In a decade of dating humans of various hues, I’ve received countless cautions ranging from laughable to deeply objectionable.
“Well-Meaning” Warnings And Advice
Plenty of Black women date people in other ethnic groups, but we do so at a high cost. An iron backbone is required to fend off the insults, accusations of race betrayal, and even Nazi comparisons from all angles.
Most Black people can attest to racial microaggressions and instances of banal prejudice — be it unwanted hair touching or questions regarding our ability (or inability) to tan. One evening at a house party, an Irishman repeatedly called me Morgan Freeman due to my freckles. Apparently, Black people aren’t permitted to have freckles. However, as I experienced that day at the grocery store, limiting judgements also come from within the Black community.
Learning that I was dating a White guy prompted my former boss, who is of Jamaican descent, to call a one-hour meeting with me. “I’m worried that you don’t understand the way the world works,” she warned. She genuinely felt it was her solemn duty as a fellow Black woman to set me straight before it was too late. Supposedly, my boyfriend would dump me once Black girls were no longer “trendy.”
Then there was a Kenyan acquaintance who said, “you know you don’t love him, right?” after meeting my White then-boyfriend, Julian. Putting aside the audacity of someone dictating my feelings to me, as far as this acquaintance was concerned, race is an actual impermeable barrier to love.
Experiences Of Racism While Dating
“Well, since you’re Black you probably like it from behind.”
I heard this callous remark on a first date with a Russian man in London. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked if I can twerk (I can’t). I can thank racial fetishization and stereotypes for comments like, “I’ve always wanted to be with a Black girl with a big ass.” Increased awareness around women’s rights means that in recent years such careless comments have subsided, but they haven’t stopped.
The explanations are aplenty, but left out of the mix is that I might just want to date and love whomever I please.
When using Tinder side by side with my White best friend, we have very different experiences. For starters, I get significantly fewer matches and the ones I do get often have photos of themselves traveling in Africa. This rejection is now happening via online dating, but it’s not new — it previously took place on dance floors where I faded into the background and was largely overlooked as a romantic option. The bottom line is that our society has a certain prized notion of beauty, and Black women aren’t part of it. Many Black and non-Black guys won’t ever consider me because they haven’t been taught that I’m worth considering — by the media and the powers that be.
Thanks to the historical context of Black-White relations, Black women seeking fairer-skinned partners is viewed with suspicion and, seemingly, has tacit implications of self-hatred and a desire to “cleanse” one’s future gene pool. It’s as if there must be some sort of explanation as to why we date outside our ethnicity, suggesting that doing so is inherently abnormal.
I’ve been told that I must hate myself. That I’m attempting to legitimize myself in society by “dating up” (direct quote). Perhaps a complicated relationship with my Black father means I now seek men who are as different than him as humanly possible. The explanations are aplenty, but left out of the mix is that I might just want to date and love whomever I please.
I am the product of two generations of interracial marriages. This sort of union is as natural to me as the air I breathe. I grew up in four countries across different continents and witnessed varying degrees of opposition to interracial dating depending on where I lived.
I would love to say that after years of interracial relationships, my self-love is no longer called into question and words like “fake” aren’t hurled at me. I would love to say that Black women are no longer vilified for choosing to date someone of a different race. After all, there’s a Black woman in the British royal family and more and more depictions of Black women in interracial relationships on TV (think Lauren and Cameron on “Love is Blind” and Molly and “Asian Bae” on “Insecure”). I would love to say a lot has changed, but I’d be lying.
But while a lot of the same problems persist, over the last 10 years, I have seen interracial connections of all kinds becoming more normalized. Hopefully, this will continue to usher in increased awareness, erode the concept of a “good side” and a “bad side” to which the guy at the grocery store referred, and afford everybody — Black women included — the autonomy and option of colorblind love.