The Taboo That Isn't
"Damn, I wish THOSE bad boys would come out and play."
Today, a white woman with whom I work (and happen to have a good on-the-job relationship) asked me an interesting question. We were joking around about the idea of Suzanne Somers digging around in the ashes of her home looking for Botox and a thighmaster (poor taste, I know) when she suddenly asked me point blank, "If you were single would you date a white woman?" Now, I don't believe she was asking me this question because she's interested in me. She could be but I doubt it. I just think she finally reached the point at which she felt comfortable enough with me (it happens with many white people I've learned) to broach the subject of race and interracial dating.
In any event, I felt comfortable enough with her to give her my honest reply: "No. I don't think I would." As soon as she heard my answer her face sunk and she could not hide her disappointment. Again, I don't think this was because she's digging me. I think it has more to do with her assumption that, because I'm a relatively cool dude, I'm educated, and I'm familiar with most of the major pop cultural references that white people frequently access (for example, I happen to know that white guys within a certain age range absolutely LOVE the movie The Big Lebowski and I've made more than one white bartender go apeshit simply by asking for a "Caucasian") I would be able to "see beyond race."
I certainly didn't get any joy out of giving her a response that she didn't want to hear. Just because I author a race-conscious blog doesn't mean I dislike white people or that I get off on shunning them. After I told her that I just couldn't do it, I explained to her the unimpeachable logic behind my answer. It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I find black women more physically attractive. This alone might explain why I would pursue certain relationships but it can't completely eclipse the fact that there are plenty of attractive white women out there too. Neither does it have to do with my understanding of how race operates in this country. I know quite a few outspoken, "pro black," fist-in-the-air militants who have significant others named Heather and Amy (paging Paul Mooney). Also, it has little to do with the loyalty I feel for black women in general. Frankly, as I've told my wife many times, I sincerely believe that, if most white men were checking for black women, it would be a wrap for brothers. "Something New" is actually something quite old. Even though the current focus is usually on black men who "trade up" for white partners, black women have also used white men to elevate themselves socially for years. In his 1916 book From Superman to Man, JA Rogers wrote about black women rejecting black men in favor of white men with hateful expressions like, "Nobody asked for any coal."
No. What I gave her was the absolute truth. At this point in my life, were I single, I wouldn't date white women because I believe that making relationships work is difficult enough without having to overcome significant racial and cultural differences - particularly when it comes to black/white unions. I realize that this sounds like a cop out but I stand by it. I can not imagine a scenario in which I have to defend myself against racist barbs both in my professional and personal lives.
One of my close friends has to do this regularly. He's living with a white woman on the West Coast. When it's just the two of them everything is cool but whenever her friends and family come around he struggles with endearing himself to them while maintaining his dignity and his sanity. It should go without saying that, like I assume of the woman with whom I work, these white people also accept the idea of colorblindness. They claim not to see color. Yet, they consistently question his intelligence, capability and white woman worthiness at every turn. On one occasion, during an argument over how much income hospital emergency rooms generate, his girlfriend's sister tried to convince him that he didn't know what he was talking about (he happens to be a graduate of the top-ranked MHA program in the country and an executive for a major health care system). On another, he found himself at his apartment having to endure a discussion about how considerably lucky he is to be dating his girlfriend. When I told him that comments like these are normal and that he may have been overreacting, he made it clear to me that this wasn't the typical kind of "you'd better take good care of her" protective banter that new boyfriends have to endure. He told me that they made it pretty clear to him that they really couldn't understand why she would be dating someone like him (he also happens to be a big-hearted, intelligent, relatively good looking dude).
This kind of thing wouldn't work for me. I don't particularly care for white liberals - they seem to only be able to accept their black people as charity cases and not as equals - and I can't abide the malignancy of colorblind racism (whenever I have a choice, I prefer my racism to be candidly expressed). Having to sift through that rubbish in my own home would be a deal breaker.
I don't want to make it seem as if I'm disparaging interracial dating. If you're lucky enough to find someone, no matter their color, who can endure you, God bless. I do have two pieces of advice, however, for those of you who are dating "outside." The first is more of a request actually. PLEASE, if you are in an interracial relationship, do folks like me a favor and don't mythologize your bond. I can't stand it when people try to make it seem as if, by dating someone of a different race, they're doing something courageous, and akin to tasting the forbidden fruit. Believe me, that fruit was picked from the tree a LONG time ago. Also don't castigate men or women who belong to the group that you've chosen to avoid and try to make it seem as if they forced you to look elsewhere. If you want to go in another direction that's your choice but there's nothing worse than a brother who dates a white woman because he claims black women don't do this or that. Stop being an Uncle Ruckus and take some ownership of your decision for Christ's sake. And for you women: blanketly smearing black men while you're snuggling up to a white dude is definitely not a good look. Say it with me now, "I'm with Megan (or Jack) because I like Megan (or Jack)." That's all the explanation you need.