Dating Outside Of Your Race
Have I dated outside my race? Well, if I say yes believe me some black women might say, I knew he had dated a white woman, or I knew he would date a white woman. Either proposition could be quite frustrating for black women who sometime process a black man crossing the color line as if he is seeking a woman that society might view more favorably. Don’t dismiss this too quickly. Black men also have their anxieties about black women dating outside the race. Spike Lee possibly captured the woman's take on this phenomenon best in the conversation he featured called the “war council” in his 1993 film "Jungle Fever." Rumor has it he just gave the women in that film's conversation a topic, "interracial dating and loss of black men to white women," and then let the camera capture one of the most authentic conversations ever captured on film. And like many people if not most who may not be the product of an interracial union, opinions on interracial dating are often fraught with stereotypical notions. Well, maybe I have dated outside my race, far outside of it, traveling in many directions and acquiring insight into different cultures and values along the way. Oh yes, and incurring the slings and arrows of opinionated people from both sides of the racial divide. Maybe I have, maybe I haven't. You will find out later if you just keep reading. So, keep reading!
I remember the first time I crossed the color line to “examine diversity.” I was sixteen in Tulsa, Oklahoma and my 15 year old cousin was somewhat dating one of two sisters (really hanging out is more appropriate to what was actually occurring) who were both eager to hang out with two young black men. I had never even imagined what a head rush it would be to be under a spotlight like the one that interracial dating puts you under. Regardless of your strong will and character, knowing people are looking at you out of the curiosity of witnessing two different skinned people appearing to have some type of intimate relationship underway is quite intriguing. Knowing that people hate you for you daring to do something that they have been taught is not right is incredible. Even admiring two people that enjoy one another can be quite invasive and when they are attempting to enjoy one another amidst society’s stares and whispers, someone admiringly witnessing their relationship can still be problematic because of the couple’s cultivated paranoia.
Different raced people enter into relationships knowing what is in front of them, or do they? The layers of scrutiny associated with this type of dating run deep, and the scars associated with attempting to merge two vary divergent races, cultures, and often religions, even at the least complicated level of simply dating, definitely make you wonder why anyone would do it? It gives another level of appreciation to the thought that many gays offer in the nature/nurture debate over sexual orientation, “why would anyone choose to be gay and deliberately put their life at risk in a dysfunctional American society.”
Hanging out with the two white sisters and my cousin had its most intriguing moment when my great-grandmother discovered our relationship when these two young women drove from South Tulsa all the way over to the North side to “hang with us.” My great-grandmother was gracious when we introduced her to them, but afterwards when they left, something was alarmingly different about her disposition, mostly captured in the fact that she wasn’t speaking to us. Of course, I pressed her for conversation and was blown away with her response. “Can you visit their homes?” she angrily asked. Wow! Her question was mind blowing because both the sisters and my cousin and I knew we couldn’t. Their father was adamant about the fact he didn’t want them dating blacks. When I answered her “No, we can’t,” she responded, “Then I don’t want them over here either.”
To provide you some context, my cousin and I were living with our great-grandmother Mama Horn, a woman who was one of the pillars of the community in the fact that she also carried the designation of being the first black policewoman in the state of Oklahoma. My great-grandmother was also a survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, a consequence of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street (which you history buffs should “google” if you want to see one of America’s blackest eyes). Lastly, my great-grandmother was truly grand in every way, seldom if ever losing her temper. My response to her last statement was to just turn and walk away and attempt to process where her anger came from. It was over a period of years when I came to realize that her anger may have been wrapped up in her being bi-racial, and not as if her grandmother had a choice. Did someone say legalized, societal, systematic rape?
My great-grandmother was born in 1897, so her grandmother (my great, great, great-grandmother) was a slave and many if not most women during slavery were not given the choice of who they were going to create children with. Until recently our history books, television shows and movies seldom depicted this reality, and if so, whitewashed it. Even in the classic television movie series Roots, rape was sugarcoated as “abuse.” So, maybe her reaction was in response to a memory of that. Maybe her response was to the fact that her two great-grandsons were oblivious of the pain associated with dating outside the race. Just as American history has often been painted in a way to virtuously portray the victors, my relatives probably kept away many of the atrocities associated with our oral and actual history so that we wouldn’t have to see our lesser than reality, though it may have given us a better understanding of our current day lesser than reality. Maybe her pain was from the fact that we felt we had to import two young white women into our community, perhaps somehow suggesting a lesser than status of the young women that lived in the neighborhood. Maybe her anger came from imagining the life we would have if we were stupid enough to think that we could date outside the race and not pay for it, in some form or fashion.
I often wonder how angry Mama Horn would have been if one of my two sisters had “hung out” with young white men? Would the anger have been more or less? Since many scholars argue that white men are positioned in America society with more opportunities for success, would Mama Horn have somehow acquiesced to that interracial reality, and instead left it up to the young white man’s energies to fight his lesser-than-status from within his own community. How far have we come with this interracial dating? At local parks I see all these beautiful children running about, playing with one another, many without a thought about their differences. How many parents are comfortable with them playing, but want friendship to be just that, friendship. The tritest defense supporting the taboo of interracial dating is that the worlds not ready for it. Yeah, right! People aren’t ready for it because they are overtly concerned with what their friends might say. It makes me think of a line from a Dave Chappelle skit, “Oh, this racism is killing us!” I often wonder myself as a parent how I might respond if one day one of my children approached me and introduced me to their interracial love interest. Hopefully, with less anger, I can later ask my child if they can visit their love interest’s home. If not, then unlike my great-grandmother, I will observe a moment of silence on behalf of the limited vision of those parents, but won’t deny them my support because of scars inflicted from a misguided, dysfunctional society.
1. How many of you actually think that your choices, what you find attractive, or not attractive, isn’t tied to some knee high sermon or soliloquy you heard from your parents, uncles, aunts, friends, films, or books that forever framed for you a person that might have been your soul mate if the conversation ever had a chance to flow freely.
2. How many of you instead settled for a person that your family and friends approved of, as if they had to live with the person daily, and missed out on other worlds you could have visited.
3. How many of you are now poised to pass that tradition onto your children under the guise of wanting the best for them, when it may be more of wanting the best for yourself in terms of fewer questions to answer, and minimal anxiety about meeting, and dare I say it, getting to know the “others’ family.
4. Oh, and how many of you have even truly considered if it is even possible to date outside your race when really there is only one true race, the human race. Everything else is hype!!!