On Interracial Dating – The White Panel (2 of 3)

Kirk and Uhura

Welcome back to the White panel on Interracial Dating. Our panelists are:

Megan Carpentier, friend of the blog, formerly of Jezebel, now executive Editor of The Raw Story; Sam Menefee-Libey, friend of the blog, one time contributor, and blogger at Campus Progress; Jill Filipovic, friend of the blog, and Editor of Feministe; Porter, technologist and friend of Latoya; Lauren, founder of Feministe and long time friend of the blog; Allison, long time friend of the blog; and DC, Allison’s brother.

Since minorities are seen in different lights (and with different accompanying stereotypes), what types of reactions have people had toward you and your partners?

Megan: My first college boyfriend had immigrated with his family from Taiwan when he was 4: in Boston in the mid-90s, I definitely caught and was weirded out when we would get one of Those Looks on the subway (white women dating Asian guys being a less common interracial kind of relationship, he explained, though Boston’s not exactly known for being a bastion of racial tolerance, so it might not have been that specific, either). His family adored me — not so much for me, though I think I tried hard to be nice, but because dating a white blonde girl represented a level of American assimilation achievement that they wanted for their son, and they expressed it that way at some point to him (and he, foolishly, repeated it to me).

But I’ve spent the entirely of my adult life living and working in urban areas, where interracial dating is relatively common, my friends are pretty liberal and most people who know anything about me know better than to say shit to or in front of me that I’m not going to like. I wracked my brain trying to think of anything particularly stereotypical that’s been said about one of my partners, but the best I could come up with was a roommate who said about my Latino then-boyfriend, “It looks like you two have been fucking your brains out for months” because of our pretty clear physical chemistry whenever we were hanging out. I guess that would play into a stereotype about Latin men — especially as we hadn’t actually slept together at that point — but we were pretty absurd around each other (and me as much as him), so it’s harder to call it out as an example.

I should qualify: I’m pretty weird about introducing the men I date to my friends, and have a tendency not to do so until after at least the 3-month mark (a bar not achieved that often). So there are, like, 3 guys in the last 10 years who have dated me long enough to have actually spent any time with my friends or close acquaintances (outside of my roommates/the friends who introduced us), let alone my family. So I also just don’t have a lot of recent data in this regard, outside of strangers giving me the side-eye for making out with/holding hands with someone who doesn’t present as white. I’m sure I have relatives who would break out some stereotype crap, and even some people in my extended social circle who might stupidly do the same, but I just don’t have the data.

Sam: When I was dating Women of Color, pre-critical consciousness, I was in spaces where interracial dating was “normal” and I wasn’t particularly attuned to how race was functioning while I was with my partners. After I stopped being a completely oblivious jackass, the places where my sexuality was public were mostly spaces of resistance, and I rarely spent time with partners in open public spaces. As such, I rarely encountered the sort of stereotyping problems that I’ve heard friends and comrades discuss, and which I’m sure others in these roundtables will discuss with razor-sharp insight.

Paradoxically, I encounter more awkward situations with my current primary partner than I have in the past. I’m now working at a very mainstream non-profit and dating a white bio-woman (two things which bring me no end of self-doubt, guilt, and authenticity crisis, even though my partner and I love each other a lot and discuss these things often). It’s the most public, long-term relationship I’ve been in and we’re in mainstream spaces more. She’s part Portuguese and sometimes is read as a Woman of Color and both of us are frequently read (correctly!) as queer. This leads to all sorts of funny situations that baffle people around us (including parents) but since we’re insulated by class and race privilege and both work and live in social justice/activist communities, it is rarely damaging to us.

Jill: I’ve been in New York for nearly the entirety of my dating life, in a community where interracial relationships are commonplace, so any reaction at all has been minimal. Since my first Big Relationship, I’ve dating men of color and white men with varying degrees of seriousness, and the reactions are pretty much the same — although with the men of color there are sometimes comments (always from white people) about how we’ll have cute babies that will look like Benetton ads. That’s about as racially explicit as it gets.

And of course sometimes boyfriends and I have actually left New York, and reactions vary — during a layover at George Bush International Airport in Texas, we got a lot of raised eyebrows and outright stares, and it was very uncomfortable. We also studied abroad together in Italy, and public displays of affection were met with some visible confusion. Which isn’t to say that there are never raised eyebrows in New York, but negative reactions (or any reactions at all, really) are much less common, and not much different than those I’ve gotten being out with white men.

Porter: Friends have made jokes about dating someone exotic, but I was sure each time that the joke was mocking the idea that interracial dating would be a concern, not actually mocking interracial dating.

I think my family goes slightly out of their way to communicate their supposed comfort with it, which seems like a pretty well-meaning approach for someone who does actually have some concern. Haven’t dated someone of a different race for a long enough time to know if that reaction would change as things like marriage and kids might come up.

Megan: Actually, having wracked my brain, I did come up with one incident in my peer group of racism that just completely flummoxed me. I’ll redact some details for her privacy, but let’s call her a friend from my post-secondary education days with whom I retained contact into my early professional life (and, for context, she was a mixed race child of a Catholic Asian mother and white father from an urban area). I was having a small party over a holiday weekend and invited a (married, African-American) friend and co-worker to join us, a crew of mostly people from college and grad school. When she arrived, I was standing just out of sight talking to my co-worker, and, when she rounded the corner, she stopped short, kind of flinched and was like, “You didn’t tell me you’d invited someone like this.” I’m not sure if she didn’t notice his ring or thought we were dating — my ex and I had broken up a couple months earlier and I wasn’t seeing anyone specific — or what, but I can only imagine her reaction if I’d then introduced him as my boyfriend. As it was, we just stared at her like she was a crazy person and I stammered an introduction, and I think I spent weeks apologizing to him at every opportunity for having subjected him to racism in my own apartment. She and I haven’t really spoken since. Reading what others have said (in this panel and the others), it pretty clearly falls into that hierarchy-of-race thing that others have touched on and experienced, but having been presented racism at a young age as a strict binary (something Bad White People feel or do to other races), it was just very unexpected, even in my early twenties.

DC: I think that Jill and I had a similar experience with environments and the role of the interracial relationship. Growing up in Washington, D.C., interracial relationships were commonplace. I think that I’ve received more looks for being with my partner of the same sex than I ever had when holding hands or having other public displays of affection with a straight woman of a different race. However, I have heard similar stories of friends going out of town to visit friends or take a vacation, and their comfort-zone of expressing themselves in their relationship suddenly gets thrown out the window when dropped into a new environment.

Allison: My friends were accepting. But I noticed that my mother showed a more defensive and protective side. I still remember when my younger brother was snowed in with his white girlfriend across town during the same week that she called me at M’s house — and she never called to check in without concern — to insist that I come home before midnight. My Dad got a picture of M* and I at my senior prom. It isn’t displayed anywhere in the house. Stuff like that. It gives me… pause.

If you have not dated interracially, what has contributed to the reasons why not?

Porter: I have dated interracially. But living in New York, I experienced something new that prevented some: I have been told by a handful of Jewish girls that we were getting along too well and it had to stop, because they couldn’t seriously date a goy.

A few years ago, a white female commenter asked if it was a bad thing for her to date outside of her race. She had been reading some of our conversations and didn’t want to feel like she was contributing to a lot of the larger structural problems – upholding a white beauty standard, exacerbating intracommunity tensions – but at the same time, felt very attracted to men of other races. Have you ever felt this way?

Sam: Yes, this is definitely akin to anxiety I experience. And I don’t think this type of reasoning is very helpful. Now, just because I think it’s unreasonable doesn’t mean I don’t still give myself grief for it, but I try not to give it too much thought, with a few caveats. White people have a lot of personal work to do around racism. It fucks us up in all kinds of ways that are really hard to deal with. The last thing we ought to be doing is externalizing our fucked-up-edness on the People of Color we’re close to. If we have stuff we need to deal with, if we haven’t done a fearless and searching personal inventory of our whiteness and our own personal racial formation, then it’s probably not a good idea to be dating a Person of Color. If we’re doing the best we can with that stuff and deal with it pretty well most of the time: ok. It’s something we should always be open to continued work on and ought to be in open and honest dialogue about with the people closest to us, both white and People of Color, but dealing with it opens up opportunities for more ethical relationships. The personal and communal practices we engage in that resist, destabalize and construct alternatives to those structural and cultural things the commenter mentioned are probably varied and localized and are definitely an important part of coming to personal terms with one’s own whiteness. If a white person is engaged in good personal and political, individual and communal work fighting racism and dealing with their own whiteness, I think they effectively address a lot of critiques about interracial dating for themselves.

Megan: The alternative — segregated dating? — seems so absurdly fucked up to me that I can’t hold that thought in my head for very long. I think it’s important to resist the white beauty standard, and I make an effort not to date individuals of any race who racially essentialize dating (men of color who only date white girls, white dudes who can’t imagine being attracted to X race). But I have trouble approaching dating as a zero-sum game or as a competition, and I just can’t get with the idea that we should all stick to our own race for the good of the women of another. Like, if everyone supposedly means well but the end result looks discriminatory, it can’t be a good thing.

From a more structural perspective, the white beauty standard isn’t going to be solved by individual white women eschewing interracial dating. It’s a structural problem rooted in white and class privilege and limiting people to dating within their race isn’t going to solve the structural problems (nor eliminate white people and people of color from being attracted to one another — not everything about attraction is about looks, for one). It might actually exacerbate the problems inherent in the standard and the community tensions.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t be cognizant of your race privilege as a white person, or that there’s no area of constructive criticism or engagement on these issues (see also: don’t date men that profess themselves exclusively attracted to one race!). But it does seem like the solution proposed by the commenter (and others) — date only white men — is both unhelpful in addressing the structural problems with the beauty standard/intracommunity discord/limited acceptability of certain combinations and in being a throwback to a day in which interracial dating was frowned upon.

Work to change the system, to expose its underpinnings; advocate for more diversity in media images and image makers; check your own privilege and grip it less tightly. See beauty outside of the pages of Vogue, and share it with others. Love other people who do the same.

Jill: That’s actually something I’ve thought about a lot. The “only date white people” suggestion isn’t a particularly good solution, but I do think it’s crucial to interrogate who we’re attracted to and why. I’ve known too many white dudes who only date Asian girls (or girls of whatever race, but there’s a particular breed of white man Asian fetishizer that I seem to encounter a lot) because “I just like them better,” and, well, I don’t think it’s that simple either (not to say that all white dudes who date Asian women are fetishizers, obviously, or even that I’m usually in a position to judge who’s fetishizing or who’s not — I’m talking about a specific kind of white dude who will talk about how he only dates Asian women because he loves that they’re so small and sweet and “act like ladies” etc etc). Obviously relationships are highly individual and we’re attracted to who we’re attracted to, but there are also themes to how these things actually play out — as Megan said above, it seems less common to see white women with Asian men, for example, than white men with Asian women. And there are different class assumptions that get projected onto black/white couples vs. Asian/white vs. Latin@/white, etc etc. I think checking that is important, and recognizing that dating both outside and inside of one’s racial group can bring up more than “just” racism (or racism that’s also informed by classism, assumptions about religion, etc).

That doesn’t mean “don’t interracially date.” It does mean at least devote a little brainpower to this topic, and realize that no matter how much of a Good Anti-Racist White Person you are, you’re still part of this system, and that means that you’ve not only gotta do some extra work, but also that there’s no easy perfect way to be a Good White Person Interracial Dater. Anxiety and guilt over The System is not going to be particularly helpful to your relationship. And romantic relationships are so particularly intimate and unique that zeroing in on race because you need to be The Anti-Racist White Person can throw up blocks to intimacy — your partner Jack should be “my partner Jack” whose racial background informs his life, not “my black partner Jack,” if that makes sense. That isn’t to say “be colorblind,” because just no; it is to say that there’s a fine balance between recognizing the complexities and difficulties of interracial relationships, and going so hard into Good Anti-Racist White Person mode that you make the race issue about you, and you let your partner’s racial identity eclipse your partner as a whole and complicated person with a history and a set of characteristics that are interwoven with race but far from solely defined by race.

Porter: I think that’s a pretty sweet sentiment to express. “I have this inclination, but is it causing others harm?” I don’t have a whole lot to add to the above… examine the inclination, which usually includes indulging it. Worry less, do more. I think it’s when Big Systemic Concepts get in the way of Enjoying (or at least, Trying Out) Life that humans experience a subtle, needless suffering.

If someone gives her grief, she can go Socratic on them and see if they can explain why she, personally, is exemplifying their preconception.

DC: Honestly, it’s never crossed my mind. I’ve certainly never felt like I should be guilty for who I am and am not attracted to. Philosophers and scientists together have studied the ways that love that drive someone crazy in the exact same way that it can bring a nation together. Azar Nafisi put it really well when she said, “Cultures should meet with the best that they have to offer.” I think that by hiding the way that we love to bend to societal expectations or to avoid the potential consequences is ultimately more damaging than trying to make people hear you. Make them hear you, or live in the silence.

Allison: I’m with Porter — interrogate your privilege, yes, but don’t let it stop you from living life to the fullest and enjoying a meaningful relationship between two equals of different backgrounds. When it comes to race, I understand that the dominant culture reveres my whiteness and endows this attribute with purity, inherent beauty, and an elevated social status. I also have to be mindful of reducing partners of color to stereotypes; I recently had a heated exchange via Twitter with a white rapper who claimed to be sick of “feisty Latinas” throwing their dinners at him (actual quote: “I love yall but dios mio you have the shittiest disposition’s ever”). He was irritated that I even suggested it was problematic.

  • http://www.megancarpentier.com/ Megan Carpentier

    While I obviously don’t have access to everyone I’ve ever dated to ask, as a white woman I’ve been mostly in the aforementioned more-common-pairings that people are “used” to seeing, with the exception of the times I’ve dated Asian or (maybe) South Asian men, so that might be part of the perceived blase-ness. And, as I’ve said (which, people who know me would acknowledge), I’m a very confrontational person, so people who know me don’t often feel comfortable saying anything that would piss me off or result in an argument (which is probably also partly a function of my race). But I think the environment is really important: as I’ve mentioned, other than my HS relationship, all of the relationships of which I’ve spoken have been in Boston, DC or NYC which makes a difference.

    I have spoken to at least a couple of the guys in question w/r/t participating in the panel, and two of them (both Latino) said that it was not a huge factor while dating me outside of familial pressures (but one said those were because I wasn’t a practicing Catholic more than anything else). One of those men said that he felt far more disapproval from strangers dating a woman of African descent than when he’s dated white or Asian women.

    Another factor might also be that few of my relationships have been truly long-term, and many were when I was younger (and thus serious long-term considerations were rarely on the table). I can certainly see the potential to have more issues come up in the process of building something more durable than just enjoying someone’s company.

    • Anonymous

      I think, as has been said elsewhere, that it’s not always just “comments that are made directly to you.” It is the way people’s looks will impact you asymmetrically. For your non-white partner, it becomes another page in an already thick book of a lifetime of dealing with structural, systematic, overt and unconscious racism. And it can take work to help people understand that, particularly when you’re trying to build something durable. 

      It even comes up with people who are not white but also not Black. Just last night I was trying to explain the long-term outcome difference between having to immigrate because your country is f’d up and being forced to migrate because you’ve been kidnapped in slavery. Ze really didn’t get it until I spent sometime breaking it down for hir. That kind of stuff takes time and energy, and it seems completely unacknowledged in this panel.

  • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

    I wonder this as well. I’m White, my husband is Black, but I think he’s gotten the most direct commentary from others about our relationship. He’s always said he doesn’t care at all what people think, and he blows off their comments or tells them to shut up & move on. I’m the one who wants to defend our relationship or have a long discussion with the person and try to show them how their thoughts about us (and thoughts about race) are wrong, backwards. I think he has probably not told me about some of the things said to him because he knows I would feel pulled to address the person.

  • Anonymous

    I thought the black interracial dating panel would be hard for me, but these panels by far have been the most difficult for me to get through.  I know it’s 99% my own issues, so I’m glad for the opportunity to grow and do and be better.  However, it makes me…sad…frustrated…confused at some of the [perceived] obliviousness that seems to be going on here.  I do not think that white people who date interracially pick up on others’ racism/judgement/displeasure over their interracial dating unless something is said directly to them or it’s so blatant that everyone in a three mile radius picks it up.  I also don’t think white women tend to understand that someone who may not bat an eye at their interracial pairing would go nuts over a different pairing. I’ve had to cut off too many white  friends and associates (90+% of them women) who were all for interracial dating when it was one of them doing it, but had a complete fit when a white man was interested in or dating a woman of color (especially if that woman had a darker complexion).  Or having white women automatically assume that I have an issue with them dating a black man, and watch me like a hawk to find confirmation that black women are just meanies who won’t let their interracial love be great. Or the white women who assume, depending on locale, that I’m mixed race, and I will be a sympathetic ear and source of advice for haircare tips for their current or future mixed race children.

    Anywho, rant over.  I guess the best way to sum it all up is that I don’t really care who anyone dates.  The sight of interracial relationships don’t often catch my eye (except black women with non-black men, as that is the least likely “type” you see, especially in my current city), nor do these relationships cause any anger or resentment.  The discomfort I have is that I feel somem kind of way, due to my personal experiences, when I feel white/non-black women are placing an undue burden on me to give their racebow dating choices a gold star, to provide acceptance that we’re moving forward racially – but only because they are able to choose partners from a wide variety of races/ethnicities.  To provide a sympathetic shoulder when the rest of the world gives them grief over their dating choices.    Why are they choosing me to be the barometer of how race-blind/post-racial we are?  Why are they asking me to comment on their relationship, which is none of my freaking business?  And I wonder what exactly am I getting in return for all of this which is being asked for me?

    • Anonymous

      “Why?” is basically all that comes to mind when you describe the way white women have treated you. Trotting out a sense of entitlement to emotional support and haircare tips? Yikes. 

    • http://www.megancarpentier.com/ Megan Carpentier

      I think you’re undoubtedly right that I don’t pick up on people’s reactions to me interracially dating unless it’s obvious (but I generally try to avoid picking up strangers’ reactions to me in public for my own mental health and sense of self worth).

      I would also suggest that if you had white friends that got all up on a white dude dating a woman of color… I would myself tag those women as racist and eliminate those friendships, because that’s just f’ed up (as is asking you for hair tips for kids they don’t even have? WTF). The fact that such women are then asking you to being a spokeswoman and sign off on their relationships makes me wonder if you are perhaps the only black woman they know, if that makes any sense? Because it doesn’t seem like they are necessarily asking you as an individual but you as a synecdoche for what they see you representing, which is erasing you as a person, and you have every right to be upset about that.

      • Anonymous

        You raise an interesting point about my being the only black woman that those past acquainances had more than a passing interaction with.  I do know that I’ve been the first, relatively close, black friend for quite a few people.  Believe me, it was a new experience to meet people who’ve never been around – let alone befriended – black people (i grew up in Detroit), and I learned very quickly to cut people off if they exhibited the least little bit of racist behavior. 

        As for the othering, eh, it’s my policy to assume that non-black  and/or non American people will have some ill-formed opinions about me as a black american woman, and that I will keep them at a distance until they show that they are actively working to challenging their assumptions and their privilege (or open to starting, if they haven’t done so due to circumstance).

  • http://twitter.com/DYomoah Doreen Yomoah

    I agree… for those who say that no one really reacted to their relationships, or didn’t react any more than they did to intra-racial relationships just think no one reacted more because being white, they had the privilege of being oblivious to other people’s racism.

    I also have a concern with Porter’s statement that “Friends have made jokes about dating someone exotic, but I was sure each
    time that the joke was mocking the idea that interracial dating would
    be a concern, not actually mocking interracial dating.” I don’t know if “I was sure means that now he sees how problematic those jokes were, even if they were made in the spirit of “irony”, or if he still thinks that they were just mocking the idea of interracial idea using “irony” and sees it as perfectly acceptable.

    • Anonymous

      I completely glossed over that line. Wow, that is some hair-splitting and close reading on Porter’s part. Why the investment in the idea that every joke made by a friend is “ironic” racism and not actual racism? Porter if you feel comfortable commenting, I’d kind of like to know.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing!

    The idea of dating black resulting in a loss of esteem or privilege is a common theme in almost all the nonblack roundtables, and one I want to explore in more depth.

  • http://www.21stcollegian.com Rishona Campbell

    Wow, I love this series! Just some thoughts in regards to only dating ____ type of men/women. For years I’ve dated only White men seriously (although I had gone out with Asian, Black & Hispanic men, but nothing long-term). For most of those years I would downplay my preference and/or feel ashamed about it. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m DONE being apologetic. Attraction to the opposite sex is a complex matter. It involves an intricate combination of physical attraction, sexual chemistry, your native culture and personality and the type of culture/personality that you admire.

    I am very proud and in awe of my own family’s Afro-Indo-Caribbean heritage. I was raised to see race more as a characteristic of someone rather than a means to categorize someone. So to me, a man who dates interracially has already made a bold move in the direction of being able to see someone outside of their skin color. However this is not always the case…which I’ve had to find out the hard way. But at least the potential is there.

    I honestly feel that dating a Black man was (is?) always an option for me. However I just have not encountered any Black men that are on the same wavelength as I am in regards to embracing multiculturalism — without sacrificing your own cultural pride. Are such men out there? Of course. But I just haven’t crossed paths with them.

    My White boyfriend on the other hand has only dated Black women and has no interest whatsoever in White women romantically. Is this a fetish? Well I don’t know. It’s not a fetish in the way that I define a fetish…which is mainly a sexual manifestation of desire. From a cultural standpoint, he feels closer to African-American culture  than he does to his native White culture. Growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood probably had something to do with this. But for better or for worse, his formative years were spent in the Black community. He knows about and loves Black women — their skin, their hair, their cooking style, and their worldview. Ironically, he jokes that I am “Whiter” than he is and I am the first girlfriend he’s had that is as at home outside of the ‘hood and inside. 

  • http://www.21stcollegian.com Rishona Campbell

    Wow, I love this series! Just some thoughts in regards to only dating ____ type of men/women. For years I’ve dated only White men seriously (although I had gone out with Asian, Black & Hispanic men, but nothing long-term). For most of those years I would downplay my preference and/or feel ashamed about it. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m DONE being apologetic. Attraction to the opposite sex is a complex matter. It involves an intricate combination of physical attraction, sexual chemistry, your native culture and personality and the type of culture/personality that you admire.

    I am very proud and in awe of my own family’s Afro-Indo-Caribbean heritage. I was raised to see race more as a characteristic of someone rather than a means to categorize someone. So to me, a man who dates interracially has already made a bold move in the direction of being able to see someone outside of their skin color. However this is not always the case…which I’ve had to find out the hard way. But at least the potential is there.

    I honestly feel that dating a Black man was (is?) always an option for me. However I just have not encountered any Black men that are on the same wavelength as I am in regards to embracing multiculturalism — without sacrificing your own cultural pride. Are such men out there? Of course. But I just haven’t crossed paths with them.

    My White boyfriend on the other hand has only dated Black women and has no interest whatsoever in White women romantically. Is this a fetish? Well I don’t know. It’s not a fetish in the way that I define a fetish…which is mainly a sexual manifestation of desire. From a cultural standpoint, he feels closer to African-American culture  than he does to his native White culture. Growing up in a predominantly Black neighborhood probably had something to do with this. But for better or for worse, his formative years were spent in the Black community. He knows about and loves Black women — their skin, their hair, their cooking style, and their worldview. Ironically, he jokes that I am “Whiter” than he is and I am the first girlfriend he’s had that is as at home outside of the ‘hood and inside. 

    • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

      Interestingly, I (White) wonder if I could ever be with a White guy again, if my marriage ended for whatever reason. On one hand, it would probably be easier, as we might share certain cultural stuff that I don’t share with my husband. Of course, there would be other complications or annoyances, like people constantly asking where my bi-racial kids came from. 

      On the other hand, I still don’t know any White men who I feel understand racism, anti-racist work, privilege, etc. enough that I feel I could partner with them for the rest of my life. Especially if that man would be a father figure to my kids. My Black husband doesn’t read blogs about racism the way I do, he doesn’t study it, use the labels we all use . . . but as a Black man, he gets it because he lives it. I don’t have to convince him that racism is alive and well and I don’t have to explain what White privilege is, even though he has no idea who Peggy McIntosh is.

      I don’t know if I could go through the rest of my life having to teach my partner these things or trying to convince them to not use certain loaded words, that sort of thing. As I said, I haven’t met any White men who really get it the way I’d need them to, to partner with and co-parent with. I’m sure they exist but even the ones I know who think they get it, don’t really get it as much I hope they would. I know the same can be said about myself.

      • http://www.blasianbytch.com BlasianBytch

        If you a white woman can be anti-racist… why would you assume that you couldn’t find a white man that was equally anti-racist. Isn’t a a bit well…racist to assume that other white folk can’t “get it” like you think you do? 

        • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

          I don’t think White men can’t be equally anti-racist, I just haven’t met any so far that are. Some of the men just aren’t there yet in terms of understanding . . . some are better with understanding but are uncomfortable talking about it. The White men I know who have read up on these issues and are comfortable talking about them, have beliefs that are contrary to mine.

          If today was the day I had to start dating again, I wouldn’t rule out dating White men. I just wouldn’t hold out too much hope that I’d find one with enough understanding that I could share my life with him. I have White guy friends and family who I care about deeply, but if they were someone available to date, I’d mark them off the list because they just don’t get it the way I need them to for life partnership. And it’s not just that they don’t get it the way I think I do – I know I don’t get everything. I know my perception of how much I get is likely different from how a person of color might perceive me. In general, but especially because of my bi-racial kids, I would want to be with someone who REALLY gets it. I can deal with educating my co-workers, family, friends, etc – but my boyfriend/husband/partner? He needs to GET IT. I couldn’t have a man acting as a father figure for my kids – especially if for some reason their dad wasn’t around anymore (like if he died) who doesn’t get it. So far, no White men I know – even the great ones I love with all my heart – get it that way.

      • km

        I totally hear you.  I’m a white (American) woman who recently got out of a long-term relationship with a Black (British) man, and I have been thinking about the same thing as I venture back out into the dating pool (ugh).  I was actively involved with anti-racism work before meeting my ex, and that same awareness of racial politics, racism and commitment to anti-racism is and has been for years a very important aspect of what I would look for in a partner.  I just can’t see myself caring for someone who doesn’t get it, and doesn’t care, regardless of their race.  My ex and I shared that and I know he felt that he couldn’t have been with a white woman who didn’t (and yes, like Ashley, I know that as a white woman I don’t “get it” in the same way that my ex or my friends of color do, but at a bare minimum I am engaged in a life-long process of working on it, and that process is vital to how I identify myself and view the world).  I would never rule out being with a white man any more than I would rule out being with a man of any other race.  I just think finding a white man who understands and challenges white privilege is, well, harder than finding one who maybe pays lip service to it but basically doesn’t get it.  Of course there are dedicated anti-racist white men out there, but…well…Tim Wise is taken :)

        As an aside, one of my best friends is the daughter of a white woman and black man who divorced when she was very young…her mother remarried a white guy whose parents were famously known to all of us for giving my friend one of those horribly generic, faux-African masks for Christmas, when the other (white) grandchildren got whatever other kinds of games and toys.   So I think Ashley has reason to be (hypothetically) wondering about these things….

  • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

    I have wondered if I am doing a disservice to the Black community by dating and then marrying a Black man. Sometimes this is just a theoretical thing for me and sometimes it seems very concrete. An example of when it’s concrete: my husband grew up in the almost-all-White suburbs of Chicago but went to church in Chicago, in small all-Black church on the Low End. The church is mostly made up of really old couples, and young, single women. Not many young, single men. My husband was seen as a catch and though I have almost always been treated kindly by the young women in the church, I have overheard conversations that let me know no one was happy that a White girl took one of their good men. My husband has confirmed that this is a common point of view among those young women, specifically.

    So yeah, I feel some guilt over that. Then again, though my husband has dated women of various races, he’s more often dated White girls and everyone who knows him has said they knew he’d end up with one. So if it wasn’t me, it’d be another one of us? That doesn’t really take away the guilt, but I think it’s probably the reality. The guilt has obviously not stopped me from being with my husband. But I suppose it, or the understanding of where some Black women are coming from on that issue, causes me to not feel defensive about Black folks who think other Blacks shouldn’t date outside the race. I get it, as much as I can, I think. I can’t begrudge those feelings and I don’t take any issue to my Black friends who clearly state that they will only ever be with Black men/women.

    Something kind of similar came up years ago. Back in college when I transferred from junior college to state university, I opted to not join a sorority the way many of my friends did. Part of that was because I’d already been on a college dance team, which to me was just like a sorority, so I felt I’d already had the experience and was ready to move on. But another reason is because I struggled with joining a group that seemed so obviously segregated by race. I didn’t want to be in an all or mostly-White sorority, but at my school there were only White and Black sororities. Here’s why I bring this up – I’ve been asked why I didn’t try to join a Black sorority. My reason is that I felt like so much of our society was already Whites only, that I saw the Black sororities and fraternities as something that Black folks should be able to keep for themselves, especially considering how little ownership they were allowed over other things. I felt it would have been terribly privileged (though I didn’t know of this concept back then) of me to even ask for a place at that table.

    So I guess the question for myself is, why hold that viewpoint over something like sororities, and not dating? Why feel, “We’ve taken enough, let me not make it worse” in one thing but totally go there on something else that has a much greater impact? I don’t know. Maybe my perspective on the sorority thing is complete crap. Thoughts?