Welcome back to the Black panel on Interracial Dating. Our panelists are:
N’Jaila Rhee, the mastermind behind BlaysianBytch.com (link NSFW); Damon Young, better known as The Champ and one of two VerySmartBrothas; Ashley – longtime reader and friend of the blog; Cheryl Lynn, Digital Femme extraordinare, rabblerouser, and longtime friend of the blog; Andrea Plaid – our own Sexual Correspondent; Dani – long time friend of the blog; Sewere – long time commenter, one time contributor, and friend of the blog; Tami Winfrey Harris, long time contributor and editor of Love Isn’t Enough and What Tami Said; Kadian Pow, friend of the blog and occasional contributor, and Helena Andrews, author of Bitch is the New Black.If you have dated interracially, did you have any fears or misgivings going into the situation? Did you peers react to you differently?
N’jaila: I’ve dated mostly Asian and Asian American men, which apparently makes me a freak of nature. Even my Asian and Indian girlfriends have made me feel like there was something wrong with me for dating Asian. Black women and Asian men are not supposed to date and my mom didn’t get the memo and passed on her strange mutation to me. There are times I feel especially alienated when my friends or coworkers ask the race of one of my dates and laugh at me when I say “Asian”.
There is a fear that I’m too Black and too Asian to be anything than an exotic romp. Black women’s sexualities’ are either way over amplified or completely disregarded. Mammy or Jezebel, either situation leaves me out of the dating pool for many men.
I think for me its also more complicated because I work in the adult industry. A lot of people assume that I’m dating a non-Black man because no Black man in his right mind would want to “turn a ho into a housewife”. I think sometimes you can get so wrapped up in how you assume or fear a man will see you that it ends a relationship before it can begin.
Cheryl Lynn: I date interracially, but I often forget when I am. My friends and family don’t make it an issue at all. The neighborhoods I reside in don’t make it an issue. The only time it was an issue was when I dated someone who passed for white. We accidentally stumbled through an Italian festival in NYC and a white woman looked at me, rolled her eyes , and loudly asked “Why’d he bring her here?” We got the hell out of there pretty fast. I went to a rib joint with the same guy and got a few weird looks from a group of black guys. When I started speaking to my date, one of the dudes actually said “Oh, it’s okay. He’s Puerto Rican!” Seeing some of the nonsense that my friends who are in black/white couples have had to deal with makes me a bit wary of dating white men. I actually told a friend that I couldn’t be bothered with dating interracially after seeing the trouble she went through. My friend laughed and said, “You are in an interracial relationship right now!” I’d completely forgotten! He wasn’t white.
Andrea: I’d be lying if I said no. In quite a few of my past IR relationships, especially with White men, I was “their first time” or some validation of how “not White” (meaning “not boring/status quo/racist”) they are. It’s gotten to the point were I simply ask if this is their first time dating interracially, especially dating a Black woman. This lets me know what I’m getting into or am up against. In my current relationship, I’m dating a White man who I met at an interracial-dating site. In his profile he said (and I quote): “ I’ve dated a number of, and have always been most attracted to, black women–so interracial dating is not a try-out or a new experience for me.” Which heartened me. We’re still working out some stickier points about race and racism in our relationship, where I have to do some gentle anti-racism conversations around humor, for example–but we’re getting along so far.
As for my peers… ::shrug:: They pretty much know how I roll as far as dating and mating. Quite a few of them have dated/mated interracially or are doing so now, so they just look at me. I think they’re more amazed I’m into polyamory and burlesque than into interracial dating.
Helena: I went to winter formal with a Korean guy and I went to prom with the quarterback who was Filipino. I asked him because I’d had the hugest crush on him for more than a year. My aunts and cousins came over to house before prom to help me get dressed (we call this a “champagne party” in Cali) and they weren’t at all shocked that my date was Asian. They were impressed that he rolled up in a Beemer.
But once I got to college it seemed as if dating outside your race was much more taboo. I mean you couldn’t even kick it with other folks without being seen as a fake. I was used to eating kalbi and calling my Chinese best friend’s mom Auntie Diana, so the self-segregation in college threw me for a loop. It got so bad–me hanging with white people–that a friend, who’d eventually pledge a black sorority with me, pulled me aside to tell me that word on campus was that I “wasn’t black.” Like, huh?
Then sophomore year I actually dated a white guy for a hot week. We joked about race all the time. I think it made us feel mature and so over it. Once he asked me if I’d like to be the roast beef in his white bread sandwich. Seriously. We held hands and ate at a campus cafe together maybe two times and the streets started talking. One of my older guy friends, who my mother asked to look out for me, pulled me aside and told me that it wasn’t cool for me to date the white dude. We broke up, eventually. Because he played air guitar and it was college not because folks had a problem with it. But I still remember thinking that black men had a problem with seeing me with this white man. That was in 2000.
Tami: I dated white and Asian men casually and also had a yearlong relationship with a white guy. Like Andrea, I’ve had the experience of navigating relationships with men who have never dated black women–sometimes wading through stereotypes and exoticizing. I also connected with some really good guys. None of them ever met my parents. That wasn’t by design, though.
Ultimately, the greater barrier in my longest IR relationship was class and not race. He was raised in and continued to identify with white, ethnic, working-class Chicago. I grew up the child of degreed black professionals in a suburban environment. Our outlooks and our goals were too far apart, no matter how much we liked each other. But, as someone mentioned above, I’m not sure class would have been as much a barrier, if we had race in common. That feels strange to say.
Sewere: My general concern around interracial dating has always been having the patience to deal with a privileged partner. I realize the older I get the less willing I am to go through racism 101 with a partner, to explain to someone why I don’t want to be around racist family, why I wouldn’t want my kids around racist family members. I’m not even sure I have the patience to break down the deeper level racism or intersectional stuff, just because I think I expect that someone who wants to have a relationship with a person of color, should have already done some heavy lifting. More important, this doesn’t just apply to white folks, it applies to people of color as well, i.e. I expect that a Nigerian should be aware of intersecting discrimination and privileges vis-à-vis other folks of color.
The funny thing is I expect the same of African-American folks regarding approaching the diversity of Africa and Africans. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to break down attitudes influenced by colonial racism (starting with the Africa as a country misconception). I know this might seem like an unrealistic level of expectations, but honestly, I think people should be capable of treating others as full humans. If I get the impression the person I’m dating isn’t willing to understand how privilege works and isn’t willing to challenge herself or be challenged, then I end it.
Dani: I can’t say I’ve really had fears. When I’ve been with someone who’s not black, I’ve been living in places where I have a kind of anonymity. It’s not like I’m in my hometown and people who’ve known me my whole life are offering their opinions of my dating choices. More importantly, my family and longtime friends know that being open to people of different races is part of who I’ve always been. It’s how I was raised. When I took a boyfriend who is Latino but kind of racially ambiguous home to meet my family, I remember one of my cousins asking, “What is he? Mexican?” But it was out of genuine curiosity. It wasn’t like some veiled slur. But I have to admit, one of the many reasons I have a lot of pride in my family is that we’re a strong *black* family. I struggle with what, if anything, this phrase means as some of my cousins and I partner with non-black people. And it makes me parse the phrase and think hard about the ways in which the “strong” and the “black” have been connected in my mind all these years. Continue reading