My dating resume is pretty typical; it consists of a few long term relationships and a couple meaningless flings. If one were to go through each relationship in my past however, it would become obvious that all of my past love interests except for one have been white. (If you asked my family members, they would say that the one doesn’t even really count because he looked white and had a British accent, despite being part-Jamaican.) This would normally be a fine dating pattern, but the fact that I’m a black hispanic woman does bring up the question as to why I haven’t dated other races including my own. Growing up, my cousins would tease me relentlessly for dating white men, but I didn’t let it discourage me enough to abstain from dating them. I should note that my cousins weren’t any less selective; they solely dated black men.
I will readily admit that part of me does fear I’ve missed out on an essential life experience by not dating my own race. I wonder if my life would be drastically different or if race truly isn’t a huge factor when it comes to love. I also know that at the end of the day, my heart has made its choice and I have to respect that.
Over the years I’ve thought about the potential reasons as to why most of the men in my past have been white and I have come up with a list of reasons why I may have fallen into this pattern:
1. I was surrounded by white people.
First of all, I grew up in McLean, Virginia. Although the DC metropolitan area is fairly diverse, the student body at my old high school is currently 70.25% white and 2.99% African-American. The demographic was probably just as skewed when I attended school. McLean H.S. was a great school — don’t get me wrong, I have zero regrets about my time there — but it just didn’t really give me the opportunity to meet a ton of people from other races to potentially date. I never had that early experience of being with someone that was both racially similar to me and also compatible with me. People would automatically assume that the two black kids of opposite genders in class should pair up, but I’m actually proud of my 16 year-old self for breaking the norm and dabbling in the interracial pool.
2. I am still surrounded by white people.
You can take a girl out of McLean but…just kidding. I do have friends of other races, but my friend group is primarily white. I love them and have great experiences with them, but it does affect where we may go out on weekends and what kind of guys we attract into our circle. We tend to go to trendy bars, but I almost feel as though we aren’t “in the know” when it comes to venues that are a little more diverse and off the beaten path. I willingly take some of the blame; I don’t actively seek out different scenes because I’ve gotten comfortable going to the usual locations, that’s on me. I often think about what my life would be like if I had a more racially diverse group of friends, but who knows, maybe it wouldn’t be all that different after all.
3. Black men are confused by me.
I don’t know what it is about me, but it’s almost as though black men can sense that I’m not really familiar with dating my own race. On the off chance that a black male does approach me, usually by the time I open my mouth and share my background, they don’t really know how to relate to me. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it does hinder any chance of me getting to know them any further. I don’t think of myself as some mythical unicorn, but I am complex and it takes a lot more than a similar racial profile for there to be a connection. I also wonder if black men instinctively pull away from someone like me who has mostly white friends and is unaware of certain cultural nuances. I can’t fault them for seeking out someone with similar friend groups and interests, but once again, it takes me out of the running.
4. My experience with black men is mostly negative.
When I’m walking down a street in D.C. and I approach a group of black men, I can almost guarantee that something will be said to me and it usually isn’t anything that makes me feel good about myself or comfortable in the situation. Out of all the men in the mixing bowl of D.C., black men have by far made me feel the most uncomfortable and unsafe in this city. When I’m walking alone, I usually get comments about how I look that day or what they would like to do to me. If I’m walking with my white boyfriend, that’s when they get really imaginative and throw insults at mostly me for ‘betraying my race.” I wear sunglasses most of the time to avoid eye contact and I catch countless black men looking me up and down and making me feel completely naked. Some people would perhaps find this flattering, but rest assured that the way they look at me would make most women run for the hills. While I realize that these men aren’t representative of the race as a whole, it does make it even more difficult for me to view them as romantic potentials.
5. I struggle with seeing black males as suitable partners.
I realize that this is dangerous territory, but let me explain: In addition to the negative interactions with strangers, most of the black men in my life, my father included, haven’t really been favorable romantic partners. The reoccurring themes of infidelity, abuse, and lack of financial stability all permeate my memories and they do affect my ability to trust black men. I have always said that I’m open to meeting anyone, but if I’m being honest, I do think that black men come into the picture with a lot more to prove to me than men of other races. I realize that’s unfair and it’s something that I have to overcome, but it will take some time. I think of cousins and specifically my brother who are genuinely great guys and I do feel incredibly guilty and sad that I feel this way regarding my own race. I want them to be viewed as suitable partners and to be given a fair opportunity when it comes to love. I hope to work through my general perception of the black male and to also better separate my interactions with strangers versus my interactions with potential love interests.
6. My family is accepting of me dating any race.
Despite the teasing and mentions of my boyfriends coming down with ‘jungle fever,’ I always knew that my family would support me if the person I dated treated me with respect and for that I am thankful. I know various friends of mine who have parents that are still not exactly okay with their children dating outside of their own race. I’ve considered myself very lucky in that I never felt pressure to choose one race over another. I could simply meet anyone and see if we were compatible. Dating is hard enough without the added pressure of worrying about appeasing a family’s racial preference.
7. It’s rewarding.
The interracial relationships that I’ve been in have taught me more than I think I could have learned in monoracial relationships. Dating someone of a different race gives you the opportunity to learn about their culture and values; it also provides you with a more intimate insight into their racial differences. My current boyfriend is learning what goes into managing black hair (a helluva lot, y’all) and I’ve also shared various Panamanian traditions with him. He has in turn shared his cultural background with me as he is part Lebanese. I find the cultural exchange to be interesting and incredibly beneficial to the relationship as a whole.