The fact that a term like “interracial dating” even exists bothers me to no end. I talk about race a lot because it’s part of my academic interest and it’s a part of social reality. And indeed I am in the camp of people who believes that race is not a biological construct but a social one. And its most important implications are therefore in its political, economic, and social consequences. Sometimes I like to think about what the world would be like if we hadn’t created race. I like to envision that we would all just see each other and our different colors, and think of it as normal and natural and beautiful. And that without race, we would all see each so much more clearly.
But that is Utopia, and I do not live in Utopia, I live in the real world. And while I can talk about discourse and social conversations and productions and perception of reality, I know that there is a real world. And that even if we have limited access to it because of our biases and opinions and perspectives, the real world still exits. My Quantitative Research professor put it like this, “There is a real world out there, and if you don’t believe me, jump out of the window and see what happens.” And in this real world, people of different racial backgrounds, so to speak, date, relate, and marry. And for some reason, it is a topic of conversation. I hate it, but it is.
Yesterday while riding the L in the morning, I saw a couple participating in some PDA. Ordinarily I would have rolled my eyes in an obvious manner because it was way too early in the morning for all of that, as far as I was concerned. But I stopped myself because it was an interracial couple – the man was White and the woman was Black. And the last thing I would want to imply is that I was somehow disapproving of the relationship. I was conscious of this so much so that I barely even wanted the couple to know that I was noticing them. Because I imagine they get enough stares from the world, yes, even the world we know in 2014. And I just didn’t want to be yet another person looking at them because they were an interracial couple. I know what that’s like, even sometimes when I’m just hanging out with a male friend who is a different color from me.
I have never not liked boys who are of a different race from me. From as far as I can remember, I have almost always been attracted to just boys: White, Black, Mixed Race, Latino, etc. And I can honestly never recall it being a topic of conversation growing up in my home. Granted, I grew up in a Catholic, African home and you bet your boots it went without saying that dating was not something to be taken seriously until you reached a certain age. But race never came up. I feel that living in the United States has made me so hyperconscious about race in this way that I sometimes find myself wondering what people are thinking about me when they see me in those contexts. And by people I mostly mean men, and men of all races. Do they see me or do they see my race? And if they do see my race, do they only see my race? And is it a big deal to them?
The amount of times that non-Black men and particularly White men have approached me with a comment that is well-meaning yet contextualized within race is to the point where it is ridiculous. But it almost happens more often than it doesn’t. And until people are present or are able to witness these events, they sometimes think I’m exaggerating. I often use them as examples in my satirical writing but comments that involve terms such as, “Chocolate, and queen and nubienne and ebony” are all from personal experience. But even beyond what has almost become comedy for me, is that devastating question, “Do you date X race?”
It’s a legitimate question in this real world yet I often feel so sad that it even has to be asked. But perhaps what is worse is that sometimes even when I have not voiced out the question myself, I have wondered that about other people too. And while I have always been open and honest about not giving a rat’s ass about what race or color someone is that I am entering any sort of interaction with, and especially a romantic one, that doesn’t mean I have been immune to a lot of the perceptions and perspectives of what people will have to say, were that person to be a different color from me.
Sometimes I have heard from Black men that non-Black men who pursue Black women are just experimenting. (Actually I’ve heard this from just about every category of person.) I have heard that it is self-hate to pursue them, and I have heard that “it just doesn’t look right.” From non-Black men and again especially White men, I have often sensed sometimes an exoticized fascination, an interest not just in me but in the fact that I am Black, and then there is the fear of simply being interested in a Black woman and what that would supposedly imply. Then of course there is the total explicit disinterest in an entire race of women, which quite frankly doesn’t hurt my feelings personally but is telling enough of one’s values and character, from my standpoint. This is not to say that the above mentioned has ONLY been my experience because that is not the case. But it is to say that these experiences are real and they do happen, and not just to me but to a lot of women of color.
Speaking strictly heteronormatively, I think for women of color, they never just wonder about whether a guy likes them or not. They wonder if he likes “any of them.” And yes, that includes men of color too. Because there does exist a white women’s privilege in these contexts, and no amount of individual actualization in one’s beauty or personality or sense of self necessarily protects one from having to wonder. I have wondered, and I know many women of color who have wondered too. “Is he not attracted or interested because I am [insert race here]?” And while I understand that there is also a white male privilege in these contexts, I think there is a greater disadvantage in the social realities for women of color.
For me personally, not only am I attracted to men of different races, I am attracted to men who are attracted to women of different races. Because I do find there are values attached to looking at the world this way or at least trying to; values that I deem important. There is something off-putting to me about a guy who is only attracted to one color of skin. And I am not here to make an argument about that perspective being entrenched in dangerous bias and destructive discourses, at least not today. But I just think the world is so big and so rich in diversity that even if I am a member of the race that a guy is singularly attracted to, I find that perspective bland, if nothing else. I have never ever felt special because a guy, regardless of what race he was, told me that he is only attracted to Black women. I have more often than not, felt my eyes roll back to their sockets at that proclamation, however.
I know I’ve gone in circles in this piece but in 2014 interracial relationships are a fact. They’re not going anywhere; they are a reality. And one I hope becomes less and less of a topic that we need to discuss because it really should not be. Everyone is mixing and mingling and there’s a part of me that’s really happy about it. Because as people get more colors in their “own blood” and among their loved ones, I have the hope that my Utopia where we see people clearer, and as more than just their race, especially in matters of the heart, is at least an inch closer.
I think that love and all the things that go with it, even something as minute as attraction – physical and otherwise – is too important to see it through our constructed ideas of colors and race. At least that’s the real word I’m going to try to create as much as I can. So if you ever see me at the L stop not looking at you and your loved ones when you’re of different colors, it’s because I want you to know that your love might be many great things, but it is not something that should draw attention worthy enough to stare at. And I hope we eventually get to the point that if you are “PDA’ing” on the L early in the morning, I don’t have to take into consideration your colors at all. I want to judge you hard-core because it’s way too early in the morning for all of that, and you deserve it like any other couple.