That incredulous question popped up for the millionth time, always with the same disbelief. “But …why do you like white guys?”
With my boyfriend’s fingers interlaced with mine, we couldn’t get any further apart on the spectrum of complexion. The rich mahogany of my skin seemed even bolder against the startling white of his. As I lay there beside him, swirling his question around my mouth, I felt my response slowly expand. Where should I begin?
Why would a black woman living in the multicultural melting pot of London choose to go out with a white man? Why would a black woman choose to be laughed at, mocked and generally pitied? Why would a black woman make the decision to date someone she’d have to continuously justify, validating his worth to any and everyone?
Whilst these questions all seem hugely exaggerated, you really do have to be a black woman dating a white guy to understand…
Although we have come generations and generations away from slavery, the majority of people still feed a worrying plantation mentality, shown most in attitudes towards bi-racial women. Mixed race or light skinned women are often upheld as superior, exceedingly stunning beings, whilst dark skinned woman are seen as the opposite. Most people will say the most beautiful black stars are Beyonce and Halle Berry, who are actually both mixed race. It would be very optimistic to hope that young black men would be immune to the complexion based hierarchy that their notions of beauty are built on.
As a dark skinned teenager I was constantly reminded that my skin wasn’t beautiful, that I was too black and that my lighter friends were prettier. They’d reiterate this too, being repulsed by their darker skin in summer or telling me that they didn’t want to be ‘blick’ like me. Every African American movie I watched taught me that dark chocolate skin was synonymous with strength and masculinity (dark is sexy on the likes of Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs etc) but their girlfriends were always much lighter (Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan etc). I was made to believe that regardless of features or personality, a mixed race girl would always be better. These notions seemed to be firmly rooted in Caribbean households and passed down like family heirlooms.
The migration of West Indian men to London in the 50’s was a time of sexual enlightening; English women were often treated as exciting, mesmerizing conquests that proved status and growth. But if a black woman viewed her new male neighbours in this way she’d be viewed as a ‘sell-out’ or a traitor. Fast forward to the modern day media and it’s still the same story. A black woman dating a white man is met with ‘tuts’ and shaking of the head, and the black world suddenly becomes fiercely protective of women they’d ordinarily shun.
The absolute irony is that interracial couples receive so much hostility but their children are celebrated? How can you love mixed race girls, but hate interracial couples? It makes no sense to me and hurts immensely. It hurts that women are being pitted against each other and made to feel like rivals over their skin. It hurts that poison trickled into the ears of slaves in the 17th century can still permeate through our communities today. We’re a generation with unprecedented freedom that chooses to put their mind in chains. If my partner and I were to start a family I don’t believe those children would experience hostility on the level that we have. I don’t believe that they’d be made to feel like they’ve betrayed some code of solidarity. And why should they? If you’re motivated by love alone, you’ve nothing to apologise for.
So, to answer the question simply, I don’t believe I can have such strong disdain against racial stigmatism, then practice it in my love life. How can I argue that we are all beautiful, all worthy and all special if I only date black men? I believe beyond a doubt that everyone on this earth has something to offer, and I’ll be damned if I miss out on true love for fear of what ‘society’ will think. Dark skinned women are gorgeous and light skinned women are gorgeous too. Black men are delicious and yes, white men are delicious too. There is an entire universe of variation and the only limits are the ones we allow people to push on us. I could have severe confidence issues about my skin colour but I reject what I’ve been told and know that I am in fact beautiful just as I am.
I date outside my race because race is not the sole measure of compatibility; tell me about your heritage, your culture, your history and I’ll adore it. But I’m more concerned about your values, how you treat your family, your sense of humour and how you make me feel… By opening up my mind, I’ve opened up my heart and have found that the best way to put out the flames of ancient racial hatred is to douse it in love. Incredibly cheesy, but incredibly true.