After Ernest Baker's essay about interracial relationships, "The Reality of Dating White Women When You're Black," ran on Gawker earlier this month we received hundreds of comments and emails objecting to, agreeing with, or otherwise responding to Baker. This week, we're publishing some of those responses as part of a conversation about race and relationships.
I was 21 the first time I put my hands in a black man's hair. I convinced my friend R that if we put curling mousse in his hair it would curl up into wild spirals just like mine. We stood in my dorm room with him hunched over and me massaging mousse into his hair that showed no signs of deviating from its natural texture. A texture that was different from my own. Although my father is black and my mother is half-black, her mother's Filipina and Chinese heritage left me with a hair texture some place in between.
I would be 24 before I ran my palms over the waves and grooves of a black man's hair again. I dated my high school sweetheart well past high school. A skateboarder. A break dancer. A kind heart. A white boy from the suburbs with short, spikey hair. Like Ernest Baker, my dad made enough money to move his growing black family to the 'burbs. Culturally this placed me somewhere between white neighbors who called my parents in the middle of the night to come pick me up, because they didn't realize when their darling daughter invited me over I was black, and black kids my age feeling alienated by the fact I talked "white." I dated white boys because of my proximity to white boys. By high school, my social circle was almost exclusively white, filled with friends who told me things like, "But you're not really black."
Unlike for Baker, dating a white boy wasn't some easy choice, because I was attracted to freckles. It was six long years of staying in the car during camping trips while everyone else with less melanin than me went into the general store, because we were in B.F.E., six years of his considerable restraint when black dudes who didn't like seeing one of their Queens on the arm of YT approaching and hitting on me while his hand was in mine. Six years of explaining things like green bean casserole and "Ramen salad" to my mom, and my granny calling him any name but his (Chuck, Chet, Shawn...). It was dutifully taking my birth control and warning him I didn't plan on pushing out any babies lighter than me lest I be mistaken for the nanny.
At 24, when we finally broke-up, it didn't take me long to meet a black boy in a bar and a few months later his hands were down my top and my hands were all up in his hair. He was followed by Chinese boys, African boys, Indian boys and yes, more white boys. Hot was universal. I was single for the first time in my adult life and ready to taste everything the rainbow had to offer. I learned that awareness mattered a lot more to me than race. There are some black men (perhaps for their own sanity) who are as blissfully ignorant about race relations in this country as many white men. I need someone who will exchange a knowing look with me if the sales girl greets the person before me in a store and the person after me, but only seems to notice me when it's time to take my money. I don't want to debate about whether or not Elvis stole black people's music because the answer is clear—he did. I need someone whose eyes are going to glow with passion at the sight of wild, free curls springing forth from the top of my head. Someone who doesn't erase my race nor does he fetishize it. If he understands these things, I don't care what box he checks on the Census.
Unlike Baker, I know this goes beyond O.J. Simpson trials and Kanye West lyrics, there's levels to this shit. I know the media and Baker would have you believe no one, especially not black men, wants to date black women. We just don't measure up to those blonde-haired-blue-eyed societal standards. We should all just pack up and ship off to China where there's a dire shortage of women. Yet, I've found that although love is elusive, it's also kind and patient and arrives when you least expect it, from who you least expect it.
At least, that's been my reality dating as a black woman.
[Illustration by Tara Jacoby]