On Race & Dating

Boyfriend #1
The other day, I read a blog post in Huff Post Gay Voices, from the I’m from Driftwood series, “'You're Really Nice, but I Don't Date Black Guys': Racism or Preference?” I’ve been thinking about the article and its supporting video ever since.

In it a black guy named Nelson Moses Lassiter, talks about racism in the LGBT community that takes the form of rejection from white guys who don’t date black guys. (You can read the article here.)  Sophomore year in college I had a crush on Scott, a cute white boy who was struggling with his gayness. At some point the summer before junior year he ended up sharing my dorm room. Inevitably, perhaps because we were roommates, or maybe it was my awkward attempt to seduce him—I honestly don’t remember—he saw me naked. A few days later he confessed he’d dreamed of me right after. The dream was fairly explicit. As I stared at him, he’d quickly added, “But I could never sleep with a black guy—that on top of being gay would be too much!”

What I heard was, “I could never sleep with you.”

So I get what Lassiter is saying; rejection hurts, no matter the reason. The reason for the rejection seemed to really irk him. What irked me was it sounded (and I could be wrong) like he himself only wanted to date white guys.

A while back I read a similar article written by an Asian gay man. In this one, the writer griped about white guys whose Grindr profiles read: “No fats, femmes or Asians.” Why I wanted to scream do you call them racist when you seem unwilling to date anyone who is not white, thereby rejecting black men and most bafflingly other Asians. I’ve always been all for dating diversity so maybe that’s why it troubles me when people feel the need to date exclusively outside their race. Is it just preference at play here? Or is it something more disturbing like internalized racism?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my husband is white. But I also need to point out that I did not marry a white guy, I married a guy I was in love with and who I thought I could build a life with and who happened to be white.

I’ve been out of the dating pool for nearly two decades and don’t imagine I’ll ever rejoin it but, when I was dating, I didn’t want a guy who was into my race. I wanted him to support, and treat my race with compassion and equality; I wanted him to be into me. Me, Larry the good man, not Larry the black man. I don’t want to be seen as a stand in for the entire race.

My first boyfriend, back in college, was Puerto Rican. I thought he was beautiful with his brown skin
Boyfriend #2
and black- black hair and smoldering eyes dark as night. My second boy friend was black, a law student, dark-skinned with huge green eyes, a great-grandmother who looked like every picture I’d ever seen of Pocahontas and a grandmother from Scotland Neck, NorthCarolina who looked like the last reigning white woman. My husband has Casper pale skin, salt & pepper hair and hazel eyes. Their looks are dissimilar but, I dated each of them because I liked them.

Lassiter goes on to talk about the whole “I’m a white guy who really likes black guys” phenomenon, which I found amusing. I learned to avoid white guys who claimed they were “into black guys:” it reduces you to less than an object; you become a color, a symbol. After just two dates, one white guy who was “really into black guys” dumped me because—in his words—I wasn’t black enough. Our conversation went like this:

“I don’t even know what that means!”

“Well for one thing, why do you talk like you went to Harvard?”

“First of all it’s ‘why do you talk as if you went to Harvard—though ‘speak’ would be a better word here. And second. I went to Penn but I’d never realized that the Ivy League had its own accent. Or would that be a dialect?”

Well, there went any chance of reconciliation. Clearly, I wasn’t just not black enough, I was also a bitch. We’d only been on two dates and besides that he lived in an apartment whose living room was furnished with lawn furniture. You know the kind with a vinyl woven between an aluminum frame?

Baffled as I was by his observation, I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t the first time I’d been told I wasn’t “black enough.” Freshman year, I and  my roommate, who was half Japanese, half black and who had grown up in Willingboro, New Jersey, ended up living in the WEB DuBois residential programtwo floors of a low rise dormat Penn. That was the first time I got the feeling I wasn’t black enough. He must have felt it too because the next year we decamped to the more integrated high rise dorm, where we remained for the next three years.

Even my husband once infamously stated, “Well, you and your family are hardly regular black people.” Say what? Evidently I am less black than blackish.

It’s ok to be into something about a person—nice teeth, or blue eyes. I remember my first boyfriend confessing to me early on that he was first attracted to me because of my red hair. “I just like red hair,” he said, “I even like those dogs with red hair—Irish setters.” And I smiled. I was ok with that.  He found an aspect of me attractive. But, when he looked at me, he saw me, not a race of people. And he fell in love with the boy I was.
Me & the man I married

Stanley, my now husband, and I knew each other for five years before we started dating. We’d talk on the phone for hours and I’d hang up and think, “He’s such a nice guy. Why can’t I meet someone like him?” And I suppose what I was really thinking was why can’t I meet a black guy like him?

I get that you’re attracted to whom you’re attracted to. I do. And, I believe everyone has the right to love whoever he or she chooses regardless of race or religion or gender. But, I guess the most important lesson I’ve learned in my life is this: sometimes “the one” doesn’t look like you imagined he would. Why take the chance on missing a great love because of something as arbitrary as race?

And at the end of the day, dick is dick.


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