Growing up, my mom was a single mother, and never dated anyone the entire 22 years before she became wheelchair bound. The only couple I looked up to as “love” were my white god parents who are still together to this day. Though my father and his wife were together my whole life, and still are, I didn’t see them often enough to perceive them as a couple to admire. In watching pop culture I always saw like-skinned couples and so few interracial ones. The pop culture I enjoyed and watched was also, as I’ve said in previous blogs, white centric. I went googoo-gaga over *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, and later One Direction. I rarely saw Black celebrities on TV and when I did I never saw someone I was attracted to. Since at school there were only usually 5 Black kids total, I also never developed crushes on the Black boys. They were much younger than me until about tenth grade. All of these reasons are how I became colourist and unconsciously racist against Black men.
My first experiences with Black men were as I described in my last blog. I found them to be aggressive and forceful as they followed me from my classes, asked for my number, wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was used to white boys who would pretend they weren’t even interested in the first place at the sign of rejection, not men who would pursue until you caved. Both tactics are the wrong approach, by the way. These first adverse reactions kept my love interests in the white lane. It didn’t help that I felt my Dad was just like these men. He often did things that my whitewashed and westernized brain felt was not how others should be treated, but instead of saying anything I noted that it was behaviours I didn’t want as a partner. I was too young to have that type of vocabulary, so I simply ruled out Black men, decided it was a preference thing and not a race thing and continued on.
I never considered that it was unconscious bias and a completely racist mindset. I was too young to really consider that the lack of diversity in the Maritimes had conditioned me to prefer white men, on top of my mom’s dislike of my father and the lack of Black positive couples in the pop culture I took in. When I moved to Toronto my mind started to finally change, but only slightly. I decided that the lightskin men on Tinder were acceptable. I should explain at this point that I had never dated anyone of any race while in Moncton. While I went out and partied and had my fair share of fun, I never considered any of those men real contenders for my heart and never went on proper dates with any of the men I wasted my time on. While Toronto did help me start to appreciate more ethnicities and open my eyes to how diverse the world really is, I still didn’t really date there either. So while I found men of colour I could finally deem attractive, I was still not necessarily approaching them at bars either.
It wasn’t until I reconciled with my father and moved to Ottawa that I started actively swiping right on both lightskin and dark skin men (it also wasn’t until moving to Ottawa that I started dating truly either, but besides the point). I definitely believe accepting my Blackness and exploring my identity led me to confront the unconscious biases I held against Black men and allow me to explore other options. I will also put it on record that since I only sincerely considered dating women as well at the same time, I was always open to all races of women because I hadn’t considered actively dating women until this same move.
While there are many factors at hand as to why I felt I should not date a Black man, but overall society made me feel that Black men were too intense for my now whitewashed personality, that they were loud, pushy, wanted obedience and belonged with dark skinned women who were used to that kind of behaviour. I felt that the opinions of those around me, which was mirrored in pop culture, was that they should stay within their culture and because I had been assimilated to white culture it was too different from me for me to be able to understand. Each commercial that depicted the same skintoned colours taking out mortgages made sense to me, and I was always jarred when interracial couples were on TV. Admittedly I liked how easy it was to approach white guys, how I was what they perceived as new and exciting and different. I was too insecure to handle any men who came off aggressive, let alone a man who I felt I had nothing in common with.
I think all women are taught to go with men who make you feel safe and secure because we know how easily women can be hurt and assaulted, but at times going with the safe option limits you from experiencing the world. It takes a lot to realize that you are close-minded and generalizing an entire group of people based on a few adverse experiences. It’s easy to do something like that when you have yet to be shown positives or benefits to being more receptive, especially when you feel you have a mountain of evidence proving that being more receptive may only get you hurt. In most things in life, the easier choice is not always the best. It was not easy to swallow my pride and admit I was being racist in my partner preferences. I hope that sharing this opens everyone reading’s views as to why we have portrayed ideal couples as similar in skintones until recently. It’s okay to explore outside of your comfort zone, to find different attractive, and to love someone with a completely different culture. My dad and step-mom did and they’re 27 years strong. I can only hope to follow suit.