“Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized the racial undertones of Snow White being “fairer” than the Queen; the beauty of Snow White was found in her fairness. And today almost 80 years after the release of Disney’s Snow White fairness is still the norm for beauty standards, not only in countries of Western Europe and their colonies, but across the globe because colonization has efficiently spread the myth that White features are more desirable than the features found on the majority of the world’s population. While the LGBTIQ community most honestly reflects the power this lie has over the world in online dating profiles that read “White preferred” “Whites only” “Not fats, no femmes, no Asian” “No chinks or spiks” “No Blacks” “Not down with mixing” etc. Heterosexuals demonstrate their fair share of “preferences” as well and it is well researched thanks to metadata collection by online dating resource OKCupid.
Last week my friend and his significant other were on OKCupid for a good while answering questions because I was 97% compatible with his SO and he was only 70% compatible, so they needed to remedy that. After answering a significant number of questions they managed to bring me down to 91% and my friend up to 92%. I went through the questions to see why I was compatible with this person and then I came to my favorite determiner of whether or not I would date someone. The question asks, “Would you strongly prefer to go out with someone of your own skin color/racial background?” I answered no with an explanation, “I don’t care about someone’s race – I think it’s stupid that so many people do care about race in dating, we are in 2014 after all”.
A lot has happened since 2014. Michael Brown was killed and sparked a new movement for racial justice. The police fed a mass murderer Burger King and strangled a cigarette seller to death. The police shot to death multiple unarmed Black children; Black and Latinx people mysteriously keep dying in police custody. Racism and xenophobia have lead to the rise of Donald Trump and token POC puppets Carson, Cruz, and Rubio championed the diversity of the GOP field as a racist demagogue took over their party. School districts across the nation shut down public schools in communities of color, while people in Flint bathed in poisoned water. And White people’s preferences are still set on finding the “fairest of them all”.
For most of my life I have bought into the myth that White features are the most desirable, my parents wouldn’t let me watch BET, so all of the visual media I consumed was for the most part White. The 90’s were filled with diverse shows but the early 2000’s took away many of those shows like the Brother’s Garcia, My Brother and Me, Living Single (which didn’t last as long as its mediocre knock-off Friends), Boy Meets World had one or two POC over the years it aired, the list goes on. As the US has moved closer to the “Era of Obama” racially diverse shows have fallen off. Since Obama won election in 2009 a revival of sorts has taken place, shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, The Mindy Project, and others have sprung up. And the age of Netflix has brought about shows like Master of None, (soon-to-be-released) Luke Cage, Orange is the New Black (which still centers a mediocre White woman but has a ton of racially diverse actresses). But at the same time racially motivated hate crimes have risen since 2008. And when three Queer Black women created the hashtag “Black Lives Matter” almost overnight White people responded with “All Lives Matter” then a year later decided all lives didn’t matter and only “Blue Lives Mattered” 😉
All of this is not without effect on the dating community. The environment that was passive in its discrimination has turned more hostile for melanin-rich people by the melanin-deprived – as many of my friends privately reported receiving aggressive racist comments about their physical features or creepy fetishing messages. So when my friend texted me asking, “Curious if someone if a black man having a preference for black would be considered racist too??” I stifled a laugh. Of course an oppressed minority group avoiding dating the group largely responsible for oppression isn’t racism it’s self-preservation. But being a collaborator I turned to my community on Facebook and asked POC (People of color) what reasons they have for not dating PLIC (People lacking in color). Of course anytime I specifically address POC…PLIC decide to appear in my comments, but a diverse spectrum of commenters shared their own experiences of racism in dating. Based on the comments and my own personal experience I’ve come up with this short list of reasons why I and some…or many other POC are kissing dating White folks goodbye.
- The need for rest
Have you ever come home from work and wanted to just change into your sweatpants and lay around and not do anything because you worked super hard at your job, but when you got home your pet and/or child has devastated your home so you had to keep working before you got to take a breather? That’s a little bit what it’s like to be in a romantic relationship or even a friendship with a person you have to keep educating about race. I work in predominantly White spaces, so a lot of my time is spent explaining racial issues to people, coming home after doing that for hours to just do it all over again with a partner sounds absolutely exhausting.
- Racist Family
It doesn’t matter how “woke” your partner is, when you take them for better or for worse in whatever form that presents itself to you, part of the worst you take on is their family. Racist drunk uncles, grandparents that ask why the coloreds aren’t happy yet, the parents who give dirty looks at the first meeting before catching themselves, the cousins that are campaigning for Trump, the list goes on. The dread that must come with each Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter; instead of celebrating the coming of the Lord POC must fear their significant others’ Pilate-esq relatives bringing the “Not all White people” nails and the “All Lives Matter” cross to hang them on.
It seems like every White liberal/progressive™ that has read one or two articles on Vox or picked up a copy of Between the World and Me feels aptly educated on race and decides to share their shallow end of the pool of knowledge with everyone, including people of color who actually experience racism. I can remember I was on a date with someone who tried to explain to me what the school-to-prison pipeline was and how it started with the War on Drugs, which was…nice I guess. Except this person was completely clueless and was getting facts and figures messed up, then pointed to my copy of The New Jim Crow, as said “I remember when that opened my eyes.” (Child please) Whitesplaining, like headaches and nausea from prescription medication is just one side effect of dating White people. That paternalistic explanations that come to interpret one’s own experience are not only exhausting they are dehumanizing. I have plenty of Whitesplaining friends, but when I turn to a significant other I’d rather have them laugh with me when I say “Look at this person who hasn’t experienced racism explain to me what is or is not racist” instead of saying “Well they may have a point, let’s what for the facts – let Ryan Lochte explain himself.”
- No Need For Explanations
Being Mary Jane is one of my new guilty pleasures. It’s a terrible show filled with problematic characters but I love it. In one episode Mary Jane is breaking up with her new White boy toy because she decided she wanted “Black love”. When the White boy toy asks what a Black man could provide that he couldn’t she responds, “I don’t want to have to explain what my kitchen is and what’s going on there.” The White boy toy looks at her confused and points at the room that contains a stove, sink, and refrigerator; she laughs and says, “See that proves my point”. (If you don’t know what a kitchen is…ask your Black friend). POC explain things to PLIC all the time, doing that with a significant other must get old.
- Resisting Racial Fetishism
I Kissed Dating Whites Goodbye, but unlike many White people I didn’t do it because I think that White people are inherently less attractive than the majority of the world’s population, I did it as a radical act of self-care. My “New Year’s Resolution” for 2016 was to take care of myself, so I temporarily issued an embargo and dating people lacking in color, since the embargo began I’ve never been called attractive more in my life (by someone other than my mother). I’ve never felt more confident in my skin, felt more proud of my accomplishments, more heard as an equal, more whole. I’m not swearing off of dating White people forever (I think); but for now I’m enjoying dating people on the margins, and I’m loving not having to bring work home, or explain why I wear a durag – or what a durag is – or why I put coconut oil in my hair. I’m enjoying bringing all of who I am to a date and getting to simply just be my whole authentic self. Isn’t that what a romantic relationship is supposed to be about?
[I know that there are plenty of interracial relationships that are working just fine the parties involved, this article is for the people it isn’t working for.]