I have spent half of my dating life with white men.
As far as I can see, there is a great deal of confusion regarding how black and white men get along, partner up, and develop loving, committed non-exploitative relationships. What is this thing we call attraction? Is it learned? Is it cultivated? And can it be restructured?
I remember a friend of mine telling me that when he came out that he already knew the type of guy he found appealing - he already had a type.
I thought this was laughable because I was certainly not this astute. My attraction grew and changed, as I did the same. For a number of years, I was completely, undeniably unattracted to white guys. This explains the hearty guffaws I would muster whenever a white guy either wanted me to see him as a sex partner or thought I should worship at the throne of whiteness simply because.
After some years of failed relationships with my brothers, I made the decision to be treated well and no longer gave a shit what package it came in.
I began dating some very different types of men.
I was not sitting around longing for whiteness, and yet I ended up dating a very sweet Greek guy who was not out to his family and friends. Spoiler alert: if you are out, don't date someone who isn't.
We had several problems.
Some were racially oriented. Being very caught up in the fantasy mode of dating a black guy, he was complicit in racist attacks, assumptions, and the worst type of racism - intellectual. During dates, waiters would consistently offer him the check.
At one particularly grueling time with his friends, none of whom knew the true "identity " of our relationship, a girl decided to tell a story but wanted to make sure I knew what cappuccino was before she proceeded.
Perhaps a great deal of the ensuing drama occurred because of the "in the closet" business.
We never got to fully address that possibility because there was so much attention being placed on the racism. It would have been great to deal with the ways that being in the closet and being with a black guy influenced one another and overlapped. It is interesting to note that while I gleefully dated this individual, I would never date and don't know any black males beyond the age of 20 who are in the closet.
Dating "N" was titillating on many levels.
He was white and closeted and cute. All of these traits allowed me to feel as if I was getting away with something. It fostered this feeling of being 25 and a bad ass. Looking back I can clearly see how I got caught up in the dream - the fantasy that is the "other".
Fantasies that allow us to imagine a different life or fresh way of doing things are productive and necessary.
Fantasies and suspending disbelief - or being an idiot - allow us to stay emotionally stuck and infantile.
In another incident years down the road with another blonde, we were apartment shopping. The building manager consistently sent emails and addressed my then-boyfriend at the time even though it was stated several times upon meeting this jokester that the blonde was not only unemployed but had also filed for bankruptcy.
When it was pointed out that I had two sources of income - teaching and a weekly unemployment check, which would pay for the entire apartment - this went unrecognized and ignored.
I learned a great deal about myself and the seduction that is white supremacy and internalized racism. In both instances, my contributions were either trivialized or, at the very worst, ignored. I got to look at the many assumptions both groups make about the other.
Growing up the white folk in my life were limited to appearances in movies and television.
With this unparalleled ignorance, it was very easy to make the decision that all whites were happy, well-adjusted, employed, and wealthy. In the other bit of nonsense, it was assumed by many of the whites who I dated that being black in this culture meant the following: that I was from the ghetto, poor, lacking in both imagination and drive, and, of course, loved whiteness and clung to the misguided belief that whiteness and not my own doing would be my salvation.
If you accept and then create relationships based on all the ignorance, assumptions, fears, and titillation of being with the "other," you have a definite recipe for disaster.
An element that consistently shows up and must be constantly challenged is the very comfortable and familiar agreement that the black guy will do all of the heavy emotional lifting and the white guy will take on the role of financial parent. Given the current and recent financial climate, many men of color, myself included, are unemployed or severely underemployed.
While the economy is not to blame, it is wise to consider that everyone does not have access to the same resources.
This does not excuse certain situations (not looking for work, not developing new skills) but instead sheds light on the dynamic that has a great effect on both men involved in an intimate relationship.