Dating can be rough, regardless of sexual orientation but sometimes we can make it a lot harder than it has to be. There’s also a lot of things to consider when romantically pursuing someone you’re interested in, regardless of whether it’s for something long term or just a one night stand. There are things we know we have to be aware of and keep in mind the entire time we’re interacting with these other guys. With that said you’d think there are certain things you should already know when interacting with someone you’re trying to get to know better.
For instance if a person is extremely short you aren’t going to make a comment about how it must be easy for them to reach smaller cupboards are you? No you aren’t. Well at least you shouldn’t bring attention to it. Why? Because it’s rude and whether or not they’ve had with it. Or it could make them self-conscious about something they never had a problem with? And that goes for other physical attributes like birthmarks, speech impediments, physical or mental differentiation in ability. And race, which is what I’ll be focusing on today.
Earlier this week after picking up some healthy nutrition (more like 3 family sized bags of Peanut M&M’s) I noticed a guy was watching my every move. It wasn’t a stare so much as it was one of those looks that someone gives that wants you to notice them. So I turned around and did my default response of whenever someone seems interesting which is an eyebrow raised and I lite tilt of the head. He smiled and returned the gesture.
His eyes appraised me from top to bottom (no pun intended) It appeared that I had passed whatever requirements he had in deciding if someone was attractive/interesting. I have this thing where my eyebrow goes up when I’m smiling and he placed his hand on my shoulder and he commented on how strong he presumed I could be. Then that proceeded into me saying a few sexual innuendos that I won’t bore you with as they were a bit off the cuff and a bit dirty.
All really fun and playful banter. He had an amazing smile and a sweet airy laugh. He loved shifting his weight on either foot to begin and end his thought process. It was all endearing within those first few moments. I was really enjoying the conversation and was ready to forget everything else I had planned for the day go hang out with him right at that moment. But then as he was laughing at our small talk, his expression changed slightly to what only I assume to mean he had something serious to say. He lightly touched my arm and said,
“You’re so cute. Funny. I’d like to get to know you. Seem like one of the good blacks that speak well.”
Seem like one of the good blacks that speak well
THE GOOD BLACKS
All the smiles and playfulness on my face was immediately replaced with revulsion and intense anger. I replied saying why the hell he would say something so racist, forgetting temporarily in that moment that when people say things like that they truly believe they’re paying you a compliment when in fact it’s a huge insult. Needless to as that it completely desiccated any amorous feelings I had for this effervescent man. So instead of enlisting into what I’m sure would’ve been a very heated debate on manners, I collected my belongings and left him standing there in the parking lot.
I wish I could say that this was the first and only time someone has said something like this. Or that I’ve only heard it a dozen times or so. But in reality I have heard this phrase too many times to count from some well-meaning guy something so crass. So many decisions are based on the potential length of the relationship with the first few minutes. You have to convey so much within the first few seconds that you all attributes you want to be known (single/married, looking for sex/looking for love, top/bottom/vers). But when you say something completely asinine like the gentleman in this story you eviscerate any ground you made.
All the things you were silently trying to micromanage onside your head becomes only focused on what you believe he’s focused on. Since he brought up my race, then how am I supposed to focus on anything else? Sure there is a lot of pressure from your inner monologue tell you to decide within this small frame of time what to say and what you should not say. These situations seem to be magnified when there
You see what the problem is with comparing someone to the rest of their race, or other tall or short people, guys with birthmarks, stutters or any other thing that you see as unique, different or outside the box, is that it is a problem for you because that is all you seem to focus on. Too often talking about race in the gay community is dismissed and made taboo because it is just assumed that you can’t be racist if you’re gay. But just because you come from one oppressed group does not mean you know everything there is to know about every other oppressed group.
As I was discussing this with colleagues and close friends they wanted me to elaborate on a few points about intersectionality and how race does affect dating in this community. So I wanted to write about some of the things I feel are the biggest issues and point out some things that I feel arise in these situations that if we remember in these situations you won’t offend a person and actually see them as a person. But more specifically these are some of the issues that arise the most.
You don’t have to tell us that this is the first time you’ve ever went out with an African American or anyone outside your race because more than likely we are the first. Even though we are becoming more diverse by the day, most of the dating pool is in the gay community is comprised of Caucasian males. I know you aren’t going to know each and every phrase. No you don’t need some special manual to interact with me. Just be authentic and treat me as I do you’ as a person.
That doesn’t give you an excuse when you’ve said something we feel is insensitive. You can express how you didn’t see it as offensive but try to understand why we are upset. Just like with being gay, there are a lot of intricate levels of insensitivity to institutionalization of racism. In any case when you’ve offended someone you care about, apologize first then talk about it.
No you are not responsible for knowing every sensitive, intricate detail of what it means to be an African American in this country for the man you’re dating. You don’t have to know the reasoning of every time we are offended by something that is insensitive to the color of our skin. But understand there are so many varying levels you may not see. So when your guy points it out, both of you should be willing to listen to both sides.
Remember how it is when someone straight dismisses you for something you feel is homophobic/insensitive to LGBT? The same rule applies here. Because you may not notice the same things that we do. And we see it from a lifetime of patterns that let us know that the intent of statements like “you’re so articulate” can sometimes mean “I don’t think African Americans are smart, intelligent human beings”
So don’t ever dismiss the way we feel. Ever. Even if you don’t agree and are unable to see what we see. Just because you don’t see what the issue may be known that it may not always affect you even though we are together that it will always affect me.
Yes you can engage in conversations about race and race relations. It affects you just as much as it affects me, just not in the same way. You sitting there listening to me giving a speech about what you did wrong or what I found offensive by what someone has said or done will do nothing but make both of us resentful. Open dialogue is what changes perspectives and fosters understanding.
Don’t tell us why you think we are the exception to our race like the story I shared earlier. It makes us feel like we are some type of anomaly of an otherwise undesirable race of people we belong to and are a part of. Telling us we are a contradiction to a stereotype given to our race implies to us that you believe those stereotypes to be true and that even though you show no evidence to the contrary that we are still capable of those behaviors. So on some level you only see the person as a stereotype or a contradiction of a stereotype, and not the person. Stereotypes imply that we are susceptible, regardless of action and behavior.
You see color. Unless you have some kind of differentiation that does not allow you to see color or are visually blind you see color. When someone says “I don’t see color” that means that you are going to ignore when (sadly not if, but when) something comes up about race. Whether that be an inappropriate comment from you or someone else. See the current politically correct thing to say is phrases like I don’t see color to show that it doesn’t factor in who you’ll choose to date. You can’t say that you enjoy learning about different cultures and perspectives and say you don’t see color. Because you do see color.
But again it’s a generalization, and no one ever wants to be considered the “other”. We all notice differences in culture, race, and ethnicity. All of us need to learn that when it comes to race, sexuality, pretty much anything that is innately different to us, does not equal better or worse. Just different. We are still a society that is obsessed with hierarchy and order instead of incorporating even playing fields for everyone.
I am not just my race so when you focus on that it is all I believe you will ever see when you look at me. If all I believe you can see is what’s on the surface then why would I want to go deeper with you? Spoil you? To put all the effort necessary into building a strong stable relationship or one of the hottest, most passionate hookups ever? Because you are only seeing the surface. And I am better than that. Even certain myths and stereotypes (no matter how true they may be) that on the surface shows a group in a positive light are based in discrimination and hate.
Be open and ask. Be open to the fact that perspectives are going to be different. Patience and understanding is rewarded to those that are willing to hear both sides of an argument/view/opinion. When we listen even when we don’t agree because it allows us to see why we feel the way we do.You should never be afraid to ask someone you’re with why something is the way it is. Just don’t treat it like a science project that you’re collecting data for. Don’t understand something? Ask. We are not silently blaming you for the actions of ancestors long gone, but we cannot ignore that their actions still affect us. So talk. As often as necessary.
Not everything will be about race, Far from it. But don’t pretend that these issues won’t arise because they will, just like every relationship. This isn’t to detour you from pursuing someone you’re interested in. These situations only become a big issue is because as a community we actively choose to ignore it and not talk about it. And just like any relationship when communication is down, everything falls apart.
But let me make this clear that this is no more work than if you were dating someone of the same race. I’m pointing this out because it is obvious and something you can see thus making it easier to address. This is to remind those that have always wondered but been unaware of how to approach it. We can’t change it if we ignore it. So scenarios like the story I told earlier still being a reality today fade into history where they belong.