Tag Archives: institutionalized racism

What Not To Say In Interracial Gay Dating Situations

Gay-Kiss

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.

Do You No Longer Identify As Caucasian When You’re Gay? The Other Side Of Tokenism

gay black

When I wrote about the issues that can occur with ethnic/racial minorities that are gay and some of the challenges or internal conflicts that may arise, I was surprised in the reaction I got from it. Not the actual responses and emails about wanting to hear more about these issues but there were those of you out there that actually identified and wanted to hear more. And I’m very thankful for the open dialogue that it has begun as that is how awareness happens and how things begin to change when we talk about them.

One of the questions I received yesterday wanted me to talk about if there is another side of that coin to the concept of tokenism. What happens when we look at how gay Caucasian men may look at their race and how that relates to their identity in the gay community. So as before I spoke with my group of friends to brainstorm and examine if we felt some aspects of this phenomena existed in different ways. Or if race could play a factor in ways we hadn’t thought about that’s never really examined.

During this conversation we talked about if gay Caucasians could feel cultural/racial dysphoria, or uncomfortable disdain for their own race, if these individuals would possibly adopt another race/culture. Too often it’s overlooked that there are personal conflicts in relation to race, no matter if it’s a part of a minority or majority. Most often when you hear about a pundit, politician  or religious extremist that is relentlessly denouncing homosexuality in any form, what are some of the things that you notice?

Of course they have one commonality (other than ignorance) is that they are most likely Caucasian. It is an accepted truth that many of those that oppose equal rights are from the same race. But what about those that oppose these archaic ways of oppression? Many of our leaders in the LGBT community are Caucasian as well.

We talked about how that may lead some to becoming so disgruntled about their own race that they no longer see themselves as Caucasian. It goes beyond them seeing disparities among a minority. They may no longer hold their own race as a part of their identity and any associations with their own color are negative. There are several reasons that I attributed to this phenomena.

The biggest is that because  as we are fighting for equal rights and we are being denied fair treatment, and anything we commonly associates with oppression will be denounced. This rejection happens with  the group that is oppressing/discriminating against us, even if we belong to that group. Regardless of the inherent perks or advantages that come along with that race, any identity with the native group is abandoned.

Some of us in our discussion theorized that as a result, some gay Caucasians, especially gay men, may no longer identify themselves as Caucasian and only see themselves as gay. It could be the result of internalized guilt that they may associate with their race because of the stigma and prejudices that the LGBT community still face. We talked about how in some of our experiences people may even become offended and very defensive if you refer to them as Caucasian. There’s evidence of that when we hear gay Caucasian men refer to these radicals as “straight white males” or use other classifications of race as a detriment to the gay civil rights movement. And it’s something that we should take notice of.

Over the course of the night we talked briefly about how the ideal of tokenism, or the belief that a community will welcome a few select members of a minority so that they are not accused of racism or prejudice. It was also discussed how the concept of tokenism may drive some gay ethnic/racial minorities to assimilate and isolate themselves from their racial/ethnic identity. They may result in them not dating people of their own race or other discriminatory practices like racially insensitive jokes.

Could something drive a person reject an identity of their own race to not be associated with the same negative generalizations? Of course we can as that was the topic before about how sometimes ethnic minorities separate themselves from anything or anyone that they associate with their own race for fear of reprisal or association to negative stereotypes. So why wouldn’t the same principle apply to some gay Caucasians. But is this the reverse of tokenism and can we apply these principles? I can see why some would believe that there is some sort of racial dysphoria involved.  Because instead of a community adopting members of other ethnic backgrounds this is the actual rejection of the community they belong to and their beliefs.

We were able to tie in a part of our nation’s history as evidence of why this happens. For instance the 60s during the fight for interracial marriage. It was believed that if you dated or married outside of your race( (more specifically an African American) then you were stripped of any privilege that came with being Caucasian. You were actually seen as an African American. It has of the aspects of a  US vs. Them mentality.

As time went on, we saw less and less of this overt racism but we still see these acts against African Americans and any race that associates outside their own race is still seen by some on level as abandoning their native race. It may not be openly discussed but the belief is still there. And this theory could also apply to LGBT.  As a result of identifying as gay and because of these beliefs or prejudice from their group, they isolate themselves from any categories/labels or names associated with their group before it can be done to them.

Another point that was brought up was that even though overt and institutionalized homophobia/racism still exists, there is still a belief  that how you are viewed within the society is different. Being gay may be identified in the same way. Some may actually feel as though they have to abandon any identity as race because of history and to their own unique experiences. Now the opposite of this averseness is when people say they don’t see their race at all and unable to see the perceived privilege that they have in society. Some believe that even though when individuals refer to their own race they have to keep in mind that they are still Caucasian. They still do in fact have some privilege.

It certainly isn’t in the same vein of their straight counterparts like ability to get married. But they are still allowed, in some extent to be vocal and have their opinion heard. Even though our requests for not equality are not met, when a Caucasian man speaks about an injustice, he is still much more likely to have his beliefs recognized. This is not the same for gay ethnic/racial minorities that are not made to feel as though they can at least express what they see as discriminatory or prejudice. But we felt that it’s more complex than that.What problems arise as a result of those that feel dysphoria with their own race abandon that identity and decide to take on aspects of another race?

It is natural to take on different cultural aspects than our own that we like. In fact we may sometimes identify with other races more than our own race because of the discrimination they’ve experienced and the rights that they have been denied. They may also identify as an adoptive member as a result and ignore or refuse any association with their native group. I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad thing that some may date their race or other races. Date or relate to whomever you wish but don’t associate the negative actions of any community as if they are all participants.

Maybe this is what we see the adaption of African American customs, mannerisms, and behaviors with gay Caucasian men. Because these men are able to see the struggles of that African Americans, and more specifically, African American women have endured for centuries and even in some aspects today. African American women are always depicted as no nonsense women that are passionate, direct in thought and behavior, and willing to stand up against any perceived threat, as most African American women are depicted this way. And we also discussed that though there is nothing wrong with this aspect in theory, it’s important those that do partake in this behavior do not caricaturize or over inflate stereotypes. Because naturally we are all more than a stereotype.

When I gathered some of  the same friends I had discussed the previous topic with, one of my friends who is a gay Caucasian man agreed with this ideal of adopting some aspects of the African American culture. He talked about his experiences and how he watched 70s movies growing up and how Pam Grier, was his inspiration. When coming out was unbearable to him he’d watch her movies that always were about empowered African American women and how that gave him courage when he felt he had none.

My friend believed his adaptation happened because taking on and embodying these believed personas of the African American woman gave them a sense of strength so that he could come out. He found strength in a culture that he felt praises differences and how this culture saw femininity was synonymous with strength, not weakness. Of course we know this isn’t every gay Caucasian man’s story or reasoning for liking certain aspects of African American culture, but I do think it’s food for thought.

Some of you are inevitably saying right now “why are we even talking about race? I don’t see color” Yes you do, and unless you have some type of visual impairment you see color. We all do as humans because we automatically categorize everything we see. And because of our history and experiences we inherit ideals that too often are never questioned. We have be willing to talk about it because race still plays a role in our beliefs, concepts no matter how much we may not want it to be that way. Talking about everyone’s ideals on it helps ensure that it is not the only thing you see.

We brainstormed some more with lots of charts, jargon and even a dry erase board to think of ways this could be mediated. After arguing for an hour we decided the most important aspect is that those that may feel included in this aversion to their own race may remedy this by specifically identifying the differences between showing empathy and feeling guilt. That’s is what I believe to be the most prominent way to understand these feelings so we can  open dialogue about racial differences and the injustices that some minorities still feel.

The point to all of this discussion was to show how no one wants to be identified as just a race or only by their sexuality. But by looking at how race can still impact all of us and how we see ourselves makes it a worthy discussion to have. So that we are aware of what can happen when we let those things define us instead of us deciding how we define ourselves. We are all complex beings with varying interests and attributes that show who we really are and what we have to offer. The group of us that discussed this were comprised of different races and sexuality and we discovered that when we enter with an open mind that we can make surprising discoveries that can foster understanding how these things affect us and our perceptions of others. So talk about it to learn more about yourself.