My first relationship with a white guy didn’t last very long–five swirly months. But it did last long enough to teach me a whirlwind of lessons.
Before meeting him, I identified myself as 1) black, 2) female and 3) human, in that order. Then one day we had a conversation that turned my view of myself and others upside down.
“How do you see yourself?” I asked him.
“I’m human,” he responded casually.
“Yeah, right, duh,” I retorted. “But how do you self-identify?”
He cocked his head in a manner that reminded me of a curious cat. I continued.
“Are you a white man or are you a man that is white?”
He looked curiouser and curiouser.
“I’m human, I’m a man and I’m white,” he said finally.
“In that order?” I asked, revealing my surprise.
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied, revealing his boredom.
I walked away from that conversation still rapt by his self-description.
Doesn’t everybody primarily identify themselves by color? I thought. Who in the hell prioritizes color last?
For those of you who may find my – former – attitude difficult to comprehend, I grew up in a black household. I attended black churches. I participated in black enrichment programs. I graduated from a historically black university. I worked for a black newspaper. For the better part of my life, “black” lived at the forefront of my mind as my definitive identifier; yet, this – former – white boyfriend of mine was more or less telling me that the defining reign of color is optional? Holy Twilight Zone, Batman!
Despite the continual state of shock that I found myself in as part of that relationship, one thing that did not shock me was the WTF reaction that he and I received from many people. If living in a black community in the south – yes, Daytona Beach, Florida is “the south” – taught me nothing else, it taught me that interracial dating and relationships were to be mocked on sight and that the black people involved those treacherous liaisons hated themselves as well as all other black people. However, upon moving from Florida and broadening my narrowed horizons in Texas – yes, Texas – I learned that that lesson was bull.
“They’re everywhere!” I exclaimed as I surveyed the vast amount of interracial couples at an outdoor plaza in Dallas.
I felt like an ancient explorer who caught her first glimpse of the New World. In Daytona – the old world – the interracial couples that I saw generally consisted of black men with white women. But there, in Dallas, I saw black people with yellow people and brown people and white people. Among all of those different pairings of people, though, the colorful duos that stood out to me the most were the black women with white men…and the black women with yellow men…and the black women with brown men.
Wow, I thought, staring in amazement.
Sure, I had fantasized in my mind about Justin Timberlake bringing sexy back with me, but when I saw those sistas on the arms of Justin’s understudies, I realized that dreams really do come true. Then I moved to Austin and quickly learned that Dallas was just the appetizer to Austin’s interracial entree.
But to be honest, the sight of so many interracial couples was a lot for me and my southern sensibilities to take in at first–even though my white ex-boyfriend and I were in a relationship at the time. It just all seemed so lawless, so unruly, like nobody cared about what anybody else thought about them. (This later became one of the key reasons why I loved and still love Austin.) Interestingly enough, in the months that led up to my departure from Austin, I found that my sensibilities had seemingly done a 180-degree flip from where they were when they first accompanied me from Daytona.
“Who are your celebrity crushes?”
One of my co-workers asked me the question during a lull between customers.
“George Clooney, Jake Gyllenhaal,” I rattled off.
“Okay,” she said, with an approving nod, “now who are your black celebrity crushes?”
I stared at her for a few seconds before rolling my eyes to the ceiling and then darting them around the store for hints.
“Oh my God!” my co-worker bellowed, gawking at me in disbelief.
“I can’t think of any,” I said sheepishly.
She continued to gawk.
“I mean, there are black celebrities who I think are handsome,” I continued, “but crushes…”
After gawking at me some more, my co-worker then picked up the slack and began listing her favorite famous black men. Though I smiled and nodded politely, I was way more interested in the monologue that was going on inside of my head:
Oh my God! Do I hate myself? Do I hate black people? Why can’t I think of a black celebrity crush?
Later that day, I was able to recall the crush-tastic Lenny Kravitz and I couldn’t wait to get to work the next day to redeem myself in her – and black people’s – eyes. But was there a real cause for redemption? No.
As I continue on my journey of self-awareness, I understand now that I am an individual; and as such, I am truly only accountable to my individual self. Though having another person’s – or a group of people’s – approval is nice, it’s not required for me to live my life the way I want to, have celebrity crushes on who I want to, date who I want to, etc.–no, I am the judge of all of that.
And as my judge, I have decided that my attraction to white male celebrities and white men, in general, does not equate to me hating myself or hating black people. Rather, it equates to a choice that I’ve made to be receptive to a wider array of sexy-ass men; and whether those sexy-ass men resemble Timberlake, Clooney, Gyllenhaal or Kravitz, it doesn’t matter if my baby is black or white…as long as he’s sexy…to me.
Copyright © 2014-2015 Stephanie Rochelle Redd. All rights reserved.