HUGE TRIGGER WARNING: misogynoir, explicit language, racism, ableism, cishet men
One of my topics was someone asking about dating while a Black woman and I feel like in order to actually address her I need to first explain what I know of dating period. From my lens, men in Nebraska are the devil.
I joked with Imagine not too long ago that Alessia Cara’s hit song, “Here” was totally her. Actually though, I think it might be more my style. That and quite a few soulful tracks seem to be the soundtrack to the horrors of dating life and I’d be lyin’ if I said I didn’t play them on repeat to give me strength in writing this post. Because honestly y’all the number of times I’ve said something like her one line, “I’m standoffish, don’t want what you’re offering and I’m done talking, awfully sad it had to be that way” could probably rival the amount of Donald Trump toupee jokes.
Look, we know this isn’t a new topic, but honestly though–people don’t understand what it’s like to date in Nebraska when you’re a Black woman. It’s so horrifying and comedic at the same time I’m surprised that a TV network hasn’t picked up the concept. You wouldn’t even need to have a written script; our day-to-day lives provide endless material to work from.
I was having brunch with a fellow Nebraskan and friend, Misam, at a fantastic Black-owned restaurant in DC called Eatonville (now called Mulebone), when we were joking about dating in Nebraska. (If you’re wondering, the food was the shit.)
She remarked to me how she probably wouldn’t have dated Black men in Nebraska had she not already been dating someone. I laughed, knowing the struggle of dating firsthand, and compared it to the DC dating scene–the land full of chocolate and honey, these brothas are fine. The glaring differences between the two locations’ pools of available men would be comedic if I didn’t actually live and date in Nebraska. After a week in DC, dating men who understood basic social understandings of respect and compassion, and were self-assured enough to not have their masculinity threatened by my presence of mind or confidence, going back to Omaha was, is, a struggle.
Toxic masculinity and white supremacy are prevalent in the subconscious here. Somehow, Omaha remains steeped in its conservative values while progressing slowly and surely on many liberal fronts. Our music and arts scene is fully of hipsters and our Slut Walk is well attended. Men on my online dating feed tell me how they identify as feminists. But for every hipster there’s a guy in camo, holding up a dead deer talking about God and country. When I swiped through my Tinder yesterday afternoon, of the 60 profiles, there were about four white-presenting men for every person of color. And when one in every ten has a picture with either guns, fish or a group of scantily-clad women, it doesn’t endear you to try the white men flooding your feed.
As a Black woman, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a “stupid Black bitch,” “fucking cunt.” This one white guy, once I told him I wasn’t interested in talking to someone who didn’t have an image up and referred him to my profile (where it says something to that effect), responded with the following:
don’t have to.
listen to your own insight.
the real reason YOU cannot find a partner?
Be a SUB not a pushy, overbearing bitch of a CUNT.
Now, he never put up a picture, but I’m pretty sure that he’s white since he thought that calling me the n-word would be upsetting. White men and men of color have all responded similarly to rejection and everything outside of enthusiastic subservience. Even then, I’ve encountered men who use enthusiasm as an invitation for degradation. The frequency of flippant dehumanization and objectification that men casually throw out to assert their dominance or validate their masculinity is rampant.
When questioning oppressive ideologies, even in passing, leads to arguments and verbal and physical threats–when that is the reality of dating while Black, while a woman, while woke–we have some serious issues in our society. Most shockingly, I found I felt more safe when I dated men who were not Black–no matter how ridiculous dating white men has been, it has not compared to the extreme misogynoir and toxic masculinity I’ve encountered when dating Black men in Nebraska.
Now I know you’re about to lose your mind at this, so let me explain: literally all but one or two of the Black men I have talked to romantically or otherwise in a dating sense in Nebraska has said or done something misogynistic, anti-Black and/or otherwise physically, emotionally, and/or physically violent. I have been told I either think I’m more attractive/intelligent/successful/sexy than I actually am for telling a guy I’m not interested. I have had Black men put their hands on me in protest, in sexual aggression, and in violence when I am not responsive to their advances. I have been followed in alleys; followed for blocks in broad daylight; cornered in shopping malls; stalked on a university campus to and from class; even, had someone drive by my house and pound on my door on a weekly basis because I wasn’t interested. So to be entirely, explicitly clear—when I’m talking about how Nebraska men have manifested abnormal levels of toxic masculinity, this is what I’m referring to.
Don’t get it twisted it’s not just Black men. But I do find it odd that the dominant majority of my personal experiences with dating Black men have all been borderline traumatically negative.
I feel like it needs to be stated, though, that as I’ve traveled and dated in other cities, especially DC, the brothas are eevveerryytthhiinnggggggggg honey. Everything. Kind, compassionate, respectful and bring that woke goodness that has me like Jill Scott in that “Love Rains” remix with Mos Def talkin’ bout “said he wanted to talk about my mission, listen to my past lives… reparations through colors, memories of the Gentiles.He was fresh on my mind like summer peaches sweet on my mind like block parties and penny candy.” These brothas give a girl the most dangerous high I’ve ever experienced—renewed hope tinged with woke reimaginings.
In fact, let’s talk about dating elsewhere.
What I have found is that here in Nebraska, your race matters even when they may not even realize how much it matters. You are defined as a potential partner, as a fetish, as a person and human being at least partially by your skin color. You’re either “pretty for a dark-skinned girl” or a “Coca-Cola redbone” or some of other subconsciously degrading objectification based solely on your degree of melanin. Elsewhere though? In cities that I’ve visited on the West Coast like San Diego, LA and San Francisco; in the South like Atlanta, San Antonio and New Orleans; and especially the East Coast—DC metro area—your melanin is not any more of an identifier than your other characteristics. As my best friend Fantashia put it, “Dating people in other cities is more based on who you are—your personality.”
God, what a world to exist in. Let me give you an illustration–two different dates, two different cities but two guys from similar backgrounds. In Omaha, he was a mid-30s reasonably attractive white guy. International business professional type with great suits and fantastic food preferences. Let’s call him A. In DC, the guy shared all of the same qualities. Instead of international business, though, he was a government techie. Let’s call him B. In Omaha, A and I had been dating casually for awhile, and in this particular instance he asked me to meet him at his apartment and we’d walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner. It’s wintertime, and I’m freezing while he keeps me standing outside waiting for 15 minutes. When he finally shows, he doesn’t apologize or explain–he just tells me all about the struggles he’s been having with his Chinese business partners. Occasionally he stops and asks for my opinion on it, but ignores what I say. By the time that we’ve sat down for dinner, he’s making race jokes and orders a Manhattan and tells our server to “keep them coming” before taking a phone call from one of those same business partners at the table. I normally would have read his ass but I can’t get a word in edgewise but he didn’t stop there. As soon as he got off the phone, he looked at the news reporting on the wage gap and made a comment about women always wanting handouts.
Bitch, Black women earn 64 cents to every white man’s dollar. I don’t want your handout I want equal pay.
Needless to say, that date went downhill from there. It was the first time I’ve ever walked out on a date mid-date. Now compared this to B’s date; it was me who showed up late and hella frustrated (I got lost trying to find the place). He picked up on my mood immediately and had me laughing and relaxed by the time we sat down. Now I don’t know if you know this, but DC is all about small plates everything, so we were at this asian/latin fusion restaurant for small plates. And considering Nebraska’s food isn’t that creative, I was freaking lost about what fusions to try and not try. To put me at ease, he orders a bottle of wine and starts walking me through it, ordering plates he’s tried he thinks I’d like based on my food preferences. If I didn’t like the food, we laughed about it instead of him making me feel guilty. But the easy atmosphere wasn’t the best part–the conversation was. We talked about Palestine and opera. About family cooking recipes and FIFA. Honey we talked about Black Lives Matter and James Baldwin and Eartha Kitt and Puerto Rico and our shady government. By the end of the date, his dimples, deep gravelly voice and enlightened debate has seduced my mind. So he took me dancing next. B and I haven’t continued our liaison but the experience reminded me then and now that what I’d been conditioned to believe in Nebraska is not the reality everywhere.
It’s intoxicating – this whole getting to know someone who doesn’t feel threatened by you. Where you can discuss social issues without worrying about verbal or physical retaliation. Where you are being judged by the content of your character rather than skin color. I think I heard a quote regarding a dream about that once. In the meantime I’m daydreaming about Chocolate City.
If you’re wondering what the playlist included, here it is.
- Here – Alessia Cara
- Lost Ones – Lauryn Hill
- Give It To Me Right – Melanie Fiona
- Love Rain (Remix) – Jill Scott, Mos Def
- Tyrone – Erykah Badu
- Are You That Somebody – Aaliyah
- No Scrubs – TLC
- Real Love – Mary J Blige
- All Men Lie – Monica, Timbaland
- Go Ahead – Alicia Keys
- Raining Men – Rihanna, Nicki Minaj
- Hit Em Up Style – Blu Cantrell
- Babylon – SZA, Kendrick Lamar
- Let Me Blow Your Mind – Eve, Gwen Stefani
- Crazy In Love (Remix) – Beyoncé