Re: Dating While Black

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.)

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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.

NIGGER

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.

  1. Here – Alessia Cara
  2. Lost Ones – Lauryn Hill
  3. Give It To Me Right – Melanie Fiona
  4. Love Rain (Remix) – Jill Scott, Mos Def
  5. Tyrone – Erykah Badu
  6. Are You That Somebody – Aaliyah
  7. No Scrubs – TLC
  8. Real Love – Mary J Blige
  9. All Men Lie – Monica, Timbaland
  10. Go Ahead – Alicia Keys
  11. Raining Men – Rihanna, Nicki Minaj
  12. Hit Em Up Style – Blu Cantrell
  13. Babylon – SZA, Kendrick Lamar
  14. Let Me Blow Your Mind – Eve, Gwen Stefani
  15. Crazy In Love (Remix) – Beyoncé
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3 thoughts on “Re: Dating While Black

  1. I enjoyed reading your article, but one comment I would want to leave with you is regarding our blind spots, and how they make double standards, hypocrisy, perpetuated hostilities. I’m not unaware that there is racism in Nebraska, including Omaha, yet it’s very difficult to define anyone by their superficial qualities and make blanket statements about one group. In the statement about men in camo holding up a dead dear and talking about God you implied a racist caricature; not everyone who wears camo, is “country” or who hunts and is White and Christian is racist. There isn’t one group on this Earth–Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim, homosexual, heterosexual, wealthy, poor and on and on–that can be, or deserves to be, stereotyped. I don’t doubt you’ve been called “stupid Black bitch,” because there are hateful people everywhere in this world, and they exist in all colors and cultures and religious affiliations and other beliefs, and I’m sorry that anyone has to experience these things. I’ve been called dumb White bitch, cracker, Whitey by various Black and Hispanic human beings, unprovoked. I’ve also been called raghead, sandnigger, terrorist when out in my hijab (by people of various colors). I’ve been called cunt too, usually by other women we are so competitive with each other sometimes instead of remembering sisterhood. Through it all, I always recognize that these experiences are very minimal, a tiny fraction, compared to the times that I don’t receive harassment and to the times I receive love from others, and I realize that not one of these people who has insulted me, whether they are White or Black or male or female or Christian or American or anything else, could ever represent the group they are identified with.

    I’m American I’m White, Irish Polish and Mexican (some people notice the Hispanic, but others see only my pale skin and light eyes and go by color, I don’t care either way, I embrace all of my histories but I’m first a spiritual being within this human identity and shared humanity and not my superficial qualities) and I’m also Muslim. My husband is an Arab man from Palestine. My sister’s husband is a Black man from the southern United States, my nieces and nephew are beautifully Biracial. My mother is the one who is Mexican, her father was Mexican and her mother Polish. My father is fully Anglo-blooded, and from his side of the family I have my other European ancestry relatives and also relatives who are Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Native American. My entire life has been about diversity, it’s nothing new to me but I realize how much others are resistant to it, are fearful and stay within ignorance. There is so much work that needs to be done with love and patience and invitations to real discussions.

    Your experiences are yours, I’m not denying what you’ve written, and while I don’t have the exact same view of and experiences in Nebraska as you do, I also understand that it’s not as diverse (in both population and ideology) as other places. I love quiet Nebraska, but I also love Chicago and Los Angeles and New York, the energies are very different with all of the diversity. There is more of a feeling of security if for some reason you stand out more than others. You find your groups. I think this is important but I believe it’s also important that everyone realizes there’s more to humanity than categories and groups, and our categories and groups are what threaten our shared humanity when they are imbalanced and exclusive in the wrong ways. I’m sorry you’ve met so many men in Nebraska who brought negativity into your life, because I’ve met so many men with strength of character who are in love with people and respectful of women, who’d never follow someone (especially a woman) through an alley or put their hands on them for anything other than affection. They’re out there, even in Nebraska, unfortunately it’s sometimes hard to find them among the ones with undesirable qualities this I’d agree.

    The last thought I would leave regarding the amount of racism in Nebraska is a reminder that there is also much unity, probably moreso within Omaha than the smaller cities but that’s just my guess and I might be wrong about the smaller cities. Racism in the Midwest is also not limited to one group, there exists Black separatist groups also, identified as hate groups just as anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or White supremacist groups are identified. Judgments aren’t limited to Black human beings in Nebraska, many of us are being judged by our color or race or money or education or religion. These things exist everywhere throughout the global community, and like the majority of human beings (or so I hope the majority) I wish they didn’t exist. However it’s always important to remember that no group can be generalized, that every White supremacist or Black Separatist or Islamic Fundamentalist or anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim and every other hate group represents only themselves and not the group of human being they identify themselves with (White, Black, Christian, Muslim, heterosexual and on and on). Good and unity and love exists everywhere too. It’s so difficult to undo racism and other unhealthy qualities of the human condition and therefore so crucial to watch out for our own generalizations when we’re sharing how frustrated we are with the generalizations put onto us by others.

    I enjoyed your article, I like your blog, and I know you don’t really need me to, but I wanted to share that because I believe in supporting others who take the risk and share their thoughts through their gift of writing or gifts of other artistic communication. We’re all involved in an existence where everything in interconnected, we need the discussions. We need good relationships too, good men and good women, good luck on this journey and all your journeys.

    Like

    • Hi Sun Lady,

      We appreciate that you took the time to write out your reply. I think you may have missed our introductory post, but just as an FYI – this is a blog dedicate to Black women, femmes and non-men by Black women. Meaning, this is a Black space, and when we post about what our experiences are, they’re specific to the intersections of identifying as a woman and being identified as Black. Your experiences are valid, but not what are discussing here. This is a Black woman space first, foremost and always.

      Thanks!
      Melanin & Honey

      Like

      • Wow, wonderful article. I just left DC after 5 years of college and I must say that there are some wonderful and enlightened men out there but girllllllllll you need to come to Senegal. Beautiiful and cultured Black men. Some are awesome, some aren’t but it’s really a great feeling to be surrounded by so many interesting, good-hearted folk.

        and I knew i shouldnt bring my ass to Nebraksa lol

        Like

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