I have posted before on the way that black people are fetishized in the U.S. It is as if they are, literally, more colorful, more interesting, cooler, hipper, even spicier than white people. Whites, in contrast, can seem bland, boring, vanilla, even whitebread. From this perspective, being a “boring white” person can seem, well, boring. Both of these confessions can be read as suggesting as much (though there are surely other readings as well):
It’s important to remember that this projection of soulfulness and other positive characteristics onto black people specifically is problematic, even if it’s not derogatory (for posts on the “magic negro,” see here, here, and here). People of color often report that they feel like white folks are friends with or date them specifically because they aren’t white. This is no compliment. Most of us desire to be friends with people who see us as individuals and not stereotypes.
Written by Lisa Wade at thesocietypages.org
While this article only vaguely touches on where my thought train is headed today, I think it’s rather relevant for a lot of people of color. For any of you that have ever been in a relationship with someone who identified as white (or even another person of color), maybe you’ll understand where I’m going with this.
For me, there’s always that underlying discomfort when the usual “we’re a little different here” conversations are brought up revolving around skin color, hair, speaking mannerisms, second language, facial features, etc.
They may express their wonder (or dislike!) at the way your hair curls/doesn’t curl, it’s texture, or it’s required maintenance. Every so often I have to suffer through the “Wow! Your hair is so unique! I really wish mine was like that.” (No, fool, you don’t.)
Perhaps they’ll remark on their envy of how you’re “always tan” or how “pretty” your skin looks.
There isn’t any other way I know of putting it.
It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and it raises the question to mind - “Are you dating me/pursuing me primarily because you think it’s cool that I’m a person of color, or do you genuinely not give a fuck about that aspect?”
There are a few general guidelines that a white person dating a person of color should follow:
1. Acknowledge your privilege. Immediately. This can lead to some tension if you don’t, and it’s better for everyone as soon as you do. Someone who’s ignorant of the racial inequalities is a recipe for disaster when dating a person of color. Don’t be that guy.
2. Don’t feel the need to point out the “uniqueness” or “specialness” of your partner’s hair, skin, etc, essentially any characteristic common among a person of color. As a member of a marginalized group, I assure you, we have to experience this too often to appreciate your special “appreciation” of our characteristics. Stop it. It’s not cute.
3. Pay attention when your partner brings up topics of race. This is something that he/she/ze has had to struggle with continuously throughout their life. Do not compare it to your struggle and tell them you understand because of the close similarities. Trust me, you’re not helping. What you’re doing is invalidating their experience.
4. Your partner is not your “get out of racism” free card. Dating a person of color does not make you incapable of racism or racial prejudice.
I think that sums up what I wanted to say. If you can think of anything else, feel free to add on.
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