It is Trench Coat Thursday and I am writing about a topic that is fraught with controversy, you may identify with a lot of what I am going to say, or you may disagree completely. This is me being honest and real about this issue. Whether you agree with me or not, please let your voice be heard! The point of these posts is not for me to just state my opinion but for us to engage in a conversation. I am really forward to hearing what you think!
This Tuesday was my birthday and my mom, sister and I went for a celebratory lunch. As we walked in a young white guy looked our way and smiled. Let me clear something up, it was not that weirdly condescending smile that you get when you walk past some people and it was not that leery look that you get from dodgy men, it was not brief either. Actually, it was more like a Ryan Gosling-esque “Hey girl…” kind of smile. We were charmed because he is really cute and athletic looking, we were surprised because, well, because he is white.
Who was your first crush?
My family says that mine was Daniel and I was 5 years old. I used to come home from pre-school every day and talked about him all the time. And then there was Ross who was cute and sweet and sporty. I will never forget Mark who was American and best friends with a guy who liked my friend. We were in Grade 5 and their school had come to ours for a rugby tour. We sat and chatted for ages about who-knows-what and by the end of the night I was faint with love. I have a list of crushes as long as my arm: rugby players, hockey players, swimmers, head boys, captains and a pastor’s kid. Looking at my list brings up some questions because, well, because all my crushes are white.
While I was still wondering if we would see that cute guy in the restaurant again the waiter came. My sister wanted me to order a vanilla milkshake but I preferred chocolate. So that is what I ordered.
Preference or Prejudice?
Do people have a physical type? If yes, is it something that people are born with, does it develop over time or is it a choice? I have two male friends that say that they will not/ cannot marry any woman other than a white woman. Let’s call them Tristan and Sandi. Tristan is white and Sandi is black. My initial reaction to this was “No man, that’s racist!”, but is it really? Some would argue that it is just a preference. Like how some women are attracted to tall men and not short men. And how some men find that they are attracted to women with short hair and not long. Some people like chocolate flavoured milkshakes, others prefer vanilla.
But can we reduce our physical attraction to mere preference?
A few years ago, I was at a mall with a guy relative of mine who was disgusted at the sight of an interracial couple. We will call him Dali. We had a chat about it and he was vehement about how a black man should be with a black woman and he did not understand why any black man or woman would want to cross over to the lighter side – whether that meant white, light brown, green, blue or red. What do you think he was expressing there, preference or prejudice?
Which of these makes less or more sense to you, and why?:
A. white man only attracted to white women (Tristan).
B. black man only attracted to white women (Sandi).
C. black man only attracted to black women (Dali).
A complex issue::
These questions are framed as black/ white issues but they are not really that simple. Firstly, black and white are not the only colours out there – you can add in whatever colour (‘race’) you choose and the questions would still apply. Secondly, for most of us, a person’s skin colour denotes something more than the amount of melanin in it. In our minds a person’s skin colour tells us something about where they come from, their culture, their level of income and education, their class or lack thereof. And everything is rated within these categories – low to high.
I would argue that a lot of what we call ‘preferences’ are borne out of either an inferiority complex or a superiority complex, depending on what rating you put on a certain skin colour. Of course, this does not apply to everyone but it does apply to many of us! My mom thinks that my childhood crushes were mostly the fruit of who I was exposed to from a young age. Outside of home, most of my interactions were with white people, my friendships were with white children and I existed within the white cultural context. It was not anomalous that I liked white boys.
But what of the fact that I liked white boys only, even after having been exposed to a whole spectrum of colours of men later on in life? Many black women will tell you that they dread the thought of marrying a black man and they have made up their mind to marry a white one or not to marry at all. Why a white man? Well, because he is better! A white man will be faithful, true and will take care of you. A black man will cheat, lie and will probably drink his salary away for the rest of your married lives. White culture is easy, liberal and gives wives a place other than in the kitchen. Black culture is strict, traditional and makes a wife subservient (not submissive) to her husband.
Let us revisit my friends Tristan, Sandi and Dali.
If you had a discussion with Tristan, he might first respond by saying that he did not think the questions were important or relevant: You cannot help who you love! If you pressed and challenged him on that, he might admit that this was not really about love, but physical attraction because a woman’s looks are the first thing that a man is drawn to. He might also defend his choice by saying that this was not primarily about race but about culture – we are all naturally drawn to people who are like us and there was nothing wrong with that. Tristan is either blind to his own prejudice or being dishonest. Some honest white men have told me that they have been attracted to women of other colours but consider a relationship with them taboo (what will my family think?!) or something of an exotic adventure rather than something serious. They also admit they think that black culture is primitive and white culture is civilised and the two just do not mix.
Sandi will probably have some good reasons why he is only attracted to white women. Allow me to draw from an actual conversation I have had. Sandi thinks that black women are dramatic, demanding and difficult to please and his sisters have put him off black women for life. Of course, he has black women friends, none of whom he would seriously consider. He has always been told that he will marry a white woman and that is what God has called him to. He played the God-card which is really difficult to argue with! But here is the thing: firstly, Sandi is making his decision out of a place of past pain or hurt. Secondly, he makes generalisations about black women and white women and his generalisations are not true!
Dali already stated his stance clearly: black people should be with black people. In many ways he is much like Tristan, except that he is willing to admit that his are not just preferences but prejudices. He justifies his prejudice with arguments like: Black people were put in Africa, White people in Europe, and Chinese in China so this means that like must be with like! Getting through to Dali will be a struggle but you might win him over by pointing out the fact that his arguments are much like the eugenics theories that people use to justify apartheid, other forms of segregation and genocide. Prejudice is harmful and unjustifiable.
What do you think?
I have so much more to say but will stop there! Now it is your turn, what do you think?
Thanks for reading.