Driving through the beautiful lushness of Costa Rica, my longtime friend asked me a question that has stayed in my mind even now, five years later.
“If you hadn’t gone to an all-white school, do you think you’d be dating a white guy?”
I’d been asked similar versions of this question whenever mentioning I thought white guys were hot. But her phrasing struck me in a way the others hadn’t. I sat thinking for a moment, then replied, “I don’t know; maybe. I don’t see myself as Black first, I see my identity, who I am, as Christ made me to be, then Black.
What I wasn’t able to articulate fully at the moment, was that I couldn’t survive with the personality that I have—weird in the best way possible, sensitive, an advocate for inclusion, and honest to my detriment; a freakin unique spirit—if I viewed my identity based on a social construct. I am Black, wonderfully and woefully so, but first I was a dream of a mother, I was a microscopic being growing inside of another, where color couldn’t touch me. I was a happy child enjoying life, unaware of what it meant to be Black in this world, until a child who wasn’t, pointed it out as a negative.
How then could my identity be Black first, when I was blissfully living my life before, as just me? A creation formed by the hands of God. A unique individual, just like you.
Yes, I grew up seeing mostly images of white people. But I also grew up during the peak of Black television. The 90’s, which provided an array of talented, diverse chocolate personalities.
Yes, I had fun playing with white Barbies late into the night with my big sister, but I also played croquet and listened to jazz during family bbqs at my grandparents house in Compton.
Still, I understood her point. Society’s message is clear in its (exclusion and) presentation of elevating white people over Black people. But as a child you learn to seek diversity in the midst of a white wave on a quest to overtake you.
When watching Disney you learned to identify hair color as some differing distinction you could cling to when no other color was represented (on bodies or) otherwise. Out of the three white girls, you’d choose the rare option—red hair. This didn’t mean you weren’t ecstatic when the Black Barbie of the 90s came out, but you also desired her less, already realizing she had less cool stuff than Barbie. And where was her Ken?
How could these subliminal messages not penetrate the unsuspecting mind of a child?
Yes, my first on screen crush was Eric from The Little Mermaid, that came out in ’89, yes, my first real life crush was a white boy with dark hair named Mark, when I was three (’89).
Yes, my first real boyfriend was white, but the three before him were Black, and the ones after him were Mexican and than Filipino.
My dating life illustrates what I’ve always been after—
—Of color, of body, of spirit.
I love what’s different from me.
I love learning about other cultures, and about what makes us all unique.
And although the Black community is as varied as the others, choosing color over the person was never first for me.
A Woke Woman | 1.3.20