On November 4, 2016, the film Loving was released. The movie details the story of interracial couple Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, which was brought to the attention of the nation in the Loving v. Virginia case. Prior to 1967, many states had anti-miscegenation laws, which prevented the marriage of and/or sexual involvement between people of different races.
These laws specifically targeted African Americans and White people who were intimately and/or romantically involved. The Loving decision invalidated Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act and made it lawful for an African American and American Indian woman, Mildred Jeter, to marry a White man, Richard Loving. Of course, there has been criticism of other underlying issues, such as Mildred Jeter’s age at the time that she married Richard Loving, which were not addressed in the landmark court decision. The couple first met when Mildred was 11, became romantically involved some years later, and married when Mildred was 18. Though many are bothered by the roughly 6 year age difference and raise concerns about whether or not the Loving’s relationship was one of choice or force, that is not a topic that I am well-versed enough in to discuss here. Rather, I make mention of the Loving decision in light of one of my fellow SOULE contributor’s recent posts about interracial dating.
Hopefully, you have all read J. Marie’s post, “Yes, Race Does Matter in Love and Relationships.” If not, please do. J. Marie provides some excellent advice for those already in interracial relationships. Her advice was so excellent, in fact, that it led me to ponder my own thoughts on interracial dating in the LGBTQIA Community.
As a woman of mixed heritage, I am the last person who will argue that interracial dating and/or marriage is problematic. I can; however, argue that we are all entitled to our preferences in dating. Those preferences, for me, do typically have racial implications. Personally, despite having multiple ancestors who were White, I cannot say that I see myself dating a White woman. This is not said from a place of hatred for the White race nor from a space of being close-minded. Rather, it is said based on my own observations of self and the White women I encounter who happen to be members of the LGBTQIA Community. Though I am not always a fan of “types” in dating, I think that we all like what we like and are entitled to do so. Preferences exist for each of us and for reasons that may not always be evident initially. We all have things that we find attractive or things that simply bother us for no articulable reason. We are not wrong for these preferences until they begin to more closely resemble prejudices and fetishes than preferences and types.
Many of the White women that I see dating African American/Black women are difficult for me to embrace. I feel like, too often, in an effort to be accepted by their partner or their partner’s friends, they step on the other side of themselves and become a caricature of what they think will be the acceptable White woman who dates a Black woman. Now, I am not a fan of phrases like “acting Black,” but it is frequently used with regards to White women with Black partners and I cannot say that the phrase is always inaccurate. It is not the best word choice, but it does clearly convey the point being made, which is, many White women who have Black partners tend to act in a manner that is strongly based on and encouraged by stereotypes about Black women. I am not suggesting that every White woman who dates a Black woman is a Rachel Dolezal in the making, but I am stating that this tendency to appropriate what is believed to be Black Culture and to find it necessary to embrace every harmful stereotype about Black women simultaneously is a bit much for me. I cannot fathom having a partner who acted the way she assumed that I needed her to based on whatever label or identifier applies to me. (That also applies to masculinity and femininity, but that is a whole other conversation.)
Honestly, the need to be something else is only chipping at the surface of why I prefer not to date White women. Another far greater issue for me is privilege, or – better yet – the failure of some White women to recognize their privilege. Phrases like “Welfare Queen” and “Affirmative Action” are tossed at Black women quite frequently, when – statistically – it appears that White women benefit most from government assistance and Affirmative Action programs. I also cannot help but to think about the number of African American/Black men who were lynched and/or brutally killed for daring to interact with a White woman. For me, it seems that America has always gone above and beyond to protect the alleged purity of White women while treating Women of Color as their own personal concubines. That is a very difficult feeling for me to simply cast aside in an effort to date someone.
I also think that it is necessary to point out that Women of Color who choose not to date White women are not racist. I am, in fact, incapable of being racist because I do not possess the same power that a White woman does. (Remember what I said about privilege?) I may have preferences and biases, but the power that I possess to harm or prejudice someone else is limited compared to my White counterparts. This power dynamic is also evident in our current judicial system. I cannot forget the number of times that I have seen Women of Color remaining behind bars long after their White female partner assaulted them and was released.
I think some Women of Color try dating a White woman at least once to assuage feelings of guilt or prejudice that they may have. Some may even do it because they have their own fetishes or internal issues pertaining to other Women of Color. I; however, am not that woman. As open-minded and well-informed as I am, as embracing of other cultures and diverse as my own family is, I just cannot see myself in a serious, long-term relationship with a White woman. Part of it may be my own resentment at the clear differences in the treatment of women of different races/ethnicities. Part of it may be that I do not want to be some “exotic” 7-day trial. Part of it may be the oppression and adversity suffered by people in my own family for having romantic dealings with White women. Part of it may even be the fact that I recognize that my state (and many others) kept anti-miscegenation laws as part of the state constitution for years after the Loving decision.
Sometimes I wonder if my hesitance stems from the fact that enforcing same-sex marriage has been a big enough issue in the state of North Carolina without us adding interracial marriage to the struggle. Though I am sure both partners could be adversely affected by engaging in the fight for equal treatment of/respect for their interracial same-sex partnership, I cannot help but think that, as a Woman of Color, I am already shouldering a large portion of the fight, just by waking up and daring to leave my house each day, without having to add additional loads for me to carry.
One of J. Marie’s statements that struck me most was: “Race matters, and 21st century Americans are not nearly as post-racial as they like to believe.” I do not only see that phrase pertaining to other people. It pertains to me as well. I still see race and I still have dating preferences that limit my ability to commit to anything romantic with a partner who does not look like me and/or share similar experiences to me. There is, in fact, something to be said for those commonalities and quiet understandings that are shared between oppressed people.