On Monday, while at lunch with a girlfriend, I received a happy birthday text message from a male friend that I had not spoken to in quite some time. Since we were both out and about and had a lot of catching up to do, we made plans to talk later on that night. So when my phone rang at 9:55 PM, I couldn’t have been more excited to hear from him and to catch up, especially since so much had happened over the past year. The conversation flowed effortlessly from one topic to the next and it was as though no time had passed since the last time we’d seen each other.
Soon the conversation shifted to our current relationship statuses. I was glad to learn he’d finally ended a relationship that he never should have entered and was now seeing someone who made him very happy. But the call quickly to an unexpected turn when he said that he had something to tell me, and made me promise not to hate him once he did. I laughed and promised because I figured whatever he had to tell me, couldn’t possibly be as bad as he’d imagined.
He then took a deep breath and quickly blurted out, “I’ve jumped ship and I am no longer dating black women ever again!”
I assumed he was joking, but unfortunately, I was wrong. Needless to say the conversation went downhill from there. But before I go any further, I want to make it crystal clear that I do not have an issue with him dating outside of our race. My issue is that he has decided to date all other races, except his own. I can’t begin to comprehend how a person decides that their own race is no longer suited for them.
Fighting the urge to curse him out and hang up on the phone, he immediately began to plead his case, stating he valued our friendship and my opinion. That he didn’t want to lose me…a black woman…as a friend. So, I allowed him to explain, like any reasonable person would do. As I tried to allow cooler heads to prevail, I attempted to be as analytical as possible, even though my heart was breaking into a million pieces. His words kept echoing over in my mind as he stated that women of other races appreciated, valued and supported him more than the black women he’d dated in the past. He continued on, stating that these women were just simply more fun and easier to get along with. He also felt that his current girlfriend, who is Indian, relates to him more so than any other woman he’s dated than ever before.
I probed deeper, asking him what lead him to this conclusion and upon hearing his answer, immediately started defending all of the black women he’d sworn off for life. Reminding him that despite his experiences, all black women are not the same and that a few bad apples should not ruin it for an entire barrel or in this case, an entire race. Not to mention that his mother is black and that if it weren’t for her, he wouldn’t even exist. In addition, it seemed as though he thought that women of other races didn’t come with their own set of issues. That they were somehow issue free.
We went back and forth for almost three hours about his stupidity, which only caused both of our comments to go left. Mine because I was hurt and his because he just didn’t care how ignorant he sounded. I soon began to realize that even though we’d know each other for several years, attended the same historically black university, worked at the same crappy job, which ironically is where we first met, and spent years growing our friendship, he’d become a stranger to me.
I remember his first day at work. I started my career in higher education shortly before him and we ended up in the same department. He’d recently moved back to Florida after a short stint in Atlanta. To my surprise, he remembered seeing me around campus and we instantly bonded as we swapped stories about college and life thereafter.
As our conversation proceeded and he said one stupid thing after another, always ending it with, “Please don’t hate me,” it was starting to become hard for me not to. Our conversation shifted from relationships to race relations, and what he no longer liked about our culture. I actually agreed with him on somethings, like the type of music we listen to and created. Most of it has awful lyrics mixed over a dope beat. I politely informed him that I rode around campus blasting Maroon 5 and that on most days, I prefer the John Mayer or Michael Buble station on Pandora, which I am constantly teased about by family and friends. He said that he and I were different and not the norm. But it was becoming abundantly clear to me that he was lost. He was hurt. He was angry. And because of that, he’d bought into the lies that the media spews daily about black women being combative, unattractive, and hard to love. He’d excelled in the military and had reached a point in his career where he’d “made it”. Now the only thing that was missing was his non-black wife.
He’d accepted his position in society as the “token” black guy and was proud of it. While I on the other hand fought against being the token black girl after high school and refused to ever go back to being the polite, well mannered, smart, nonthreatening individual that I believe most people saw me as all throughout childhood and adolescence. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in treating all people with respect but I refuse to be anyone’s black friend just so they can prove to themselves and the world that they are not racist.
Despite him trying to convince me that we are not like the majority, I told him that even though I was different, surrounding myself with positive, intelligent, ambitious and respectable black men and women became my norm after attending a minority recruitment event at one of the most predominately white universities in Florida. During that weekend, I was surrounded by some of the brightest people I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting and most importantly, they looked like me! They talked like me, they cracked corny jokes like me and they wanted more out of life, like me. They wanted to be doctors, lawyers, scientists and engineers. I knew I’d found my tribe. I knew more of these people had to exist outside of Polk County, where I’d lived my whole life, and was determined to find them. We were nerds and proud of it. I no longer wanted to be the exception. I wanted to be the rule. I guess I never asked him what made him attend FAMU and just assumed it was because he was tired of the being the exception, like me.
As we circled back around to dating and he mentioned that he’d always dated women of all races, even in high school, if that really counts. He preferred mixed chicks, his words, not mine, because they looked exotic. It made me wonder if he’d noticed me around campus because everyone always thought I was West Indian, until they heard me speak. But I didn’t ask what made me memorable, because at this point, emotions were running high, and quite frankly, it now seemed irrelevant.
I knew I couldn’t say anything to change his mind, at least not in one conversation. I’d actively listened to him and what I heard was that he was tired of not being accepted by black women because he wasn’t the “norm” by our culture’s standards. He’s 5’7, which isn’t very tall, he doesn’t listen to rap music, and he’s more into science than into sports. And it made me wonder how many other black men felt this way. Felt that black women wouldn’t or don’t accept them for being “different.” I thought about the countless conversations I’d had with my other male friends who’d expressed similar sentiments, but I’d always brushed them off since they still dated black women.
I tried to get him to see that I understood, accepted, and even liked him for being “different.” You see, it’s a beautiful thing when one soul recognizes another and I became his friend so many years ago because I saw something in him. I know people change and that growing a part sometimes happens. But as our conversation came to an end, he asked me again not to hate him, which I jokingly and half seriously replied that I’d consider it. We said good night and promised to talk again soon. Maybe we’d even Skype next time because he missed our face to face conversations.
I won’t lie, our talk left my head reeling for days. I am still processing all of the mixed emotions that I am feeling. A part of me truly is happy that he’s happy, but another part of me is angry that he gave up on his own race because of the poor choices he made in women, which I’ll address in part 2. There is a disconnect between black men and women that is to be growing stronger by the moment, and it seems to me that more black women than men are trying to fix it, and it is truly heart breaking.
So, in closing, I want every black man who has ever felt or is currently feeling under- appreciated, under-valued, or overlooked by black women because your pants don’t sag, you only wear a white t-shirt under a Polo, and speak in complete sentences, to hear me when I say you are appreciated. You are valued. You are loved and I see you because I was made to love you.