Dating is so much more complex when you are a black woman. Within the dating equation, race is always a factor we have to be hyper aware of and which never seems to work out to our advantage. The multi-dimensional perception and expectations that black men and men from other races have of us serve as barriers to the possibility of a healthy, loving relationship.
I remember December of last year, at the University’s formal dinner, when a friend of mine rushed over to me to gossip about a boy she had just met and had found cute. She was determined to get his attention and so she began to brainstorm on how to best begin a conversation and even re-touched her make-up. While analysing him from afar she was hit with a question I knew was not new to her: does he date black girls? Would her efforts be in vain? – only to realised she never had a shot at this invisible race in the first place.
Black women always have to question whether people from other races would even consider dating us, simply for the colour of our skin. We constantly live in fear of not being enough, of never being the norm or of even being seen as worthy of love and attention. This realization either leads you to make all efforts to be comfortable in your own skin so you never seek validation from elsewhere, or doing the impossible to be accepted by people who do not look like you. For a long time, most of us have resorted to the second option.
Truth is, black women aren’t loved! We aren’t seen as the norm of beauty by men of any race, not even from our own. We are fetishised for our dark skin, sexualised for our big boobs and butts, and our value perceived to be only for the pleasure of men – black women are different in bed they say. We are not really beautiful to the rest of the world, because we do not, after all, hold any of the Europeans standards of beauty worthy of granting us the title of beautiful. We are also not able to offer the genetic components to grant black men mixed babies they so desire with curly, non-kinky hair, light-skin and the social status that comes from dating non-black women.
As my friend once said: when women from other races have a fat ass, they are seen as bonuses as the cherry on top of the cake, but on a black woman, it is more often the only reason why men, including black men, consider dating us. Almost as though that is the only characteristic we possess that makes us worthy of being loved. Women from other races are glorified for features (often not natural) that we naturally possess. That is the big lips, a brown skin that comes from hours of tanning and fragments of our culture. It almost feels as though they are searching for parts of us in every woman, but never for us.
I understood the gravity of how undesired we are like women when a cousin of mine stated his dating preference to my brother. He said he only likes light skinned girls. He is 10. And he already has a dating preference. I asked why that was when his mom was black, his sister was black, I was black and so were all the women in his family, to which he replied that it was because he found them to be prettier than black girls. He did not just find them pretty, he found them to be prettier in comparison to black girls. I was baffled by how he, a 10-year-old boy living in a predominantly black country had such strong preference for women he was not surrounded with at the expense of people who have been a part of him his whole life. I looked at him, and lashed out, only later realizing that he was a kid and that he too was a product of a society that conditioned us all to hate our blackness and aspire to be something we will never be and should never want to be.
This experience – my experience – is not a general black women experience. Blackness is a spectrum. There are too many dimensions to it. As a black woman living in Europe and who is skinny, with long legs, I get passes because I fit into the spectrum of European beauty standards. Whereas women who are thick and fat are not granted the same privileges. And so they have to navigate a world where they are not only undesired for their skin colour but for their bodies as well. The same happens in the context of lighter-skinned women. Because they are closest to white, they benefit from colourism in the black community and are black men first choice. As they provide them with the ability to have the best of both worlds. In Angola for example, dating a woman who is of lighter skin is motive of great pride. Men make sure they include this very specific detail when describing the women they are dating.
Colourism, a result of internalized racism, has become so embedded in our community and in the lives of black men, that many black men, especially those living in the western world, have decided that they will no longer date dark skin, black women. Which is fine. Everyone has a dating preference. But if your dating preference comes at the expense of you hating and shaming other people, in this case black women, because you deem women from other races as superior, then it is self-hate! You cannot love yourself whilst simultaneously disliking those from which you came from.
So dear black men, stop treating me as though you do not come from me. I am your grandmother, your mother, your sister, and all the black women in your life who have made you who you are.
Oh, and dear white men, I am not yours for consumption, I am not here to fulfil your twisted fetish to consume my chocolate brown skin, nor am I worthy only for my butt or other features you were conditioned to seek in me. I am also not an experiment, because “you’ve never been with a black girl”. It is not my duty to spend my existence seeking to be the best lover you ever had, just so you despise women who look like me a little less. How dare you try to drink the honey of my skin simply to tick off boxes on your bucket list?
Truth is, we are tired! Of never being enough, of never being the norm. It is hard enough to deal with racism and sexism, but to have those two interlinked in spaces and by people you expect and deserve love from is altogether draining. The worst part about all this is how we are expected to praise these men, men who are not as trash and men who give us the basic, necessary treatment we deserve as human beings. We are to praise them for putting in the work and effort of loving or at least trying to love a black woman. Not anymore! You will no longer get an A for effort for giving me the treatment I so demand and deserve!
whether with a lover
I reek of love
I stink of love
Nejma, Nayyirah Waheed