Perhaps the most annoying thing about clichés is that somewhere buried in their tiresome simplicity is a kernel of eternal truth. And this is true when it comes to the idea that love is colorblind. Love at its core is a messy, complex emotion that, over time, is infused with our individual experiences and traditions; turn-on’s and hang-up’s. While most of us like to think that becoming smitten with a person is purely an unexplainable matter of the heart, a great deal of our preferences are shaped by our environment and influences within it that are so small that they slip quietly into our subconscious.
So I have come to this very unscientific conclusion about how we choose our mates by observing the experiences of my children. My kids, two brilliant, beautiful, Black boys, attend public schools in classically middle-class neighborhoods. They go to the type of schools where you almost never worry about gang influences, but you pray daily and fervently that some disgruntled and shunned teenager doesn’t choose to make their school the next Columbine. The student bodies at these schools are mostly White (no surprise). But I don’t base my conclusion on that fact at all. Even though the majority of the pupils are White, there is still a great diversity of minorities represented. My sons have acquaintances and friends that are Latino, Asian, African-American, and Caucasian. I slowly began to predict their potential dating preferences as I interacted with the teachers and staff at the schools. The overwhelming majority of the administration and teachers employed at my sons’ schools are White women. And they aren’t just any White women; they are young, perky, perfectly coiffed, and soft spoken– literally some of the nicest, most polite people you will ever meet in your life. The few individuals of color who do work at their schools are either custodial staff or cafeteria employees, with a handful of paraprofessionals thrown into the mix. The bottom line is that for eight hours a day, 180 days a year, my children’s world is molded and managed by individuals who are very, very different from the people who make up their family and their culture. This is neither good nor bad; it’s just true.
Here is the contrast that defines my boys’ reality. At home, they are met with a nagging, fussing and cussing, rarely glamorous, Black mama (not to mention a whole host of aunts who also fit that bill). To be sure, I’m not the big bad wolf. In fact, I am my boys’ biggest cheerleader, but because I also have to be a disciplinarian, I can’t afford to be their friend. At school, my kids are tenderly taught, trained, and even nursed back to good health by a group of well-meaning, sweet, doting White women. It has occurred to me that their reality paired with the current dominant media influences creates an image of White women as gentle, beautiful, caring, and approachable. Black women, on the other hand, are cast as belligerent, shapely, strong, and intimidating. If you are a young man trying to find your way in the world, who’s more enticing?
I love me and I wouldn’t change a damned thing about me. I know that my kids love me too. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes, as a single Black woman in America, I feel the cards are stacked against me. I am trying to raise my boys to rise above the daily influences and think critically for themselves. I also want them to embrace diversity and learn to appreciate all cultures, not just their own. Above all, I want them to be free to fall in love with whoever causes their hearts to skip a beat. If, in a few years, I find myself sitting across the dinner table from my devoted son and his girlfriend who might not be African-American, I know that I love him enough to not give her race or ethnicity a second thought.
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