“When guys from other races approach me or seem to express interest, I feel like I am their cultural project and quickly shut it down. They don’t say anything offensive, but I wonder why they want a ‘sistah’ when they have not ventured over to this side before—or seem to have not to. Is this odd?” —L.T.
Hmmm. “Odd” implies that it’s out of the ordinary, but I’ve heard this reaction from some black women toward nonblack men several times. “Odd” isn’t the right word to describe your reaction. “Insecure,” “defensive” or maybe “counterproductive” would be more fitting.
Here’s what’s insecure about it: You’re making extreme and quick generalizations about the nonblack guy’s outlook on black women—mainly that his interest in you must be some sort of Hottentot Venus fetish or something. But there are other ways of looking at this same scenario. There are other black women who would hear that a white guy is interested and think, “Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be? Black is beautiful.” They would take a chance on the guy you’ve “quickly” dismissed to see what, if anything, he has to say that might be interesting.
Some black women cannot fathom this. Sometimes we can’t wrap our heads around the idea that anyone would want a black woman. We’ve heard from so many sources—including many black men—in so many different ways that black isn’t beautiful or worthy of respect or that there’s only one “type” of black that is. It’s unfortunate that folks buy into the racist hype.
To be fair, I have to acknowledge that there are nonblack men who hold weird beliefs about black women. You didn’t just pull that idea from the sky. Recently on Madame Noire, a black woman wrote, “Are You the Type of Black Girl That White Guys Like?” about her interracial dating experiences. She regularly encountered white guys who gave her backhanded compliments that revealed some unflattering stereotypes they held about black women. These guys thought that saying “You’re not loud,” “You enjoy working out,” “You’re educated” and “You’re not a ‘baby mama’” would be flattering to her. Unfortunately, the writer didn’t say whether or not that made her balk.
But to be clear, it’s not race that makes guys like this simple; it’s the simple. And you can encounter it in all different colors of men, including the ones who share your hue. Avoid ignorance at all costs, but you can’t assume that a guy is ignorant just because he’s white, any more than a white guy should assume that a black guy is a thug just because he’s black. In your outlook, you’re doing the very same thing that you’re accusing people of doing to you. It’s not fair—but then, life isn’t. That outlook also won’t get you far.
In general, women across the board are less likely to date men of different races. Many men don’t have that same “loyalty”—or “hang-up,” depending on how you look at it. For various reasons, straight guys are interested in women they find attractive, and a woman’s particular hue becomes less important if he likes what he sees when he looks across the room.
The next time you’re approached by a man of any color who is attractive, interesting and respectful, give him a chance to show you what he’s about instead of assuming the worst and “quickly” shutting him down. You might appreciate how your dating pool widens when you stop eliminating prospects for no good reason.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.