At 14, I committed my first social sin. I dated a white boy.
I didn’t think anything of it; I liked him, he liked me, and that was all that mattered. But then I started to notice the expressions on the faces of people we passed on the streets – particularly those of Black women. One woman, in her late 30’s or early 40’s, was even so bold as to voice her disapproval. “I can’t believe she’s with a white boy. They start becoming traitors to the race younger and younger.”
A traitor to the race? For falling for a white boy?
At 14, I didn’t understand what the big deal was. It was 2002 and Jim Crow and segregation were topics of my history class. I never felt more uncomfortable walking through Downtown Boston than I did when I was with my boyfriend, which was a shame. I should have been happy to be with someone I cared for, but inside I was fearful of being lynched on the Common.
Interracial dating was not something that was new to me. My cousin’s boyfriend was also white, and they had a beautiful baby girl together. And this was in South Carolina, but no one seemed to have a problem with it, considering racial tensions are still high in some parts of the state. So why in Boston, in 2002, was it such an aberration for two people from different races to be together?
I don’t claim to know the answers to this question, because the fact of the matter is, I’m still trying to figure out why it is still an issue. Whatever happened to “love is blind”? Or better yet, when did it become exclusive to love inside the race? And when, if ever, will it be okay for us to step outside of society’s expectations and live for ourselves, and for love, without seeking the approval of others, or fearing their disapproval?
In a study done in 2005, Kara Joyner, the assistant professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, found that 45 percent of 18- to 19-year old Hispanics were involved in interracial relationships, while 33 percent of 24- to 25- year old Hispanics were involved in interracial relationships at the start of the 2000’s. Only 20 percent of blacks ages 18 to 19 were involved in interracial relationships, and 14 percent of 24- to 25- year olds were in relationships with a partner outside of the race. Whites were only 16 and 12 percent for these two age groups, respectively.
The gaps in these percentages are staggering. It seems as if as one from any race gets older, they are less likely to date outside of the race. What is the reason for this? It could be that it becomes more clear with age that it is not exactly socially acceptable for a Black man to date a white woman, or for a Black woman to date a Hispanic man. But when you really think about it, it is kind of sad that we could be missing out on the relationship of a lifetime just because the person who just might be “the one” is a member of a different race.
Now, at 18, I am still in an interracial relationship, this time with a Puerto Rican man whom I absolutely adore. If I had limited myself to dating only Black men, I would have missed out on one of the most rewarding experiences of my young life – finding someone who truly loves me and understands me.
I was fortunate enough to learn at a young age that race, skin color or cultural differences should not be the defining factors for a relationship. In the end, all any of us really wants is to find someone that we are compatible with and who makes us happy. Love should be blind, not ignorant, of something that really is, only skin-deep.