Same-Race Dating is a Luxury

By Shakurah

I would like to offer a perspective that is not often discussed.

English: Black woman with a tattoo on her left...

English: Black woman with a tattoo on her left shoulder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Exclusive same-race, same-ethnicity, same-religion dating is a luxury.

I have met many people during the course of my life of different races and ethnic backgrounds that are not open to interracial dating or relationships because they feel more connected to people of their own background on various levels.

This is completely understandable in many ways. However, I posit that the decision to date only people of the same or similar racial, religious or ethnic backgrounds reflects a luxury and a privilege.

People who make this decision to date exclusively people only of their own race or ethnic background, which is their right, have the luxury and privilege of having a large enough population or dating pool of attractive, interesting and eligible people to choose from, from their background.

Perhaps they grew up in and/or live in a particular geographic area or city, go to a particular college or work in a particular environment where there are many eligible people of their background to choose from.

But what happens when this is not the case for you? What happens if you are born and raised in an environment where you are the minority in a profound way, where there are very few eligible people of your race or ethnic background to choose from?

This is my background. A black woman, I was born and raised in a predominantly, white, Irish Catholic suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. There were 4 other black families in my neighborhood and only one of those families had a boy whom I ended up being childhood friends with and who was mostly like a brother to me.

I was the only black child in the majority of my classes in elementary and middle school. By the time I reached high school and was at the age where I wanted to date and go to the prom, the majority, and I do mean majority of teenage boys who were potential dates for me were white. I could count on one hand the eligible black guys available to me to date. For those who think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. This is really what it is like for some of us, a minority within a minority because we don’t share the life experiences of other members of our race.

What was I to do if I rigidly adhered to a decision to only date black guys? Well, I would have been out of luck, that’s what. It’s not that I didn’t want to date black guys; the issue is that they just weren’t there in large enough numbers for me to have a fair chance at finding someone I was compatible with. And this is why I think dating people only of your race is a luxury and privilege. I didn’t have that luxury or privilege of being surrounded by lots and lots of people like me, and I know there are others out there like me. I had to be open-minded and non-racist. I had to reach out to others different from me in terms of race, religion and ethnicity. If I had not, I would have enclosed myself in a box of lack and limitation.

I discovered the beauty and richness of other cultures very early on because I had to. What other choice did I have? When I was finally old enough to date, my first boyfriends were white. The first guy I kissed was white. My prom date was white. From my earliest teenage dating experiences, it was white guys that would pick me up, take me to their soccer games, invite me over to lunch, introduce me to their parents and ask me to be their girlfriend. I was so blessed that they liked me for me and didn’t care about my skin color. It wasn’t a ton of white guys either, but enough that they made a special mark on my life.  It wasn’t black guys doing this, because they weren’t there, plain and simple.

Those who would criticize those of us who are open to interracial relationships need to understand our history and be more compassionate about the circumstances some of us were born into. I repeat: I didn’t have the luxury to choose only black males as dating partners. I didn’t choose to be born and raised in a place where I was almost always the “only one.” I didn’t ask for that. But I’m glad I was born where I was. My early childhood, adolescent and young adult experiences helped me develop into an open-minded, curious, and inquisitive woman who benefited from my broad exposure to cultures and races other than my own.  My early experiences helped me grow into a woman who has traveled extensively around the world with an openness and delight in other languages, cuisines, cultures and ways of thinking.

As far as dating during the course of my life, I never excluded anyone who was kind, intelligent, respectful and loving towards me, whether he was black, Asian, Jewish, European ancestry, or whatever because I value mental, emotional and spiritual qualities above all else. I would recommend that other black women do the same. Now, I have been married to a wonderful white man for over 10 years now. Did my early life experiences shape my choice in a husband? You bet they did. My early life experiences with white males gave me a comfort level with them that I’ll be forever grateful for.

In summary, those who exclusively date people only from their own background do so because that option is actually available to them.

If people who now date exclusively and only people from their racial, ethnic or religious background were to find themselves in a situation where the numbers of available and eligible people of their background were to diminish, they would likely make different choices. It’s either open up to people not of your specific background and make new choices or have no friends and no one to date. Some of us have had to face making that decision at a very young age.