Friday, February 17, 2012

Spectrum Dating

My friend Cristin wrote a cheeky blog post exploring why black men seem to prefer white women.

I would like to add some quick perspective. I’m a white man and I could have gone the other way.

In the mid ‘80s, the student body of public high school I attended on the South Side of Chicago hovered around 82% African American. Good rap – Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee, Eric B and Rakim, Sugar Hill Gang, Slick Rick and Nucleus among many others – was huge. Moving from an 8th grade class of 54 to a high school of 2,000, our circle of friends logically grew. Our hormones were all a-rage.

I joined a hip hop dance group. We battled some other crews at Jubilation. In a larger sense our circle of friends battled fringe friends, our parents and a society that didn’t quite accept our flavor of mixing and mingling. We thought we were pioneers, the 100 of us who would gather in the main hall junior and senior year before class just to hang out, sing, study, admire each others’ fashion statements, and bond.

I believe some of us thought we were responsible for erasing the school’s stark, alternate reputation earned during some persistent racial violence in the late ‘70s. Again, we thought we were pioneers. Idealists. Enlightened individuals. In that time, in that environment, and with the challenges we periodically faced at home and in public, I contend we were all of those things.

This post isn’t intended to explore the incredibly valuable experience gained from constant exposure to other cultures. Instead Cristin’s post coming on the heels of the Pew Research report revealing the highest ever level of interracial marriage … and presumed acceptance … inspired some reflection on my part.

We dated each other a lot, largely in the PG sense. We dated friends, hooked up at parties, passed love notes in class, had crushes on the new girl or boy. With the exception of potential parental wrath on either side, we gave little thought to skin color. I’m not suggesting we were color blind. In that environment of the public school and in many cases at home, race was indeed a hot topic.

We were exploring. When it came to dating, I’d like to think our collective motives were less about the “forbidden” nature of interracial experiences and more focused on the traditional drivers of attraction and personality. Was there a combined element of parental disapproval and inner rebelliousness? In some instances, undeniably so. On the other hand, every connection wasn’t interracial. It happened frequently enough among our large circle of white, black, Asian and Hispanic peers to level society’s eyebrows.

For me and many others, this continued into college, where the diversity was even greater, and beyond. For my part, I once proposed to a talented, intelligent, beautiful, dark brown woman. As a bartender and struggling writer, I could contribute only moral support to her dreams of performing on Broadway. I could have gone the other way, but I loved her too much to hold her back.

Many years later, I ultimately married a wicked smart, successful, gorgeous white woman whom I love more than anything and, for all I care, could be purple. To quote Cris, “… love … it just happens.”

By the way, Cris is one of my favorite bloggers. She is an incredibly talented and interesting writer. If you haven’t already, you should include in your RSS feed.

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