Looking for Black love in a sea of white apps

As they sometimes say: The struggle is real.

In this case, the struggle of being a Black woman trying to find love or at least the seeds of it in the dating pool.

I have been on BLK, Bumble, Coffee & Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, and Zoosk. Fifteen to 30 minutes for a daytime date, for tea/coffee, errands, or a walk around Portland. My profile descriptions are honest and brief and my photos are full of smiles and fun adventures. No group photos and mostly full-body pictures. I give depth and substance, always hoping for the best. Turns out men—white and people of color—are more interested in drinking and going back to mine or their place for sex than they are in my name, let alone my career or hobbies. Even as a self-proclaimed commitment-phobic non-platonic dating partner it’s been a bit much. If their misogyny isn’t suffocating me, their fragility or insecurities aren’t drowning me, then their lack of emotional stability generally seals the deal and ends the date abruptly.

I had been in a relationship not that long ago, so how did I get here? Maybe that’s the place to start.

On June 1, 2017, I became single after 17 months of dating a mixed-race, light-skinned fuckboy who was born in Maine and “raised” by his white mother. According to urban dictionary a fuckboy is the type of guy who does shit that generally pisses the population of the earth off all the time. The woman, also mixed race, who was sleeping with him contacted me that morning at 9:51 a.m. to apologize for being caught. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Turns out the cheating hussy’s friend sent me a message the day before, on Facebook messenger, telling me that the hussy and my then scum boyfriend had been sleeping together for more than three months. She said neither of them would tell me the truth and she could see I was a good person and didn’t deserve this treatment, so she needed to tell me. She even sent me a photo of the two of them from earlier that week, half dressed in his bed, as proof. I felt immediate respect for this stranger I would never meet in person.

Once the truth was out, the other woman couldn’t help herself. Her guilt and shame came pouring out with no immediate end in sight. She spent the next 24 hours spilling everything she could as I asked all the strategic questions I could think of. I wanted desperately to put some pieces together for myself about the last few months and our fuckboy’s odd behaviors. She was so eager to be seen by someone, her fingers did all the talking.

Other Woman: I’m sorry for what my friend sent. Never meant to hurt you. She said she sent you a message on Facebook? I’m sorry René. (I was in shock at first. I called him immediately to find out what on earth was happening. He was at work, no answer. Several moments later he called back and of course had all the answers ready for my interrogation.)

Cheating Ex Slimeball: You drove me into her arms, you became emotionally unavailable to me. When you decided you didn’t want to have children with me, marry me, or move in to my apartment I realized we wanted different things.

Other Woman: He told me to be patient but then I saw he wasn’t doing anything about it or talking to you. I didn’t want to be the other woman and I didn’t think it was fair to you. I struggled to tell you. I vented to my friend and she took it upon herself.

I had felt something was wrong for weeks before that day. In fact, 10 days before this incident I had even asked my then douchebag partner if there was something he wanted to tell me—anything would be fine so long as he was honest with me. I made it clear I could feel a change in “us,” and that I wanted to fix it. He denied my concerns and told me it was my fault I was feeling this shift. That I was dragging past relationships into this relationship and not giving him a fair shot.

I believed him, internalized it and thought nothing about him mentioning T.K. (aka “other woman”) more often. So much for slowly building a friendship with her over the last year. Needless to say, after I found out, I was beside myself. I informed all the people in my life that needed to know, got super drunk and high and I went to sleep that night wishing so much harm on him as I played all the possible moments of dishonesty in my head and heart over and over again. After about 48 hours I was a new woman. I was ready to get back on that dating wagon.

However, I was at my summer job in the Western foothills of Maine, so dating was on hold until I got back to Portland, the most culturally diverse place in Maine before Lewiston. Starting in early October I began dating again, an average of two dates a week. I know well that dating is a numbers game and it is rigged against me and women who look like me, so I let go of all my neurotic planning methods and tendencies and said “yes” to almost every date offered.

And as I said at the beginning of this piece, the dating hasn’t gone well and trying to find a Black man or any man of color has gone even more poorly.

I started talking to other women of color about their dating experiences and found the more I talk to my Black female friends—not just in Maine or New England but all over the country—the more I hear them saying they are having difficulties finding a partner, especially if they’re Black, and especially if they want marriage—in a way that our white friends aren’t struggling so much. I am constantly questioning my worth in the dating world in a way I don’t question my worth anywhere else.

In a country where Black men are roughly seven times more likely to be killed than Black women and Black men are twice as likely as Black women to seek marriage outside of their race, the reality of my choices feels so slim. OkCupid statistics reveal that Black women are the least desirable demographic in the dating pool, next to Asian men.

I have been on over 50 first dates since October; only two have been men of color and all of them have been in Maine. I am realizing I want to find a Black man who wants to love me and is worthy of my love. I am not completely convinced I have to leave Maine to find this, but with each new app or new unsuccessful date I am losing hope.

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I am done being your token, Maine

I’m a 33-year-old high-achieving Black South African femme goddess who lives in Portland, Maine. Most days I feel like a delicious summer night: loud, with no particular audience in mind to show my magnificent sparkling goddess power. I make the day question its very existence, for fun. With a crown upon my head and a swirl of colors and music about me I give Maine something it has never quite seen before. Me. I am a local performance artist who tries my very best to see at least one public show a week.

About a month ago, I went to see “One Flea Spare” at the Mad Horse Theater in South Portland, Maine, with a group of friends. About half of us were people of color (POC). The play explores wealth, class, fear, and survival in 17th century London. An aristocratic couple (white) is preparing to flee their home when a lower-class sailor and a young girl (both white) appear and sneak into their boarded-up house. Now, quarantined together for 28 days—in two rooms, as the rest of the home has been quarantined off also—the only thing these strangers fear more than the plague is each other. The unfamiliar proximity of socially, emotionally, and physically disparate bodies threatens not only disease, but revolution. I read the play summery and giggled quietly realizing I automatically saw myself as the plague in this scenario—not a disease but the revolution. Having lived in a predominantly white state for 26 years I can tell you, in my experience, white people are more scared of what other white people think of them then they are of me, a woman of color.

As I watched my friends on stage telling a white story I had never seen before, which is rare, something very profound happened to me. Somewhere about halfway through the play, I started to have a compassion for white women I had never really had before that moment.

I watched as this white, privileged male character violently exuded his power over the lesser humans in the room: his wife (childless and deformed), a peculiar and morbid child (a stranger), and the untrustworthy sailor (a sexually exploited servant). Before this play I had only really ever seen white women as perpetrators in this game of deniable racism by way of intellectual liberal and republican accreditation. I grew up seeing them as gatekeepers for the continuation of minority suffering (my white female teachers, social workers, sports coaches, parents of my friends, primary care physicians, and so on) so they themselves where spared the rod of their husband’s or partner’s whim, or anger, or whatever. Privileged, liberal, white women and girls in Maine, for me, have always been the worst. If this play was reality on stage, then I could understand why they abused, oppressed and belittled lovely ray of sunshine, me. Why they used the little bit of power they had against me.

Here are the four things Maine taught me to be true about white people:

  1. White men are the authority, always, or else.
  2. Animals have more domain then female humans do.
  3. Brown, Black, Asian, Hispanic and Native women should shut up, always, because their crazy emotions just don’t work for white men, ever. Unless you want to be sexually deviant (this means so many things) behind closed doors.
  4. The Pilgrims wanted to separate from the church, and the Puritans wanted to purify the church. I actually learned this in public school, in Maine, along with the idea that the U.S. is at the center of a world map, and manifest destiny should be my guide when thinking about how to be a good citizen in this country.

If you take those four concepts and you keep using those four concepts for hundreds of years as a cultural standard you create an entire country of white people that cannot see themselves because nothing in their cultural makeup says that emotional value is important. Instead this white male-driven Puritan culture has taught white people that emotional capacity is weakness and/or ammunition (i.e. a weapon). It’s the only way whites truly know how to use it, if not incorporated into art or theory.

White people’s estrangement to themselves and their emotional capacity is not baffling when you do the research; when you look at the facts. I say all of this because, after 25 years of working, performing, and being overlooked in Maine’s Arts community, I am done. Done being tokenized by whites who need to feed off of my emotional abilities and strength. I am done taking jobs for free while you pay whites to do the same thing. I am done sitting down for a coffee date so white people can just “pick my brain.” I am done finding you POC performers. I am done building power for your white organizations and systems. I am done being strung along with promises of income and titles. I am done not being able to afford my rent or groceries while you buy property and cars and clothes and stuff. I am, from here on out, only building economic power for me. I am choosing to build power for us. Wakanda forever!

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by Kai Pilger on Pixabay