Last night, I had one of those rare moments in a social setting where someone’s willingness to speak truth to racial reality caught me off-guard…but in a good way. The truth is, we would all be better off if we stopped skirting the issues and instead faced them head-on.
As I settle into my post-marital life, I have found myself thinking about things that I haven’t needed to think about in over 20 years. The last time I was single, I was a slip of a young thing in one of America’s largest cities so, as a young woman of color, I didn’t have to think of age and race as being barriers to a dating/romantic/grown-folks life. But that is no longer my reality; I am a firmly middle-aged woman with one adult child and one still underfoot (so to speak, at 10 years old you won’t find her crawling around much anymore), I also live in one of America’s whitest states as a Black woman. These truths mean that my odds are probably higher of having a decent-sized winning lotto ticket than of meeting a human or two for casual dating, much less any type of relationship. I have no illusions about the fact that as long as I stay in Maine, I will probably be alone. Right now, I am more or less okay with that though I know there will come a point where I may feel differently.
Dating while Black or Brown in predominantly white spaces has always been hard regardless of age. I have met young Black women in Maine who went years without ever having a date. I recently met up with a Black woman in her 50s who was born and raised in Maine and who told me she didn’t have her first date until well in her 20s…why? She was “pretty for a Black girl” but no one was taking her out, much less taking her home. The pain with which she relayed that story was so palpable that it hurt my soul. Most of us are hardwired for connection and companionship, and when race becomes the barrier that prevents those connections from happening, it leaves a stain on your essence.
Typically, whenever I talk about dating or even considering dating in this post-marital life with friends and acquaintances, the response always falls along racial lines. My friends of color pretty much ask when the hell I am leaving Maine, whereas my white friends insist that I am too pretty, charismatic, dynamic, blah, blah, blah for race to matter for such things. I have to admit these responses had been leaving me with an uneasy feeling until last night when at a local gathering, I found myself chatting with a forty-something-year-old white woman who, when the conversation turned to dating, she actually agreed with me. Surprised the shit out of me! It was a good conversation and it was a real conversation. Sometimes being strangers allows us to drop our guards and just be real.
This tale of my post-marital life isn’t really the issue here, but it’s the vehicle to show us just how hard we work to avoid racial realities. If we can’t tell a friend/pal/person we know that yeah, you probably are screwed and your race is a barrier because people are small-minded, how can we find the courage to tackle the larger issues? How can we call each other out in love when racism is one of the most pressing issues we face as a nation but we are so uncomfortable naming it that the stench is overpowering the air we all breathe? This current election season seems to have unleashed a current of hate that too many are ill-prepared to not only deal with but to actually do something about. We shake our heads in disbelief and hope that things will get better when what we need is an action plan to combat the hate. Yet how do we expect to find the courage to tackle the big stuff if naming the small stuff feels too uncomfortable? Start close to home on being the change and let it grow from there. Naming racism and acknowledging it on a micro-interpersonal level is a good start.
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