Black, American and Undateable

 

I’m undateable. At least that’s what I was told by a man who tried to date me last year.

I think of myself as an intelligent, thoughtful and carefree traveler – which is true, on my better days, at least. This dude, though? He described me as too difficult, too political and, well, undateable. In fact, after his awful experience trying to date me, he proclaimed he might never date another Black American woman.

Sorry, ladies.

At first, he broke up with me without explanation. After several months of dating, I traveled to the U.S. for work and family. He took this opportunity to go cold – stopped returning my phone calls, offered a few shady lies, and even tried to send his friend to my apartment to collect some of his things while I was still out of town. I figured out I had been dumped, but I didn’t understand why.

A few months later, I found myself in a café having a “relationship debrief.” Although I hoped he would toss some closure my way, he only came with some basic bullshit. For starters, he suggested I should be more like Margaret Thatcher.

That’s right, Margaret Thatcher.

“You know, Dana,” he explained, “you don’t have to make everything about politics and Black people’s issues. Think about Margaret Thatcher. She could talk about politics all day. But when she came home, she was just a wife.”

Okay, my fault. I should have mentioned that I date assholes. And this Black British man who deemed me an undateable Black American is clearly trash. But I’d be lying if this assessment didn’t give me pause. Not that I’m about to start praying to the (presumed) good-wife ghost of Margaret Thatcher. But could there be some truth under the many layers of wrong in his statement?

Now that I’m no longer living in the U.S., should I invest in some race-based chill pills? Should I have suspended my understanding of history and white supremacy that time he wanted to see Tarzan, and just enjoyed the “white man in Africa” narrative like the rest of the fun-loving, dateable people? Should I have censored my anger about police brutality, anti-Black discrimination and economic oppression? Am I the only one feeling oppressed just by…being?

For this Black British man who spent his teenage years in Nigeria, implications of race are not imbedded in every human interaction. And when race is brought up, I guess he weighs it on a case-by-case basis, giving white people the benefit of the doubt.

For me though, the doubts get no benefit. I’m looking at everything and everyone through the lens of my Black woman experience.

I’m evaluating all interactions based on my Black people history. And I’m questioning everything based on my Black consciousness.

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” – James Baldwin

Having grown up in the United States, I’ve been forced to view race critically. I learned how to tie my shoes tightly, how to cross the street safely, and how to interact with white people wisely. At home, I learned about the brutal histories of my Black ancestors. At school, I learned to view lessons about Black history with skepticism. I learned the police are not necessarily on Black people’s side. I learned that justice is never ours – especially if we’re poor. I learned to fear for the safety of Black people in white spaces. I also learned to be angry.

Psychological research reveals that racism, including microaggressions, contributes to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In Psychology Today, Dr. Monnica Williams explains:

“We are surrounded by constant reminders that race-related danger can occur at any time, anywhere, to anyone. We might see clips on the nightly news featuring unarmed African Americans being killed on the street, in a holding cell, or even in a church. Learning of these events brings up an array of painful racially-charged memories, and what has been termed ‘vicarious traumatization.’ Even if the specific tragic news item has never happened to us directly, we may have had parents or aunts who have had similar experiences, or we know people in our community who have, and their stories have been passed down.  Over the centuries the Black community has developed a cultural knowledge of these sorts of horrific events, which then primes us for traumatization when we hear about yet another act of violence. Another unarmed Black man has been shot by police in our communities and nowhere feels safe.”

There’s no chill pill large enough to deal with this life.

I’m not saying I have PTSD, although I might. My DNA holds the pain of my ancestors. And my blood continues to boil over countless current events. It’s simply a fact that I’m deeply affected by my upbringing in the U.S., whether or not I continue to live in the country. This is who I am, which I would never compromise – for a Black British man or anyone else.

So, when I find myself in a café, hearing that my politics and Black consciousness have put a damper on a man’s quality of life, I think that man has a point. Whether it’s because of our very different upbringings, our distinct histories or his lack of socio-political awareness, he and I were never meant to be.

I’m looking for a partner who can relate or empathize with my pain, anger or frustration when they arise – no matter his nationality. I’m looking for someone who’s down for the revolution, and willing to talk about it on a near daily basis. And I’m definitely looking for a man who knows better than to expect a woman to be “just a wife.”

So good riddance to the Black British man who prefers Tarzan and Margaret Thatcher over me. Because, in fact, he is the one who is undateable.

 


Born and raised in the American city of Philadelphia, Dana’s primary regret as a child was being born after the Black Power movement. She acquired her first passport as a teenager, and has sought excuses to leave the country ever since. In 2011, Dana made the official expat move, hopping on a plane and making a home in The Netherlands. Now you’re most likely to find her in a library or wifi-friendly café, managing her start-up business, Ancestors unKnown.

  • Cindy Dee

    love this piece! Thank you for sharing your story! I too have been accused of being “too black”. Keep doing you girl!

  • UdonNo

    You sound complicated AF — read this article , it may help you enjoy dating again: http://channel5000.com/5-reasons-why-hoes-are-winning-and-you-are-not/

  • As a Black American woman married to an incredible German man, I have learned that not everyone understands the Black experience in the U.S., even if they think they do. Yes, they know the history…my husband more than most, as he’s a sociology professor who’s spent a lifetime dealing with such issues. But knowing something intellectually, and actually feeling the weight of that something, are two different things. I remember the breakthrough moment…and it took almost 10 years. I said something about racism…and he asked…but it’s been 150 years since slavery ended…when are Black people going to get over it. That was my AHA moment. My answer…it’s not been 150 years. Do you think after the war, things were just fine? Of course, he knew all about Jim Crow, lynchings, desegregation, etc. But when I brought home that we have only been able to sleep in the same accommodations, eat in the same restaurants, take a leak in the same toilet for 50 or so years, he had his AHA moment. It dawned on him that all this was in my lifetime, and that even if we could do these things, the fact that court cases and laws had to be passed for this (IN MY LIFETIME) was extraordinary. And it dawned on him that laws don’t change a human’s heart. He was already well on his way to understanding and acknowledging, but Trump really brought it home. So, all I can say is that we think people get our struggle because they learned a bit about it in a history book. They don’t. But when they do, it’s priceless. Hold out for that.

  • Nita

    Good article! I don’t think her ex was a bad guy, but more a typical one who compartmentalizes and doesn’t understand why women often do not or cannot do the same.

    For us injustice, pain and despair once seen and experiences then saturate all parts of life, interactions and relationships. They cannot be relegated to a separate room or corner of our mental spaces.

    Like the writer’s ex, most men want women in their lives to act as an escape hatch from the daily grind. Good times, good feelings, comfort, pleasure, a safe place to land, etc.

    Men often don’t need the woman who understands their black identity and the one who shares their space and bed to be the same person. They want to feel good and while they sympathize with causes against injustice, they won’t sacrifice their emotional needs to fight anything.

    And I don’t really fault them for this! Black women’s selflessness is admirable but not always beneficial. We’re often the ones who lose without much gained for justice or ourselves.

    I’m opting out. I’m retaining the right to compartmentalize this present darkness where I can and act carefree and evaluate people at face value and insert lightness into my daily life. I want a man to see me as a happy place because I want to prioritize being happy and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Shawn Sylvester

    This is my narrative every day. I feel for you and with you, sister. The disconnect “the others” express and by natural law, must believe on a deeper level is repugnant. Please continue to analyze, share, and proclaim in the name of justice, who’s scales have been despicably rigged towards white supremacy for far too long. I too wish to escape the rat race in America, hopefully along with a tide of woken millineals, however the water is shallow for such a wave when pressures from every angle discourage such awareness. Much love. And I would suggest to look for a man in a country with the least amount of white supremacy influence…Mr. Elba has left the building. 😉

  • This guy was not the one for you. I don’t think you can be too black. It’s time we wake up and talk about what we are experiencing. As a black British woman currently living in the Caribbean, often local men, I try and have an intellectual conversation with, don’t understand when race comes up because they think white is right and that the white man comes and makes everything better and the white woman are less trouble than the local black women. Their minds are limited and I can’t engage with such closed minds. Being black is political because of the way we were treated and the way we continue to be treated in society.

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