In this week’s column, I advise a Multiracial university student who is struggling to find a Black boyfriend/Black Heritage Mentor: A Black guy who will accept her as well as teaching her about her own Black Heritage.
I want a Black Boyfriend to teach me about my Black heritage. Is that too much to ask? I am a female, Mixed race (Black and White) university student (going to be a sophomore in the fall.) I thought college was where I would figure out my Black identity, and start by having a Black boyfriend, which I have never had before. But no dice.
Freshman year I wound up only dating White and Latino guys because I found that Black guys just didn’t want me. At least not the Black guys I’ve met here at my (pretty elite) college. What I find is that Black guys I like want white women or like mixed girls who look like Meghan Markle—light-skinned, long hair, thin etc.—and I don’t look like Meghan Markle. I am darker than a lot of Mixed girls, short, stocky and look more Black, so people are surprised to learn that a) I am mixed and b) my tastes in music and other stuff are different than other “regular” Black girls. For the record, there are also Black guys I meet who want “real” Black women who are culturally more tuned into their Black heritage. Being raised mostly by my White mother and her side of the family, and going to a White, private school, I don’t have that connection.
Lately, I am finding that I feel ugly and inadequate all the time, like if I looked more like Meghan Markle, I would have a boyfriend by now.
Funnily enough, White guys here don’t seem to mind how I look and just seem to want to get to know me and have fun, but ironically, I feel like dating them goes against my whole agenda.
Should I suck it up and date White guys until I find a Black guy who doesn’t mind how I look (Black) and act (White)? Should I change myself to fit what these Black guys want? Meaning: lose weight, say out of the sun (kidding about that one), straighten my hair, or conversely—act Blacker? Or should I just give up and focus on my studies?
At a Crossroads
I am sending you a big hug across cyberspace. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than or ugly, simply because you are not what they expect based on your appearance.
In your letter I hear two main themes. First is your frustration with Black guys’ apparent rejection of you in favor of girls who are either White, lighter than you, or more Black-identifying than you. Second is the wish to enhance your Black identity and awaken your connection to the Black the Black community. The problem is that you are relying on this elusive Black boyfriend as Black Heritage Mentor to bring you into the fold. This is a lot of pressure to put on one person.
Why not separate these two missions and take stock of what matters most at your current life-stage? For example, self-acceptance, learning and possibly some fun.
The thing that strikes me most about your letter is the way you seem to partition yourself and your love interests, literally viewing everything in Black and White. For example, you say that you “act White” and “look Black”—a phrase that feels reliant on stereotyping. I am not naïve enough to suggest that there is no difference between Black and White attitudes, but there are as many variations in perspective and behavior as there are individuals of all races. Besides, for many Multiracial people, racial affiliation is a fluid continuum. I wonder if it is possible for you to be flexible in the way you see yourself rather than judging yourself through other people’s expectations. You look the way you look. You were raised by the people who raised you. You are you. Unique and special. Let that be enough for your own acceptance as your identity and your understanding of race evolves.
It is true that many young, Multiracial or transracially adopted Black people begin actively exploring their black identity when they go to college. University is the context where they are exposed to new people and new ideas. So be open to learn and grow. Take African American Studies classes, join the Black Students’ Alliance, ask questions and don’t be embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. Yes, there are people who will shame you for not being Black enough, but take it in stride. Try to be confident as you absorb the newness around you. Don’t try to adopt anyone else’s style or adapt to anyone’s ideals if they don’t feel organic to you. In terms of dating, the problem arises in attempting to second-guess what a guy might idealize and then forcing yourself to conform to that.
I know that it is upsetting when you see guys you like dating women who are nothing like you, particularly if their “type” seems race-specific. One thing I will tell you for free is that very few of us look like Meghan Markle. I am sure even Ms. Markle has had the experience of unrequited attraction.
On the positive side, it sounds like you are meeting guys who like you, are attracted to you, want to know you and have fun. Maybe these guys are white, but does that automatically disqualify them? If one of these guys is on board with your exploring your Black identity, and accepts you for who you are now, why not enjoy the best of both worlds? And later on, if you should find that Black Boyfriend/Black Heritage Mentor, maybe you’ll have a thing or two to teach him too.