When my boyfriend and I first made our relationship official almost a year ago, the most common question I was asked by my friends was, “…Is he black?” As an educated young black woman, the meaning and weight behind the question never ceased to surprise me and is continuously reflected in the dynamics of black relationships. While I’ve dated inter-racially before, dating an African American man in the U.S. brings an endless amount of joys and challenges like no other. Our relationship has functioned as a sounding board for many issues facing black people in America, and it is necessary to note that this has become an inescapable reality. To date a black man in America is to date the entire race and over 500 years of history.
Statistically, our relationship should have failed a long time ago. News articles and TV constantly remind us of the violence, misogyny, institutionalized racism, police brutality, and class issues that the black community faces. We are also often reminded about stereotypes against the “angry black women”, “promiscuous black men”, “dark skin vs light skin”, inter-racial and even inter-ethnic dating both consciously and subconsciously. Through many articles about the Obama’s, aspects of our own relationship are scrutinized and dissected for deeper meaning and shortcomings. And, most interestingly, is how older black couples will offer us advice, often without provocation, because they feel invested in the success of our relationship.
We’ve found that these dynamics are inescapable. We can no more deny them than we can deny our own history. Neither of us fit any mold or black stereotype but we’ve found a safe space in our relationship to have honest discussions about how these statistics, stereotypes, and realities effect us both overtly and covertly. To date a black man in America is to understand that he may have been raised by a single mother and this will resonate throughout your relationship. That he has to be ten times better to be thought of as a equal, even if he is not treated a such. That getting pulled over for DWB or “fitting the description” can cause him to lose his life, or cost him his pride. That there is no single definition of success or progress, and at times he may fall short. That being upheld by society as an example of masculinity, sexuality, and athleticism can often rob him of his own manhood and humanity. That everyone else wants him, but no one else would trade places with him. That, at times, his anger is justified.
We have stumbled along the way, but we do not allow these things to define us or consume our relationship. As his girlfriend, it has been important to offer an understanding ear, support, and criticism and advice when needed- and to laugh. We’ve defined our own relationship without CNN and others spewing constant negative statistics about being ‘Black in America’. If our relationship continues to thrive, its not because we’ve defied the supposed odds, its only because we loved each other.
Frenchie is from Miami, FL. Ms. Francois currently resides in Washington, D.C. where she is pursuing her masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. Frenchie also has a B.A. In Political Science.