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Dear Ms. Russell-Karazin,
This letter is long overdue. You may or may not remember me from our wonderful video conference chat earlier this year where you interviewed mixed race / ethnic couples where the lady is black / African American and the man is of a different race. Let me reintroduce myself. My name is [withheld] and I am married to “Helen”, my black queen (with no due respect to Mr. Tyrese Gibson). I am a 31-year-old man from South India living in the USA.
In the course of our conversation, we touched on various topics, but a particular question directed at me stood out in particular. You asked me if I am a unicorn, in reference to whether my decision to date, enter into a relationship, marry and live a fruitful life with a black woman is a rarity amongst my countrymen. At that moment I admit, I didn’t feel like I did anything out of the ordinary. When she came into my life, in 2015, she saved me from an abyss of hopelessness and made me feel like I was a child again, free of regrets, full of dreams and optimistic about the next day. I was conscious about her race and ethnicity and all the precious baggage that they came with. However, my decision to marry her stemmed from a very simplistic, instinctive drive in that she made my life better and continues to do so to this very day. I only hope I can be for her what she has been for me.
Circling back to the original question (please forgive me for going off in a tangent), my answer is yes, I’m a unicorn and I’ll do my best to answer why. India is a big, beautiful and diverse country with people from a multitude of races, ethnicities, linguistic backgrounds, religious backgrounds and cultural backgrounds. Imagine, over one billion people thrown into this melting pot along with an unhealthy dose of discrimination through history albeit the caste system, language wars and biases, petty politics, religious tensions, colonialism under the British Raj and a cornucopia of other negative factors, we are always faced with discrimination of some sort. But, sadly, at the heart of it all is the discrimination based on color. Dark skinned people of my country have always been looked down upon as ugly, inferior and untrustworthy in that particular order. We advertise for fairness creams praising the virtues of a light-colored skin while denigrating the dark skin in the same breath. This very base form of discrimination which I believe to be primordial, wasn’t eliminated with human advancement, but was rather given a different name in the form of the Caste System (The Caste System was a way to divide labor in ancient Indian civilizations based on profession).
For thousands of years, under this vile Caste System, dark skinned people were put into the so-called “lower” castes and denied basic human rights because of their work which was considered dirty, menial and degrading. Examples would be the class of people cleaning drains and public toilets, leather workers (contact with dead animals considered inauspicious). The Caste System was tied very closely to religion and no one was allowed to break the mold. In parallel, the religious texts which today are considered literary masterpieces propagated this color bias by describing heroes and heroines as fair and villains and villainesses as dark. The contempt for dark skin was so evil that, the authors of these great texts, on several occasions introduced a dark-skinned hero of extraordinary virtue who ‘aspired’ to be like the light skinned heroes. In the course of the story, the dark-skinned character would rise to great prominence, but would then be humbled by a light-skinned character and would then ‘learn’ his or her lesson in humility and accede to the superiority of the light-skinned hero.
This poison has been fermented over thousands of years and has been ingrained into our culture to such an extent that we consider it extremely ‘normal’. In the very limited context of dating and relationships, all of these biases play a huge role in determining one’s choice of partner. Indian society teaches us to reject anything dark and aspire for fairness. I would recommend a Facebook page called “Dark is Beautiful” spearheaded by a South Indian man which chronicles the struggles of being a dark-skinned woman in India. Yes, as a man it is difficult being dark skinned, but my struggle is minimal compared to what dark skinned women from my country face on a day to day basis. The natural course for me as a dark skinned South Indian man was to find a girl who was fair because that is the accepted norm. When I landed on US shores, I had an abundance of fairness so to speak. I and several of my friends, family and acquaintances have dated white / Caucasian people with varying degrees of success. Almost no one has dated a black person and no man in my circle of Indian friends has dated a black woman. In addition to the negative color bias, society has defined a particular standard for beauty which can be seen on every billboard from Maine to Washington. Invariably always, the standard of beauty tends to be Caucasian. This same, vile society has also stated that all other races, most of them suspiciously fair-skinned or of lighter complexion are also beautiful in an exotic way. Common examples would be Middle Eastern people, Asians, Latinos and generally anyone who passes this clandestine modern day brown paper-bag test. Furthermore, society also teaches us that black people are untrustworthy, dangerous and that we must always be on guard around black people.
The most natural instinct taught to me covertly and overtly was to stay away from black women. Until I met Shalonda, I never dated or attempted to date any black woman. While I couldn’t care two hoots about peer acceptance, prejudices (based on false assumptions about “date-ability”) always restricted me. And then, she stumbled into my life like a happy accident. Not only did she break every stigma and misconception I had, she also helped me understand black people from a point of view that I could never access. So, when I asked her out on a date, I was being polite, but over the course of that date and several others, I fell in love with her, dark skin (lighter than me!), big butt and all! But above all else, I fell in love with her personality and her mind and her heart and her big childlike smile. I fell in love with her like how any man ought to fall in love with any woman anywhere in this world, free of prejudice. If that makes me a unicorn, well, I’M A UNICORN AND PROUD OF IT!
P.S. – I hope this helps you in your message to black women. My advice is to exercise caution and get a feel for color bias before attempting to pursue long-term relationships! Take it slow!
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