I woke up this morning and got ready for work and looked in the mirror for a bit. Such a mundane inconsequential action, looking in the mirror, but when I was younger I would avoid mirrors like the plague. I hated looking at myself. I was afraid to be confronted what I already knew, I was ugly,Black, with nappy hair,coming from poor stock on my moms side and never good enough for the high standards my father set for me; for Black people really. As I look into this mirror at my 30 year old face, a vision of smooth milk chocolate, big childlike eyes, lips that scream of my womanhood, and cheekbones that hide the sad; I being to wonder how it is that I got here. Not that here is a bad place, it’s actually a great place. When you start in the dirt though, you never think you’ll grow into a flower, however, you end up wondering if the dirt is all you’ll ever see of the world and if you could just grow in to something, anything, even a weed that you might just be able to catch a glimpse of life on the other side of the fence.
I am constantly bombarded with having to come up with a reason for why I don’t limit myself to dating JUST Black men (and if we can be honest with each other I’ve never dated a Black man), conversely I see Christelyn attacked over her supposed bashing of black men and her “white knighting” and it bothers me. I can’t speak for Christelyn, but I hope to shed some light on my choice to date interracially because it came from some very tumultuous beginnings as have the interracial dating stories of many women.
My father was the start of everything I loved. My father was my first love, as most fathers are for their daughters. But as I got older I realized more and more that I didn’t know what love was because of the conflicting messages I got from my father and my mother. My father was a physically abusive man to my mother and as a child I knew that I had another brother named Jamie Glenn, but I never knew why I’d never met him. Later in life I’d found out that my mother left my father to look after while she was away at work and my father beat him so horribly that poor Jamie (3 years old at the time) suffered a fractured skull, broken wrist and burns from the scalding hot bath water my father had put him in. As a result my father was not charged with a crime, but Jamie was taken out of my mothers custody.
My poor mother, a child herself when she had her first child of just 14, endured unimaginable beatings, mental and physical abuse at the hands of my father. These are the memories that paint my childhood; recollections of being locked in the bedroom as my mother screamed for help, seeing my mother cry and not knowing what to do, except cry too because my mommy was covered in boo boos. Feeling helpless was the M.O of my childhood. But my mother loved me. I never had to wonder, she constantly assured me that I was a beautiful black baby (a phrase that I often use to describe and dote on my own daughter). My safest and fondest memories are of my mother, and being close to her; falling asleep next to her warm,soft and mine. I often still fall into this childlike daze during times where my mother is sober and cooing me the way she does. 30 years old and I still cherish the fact that I’ll always be my moms baby, whether I’m 30 or 130.
Despite the safety and comfort of my mother, when she wasn’t around the world became an evil place. At 5 (my daughters age) I was molested by family friends. My brother was also molested. Not knowing what to do I was coerced into what seemed like a relationship with my abuser. He assured me thas what boyfriends and girlfriends do, and I’m your friend right? You like me right ? ” In my mind I didn’t comprehend that girlfriend and boyfriend was anything more than girls and boys that were friends, and I certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying I didn’t like them. My abuser was very good at making me feel guilty- and so I went along with whatever he said or did no matter how uncomfortable it made me feel.
My dad eventually remarried the woman he cheated on my mother with. She was from India and damn near white. Which made sense since my dad only saw darker Black women as play things and only married my mother because he vowed that he would marry the mother of his kids. This new step mother was mean. Plain and simple. She was great to me around my dad and as soon as he left the room or the apartment she was on the attack. She was jealous of me and somehow felt that she was in competition with me for my dad’s affections. She cut my long hair after coercing me to agree. She took me swimming only to end up dropping me in the deep end and letting me almost drown before informing me that watching me almost drown was for the fun of it.
Eventually though I didn’t see her or my dad anymore as they moved to Washington with the son they had together. Until one day my dad surfaced and convinced my mom to take my brother and I to dinner. My mom reluctantly said yes and off we went. Only we never saw my mother again. We were kidnapped by my father and left on a plane to Washington that night.
That was the beginning of the end for me in terms of trust and just how much trust I could put in the Black men in my life. This dad was not the dad I knew. With my mom no longer there to endure his wrath, now 8 years old I was the punching bag. I remember being punched in the stomach and kicked in the face for not bringing home a pencil from school. As I lay there collecting blows to the face I remember letting out a scream in my head that I wanted my mommy. And I did . He beat her love out of me. The more I longed for her the worse everything got. Until I hated her for not protecting me from him, and hated him from being him.
No self esteem to speak of, I started to cut myself and make suicide attempts. A friend happened to call the police during one of those attempts and my dad found out. You would have thought that would have been an AHA moment for him, for any parent really. But it wasn’t. He came to my room and said “Do you think anyone will really care if you kill yourself? They won’t, you’ll just be another Black girl with problems. Nobody remembers girls like that. ”
And at the time I thought he was right. I was nothing and not even my very existence warranted a tear if I were to prematurely pass away by my own hand or otherwise. During this time puberty was upon me. And while the fact that not many Black boys went to my school certainly contributed. I found myself repulsed by Black males as objects of affection. I was friends with them, however due to my upbringing and the abuse it provided I was completely shut off from being able to connect to them on a romantic level.
As I grew older it got worse. Those little Black boys grew up and became young men, I grew up and filled out and got attention that was unwanted. So unwanted in fact that I felt more comfortable dressing like a boy as to play down my curves. But it didn’t work. I clawed at myself on the inside trying to get out of myself to avoid the discomfort of the stares and aggressive hand grabs in the mall or the overbearing attempts at my attention. All frankly scared the shit out of me. No matter how old I got when a Black face commented on my body, or my face, or violated my space by grabbing me when I didn’t want them to, or approached me in a way in which I felt I had no power; I was always catapulted back into that 5 year old body, scared to say no, and frozen in place. I was always taken back to being that child that cowered in the expectation of yelling,pain and affirmation of my worthlessness.
I read and see so many blogs and comments and youtube channels and media representations of the same things I have been conditioned to fear from Black men. They tell us that we are worthless, that the darker we are the less inherent value we hold, that we are ugly, stupid and only good for sexual pleasure and baby mommahood. They rap about us being bitches, hoes and sluts and treat us as such.
I know that there are lots of women like me who were once victims of abuse or otherwise mistreated by Black men and that has caused them to not only seek other races but to also bash Black men and it’s no wonder considering 60% if all Black woman will have been sexually abused at the hands of a Black male by age 18.. Many of these same women battered and broken like I was, develop the thought that dating someone not Black makes them morally or socially superior in some way. That White men or Asian men or whatever other race of men will not treat them in a way that triggers their past trauma, and because of that those men are worth more and will inherently treat them better. They are in denial about the cause and the reality of their interracial dating choices and because of that paint Black men with the same brush. Let me tell you though, dating interracially for the wrong reasons doesn’t make you superior. It makes you broken. This is a fact that took me a long time and therapy to learn. Dating in general when you are broken is a bad idea. You project your feelings and expectations unfairly upon others and those relationships tend to suffer, no matter what race the fellow is. When you are dating broken, what you think is safety in the skin of one type of men, can often become the same actions you’ve endured but in a different package, whether it’s manipulation, abuse, controlling etc. When you are dating broken you use skin color to cover your wounds rather than facing them head on and with the objective to heal them. I no longer use skin color as a determining factor for who I date. I have however learned to have and utilize standards. The hand grab in the mall may work for some black women, the overt sexual overtures from strangers may float some boats but it doesn’t float mine. Any four or five letter words that outside of my name will not fly, and any unsolicited aggression will not be welcomed.
I have also learned the unfortunate truth that pointing out the inherent flaws in the Black community, primarily in how we as Black women are treated, doesn’t make us self hating, or sell outs or whatever other stupid connotations are out there.
Black women are constantly in danger, it’s something that is glaringly apparent in the statistics:60% of Black women will have been sexually abused by age 18, Black women face domestic violence at higher rates, 87% of murders of Black women are due to domestic violence, 93% of said domestic violence is at the hands of Black men, Black women have a 72% out of wedlock birth rate (don’t try to convince me that all or even most of these women signed on to be single parents), not to mention the majority of these same women are low income with either no high school diploma or just a high school diploma, Black women are the primary targets of street harassment and said harassment is typical overtly sexual and tends to escalate to violence quicker. I could rattle off statistics forever, but the fact remains that there is an intra racial war on Black women and rather than address it as a community, we as Black women become unfortunate,forgotten and often ridiculed casualties of this war, because nobody feels that we are worth it.
When Black women are silenced and called names for pointing out these dangers it feeds into the idea that the lives and well being of Black women are secondary to the lives and well being of Black men and everyone else for that matter. The conversation about the plight of Black men is common and comfortable ie. we are used to it, but speak on the plight of Black women at the hands of those same Black men and you become evil and self hating even though you and the other women who look like you are being abused, killed, manipulated, knocked up and left alone as well as harassed daily and without so much as a whisper from Black men or the rest of society.
Today, I take pride in the fact that the actions of a few no longer run my life and no longer determine the skin color of who I date. If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse, sexual or otherwise therapy is the ONLY way to properly deal with the emotions ,conscious and subconscious actions,behaviors and frames of thought that occur as a result of that trauma. I however , have not forgotten where my story began, nor am I ignoring where stories lay untold, and unspoken on the lips of broken Black women. Honestly, I don’t think any of us has the luxury of forgetting, ignoring or staying silent when it comes to the safety and well being of Black women. I don’t consider myself broken anymore, but I’ll always be damaged. I’ll always have the smudges of childhood abuse that cling to my skin like a disease and I’ll always remember the time I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because Black men taught me to hate what I saw. Now I’m older and have I have a daughter of my own; who is free to love who she wants Black or White, and I pray that I’ll always be able to protect her from being an abuse statistic but her odds aren’t good, and that scares the hell out of me. It should scare the hell out of you too.