By: Carla Ford
Have you ever considered if you lived in the UK, would men of others races be more openly receptive in showing their attraction towards Black women? The eccentric, open-minded and tolerant reputation of the British is, in general, accurate. However, I often read American blogs that advise Black women to go to Europe as it is more likely that they’ll find love with a slight irritation – dating non-Black men here is certainly no easier than anywhere else. Couple this with the growing Western trend of many Black men seeking to date and mate with women of any other ethnicity except their own and the general invisibility of Black women in the media (when we are represented, we’re aggressive, unfeminine and not the object of any attraction) and you’ll find that Black women in the UK are facing the same conundrum as our sisters across the Atlantic.
I have read many articles from an American perspective about the growing number of mixed race relationships in the UK. I am, of course, pleased that it is now acceptable to date who you want regardless of their skin colour. However, the proportion of Black men in the UK dating non-Black women eclipses that of Black women doing the same. Their reasons for not dating Black women echo the ubiquitous ‘’they have horrible hair and a bad attitude’’ or ‘‘I’m simply not attracted to them’’. I’d like to note here that I don’t live in London, and so the dating experiences of Black women there may be different to those who live outside the capital. I live in a fairly large city, Bristol, and seeing White women with Black men is just as common as seeing White men with White women. But things are thankfully changing for Black women. It is now estimated that 48 percent of Black Caribbean men and 34 percent of Black Caribbean women are in mixed-race relationships in the UK. Even more so, 50 percent of Caribbean origin children have one White parent. I should also add here that Black people of African descent buck this trend slightly, and there appear to be more of them dating within their ethnic group.
I am a Black British teacher, and many of my friends are also in professional vocations. We are young women open to dating other races, but being open doesn’t necessarily make finding a partner any easier. Going through my contacts on Facebook reminds me that my girlfriends of colour have all been single significantly longer than my White female friends, who are often in and out of dating and relationships. Is this mere coincidence? Are we too fussy? We’re tired of reading articles that tell us to widen our options as educated women and date men outside our race, because we are attempting this and it is making no difference. Some may argue that our standards our ‘too high’, but would anyone say this to an educated White woman who only wanted to date White men?
On a few occasions I’ve tried speed dating and singles nights with my White girlfriends, and not only have I been the only women of colour there, I’ve felt distinctly ignored by the men there, even though my friends commented on my exuberance throughout the evenings. When I’m with my Black girlfriends, we socialise in bars and clubs which are multicultural, and our biggest complaint about non-Black men is their lack of transparency when talking with us. They may give compliments and drop hints, and even though we believe we are showing reciprocal interest, numbers are never requested from the men or exchanged. I often wonder if the ‘Black women are aggressive’ trope is hindering our progress on the dating scene, and it is at times demoralising because their interest rarely comes to fruition. I recently ask a Black male friend why he’s dated every other ethnic group except his own, and he said that hasn’t found a ‘decent’ Black woman yet. He added that his White friends would not rule out dating us, but that he warned them they would have trouble handling a Black woman. Having Black men reinforce these stereotypes makes dating harder for us. But maybe that’s what they want. A conversation I had with my friend Ally last week summarises the confusion among my girlfriends:
‘‘I want a man I connect with on every level, and I don’t care about their colour, but I’m just having no luck, I feel like I’ve been single forever! Black men in Bristol don’t give us the time of day. But non-Black men just seem to stick with White women here. I’ve interacted with plenty of White guys, but it’s never clear if they are interested in a relationship or not, even when we’re on a date. Sometimes I wonder if they’re actually interested in a serious relationship with us’’.
On the other hand, Jem, a fellow Teacher disagrees slightly with Ally and says that like me she isn’t short of attention from Black men, but they aren’t on our wavelength in terms of education, job or outlook. Like many other sisters I know, Jem would rather be in a relationship with a Black man, but realises that she may be waiting forever if she rules out everyone else. I believe that plenty of Black women here have accepted this now, and would rather expand our options, but we’ve had similar experiences to Ally when we try this, which leaves us confused about how we are perceived by men in general. I remember a few years ago only seeing older Black women with White men (my mum being an example of this), however, now lots of girls and younger women are expanding their horizons, not just because they cannot find a Black man, but because they choose non-Black men. There will always be women who will wait for a Black man. Jem adds that she doesn’t want to have to explain to a White man why she wraps her head at night, and her friend told her, after recently becoming single that she wanted to give her parents a Black grandchild as her two brothers have mixed race children. It seems that many Black women feel that it is our responsibility to preserve the Black community. I feel no such responsibility. Surely, a shared connection, chemistry and interests (which is so hard to find) are more important than having to explain to a man how a weave is sown in?
After realising that White men probably won’t walk up to me in the street and ask for a date, I tried internet dating on and off for a couple of years, and admittedly over 90% of the emails I received were from White men. I’ve lost count on the amount of dates I went on, which ranged from men who have a clear fetish for women of colour (to be honest I am not comfortable dating men who only date one race and exclude others) to those who were seemingly grounded and cultured. Nothing developed in any of the dates I went on, as it was never clear what the men actually wanted and I doubt I’ll be trying internet dating again. The majority of women I know are now trying the internet, and some have made lasting relationships, although many echo the experiences I’ve had.
The perception of the UK as a multicultural hub is true, but this is reflected poorly in the media in terms of the representation of Black women. Black British music videos, which were up until recently the last preserve of Black female publicity (albeit negative), are now filled with White women as the ‘objects’ of desire, and you will see this if you YouTube artists such as Wiley, Tinie Tempah and Tinchy Stryder. Wiley noted in his song ‘Can you hear me’ that he wanted a ‘light skin girl with a beautiful body like Kim (Kardashian)’. There are still serious colourism issues amongst the Black community in the UK. My Hairdresser laments that it seems Black men here will date a sister who has a drop of Asian, White or some other ethnicity, so long as she’s not, as she puts it ‘’Black Black’’. Of course, there will always be Black men who solely seek Black women, and my cousins are example of this. Nonetheless, I believe that these trends, along with the general normality of Black men seeking other ethnic groups in this country to be a direct influence from what is happening in the US (remember the expression When Americans sneeze, the world catches a cold).
The last thing I want to do is polarise White women against Black women; meaningful relationships are difficult to find regardless of your skin colour. But my experiences and those of my Black and indeed Asian friends rubbish the idea that being in a woman of colour in the UK is a great place to find men of all ethnicities who are forthcoming in their interest. I think throughout the Western world Black women have a harder time finding a life partner, which on level makes sense in that we are a minority group. However, when you see Black men and other ethnic groups who appear to have success with other races, one must consider what the reason is for Black women to have a smaller share of this attention. Having said that, as a Teacher I can see from the increasingly mixed cohort of the children I work with that people are swirling more than ever, and this is extending to Black women. On a lighter note, I often holiday in Turkey, and men there adore Black women. I even ask a few who wouldn’t leave me alone why this was, and they said ‘‘we just love the colour (of Black women)’’. Maybe we should all move there.