“You Look Like You Date White Boys”
When Prejudice Meets Perceptions in the Dating World
By Nia Mclean
“Is he Black or White?” a white lady named Katie asked me in a crowded Boston hotel bar.
We had only met ten minutes ago, but she was on her third martini, and that can make a person, well, friendly. We were oddly similar. We were only a few years apart and had both moved from Texas to Boston to study law. We also both had our fair share of college dating stories. She was asking about a guy I used to date.
“Black,” I responded, wondering why Black and White were the only options.
She cocked her head, looked me up and down, and parted her lips.
“What?” I asked.
“I don’t know. You just look like you date white boys,” the stranger told me.
Most people would have immediately jumped Katie.
Don’t mistake me; I found Katie’s words offensive. But this wasn’t the first time someone told me I looked like I dated white boys. It wasn’t even the second time.
Curious, I pressed Katie, asking, “What does that even mean?”
“You just don’t seem like you would date a Black guy. You know you’re so well-spoken, and you know…” her voice trailed off as she fiddled with her ponytail.
No. I don’t know, Katie. Please, spell it out.
For those who don’t know, describing a Black person as “well-spoken” is not a compliment; it’s a microaggression that implies the person did not anticipate intelligence or eloquence from a Black person, suggesting that the Black individual somehow defied or exceeded their preconceived, offensive stereotype.
My entire life, white people have labeled me as “well-spoken:” employers, peers, professors, and friends.
“Wait. Let me ask you a question,” Katie blurted out before sipping her martini.
“Okay.” I nodded, bracing myself for Katie’s next comment.
“Is he Black Black? Like Black Black. Like Dark. Or is he light?” She whispered Black and gestured towards me when she said light.
My jaw was on the floor. However, I decided to give Katie the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Katie just doesn’t know the terms “Dark-skin” and “Light-skin.” Perhaps she had a perfectly good reason for equating skin tone with Blackness.
“He’s Darkskin,” I shouted, so she knew it wasn’t something that needed to be whispered.
Without hesitation, Katie continued, “That’s strange because you seem like if you did date a Black guy, he’d be light.”
I nearly spit out my non-existent drink. Scared to ask any more questions, I stayed quiet. But something about equating light-skinned black men with white men doesn’t sit right with me.
She reached out to touch my hand.
Now, she was too comfortable.
I considered abandoning my burger and flagging down the bartender for my check.
Still holding my hand, Katie leaned towards me and whispered, “Is he foreign or ghetto?”
Huh? I must have misheard this white lady.
“Is he foreign, or is he ghetto?” She asked slightly louder but still whispering the word ghetto, as if she knew she was being racist enough not to want the entire bar to hear but not enough to confide in her close friend whom she had only met ten minutes ago.
This white lady genuinely asked me if my Black ex-situationship was foreign or ghetto, as if those were the only two options. According to Katie there are only two types of Black people. There are African immigrants with accents. And there are welfare queens with “Black’ccents.
And then, there’s me.
Would Katie label me foreign or ghetto? I am not foreign. I am an American descendant of enslaved people. She just confirmed that she doesn’t believe I am ghetto. After all, I am “well-spoken and you know…”
To her, am I in some superior category of Black people who should date white people? Am I an outlier that should distance themselves from the foreign and the ghetto? And who even is Katie? And does her opinion matter?