The perils of interracial dating

So a few years back I decided to try interracial dating. This was a deliberate decision because I was searching for something and extending my dating pool was the only way of increasing my chances of finding it. Something new, something different.

Naturally, I was faced with the challenge of navigating new cultural differences. Which is funny because, one of the major causes for the demise of many of my past relationships with black African men was ‘cultural differences.” Isn’t it amazing that when it comes to differences from within the culture, it’s not such a big deal but when it’s interracial dating, it’s suddenly code blue?

Growing up, I was under the assumption that my default settings were engineered towards dating people of my own race. I can bet a million bucks (which I don’t have) that that’s how most people are like. No matter how color blind you are, there’s always that awareness at the back of your head, “they’re black…or white…or green.” It’s an awareness that can either make you or break you.

No sooner had I embarked on this journey than I realized the flaw in my plan. I might be the epitome of the modern African Woman but to the rest of the world, I’m just an African woman. This means, I’m super submissive to men, I kneel when serving food or initiating conversation with my man, I don’t challenge men, I’m super religious, and much to my chagrin, I’m not intelligent enough to have my own opinions. This is the picture of an African woman to the ignorant non-African and to the entitled African man who thinks women were solely created for the amusement of men. And when such a creature asks you out on a date, it is this kind of woman he expects to meet.

And who can blame him? He too is frustrated with the average Caucasian woman. He thinks white women or American women are too emotionally demanding, too challenging, too selfish and entitled, too expensive (think child support and alimony. Ha.). So he wants something different. And why not fish from the pool that’s home to the most subdued and loyal women in the world? These African women are gentle, strong, loyal, submissive, and all those nice flowery adjectives that glitter in pink. Record scratch and drop – meet Anisha. πŸ˜„

I am a very proud African. I can speak and understand over five African languages, I deliberately show up late for certain events because I know most people will be late, and I can move my waist as if it’s a fluid substance. Typical. – Rolls eyes to the back of the head– On a serious note, there are a lot more things I like about being black and African than things I dislike. Perhaps if I had been born a man, I would have absolutely nothing to dislike about being African. But that’s a story for another day. Today I wanna talk about the perils of interracial dating that we hardly talk about openly.

When African women who are swirl lovers think about expanding their dating horizons in the hopes of meeting someone who can treat them differently, maybe new experiences, curiosity, or whatever, they never imagine themselves finding someone who expects them to be typically African – that very nature they’re rebelling against. It’s a clash of interests. A white dude with very African male expectations of women, and a black girl with very ‘white’ tendencies seeking a place or somebody who feels like home. Talk about being lost.

If you’re lucky enough, you meet that person you’re looking for who’s looking for love just for the hell of love itself. Doesn’t matter the time, place, or race of subject of interest. But you’re deluded if you thought just because you have similar beliefs pertaining to the treatment of women, or politics, or child rearing, etc…that it’s all roses here on forward. Soon you’ll discover that whether you like it or not, you’re a product of your environment. In as much as you don’t agree with 70% of your own culture and traditions, that 30% runs deeper than you could have ever imagined.

Your new boyfriend is making plans about sending his ailing widowed mother to a home where she can be cared for. Meanwhile back at home, in your version of modern upbringing, they don’t send old folks away. They live with them in their homes and if they’re in need of extra care, a nurse is hired to take care of them right there in their home. Suddenly, your new guy is barbaric. He is inhumane! How can he do this to his own mother!

Your sibling or your village people need money for school or some other activity. You send it to them and your new man asks, why did you send them money? Aren’t they old enough to work? – Insert Ryan Reynolds gasping gif here

Thing is you agree. You are not responsible for the welfare of grown adults in your community even if you share DNA. However, knowing one thing, understanding it, and living accordingly are three very different things. Most African families are raised to be such tight neat groups that you’ll have over 500 people show up for a funeral or wedding, even if you didn’t need them there! It’s who we are. You cannot call yourself successful if the rest of your family is struggling. You don’t have to spoon feed them, but you must, and you will find a way to help them get on their feet lest you incur the wrath of your ancestors. The downside to this is, familial entitlement creeps in. Again, that’s a story for another day.

No matter our differences, family is family for the average African. If a sibling has no place to stay, even if you lived in a one room shack, tradition demands that you accommodate them. You don’t ask relatives how long they’ll be staying with you. No matter how itching you are to be rid of them, you don’t EVER ask. Deep down you know you want them gone as soon as yesterday but you cannot, and you shall not ask them. You will have to invent other ways of getting rid of them, but whatever you do must not involve an enquiry about the length of their stay.

But here’s your new boyfriend asking his own mother who just passed through to check on him for a bit when she’s leaving because, “I’m busy mum. You’ve been here for over an hour already.”

What seems normal and justifiable to him isn’t exactly normal to you who thought you were quite in tune with his way of life. You understand it’s his way of life, his culture, and yet what’s that sticky feeling in your throat? It’s the image of you telling your African mother the same thing and that’s her hand down your throat.

It’s in the small things. The things that you thought were so obvious and yet they’re not that obvious to the one who knows nothing about your upbringing. Whether it’s money, family relationships, food, work, and the one thing that usually eludes the average African, mental health. Until I lived in a place that was vastly different in terms of culture and race demography from what I’m accustomed to, I had no idea people could be addicted to sleeping pills and pain killers. Or that people needed that much therapy to get through their issues. Now I know why we have very angry women ouchea here on these streets y’all. πŸ˜„

Suddenly the conversations I was having with my sisters and friends changed. I was no longer talking to them about my frustrations over the disrespect I thought Chanda had dealt me when he said don’t talk when I’m talking. Or the 35 year old Chimunya’s audacity in commanding me to kneel for him as I served him water in my own house, in a glass I bought with my own money because he wanted to check if I’m wife material. πŸ™„ Now I was having conversations like, “he’s nuts, he says he shares custody of his dog with his ex that’s why he’s still in close contact with her.” I’ll go out on a limb here and say this is not the typical African relationship problem. In fact, you’re more likely to suffer a stroke at the age of five than experience this kind of problem.

Interracial dating awakens you to a whole new spectrum of colorful problems you never ever imagined facing. The double trouble for these kinds of problems is that while you’re seeing them as obvious problems, your partner doesn’t! It’s quite a pickle. It is most painful to be hurt by the person you love, especially when they’re not even aware of the hurt they’ve caused. You will find yourself hurting the other person unknowingly as well. Maybe you didn’t react to their problem the way they expected you to because you thought it wasn’t such a big deal. But they’re hyperventilating and swearing on three Buddhist gods you’ve never heard of so they’re really that bothered. This is something that can’t be avoided. And it’s a life-long process of learning and re-learning. It is only worth it if the love is real.

Otherwise you are better off apologizing to your husband’s relatives for not taking good care of your man that he had to cheat on you with eleven different women in a week, four of them your sisters, and one of them his twelve year old step daughter. πŸ™„

I’ve had certain friends confront me about my dating preferences, trying to tune me out over picking another race over my own. I don’t think I chose one race over another. I merely expanded my dating horizons, hoping to meet someone who holds the same values as me, by at least 80%. A very bold friend asked me why I broke up with someone I thought I was in-love with in Canada. When I gave him the reasons, his response was a candid, “see, white people aren’t so perfect either.”

There are two schools of thought when it comes to perceptions (misconceptions) about interracial dating in Africa. There’s a misconception amongst a lot of Africans that black people who date outside their race are seeking perfection, or they are simply racist against their own race. This is why others will congratulate you for finding a ‘white man’, and others will shame you for that exact reason.

Some months back, I sat down for an interview with a TV crew and the interviewer asked me a question off script. Earlier in the interview, she had asked me if I was seeing someone and I told her I was. I typically avoid getting into details during such interviews so I left it at that. To my surprise, she asked me if I had completely sworn off black men after my divorce. Ha. I looked at the camera man and asked if they were still recording because I was that shocked. She clearly knew more about me than I knew about myself! Now I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked that question. People just feel entitled to ask given my recent history. And it’s a question I’m always willing and ready to answer.

No, I haven’t given up on black or African men. If I were to meet someone I strongly believed held the same values as I do, I would give dating them a chance. The problem is, many African men think themselves modern and liberal, but it’s all just on paper. The expectation in reality in very different. He claims he is, but he cas looking after his own kids babysitting. – Insert Russian word for NO here –

I might be fortunate enough to meet such a person, however, in my culture, one does not marry an individual, they marry the whole family, including the distant aunt who only shows up for funerals and weddings, has six kids from nine different fathers because she can’t really place the right kid to the right dad and yet she considers herself to be of infinite wisdom that she asserts herself as a major stakeholder in your marriage because she heard educated women are very stubborn and she’s here to teach you a thing or two. – Breathe Anisha, breathe…. –

There’s no such thing as a perfect or superior tribe or race. Let alone perfect individuals. One can only endeavor to be superior to who they were yesterday, and not other people. That would be a pursuit in futility. As far as I’m concerned, all humans are equal. What differentiates us all is the amount of good and evil we let slip through our pores. And to be honest with you, it’s much easier to date within the confines of your own race. But then again, what’s that thing they say about a little friction…?