Not everyone in “post racial” America is post racial. I guess not everyone received the officially unofficial memo notifying them they are no longer allowed to judge people based on anything other than the content of their character. Of course, for the most part it really doesn’t matter if some stranger doesn’t like me because of the color of my skin. It is what it is. That is, until those strangers happen to be my girlfriend’s parents.
It is an odd feeling to be disliked based on a characteristic I have no control over. Honestly, I didn’t even have much say in the process. I will let you all in on a little secret. I was born black and as far as I can tell, I am going to die black, too. Therefore, to not only be judged but also outright disliked based on something I have no control over and cannot change is a strange feeling.
Contrary to what many readers will assume, since I have dated women from a wide range of racial backgrounds, I have had the fortunately unfortunate opportunity to experience this bias from more than just white parents. In fact, one instance involved a black woman in an interracial marriage who was not too fond of the fact that her mixed daughter, of black and white decent, decided to date a “young black thug.” This is despite the fact that I was pursuing my college degree at the time. I guess the resume I was attempting to build wasn’t impressive enough to make up for the color of my skin; at least not in her eyes.
There are times where I’m privy to this information up front. Other times it is a relative, if not outright, complete shock. Because it is only after all the handshakes, smiles, dinners, and conversations shared have passed that I find out the truth. Much to my dismay, my girlfriend(s) informs me later of the awkward exchange she had with her parents after I left as she tried in vain to justify why she decided to date “that black guy.”
I’m left wondering were all the polite conversations an act? The smiles faked? The laughs forced? Did they try to get to know me for me or did they decide as soon as they laid eyes upon the hue of my skin that I was definitely not the man for their daughter? Once privy to these insights, seeing them over and over again becomes an awkward social ballet of fake courtesies as I pretend I am ignorant of their true opinions.
I know some people will think, ‘who cares?’ You may believe that love conquers all. If her parents don’t like me, all that really matters is that she does. While that might be true in some rare occasions, I wish I were as optimistic as you. However, since this is my life, I must take into consideration that some feelings are so deeply engrained they can never be overcome. If things work out between their daughter and I will their dislike ever dwindle? Or in spite, will it grow? If they simply grow to tolerate me in their daughter’s life, should I consider that sufficient? A victory? Regardless of their indifference for me, will their malice carry over unto their yet unborn grandchildren? In my opinion, it’s not fair to make someone choose between their family and myself, so where does that leave us?
Unfortunately, not often, but more times than I would care to, these are the things I still have to consider when dating. Yes, even in the day of our post racial America.