Two of my best friends are white men. The other is a Southie from Boston. Both are men I would trust to raise and protect my son should the need arise. Men who have protected and supported me through some of the darkest days of my life.
Men of character, wit and charisma, alongside whom I have spent some of the best times of my life. Black men, without question. Latin men, for sure. But a white guy? Just not my thing. I might watch Matthew McConaughey and swoon over his roguish grin and molasses drawl. I might even spend an evening charming some former frat bros at the bar for my personal amusement. That is it, though. Fleeting interest and attention at best. It was not a hard-and-fast rule, as in: It was just there in the back of my mind: No offense was taken on either side.
The exchange stuck with me, though. Made me feel a bit hypocritical and narrow-minded, two states I actively work to avoid. Meanwhile, my social circle is full of black women married to or dating white men. All seem no more or less happy than other couples I know. I had no good reason why white guys were off my romantic radar. So I decided to explore why I could love white men like family but not envision them as potential partners.
The answer is rooted in love and fear. Love for men who move through the world in ways that remind me of my father. Fear of being ostracized by those very same men or fetishized by their white counterparts. The love part is a beautiful thing. I grew up surrounded by handsome black men who were strong-minded, hard-working, upwardly mobile and worldly.
They were the heroes of our community. At a home, it was understood that if Billy Dee Williams — not Paul Newman, not Richard Gere — should ever knock on our door, my mother was leaving with him. Black men were the standard. I carry that with me today.
A black man comfortable in his skin and walking in his purpose remains the ideal. But love for black men is just part of it. There is also the fact that I was raised a good Southern black woman, albeit one freer than most. The same grace that is extended to black men who date white women is not as easily extended to black women who do the same. And, then there are the unspoken questions once inherent in any semi-intimate interaction with a white guy: Do you want to date me as a way to stick it to grandma?
Will I have to spend my days explaining my culture and saving you from family reunion faux pas? In it, there is an imagined scene where Michelle asks why Barack ended things with his college girlfriend, who was white. His response is something along the lines of: The fear of feeling that way within a relationship also blinded me to possibility. It is those latter reasons, the ones based on fear vs. When it comes to life experiences and interests, I likely have more in common with white men than black.
Black men are my preference, followed closely by other people of the sun. As long as he is, I am.