Um, No, That’s Still Racist

I recently grew some balls and did something I’ve never done before. I was eating a meal by myself, and thought my waiter was adorable. So I left my number in the billfold with the tip. And lo and behold, he actually called! We’ve gone out a few times now, and so far I really like him. My mother knows, because after I left my number I called to tell her how awesome and ballsy I was, and also because I was excited that he actually called.

She asked me what he looked like and I described him as “tall, good build, with big lips and friendly eyes.” I neglected to mention that he is black. I don’t feel that it should matter, which is part of the reason I didn’t mention it, but the other part of the reason is because of something my mother said to me once when I said that I would have no problem dating a person of color.

“It’s not that I have anything against black people, but aren’t there enough white people in the world that you could find one that you like?”

Ah, racism at it’s finest. Notice that the statement was prefaced with “it’s not that I have anything against black people.” But, of course, there’s that “but.” That “but” implies, that yes, you do. Because you don’t think that I should be dating a black person, which automatically means that you see them as different from me. That automatically makes them an “other” in your mind. By saying that you’d prefer I didn’t date a black person, that implies that they’re not good enough for me. Less than me, the white girl. “Aren’t there enough white people in the world…?” Meaning white person is the preferred partner, meaning that you see white people as superior in some way.

It’s just like the “but my best friend is black!” sentiment that’s often used as a way of proving that you are not, in fact, racist. But just because you have black friends doesn’t mean that you’re not racist or that you don’t hold racist beliefs. My mom has “no problem with black people” per se, as long as they don’t become intimately involved in her (or her daughter’s) life.

And that? Is racism, no matter how you play it.

As an addendum, I’d like to add that this sentiment doesn’t apply to Hispanic people, or people that are lighter skinned/mixed race. I doubt it would apply to someone of Asian descent, either, though I’ve never asked. My mother is totally okay with me bringing other people of color home. Her racist ideas apply strictly to black people, which just goes to show that there’s a lot of truth to the idea that the darker your skin, the lower you are on the socially oppressed totem pole.

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  1. Nell GwynneNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I totally admired how you left your number for the waiter. I also think it’s awesome that he called you, and that you’ve had a good time with him. I’ve never asked my parents how they would feel if I dated someone who wasn’t white, but I would hope that they would stick to the “We don’t care who you go out with, as long as you are happy and safe” speech.

    My mom also tells the story about how a former friend, and school board member in my hometown said that she didn’t allow her children to watch “Sesame Street” because she “didn’t want her children exposed to so many black people”.

    Whenever people say that we as a society have “overcome” racism in some way, I want to headdesk so badly.

  2. AuroreNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    When I was born my maternal grandmother sent my aunt up to see me to make sure she didn’t have a dark-skinned granddaughter. Lucky for her I’ve been fair-skinned most of my life. I didn’t hear that story until years after she had passed and I was a teenager. To this day my maternal uncle still denies my very existence and our relation, again something I wasn’t aware of until I was older.

    It’s sad to me that things like this still matter but as a child of mixed race parents, the racism exists on both sides. Growing up I was too white for the black kids in my school and too black for the white kids. Personally, all I wanted to do was be me.

    Interracial relationships shouldn’t even be an issue these days – most people are already a mixture of races, ethnicities, and religions but people are still so hung up on a little extra melanin in the skin and the texture of people’s hair (like those are the important things in life!) that the overshadow what really matters about a person.

    I could go on but I’m starting to ramble and get worked up.

  3. Cand86No Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    My mom is exactly the same- I asked her once, randomly, what she thought of interracial dating, and she basically said that no, she didn’t really think it was a good idea. Or something like that. I was so shocked- and tried to press her on how she’d react if I dated a person of color- and she was fairly dismissive. It’s not like she’d stop me, I don’t think, or act rude to a non-white boyfriend or girlfriend, but yeah, in her mind, when she pictures me with someone, she’s thinking “white”. It’s sad.

    On the other hand, it also makes me happy whenever I hear about kids like you and me finding this stuff out- because it means that in spite of our parents’ backward views, we managed to grow up believing that race isn’t a barrier to love (hooray!).

  4. SQWEAKNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry about your mom, I think a lot of people don’t see it as racist so if someone were to make that statement and you call them on it you’re seen as overreacting (at least that’s how it happens to me). I hope she comes around to the thought that you can be happy with whom ever you may date <3

  5. Champagne and BenzedNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Eight years ago, a waitress left me her number written on the bill – and this year we’ll celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. My parents used to live in Africa and were fairly racially pragmatic about a bunch of girls I’d dated in the past (black, Indian) and much more daunted by the thought of me dating a *gasp* AMERICAN.

    But they soon got over it.

  6. GhouldilocksNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    This = (almost) my entire family. Except my dad would probably leave out the “I don’t have a problem with black people” part.

  7. SamanthaNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the Louisiana Justice of the Peace who wouldn’t marry the interracial couple, but WAS NOT racist because he had lots of black people in his home and they used his bathroom…

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Oh man. I remember that story! I mean, how *could* you be racist if you’d let a black person use your bathroom? Duh.

  8. SkyddsDrakeNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I remember having a conversation with my dad at one point about interracial dating. He really took his time thinking about it before saying, “I don’t care if you date someone of a different race. I’ve had people of every variety watch my back [in the Navy]. But, the fact of the matter is, if you’re going to date outside your race you’re going to deal with shit I wish you wouldn’t have to deal with.” It took me a long time to fully appreciate the thought he put into that answer.

    As a side note, especially since it is part of the addendum and not even the meat of the blog, I’d like to mention (just because I appreciated it when someone pointed it out to me)… Using the term “bottom of the totem pole” to indicate a place of disrespect is a misnomer. The bottom of the totem pole is actually a place of very high respect, being the portion of the totem pole that holds up all the other parts of the totem pole. I could kick myself for not remembering the name of the title of an article that mentions this and other parables that are often misused… I’ll have to see if I can find it. Anyway, like I said… just thought I’d mention it.

    • Britni TheVadgeWigNo Gravatar
      Posted May 14, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Thanks :)

  9. BrigitNo Gravatar
    Posted May 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Racism and colorism pop out even in the weirdest places. I come from a very mixed family. My grandma is “jabao” (light olive skin, curly light brown hair, green eyes, obvious African ancestry). Her own oldest granddaughter is black (uncle married someone darker than himself), yet once she said that she hoped that my cousin’s youngest brother (from a 2nd marriage and light-”jabao”) wasn’t dating his best friend because she was a lot darker than my oldest cousin and they would have darker babies if they had kids (She said: “va a dañar la raza”.) Sigh. We’re not even white grandma. We have Spaniard, African, Taino, and Norwegian ancestry. There’s no fucking “raza” to speak of. It’s both incredibly frustrating and embarrassing.
    My parents never gave me grief about the color of any guy I dated, but I have a particularly nasty aunt that has had issues with other cousins’ dates because they were too dark, and issues with my husband because he was too “low class” for her tastes.

  10. JessNo Gravatar
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Who care’s what colour he was, if he was cute you go for it. Although i don’t think i’d have had the balls to actually leave my number so kudos for that.

    Jess x

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