by Hari Ziyad
I need to be honest.
As someone who is unashamedly pro-Black, I am often asked whether or not I would date someone who is white. My usual response is to laugh it off and note that I have (true), and then to act as if there is nothing more to say (false).
But secretly, I know that I am unlikely to spend my life with a white person.
I know that statement makes some people uneasy, particularly those who envision a world where race doesn’t exist (newsflash: we are nowhere near that point), but it needs to be said.
I know when we hear Michael Sam defending his relationship with a white man, the shouts of “love is love” are loud and frightening to anyone seeking to nuance the conversation, effectively shutting down a debate that is so much more complex, but it needs to be said. It needs to be said because recognizing the importance of love between people of color should not be alarming.
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When I first came to terms with my sexuality, I spent a lot of time chasing after white men who made up the majority of the queer community at my school. Most of them didn’t want me (“you’re cool, but I’m just not into Black guys, sorry”), and almost all of them didn’t understand the first thing about how my Blackness has shaped me and had no interest in learning.
After many failed pursuits, I began to feel again that I was unworthy of love, a belief that I had previously learned from a household and childhood environment that was not accepting of my queerness. But it wasn’t that I was unworthy, it was that White Supremacy and those who operate within it necessarily cannot love Blackness. It was that I was operating within it as well, and could not fully love the vibrant Black communities and other communities of color that I had never noticed were around me because I wasn’t looking.
My desires and the standards I have for whom I choose to share love with are strictly my own and I know that my views do not represent those of every person of color. However, I do think everyone, people of color included, needs to analyze how white supremacy has affected our beauty standards, what we find desirable and, more importantly, lovable on a deeper level than most people are willing to probe.
These standards, which are strongly influenced by racism, need to be met with resistance, and sometimes this resistance takes the form of purposefully directing love toward spaces where it is desperately under-sourced but, without a doubt, deserving. These spaces include all communities of color, but since anti-Blackness is the essential component of White Supremacy, for me this means especially Black communities.
As the artist/activist Marlon Riggs stated, Black men loving Black men is a revolutionary act, and as a supporter of revolution, I can’t help but to hold that kind of love to the highest standard. I love my people. I love receiving their love in return. There is nothing else like it.
Because race is no more than a construction, wanting to experience love with another Black person stems not from skin color, but from a resistance to the belief that what is non-white is unworthy of love. I have always been able to find men of every race physically beautiful. Certainly, though, I have a preference for culture that resists White Supremacy, and by definition that is not a culture that most white people (and, admittedly, most people of color as well) know fully.
Most importantly, I envision myself in a relationship where home is as safe a space as it can be, and where a mutual love of our struggle is what keeps us safe. In a world where pro-Blackness is constantly questioned to the point of exhaustion, if not attacked outright, I know I cannot always be educating my partner about racial injustices and retain my emotional stability. In fact, sometimes I will need him to educate me.
That ideal will almost certainly never be met entirely no matter the race of my partner, but because knowledge of how anti-Black racism works has never been a necessary possession for white people, it is unlikely to find that outside the arms of other Black men, and I do not feel compelled to go out of my way in an unavailing search for it when there are so many lovable, beautiful, intelligent Black men just waiting to receive a healthy love.
It isn’t wrong to admit that you want to direct love where love is needed. It isn’t wrong for a person of color to want to secure some safety from racial aggressions within a relationship. It isn’t wrong to question why there seems to be such a lack of media portrayals of people who want these same things.
It isn’t the same as further discriminating against communities that have historically been mistreated with “no fats, femmes, Asians, or Blacks” on your dating profile. It isn’t the same as purposefully avoiding any challenges to living comfortably within a White Supremacist society by refusing to date outside of your race as a white person.
I have always been wary of speaking this aloud because I know some people will not understand, but I need to be honest.
I need to be honest because if I truly believe that Black life matters, I know that Black love and love between Black people matters too, and I cannot be ashamed to want that.
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Hari Ziyad is a graduate of Tisch’s Film and Television program at NYU. He also writes about queer, feminist, and POC issues for the social justice and public health blog DoingMoor.com and works for a talent management company in NYC.