Dear Ernest Baker,
In your recent personal essay on Gawker titled “The Reality of Dating White Women When You Are Black,” you stated unequivocally that you are not a “sell out” because you are a Black man who chooses to seriously date only White women. As a 24-year-old Black woman with very similar life circumstances, I can assure you that after reading your piece — although you may not believe that you are a “sell-out” or that you are riddled by “self hate” —the man who wrote that piece is both.
This truth does not reflect poorly upon you. Instead, it is pertinent that you, and the nation, understand that within American society exists a system of racism where Black people resort to self-hate as a mechanism to survive a continuation of White supremacy.
Like yourself, I lived the “only Black person in the classroom” narrative and can agree that it does have “unforeseen effects on your outlook when you’re one of the few Black families in town.” Let us analyze some of the reasons why we were put into this peculiar, isolated position. If your family was anything like my single-parent mother, they sought the best for you. They wanted to give you access to safe neighborhoods, good schools and all of the amenities typically afforded to non-Black communities — the best of which can usually be found in predominantly White neighborhoods. The fact that we, as Black people, cannot easily find minority schools or neighborhoods for our children where they can be awarded the same opportunity as their white counterparts, is in and of itself an egregious crime against our humanity.
As were our ancestors historically, our Black brothers and sisters were/are entrapped by a system cyclically designed to exclude them from access to a good education and —we were saved. Saved by parents who had the means and the will. Saved to recognize our full potential.
But through our redemption, we were made to bear witnesses to continued injustice. To be a witness takes strength. A strength that a single Black boy or girl cannot find within, when isolated on a lone island surrounded by an ocean of misunderstanding.
You are correct: you must not try to explain yourself, your hurt, your misguidance to an audience who dare not listen or understand and only cares to preach.
You cannot explain yourself simply because you have yet to find the words. You have yet to come to terms with the reality of what you were made to think, speak and do to not only survive, but to thrive as a Black man in a White-dominated America.
And I get it. The White girls at school showed you the most attention and the Black girls cast you away because you did not conform to this system’s idea of what “Blackness” should speak, dress or look like. As you put it, “I wasn’t on any of that thug shit and I’m not saying all Black women want thugs, but at my high school, a lot of them did and they didn’t really care about me.”
But when you said “I definitely like the straight, light hair and fair skin and colored eyes you get with a lot of white women,” that sentiment was born of the same systemically engineered misguidance that compelled those little Black girls to shun you. As you half-heartedly assumed, those preferences are entangled in the same legacy of White supremacy that deemed “ghetto” or “thug” synonymous with “Black or Black man” and “White” synonymous with “pure” and “beautiful.”
Superficially, you were robbed of your connection to a population of women who most look like you, to a population of people to whom you are forever connected whether you date a White or a Black woman. Do not forget, as Black people, we are forever connected by a history of hurt that cuts through our ancestral lineage. We cannot escape that history. Our great-great-great-grandparents escaped slavery. Their children escaped sharecropping. Their children’s children escaped Jim Crow, institutionalized segregation and state-supported terrorism. Their children’s children’s children — us — are barely making it to the Promised Land. And we are still fighting and struggling hard as hell to get there. In that struggle, today’s struggle, our struggle, we have lost hundreds of thousands of Black men taken as prisoners of a “War on Drugs,” our peers have been tracked into failure, our houses have been stolen by unfair banking practices and many of us are floating, adrift in a vast empty void.
Do not feel disconnected, because that disconnect is merely superficial — as superficial as judgements made by individuals based on skin color or how he/she speaks, dresses or talks. And do not believe that the feelings quelled by the smoothness of a woman’s hair or the tenderness of a kiss from pink lips fill the gap created from years of that disconnectedness.
I tell you this so you can better understand “self-hate” as a state of hurt only remedied by self-discovery: a process that all people of color must endure after an adolescence filled with discontentment, confusion, hurt and isolation. When you have become freed of that burden and you find your love to be true, it will no longer matter what third parties think about the woman you choose to commit to.
What will matter is that you are firmly grounded in an existence that celebrates you, your Blackness, your struggle and your history. That stability enables you to wear whatever mask best suits the occasion, but beneath you are rooted in all of the pain, struggle, perseverance and resilience that reminds you who you are: a strong, unwavering, unafraid Black man. A man FREE to love whomever he chooses.
[Image of a young Black man via Shutterstock]