What is Inter-racial love? Is it a careless indulgence?
I am not a racist, nor am I against inter-racial relationships. But I have seen the fall-out of how they can hurt people.
I mentioned high school only because it was at this juncture that I began to notice that white boys were not effeminate and standoffish. I hung out with a mixed clutch of girls who were for the lack of a better word; sports groupies. Yes, we loved the football team, the baseball team, and the basketball team. The teams were very mixed racially and white players played side by side with black players. The bond was so strong these guys even hung out outside school. We the groupies, average looking, and probably nerdy to boot, could only dream about these guys. Well it wasn't long before those little girl dreams turned into a strange reality...
All of us had our favorite "fantasy" guy on all the teams. We'd pour over the school newspapers for flattering shots of them, we'd litter our locker doors with them, and if we were brave we'd proudly announce it to them as well. But those who did were usually shot down and laughed at. The nerve, right? Well, I had my favorite. He was white, and I was afraid to say it to anyone. The unwritten rule was; white girls could salivate over black players and maybe, if they were lucky, date them. But black girls could not acknowledge their crushes and god forbid if it ever happened, date a white guy? So my crush remained my secret. And I struggled with it. To be honest, I had a bigger crush on a big brown skinned football player we called, "Tippy". He had this smile, all these white perfect teeth, and the prettiest skin. I think Tippy was my official first real lust. But I will tell you why Tippy slipped in terms of me lusting after him. Tippy, and many of his co-players, the black ones, used their notoriety and popularity to exploit the white girls that liked them. For the most part, the black sports players at the high school almost exclusively dated white girls. Not that I cared on that level, its just that it took and dashed my adolescent lust against the ground.
I struggled with the whys of this for a long time. I even queried older and wiser heads only to receive no answer. I suppose my ultimate question was; "Do they really like them better?"
I was left feeling like an invisible girl. An unwanted under appreciated girl. Of course the White girls didn't have the manners to just quietly date, of course it was rubbed into our faces. Pictures of them in year books, Home coming King and Queen. Frankly these mixed couples became the most popular in the school for years on end. Some married.
I on the other hand took my abandoned heart and let it flounder into my school work and pep squad antics in the bleachers. I thought if I cheered loud enough, and swung those pom poms swishy enough, things could change. But they didn't. Until.. One night at a bonfire as I held the hands of cheerleaders and we turned and arched around the fire chanting death to the opposing teams, snow began to fall. It was untimely, early in fact and a chill was in the air.
I had not worn a jacket. When the circle broke up into cheering groups of crazed kids I wrapped my arms around myself and walked towards the parking lot. Just then I felt the weight of a jacket enfold me, and I turned quickly to see who had done this. It was him, the guy I lusted for and it wasn't Tippy. Now I could say that I just returned that coat and said, thanks but no thanks. I could say I got indignant and threw it on the ground. But he was the captain of the football team. He was six feet tall. And he was by any account; gorgeous. I looked around me to see if I was dreaming. If the snow that was falling was real, if it was night or had the lights blinked off all around me? I recall he leaned down and smiled, and said, "I thought you might be cold." I stared down at the jacket. I was so nerdy I even fingered the green leather like an idiot, and the felt sleeves, and finally the big letters on both sides of the jacket near the pockets. My eyes must have been as big as platters. I don't know what gave him the cajones to break the rules and to step outside convention and talk to me. I really couldn't figure out what he saw in a gawky black girl who still wore two pigtails most days. We dated the three remaining years of high school. We were an item. And I have to add that I became the envy of many white girls in that high school. And sadly was ostracized by many black ones for dating him.
I wondered was this just an indulgence? A fantasy twisted around? What was I doing. When he and I were together it was so normal and so nice. We played like kids; tossing fall leaves at each other at the park when we played hooky from school, driving his car in circles on the ice at the rink parking lot, sitting in the rain while we listened to music on his car radio just holding each other. I truly believe that had he not walked through that screaming crowd and tossed his jacket across my shoulders I never would have known that love can be color blind, and very real. And yes, it was an indulgence. It was like chocolates for breakfast, or pizza in the middle of the night when no one is looking. Had Tippy done this would the outcome be the same? I say yes, in fact that was my dream, that had been my real desire, but fate had side lined that, and I went with the flow.
Today I think it's not so controversial. It is pretty normal to see mixed couples of all kinds. No one is trailblazing. However, for some reason I am always a bit upset when I see black men with white women. Perhaps it is still a hold over from the days when I was bursting at the seams for romance and no black guys would give me a chance. And maybe I hold a grudge.
And perhaps a girl as nerdy as me, needed someone to look behind those weird glasses and puffy ponytails and see the real person back there. The adolescent safari of the heart. The wild beasts of the high school, the man jungle. I was a hanger on of the locker, a giggler with my hand in front of my face, I would sometimes forget to turn my skirts in the right direction, I was often the butt of jokes for being so tremendously nerdy, and just not getting it. I had the double whammy. I was nerdy and black. God help me.
I continued to lust after Tippy and watched his comings and goings like a spy with binoculars. I was fascinated by his lack of interest in me. I was fascinated by what he and others saw in white girls.
My first dance consisted of my mother calling up her friend whose son played basketball at one of the big high schools in town, he was a star. I did not like him, he was arrogant and he was mean spirited although he was strapping and handsome. My mother thought he was a good match. She dolled me up and I sat and waited for him to arrive and take me to the dance. Well, he was so angry for being forced to take me out that he treated me like a booger the entire ride. It was "stupid girl this, stupid girl that." I cringed against the door of the car, my heart beating so hard I wanted to climb out the window and run home. His friend was with him in the car, and laughed each time he flung an insulting epithet at me. When we got to the dance I was unceremoniously deposited at a table that I quickly noted was full of rejects. I was at home. After downing a number of watery cokes with no ice, and pretending to be content sitting with a bunch of nerdy girls, and one too many trips with the group to the bathroom, I went to look for him, I wanted to go home. The dance floor was a mass of churning bodies, and it was dark. When my eyes adjusted to the dark I saw him off in a corner with his friends, all basketball players surrounded by a pack of white girls. They laughed gaily and touched and teased one another. I made my way through the crowd and sidled up to him like a puppy and tugged on his sleeve. I can't describe the scornful look he gave me as I stood there. "I want to go home" I said to him. He frowned at me and said, "then go home then you stupid girl."
I was stung, I was mortified. I could hear them all laughing at me. I turned and walked away. I didn't know how I would get home. I had no clue. I went back to the table of rejects and thankfully one of their mothers arrived to take several of them home. I begged for a ride and explained what had happened. The mother was disgusted, she said a date should never do that. I learned one thing that night if nothing else. Always have an alternative way home. I had my emergency dime, but I was too ashamed to call home to let my mom or brothers know what had happened, better I just show up at the front door and call it a night. I guess I got into this entire story only to illustrate that at a very formative time in my life as a woman, black men made themselves absent. In fact I thought they found me "undesirable" and "disgusting."
After college I met and married a man who was not black. Perhaps the rejection in my fragile youth was still stinging in my heart, but more likely it was just timing and geography. He was there, I was there. In retrospect it takes a special person, or people to make love across color lines work. Past hurts, slights, anything negative can effect outcome. Is inter racial love indulgence and selfishness? I don't think so, I think it can be courageous and very real. My demons perhaps still dance in the moonlight, but my brain is free and that's the better and more trustworthy part of me.