How Dating Interracially Helped Me Embrace My Black Womanhood

by Denise McQueen When I was 10 years old, I had the biggest crush on my best friend at the time. He was a little black boy named Richard...

by Denise McQueen

When I was 10 years old, I had the biggest crush on my best friend at the time. He was a little black boy named Richard, whom all the girls at my elementary school adored. One day, I brought in an old picture of me from first or second grade, for some type of school project. Richard looked back and forth between me and the picture a couple of times. Finally he said, “You’re darker now. You should have stayed the way you were before. You looked better like that.”

At the time, what he said didn’t really register. I just thought he was being an ass. But then I realized that he truly believed being light skinned meant you were more beautiful. At that moment, the term “uncomfortable in my own skin,” took on a whole new meaning.

Fast forward to today. I have since “liked” and dated men of different races. Despite Richard's hurtful words, I never held a grudge against him or other black men. Matter of fact, I even dated Richard briefly at the end of high school (A long story for a different day. I’ll need some wine for that.)
I’ve been going strong for a year with my current boyfriend, who is one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met. He also happens to be white. I love people of all races. You’d think that would be a good thing, but to some, not so much. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had people (mostly in my own family) joke about how I would be the one “mostly likely to marry a white man," disregarding the fact that my momma raised me to see what’s in a man’s heart, not how much melanin he has.

If every little black girl had someone like Richard tell her that she wasn’t pretty because of her skin, how could we expect her to be comfortable with herself and ANY man, no matter what his race may be?

I think that there is some type of misconception with a lot of people. They think that by dating outside your race, you are losing yourself or your “blackness.” That’s not the case. If anything, you discover MORE about who you are and where you stand in this world.

For the longest time, I hated my natural hair. I thought it was difficult to manage, too kinky, too everything. That’s part of the reason why I spent most of my life with a perm. I did braids on and off, and then a weave when I went to college, but I never wanted to embrace my hair’s natural state. It wasn’t until I met my current boyfriend and I moved to New York that I even considered going natural.

It was a mix between his advocacy and all of the beautiful styles of natural black women I saw in New York—and in my own mother—that made me finally give in. Instead of ‘kinky,” I now think of my hair as “fluffy” (my boyfriend's word). Instead of dreading coming home and “dealing” with my hair, I now look forward to experimenting with different styles for the next day. (Shout out to mom for sending me all those fabulous YouTube hair videos.)

To clarify, I've always loved myself, blackness and all.
At times, I doubted myself, just like everyone does at some point or another, and I can’t blame anyone else for that. My insecurities are my own. What insecurities I had then are minimal, if not nonexistent now. I know this is partly due to me growing up and maturing, but it is also because I have supportive people in my life, telling me that I’m beautiful, telling me that it’s OK to me. (I may be 22, but I still need those affirmations every once in a while.)

I don’t think of myself as “being with a white man.” I think of myself as being with a man that challenges my mind, respects my body, and embraces my spirit. I’m with someone who protects me, yet makes me feel free. I’m not expected to look a certain way or behave a certain way when I'm with him. I’m just expected to be the way God created me to be.

I guess what it comes to is that any man of any race can tear you down. So when you find the one that holds you up, you can’t let him go.

Photo: Shutterstock

Denise is a first time contributor to For Harriet

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