If given the opportunity to date outside of your race, would you? Just for a moment, escaping your everyday woes in order to “try on” the reality of someone else’s. While the context of this article revolves around concepts of race, simply dating someone different from you can be seen as a form of escapism. Escapism being a temporary removal from one’s own reality and emotional trauma. This thought or idea wasn’t on the forefront of my mind; however, after a series of events and reflection, I couldn’t help but think of dating outside of your race as a form of escapism.
After ending a casual workday watching a movie, Red Sparrow, and talking with my colleague and friend, Lionel, in Union Square, I decided to take the L train to my Brooklyn abode. Spanning the High Line, Union Square, East Village, Williamsburg, Bushwick, and East New York; the L train is one of the most culturally and socioeconomically diverse lines in New York. While sitting on the train, I took a second from daydreaming to Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap to notice a cute Asian guy with Harry Potter-esque glasses sitting across from me to my far left who seemed to be enjoying a conversation with someone. At first, I noticed the impeccable brown brogue shoes, but eventually, I realized that standing in front of the Asian man was a tall, well-dressed Black man with both of his arms extending outward to grip the support bar.
Make no mistake. I am a proud Black man who loves his equally proud Black man. Since the day we made it official, I have envisioned him one day becoming my husband. However, in the brief moment following, I immediately thought back to my experiences in Shanghai, China where I dated a Taiwanese man of about the same age. Still living with his self-made, restaurateur parents, our entire interaction (or situationship) felt easy. I would love to say this ease was due to him being wealthy or because I knew that my time studying abroad in China would eventually come to an end, but the truth is my being a Black man in one of the most populous and homogenous cities in the world dating an Asian guy it had every reason not to be. No arguments, no debating our worth or value, no requirement of time or attention, nothing. What was it about him, about me then that provided the groundwork for this happening?
Transitioning to my time studying abroad the following semester in Cape Town, South Africa, I reflected on the two young men I dated while there: the first one’s ethnicity was Cape Malay – that is, of South African and Maritime Southeast Asian descent – and the other was Zulu (of Bantu origin, the largest ethnic group in South Africa). When dating the first guy, the aforementioned ease from my situationship in Shanghai carried over into this one. An aspiring filmmaker and model, his Islamic faith would say that his very existence in society held no significance, but with me, he was both alive and Muslim. Contradictory to the first, my interactions with the second guy didn’t carry the same calm. In fact, our relationship was fiery, complicated, and everything but easy, yet I saw him. His mom had “made it” and his hard work in the classroom allowed him to attend University of Cape Town. A stride that would command the attention of Naomi, his high confidence in public would later evolve into vulnerability when we were together.
Had I seen the two before gentlemen? Had they seen me? Maybe we did or didn’t, but at that time, I didn’t want easy. I wanted layered, complex. I wanted not just a partner, but a Black man, to have and to hold. And not only did I “want” it, I felt obligated. Yup, I’m one of those. But it’s far more complex than that because I didn’t know anyone that looked like me, a Black, gay, cis-gendered man, could marry someone of the same identity. I felt and still do feel the need to have what I never saw in hopes that someone much younger than me can know that they can.
Moving onward, in dating an amazing man, I look at the difficulty we face just loving one another. I think about how we have unknowingly and knowingly built the men we are today and us constantly choosing to fight and work for each other’s love, our union. This fight I wouldn’t give up, this fight I want, this fight I crave. However, sitting on the train that day, I stated, if we don’t work, my obligation to Black men would likely fold and I’d date outside of my race. In my mind, that statement means I’d want a break from the traumas that are embedded in our bloodstreams, a break from my coping mechanisms to dealing with gray areas, a break from the constant work.
Which led me to beg the question and asks my friends, “What do you all think about dating outside of your race as a form of escapism?” Simply implying that the action itself allows one to temporarily focus on the “other” not realizing that the escape is not everlasting, thus leaving one to live in the gray, their truth.