I originally wrote this post last year. I can’t find it so I thought I would write it again. For the purpose of this post I use black to refer to people of African and Caribbean descent living in the UK. Now for those who are probably offended by the title of the blog, build a bridge and get over it. Yes someone could have written the same blog and inserted white, brown, yellow, pink but heck this is my blog. To quote Steve Biko “I write what I like”.
A little while back I reflected that in my professional life in the UK most of the black males I know are married to white women. I duly noted that many of my close white female friends are also partnered with black males. My eldest brother is married to a white partner. Almost all major black male (and to be honest female) public figures that I know of in the UK are married to white partners. I notice this more and more when my wife and I are invited to business and gala events that as a general rule we are the exception as a black couple. In and of itself that is not a problem, Love has no colour after all, but it makes me curious as to why this is the case. It is important to note at this point that this blog in no way is meant to denigrate mixed race relationships or the offspring of said relationships. My anecdotal observation stems mostly out of curiosity as to the status quo and also gives me time for self reflection as to why I made the choice I did about my best friend and life time partner.
In writing this I know that there are a number of young men and women in the black community who yearn for a relationship with someone of the same cultural racial grouping. They have asked me and my wife how our relationship works and often lament the lack of other visible black couples who, to quote, exist as role models. To quote a certain young man “Will and Jada Smith don’t count!” Heck it’s an honest question that deserves honest answers and not being hidden under some politically correct or racially over sensitive refusal to address a commonly asked question in network.
My Own Reasons
To be clear although I settled down early I have dated other races. My friendship group and the ladies I have been attracted to in the past have not been limited to by race. Yet I always knew in my heart that the lady I would settle down with would be of a similar heritage and background to me. My mother played a very pivotal part in my understanding of what I expected from a wife. I loved the way my parents would interact with each other in public. With a general audience they would speak the best Queen’s standard English and have these incredibly British airs and graces, but behind close doors and with friends and family they would switch. Code switching in an out of Bajan, Grenadian and Jamaican vernacular without missing a beat. Our culinary experiences shaped across “the stove” of fried dumplins, plaintain and other hard food. Laughing as my Dad would try to cornrow my hair or remembering fondly being able to brush or comb through Mum’s hair after she hot pressed it. These were the templates for me as to the kind of wife and family life I wanted in the future.
Now there are those reading who probably would argue that race should not be the limiter in achieving this. Indeed I would hasten to agree. There are people across racial groups who could provide a similar context. Indeed the issue would probably be more cultural than race. Without a doubt growing up there were girls of African descent who I was attracted to but the schisms and xenophobia between African and Caribbean families was very apparent back in the day. To be honest it still is in some circles but not as much as it used to be. So again the context for me, and my close circle of friends, was that we would settle with a partner which in many ways was a reflection of our own mothers and cultural context. Growing up in what many considered to be a middle class, educationally focused church background also added to that mix.
Nothing Wrong with Preferences
For a while I actually thought there was something wrong with my thinking. I have forever been surrounded by a mix of friends of all cultures and ethnicities growing up. Whether through my schooling or later on in my professional experiences. Yet my focus was dead set on the fact that a black woman would be my choice. I actually noticed that early on in my career that there were very few black women in my professional networks and had it not been for that mindset and I guess that my parents, especially my Dad who was a strong Pan Africanist, maybe my outcome would be different.
Yet one has to be honest about something. The archetype of what beauty and desire is for a woman in the UK/West is usually a blue eyed long haired blond or brunette white woman. They dominate the media in all its forms and shape the way many young women want to model themselves. In many ways such ideals have seeped across cultures whether it is Asian women trying to lighten their skin or be as skinny as such images or African Caribbean woman emulating their flowing hair with weaves and other false hair or the wearing of coloured contacts. If so for women then by the same token one assumes it also will affect men’s preferences too. Broad brush strokes but you get my meaning.
Ironically even my choice of woman came with its own challenges. Some in my community smiled favourably on the fact that she was lighter skinned. Others resented that. Go figure. I look on my own daughters and in conversations with them I wonder if my own reasons for marrying my wife will be echoed. Would they want someone who can code switch between English and Caribbean dialects? Would that even matter? Heck it’s their choice to be honest and I am supportive of any who would be there to love and support them. I would add and have added that dating or marrying across cultures will bring its challenges and they have to deal with that.
It’s a funny thing race. Whilst nothing but a socio-economic construct the affect it has on our thinking, consciously or subsconciously goes further than sometimes we care to admit. I think one should never apologise for the choices they make for their friends or partners. Nothing to apologise for is there. That would be stupid. Yet in my reflection of my own choices I realise race, especially within a cultural context, played a strong role in my decision of a life partner. I bet I am not the only one. Even thought I am probably loud enough to write or speak about it. Interesting isn’t it?