As they sometimes say: The struggle is real. In this case, the struggle of being a Black woman trying to find love or at least the seeds of it in the dating pool. I have been on BLK, Bumble, Coffee & Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, and Zoosk. Fifteen to 30 ...

 

Black Girl in Maine - 5 new articles



Looking for Black love in a sea of white apps

As they sometimes say: The struggle is real.

In this case, the struggle of being a Black woman trying to find love or at least the seeds of it in the dating pool.

I have been on BLK, Bumble, Coffee & Bagel, Hinge, Tinder, and Zoosk. Fifteen to 30 minutes for a daytime date, for tea/coffee, errands, or a walk around Portland. My profile descriptions are honest and brief and my photos are full of smiles and fun adventures. No group photos and mostly full-body pictures. I give depth and substance, always hoping for the best. Turns out men—white and people of color—are more interested in drinking and going back to mine or their place for sex than they are in my name, let alone my career or hobbies. Even as a self-proclaimed commitment-phobic non-platonic dating partner it’s been a bit much. If their misogyny isn’t suffocating me, their fragility or insecurities aren’t drowning me, then their lack of emotional stability generally seals the deal and ends the date abruptly.

I had been in a relationship not that long ago, so how did I get here? Maybe that’s the place to start.

On June 1, 2017, I became single after 17 months of dating a mixed-race, light-skinned fuckboy who was born in Maine and “raised” by his white mother. According to urban dictionary a fuckboy is the type of guy who does shit that generally pisses the population of the earth off all the time. The woman, also mixed race, who was sleeping with him contacted me that morning at 9:51 a.m. to apologize for being caught. I didn’t know what she was talking about. Turns out the cheating hussy’s friend sent me a message the day before, on Facebook messenger, telling me that the hussy and my then scum boyfriend had been sleeping together for more than three months. She said neither of them would tell me the truth and she could see I was a good person and didn’t deserve this treatment, so she needed to tell me. She even sent me a photo of the two of them from earlier that week, half dressed in his bed, as proof. I felt immediate respect for this stranger I would never meet in person.

Once the truth was out, the other woman couldn’t help herself. Her guilt and shame came pouring out with no immediate end in sight. She spent the next 24 hours spilling everything she could as I asked all the strategic questions I could think of. I wanted desperately to put some pieces together for myself about the last few months and our fuckboy’s odd behaviors. She was so eager to be seen by someone, her fingers did all the talking.

Other Woman: I’m sorry for what my friend sent. Never meant to hurt you. She said she sent you a message on Facebook? I’m sorry René. (I was in shock at first. I called him immediately to find out what on earth was happening. He was at work, no answer. Several moments later he called back and of course had all the answers ready for my interrogation.)

Cheating Ex Slimeball: You drove me into her arms, you became emotionally unavailable to me. When you decided you didn’t want to have children with me, marry me, or move in to my apartment I realized we wanted different things.

Other Woman: He told me to be patient but then I saw he wasn’t doing anything about it or talking to you. I didn’t want to be the other woman and I didn’t think it was fair to you. I struggled to tell you. I vented to my friend and she took it upon herself.

I had felt something was wrong for weeks before that day. In fact, 10 days before this incident I had even asked my then douchebag partner if there was something he wanted to tell me—anything would be fine so long as he was honest with me. I made it clear I could feel a change in “us,” and that I wanted to fix it. He denied my concerns and told me it was my fault I was feeling this shift. That I was dragging past relationships into this relationship and not giving him a fair shot.

I believed him, internalized it and thought nothing about him mentioning T.K. (aka “other woman”) more often. So much for slowly building a friendship with her over the last year. Needless to say, after I found out, I was beside myself. I informed all the people in my life that needed to know, got super drunk and high and I went to sleep that night wishing so much harm on him as I played all the possible moments of dishonesty in my head and heart over and over again. After about 48 hours I was a new woman. I was ready to get back on that dating wagon.

However, I was at my summer job in the Western foothills of Maine, so dating was on hold until I got back to Portland, the most culturally diverse place in Maine before Lewiston. Starting in early October I began dating again, an average of two dates a week. I know well that dating is a numbers game and it is rigged against me and women who look like me, so I let go of all my neurotic planning methods and tendencies and said “yes” to almost every date offered.

And as I said at the beginning of this piece, the dating hasn’t gone well and trying to find a Black man or any man of color has gone even more poorly.

I started talking to other women of color about their dating experiences and found the more I talk to my Black female friends—not just in Maine or New England but all over the country—the more I hear them saying they are having difficulties finding a partner, especially if they’re Black, and especially if they want marriage—in a way that our white friends aren’t struggling so much. I am constantly questioning my worth in the dating world in a way I don’t question my worth anywhere else.

In a country where Black men are roughly seven times more likely to be killed than Black women and Black men are twice as likely as Black women to seek marriage outside of their race, the reality of my choices feels so slim. OkCupid statistics reveal that Black women are the least desirable demographic in the dating pool, next to Asian men.

I have been on over 50 first dates since October; only two have been men of color and all of them have been in Maine. I am realizing I want to find a Black man who wants to love me and is worthy of my love. I am not completely convinced I have to leave Maine to find this, but with each new app or new unsuccessful date I am losing hope.


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Choosing sides

I can feel it. Every time I walk into a place and there are no other people of color, I can feel it all. I can feel the white paranoia. I can feel their dread. Sometimes I can feel their support. Sometimes I can even feel their indifference, which, you know, is ideal.

It didn’t used to be this way for me.

Of course, just being a Black man has always been a political statement in this country, but now it feels like that statement—that I’m not even deliberately making—is getting louder and louder.

Now, a long time ago people chose sides. One of those sides was pro-slavery. Then, as things began to change, it became pro-Jim Crow. Then pro-segregation. But, really it was just always anti-Black.

Along the way, as that side expanded, it also became anti-immigration and anti-women and anti-gay and on and on.

Now, look. I’m not saying that these ideas are exclusive to one side. They absolutely are not. But what I am saying is that one side has defined themselves by these ideas. These ideas are completely integral to the identity of people on that side.

And “our” side can’t be wrong.

And support the team like you’re on the team.

And you’re either with us or against us.

This means there are some people for whom my race and therefore my very existence challenges their chosen identity—but they don’t think of their identities as chosen. To them, their identities are deep and undeniable truths. They’re sacred and completely personal like a kind of spiritual DNA. For them, all it takes is one glance of my brown skin to see me as an enemy to all they hold dear.

And so, it’s true that if you’re black the authorities will be called on you for moving into your apartment or moving out of an Airbnb or golfing or barbecuing (which lead to the funniest thing on the internet ever, BTW, including my favorite.) or sitting at Starbucks or being at the gym or taking your child to the park or taking a fucking nap or just doing your goddamn job, but that’s nothing new.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black man selling CDs.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black man who man dares shop at Walmart.

We’ve all seen what happens when the authorities are called on a Black child who, like every single boy in this country, dares play with a toy gun.

We know what happens. We all know. Some of us like to think it’s getting better, but deep down we all know it’s only getting more complicated.

My father grew up in a time in which any white person in America could just kill any Black person and fully expect to get away with it. Nowadays, any white person in America can still kill any Black person and fully expect to get away with it. It just doesn’t immediately seem that way because they have to take the extra step of calling in the police to get it done. Sometimes.

I don’t want to overplay the idea that complexity is what is keeping us from moving forward. I don’t think that’s always the case. There are plenty of complexities that we all deal with every day and have absolutely no problem accepting.

The truth is, to many of us, the side we’ve chosen is vastly more important than anything else in our lives. Often we only point to the complexities as a means of playing dumb or as an excuse to stay on the side we’ve chosen.

It is understood that it doesn’t matter how moral many of us claim to be. It doesn’t matter what evil is done in our name. Some of us will proudly justify the most unspeakable crimes as long as they’ve been committed in the name of the team.

And right here, right now all the hate groups are on one team and that team is embracing them and the obvious thing is happening.

And I can feel it. Every time I walk into a place and there are no other people of color, I can feel it all. I can feel the white paranoia. I can feel their dread. Sometimes I can feel their support. Sometimes I can even feel their indifference.

Can you?


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“This is America” really IS America, and that’s a shame

It look less than 3.4789 seconds for folks to lose their collective minds over Donald Glover’s (AKA, Childish Gambino) “This is America” music video. Let’s all forgive his misogynistic and other questionable ways and bask in the glory of this latest piece of black trauma porn made for white folks, by Black folks. Its “Formation” reborn with all the articles and videos dedicated to breaking down every little facial expression and every single dance move contained in all 2 minutes 39 seconds of it. White women set a record and gentrified the hell out of it within seven days. It’s obvious the perpetrator, Nicole Arbour, has no Black friends…or, she has Black friends like Donald Glover who happily allow her to use racial slurs in their presence.

This is too much to break down, y’all. So, so many layers and I haven’t been this conflicted since Trump voters found out that the Affordable Care Care act they loved and used was actually the Obamacare they had been convinced they hated and realized that Trump planned to burn their shit to the ground.

Let’s start with Childish “I get off when women who are not Black call me nigger” Gambino. We can save his report of dating “the Black women of different races” later, let’s use our time to talk about this trauma porn.

One of the worst parts of violence against Black folks is that it is well documented. And, we’re not even talking about recently with camera phones. Going back to Jim Crow, white folks took a liking to photographing Black bodies hanging from trees. It wasn’t unusual to see a crowd of smiling men (wives and children) included in these photographs.  They enjoy seeing us abused and have for a very, very long time. If images of Black bodies being abused was going to change society, violence against us would have came to a halt even before Emmet Till’s life got cut short by Carolyn Bryant, who is still living today. All the “This is America” video did was give white folks some more violence to be entertained by. I get what he was trying to say, but he didn’t have to gun down the choir to do it.

Next, we talk about how colonizers stay colonizing. Nicole Arbour almost can’t be blamed for gentrifying “This is America” when we are fresh off of Taylor Swift gentrifying “September.” It’s not her video that you should be giving the side-eye to; it’s the intention behind it.

The problem with the white feminism movement is this idea that sexism is as bad or worse than racism (even though white women, for all that they deal with, still have more social and economic privilege than Black people because of their whiteness). They often claim that they understand racism because they have experienced sexism. It’s not unusual for them to dismiss their own racial biases by using a “but, what about sexism” approach. Nicole’s colonization of “This is America” was a little bit of all those points mixed together with some horseradish and raisins. Not only did she miss the point of subtlety, but she also derailed a conversation about violence against Black people to complain about how she is expected to look pretty. And the bih can’t rap or dance.

All that aside, I wonder if Donald Glover would consider Nicole to be one of the “Black women of other races” he’s mentioned? If he did, wouldn’t that mean her calling him a “nigga” would give him one of the best orgasms of his life? And if that happened, wouldn’t we just be wasting our time even talking about this? Sounds like he would probably like her attempt at reminding the world that white women are oppressed, too.


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If you are a witness to injustice, will you intervene?

Preparing to write this piece, I started with the suggestion that I address current events, such as the wrongful arrest of two men in a Starbucks for the crime of sitting in a Starbucks. Of course, identifying an event for discussion where people of color are treated like garbage in public doesn’t require digging. Here’s an example, here’s another example, and here’s another one. So many of us want to end this violence; so many want to make a difference. What can we do?

That people of color have been treated as second-class citizens, as criminals, and as less than human has been true since Europeans took over the land where the United States exists today. People of color know the truth; they live it every day. White people facing the truth comes in waves. We all know something about the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s. We know about Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the bus (not all of us know about Claudette Colvin, now only 78 years old, who took action before Rosa Parks). But even in this age of phones recording video and social media sharing the stories, many people consider each of the stories of violence against people of color as isolated incidents. They aren’t. They are a part of a system of oppression many call “whiteness.”

So, the first step for many of us in changing our system of racism is to recognize it is a system. It isn’t just some bad apples. It isn’t isolated incidents with incident-specific explanations. The mistreatment of people of color—and all people who don’t fit whiteness’ defined default—is, as they say, not a “bug” in the design. It’s a feature. It is part of what makes our systems work. It helps to recognize each of these incidents as parts of a larger system when we consider what we might do to work for change.

We want to believe if we saw Rosa Parks (or Claudette Colvin) being told to move to the back of the bus we would’ve stood up and told the racists to leave her alone. But, moving from being a bystander to someone who intervenes when you are a witness to injustice requires preparation. It requires education and practice.

Understanding and correcting our own implicit biases honestly and deeply is an essential step in being of service if you are a witness to injustice. If at any level of your being you think “they must’ve done something wrong if they are being treated badly” because of how someone presents themselves, you will be less likely to get involved. How do you understand and rid yourself of implicit bias? There are many, many resources available online (some to connect you to offline resources). Here are a few: 4 Things We Can Do to Minimize Implicit Bias; Four Tools for Interrupting Implicit Bias; or, How to Fight Your Own Implicit Biases.

Learn about the “bystander effect.” Know that being in a larger group of people will make it less comfortable to get involved if you are a witness. There are tools online and in your community to learn how to overcome this and other obstacles. Googling “bystander intervention” is a good start. Hollaback! offers webinars and their website has excellent, practical resources.

Talking to my friends from marginalized backgrounds confirms what I’ve learned online: one of the most important steps to actively and visibly take a stand against harassment or mistreatment of others in public settings is to make contact with the person who is the target. Follow their lead. Do they want your involvement? Perhaps your involvement might make things worse for them. But making contact, human to human, can make a difference.

Find opportunities to practice intervening. Again, Google and other search engines are our friends. Local nonprofit organizations certainly offer trainings that can help. It’s been my experience that until we risk saying something stupid and actually say something, we will remain silent—and ineffectual. We can’t let our fear of making mistakes prevent us from trying to affect change in ourselves or the wider world. We will make mistakes. But if you see someone being treated badly, don’t be the person who tries to ignore it. If you do not let the person being mistreated know you are on their side, you will be on the side of the perpetrator.


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The remedial class

You step into class the first day all excited and shit. At least, this is how my college career started. By day two, I was bored. People where asking questions I felt like they should already know the answers to. Every lecture was filled with old information (to me). People were panicking for tests I didn’t even need to look at the book to get an ‘A’ on. Pass me a glass and a whole bottle of wine…this is going to be a long four years!

This is what Black folks feel like when white people come around asking basic questions ‘bout racism. I’ll be honest, sometimes I roll my eyes at the computer screen. Occasionally, I will ignore an email because “you should know betta.” I will complain about it to my husband later. I will laugh about it when nobody is around. Same college shit, different classroom.

Ignorance is not always bliss. We are in the age of information where you have a wealth of resources about racism available to you all for five easy payments of FREE. Google is having a sale next weekend! However, the kind soul that exist somewhere in me feels the need to help a bit, so…if you’re having trouble as a white person, here is where you start.

Start by realizing that you were raised to be racist. If you are in your 30s like me, and especially if you were born in the South, your parents went to segregated schools. Your parents got to use the “whites only” water fountains. No, they did not have some sort of marvelous epiphany that their way of life way wrong. Children are smart, and all children enjoy special treatment. They were smart enough to understand their place in society as white people and typical enough to enjoy it. Your grandparents didn’t like MLK either: white people didn’t really like him until the late ‘80s and that’s because they had no choice in the matter. When Black folks started getting a little loud about injustice, the white people decided to hail MLK as the negro that did it the right way by using non-violence. All of this means your upbringing was no different from anyone else’s. Nobody taught you to be “colorblind”—they just taught you to control your prejudice in public spaces. I hope you read that sentence again. All these public acts of hate you are seeing lately have always been there…they even exist in you. The difference is that now society feels bold enough to bring it to the forefront. Before recently, white folks just did things like view Black girls as needing less protection than white girls and quietly called the cops on Black people existing. This isn’t new…it’s just being recorded now.

Realize that racism is not limited to just the South and a particular political affiliation. Oregon, for a while, banned Black folks from existing in their state. Chicago was one of the worst areas in the country for redlining. Rodney King. Gentrification. There is heavy racism on all sides of the political spectrum. Yes, President Barak Obama got called everything under the sun by Republicans, but don’t forget that dumb shit Joe Biden said about the man. Wherever white people exist, white supremacy exist.

You have benefited from white supremacy your entire life. From the time you were born and you and your mother survived the ordeal, you have benefited. Even if you were poor, you were poor and still lived in white neighborhood and thereby benefited from the better schools often found in more affluent white areas. See, when affluent Black folks move in, white flight begins. However, rich white people don’t mind trailer parks outside of their subdivisions. There is one outside of mine right this moment. Your name gave you privilege. Being able to see yourself in advertisements and movies as the hero, was a privilege. Being able to buy “nude” anything….is a privilege. This could go on. Whether you consciously knew about it or whether you wanted to, you benefited from being white. Today, you are reaping the benefits of being white. Tomorrow you will reap the benefits of being white. Your children will inherit these privileges. You need to sit with that thought and get used to it because it won’t change until a bunch of you all get together and change it.

Now, I know that took on a bit of a serious tone and I’m even shocked with myself right now. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe it’s all these clothes I have to wash today. Maybe, it’s because I had Korean potato salad last night and I was shocked that it was better than Karen’s shit. It had a few extra things in there, but nothing that didn’t go well together. I mean, I didn’t taste any horseradish or raisins. It was pretty good.

Or, maybe it’s because I finally realized that the Irish were slaves, too (um…kinda) and I gotta start being nicer to some of you. I can’t tell who’s Irish and who isn’t, though.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash