I’m a Black woman. Like every Black woman I have had a very interesting, exhausting journey in finding and understanding my Black. I’ve had many challenging moments in my discovery of what being Black means, how it looks on me, and how other people view my blackness. I’ve been dating a white man for about eleven months. He’s not the first white man I’ve dated but I am most definitely the first Black woman he’s ever dated.
One night we walked to the beach next to his house for a relaxing, romantic moment together. In all of the times I’ve gone to visit him I’ve only ever seen one other Black person. Tonight was no exception so nothing was strange; until a car pulled up a couple hundred feet in front of us. They were too far away and it was too dark for me to see what they were actually doing but it looked as if they were taking a photo of us –this interracial couple sitting on a bench at the beach, minding their own business. I said out loud, “What are they doing?” to which my date responded by kind of brushing it off, not knowing that I was actually getting very concerned by this. These two white people sat in the car, seemingly staring at us, for what was for me an uncomfortably long time.
Finally, they started to drive away and I eased a bit. But they didn’t go far. They parked near the water but didn’t get out of the car. As I’m on high alert, a truck pulls up next to this car. They appear to converse with each other through their car windows. This was the longest four minutes of my life. I’m holding my breath, I’m tense, I’m trying to figure out my defensive plan, I’m sitting in silent terror. All the while, my date is right next to me completely unaware that I’m petrified thinking that I’m about to be assaulted because I am a Black woman sitting with a white man in a clearly more than platonic way.
The moment I’ve been dreading is here. The doors open and they all get out. I hold my breath, heart racing. Then I see two kids get out of the backseat, then a tackle box, then fishing rods, and finally a dog. It’s just a fun family and friends’ night fishing excursion, not an attack. I laid my head on his shoulder and began to cry silently for a few minutes. Not because I was so scared or so relieved, but because there was a time not so long ago that Black people in our country lived in this exact fear every day of their lives. What I experienced for twelve minutes was their normal life. Would this be the day my father/brother/husband/son doesn’t come home because they were hung for looking in the direction of a white woman? Would this be the day cops raid my home, take my mother/sister/wife/daughter away for a crime she had nothing to do with?
It was because of those who came before me that I don’t have to live in this constant fear. I cried because I couldn’t bear the thought that this was how my great grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, etc. lived. I cried for them. I cried for their friends, their families, and the strangers with whom they shared silent glances of understanding, solidarity, and comfort. I cried for those times. I cried because, at 27 years old, I felt that fear for the first time. I cried because it is clear those times are back.
My date that night, who I’m still with, has no idea I went through all of that. He has no idea that just a handful of weeks ago I thought I was going to be harmed for simply being next to him. He probably doesn’t even remember that night. I wanted to tell him. He makes me feel safe and comforted but I knew he wouldn’t really understand it the way I needed him to. I knew he’d try, though, and perhaps I’m in the wrong for not giving him that opportunity.
Earlier I mentioned that it was obvious that I’m the first Black woman he’s ever dated. Lately when we go out he makes a point to tell me that I’m the only Black person in the bar or that we’re one of only two interracial couples in the restaurant. There are many reasons that this bothers me but my biggest thing is this: you don’t think I already know that? You don’t think that based on the name of this place and its location that I don’t already know I’m going to be the only Black person inside? I’ve been Black my entire life. I’ve been the only or one of the few Black people in countless scenarios. I don’t need you to tell me I’m the minority, I’m alone, or in some cases unwelcomed. This is a constant reality of my life. By the time you find the words to say “there aren’t any other Black people here” I’ve already guessed that, proven it, processed the fact, surveyed for any potential threats, and moved on.
Men love to explain things but this isn’t something I need explained to me. I get it. I’m Black. I’m ok with that. I celebrate that. Are you uncomfortable? Are you trying to transpose your discomfort to me? Because it won’t work. I dealt with that a long time ago. I was so angry at him, and have been for a while. But I recently realized something. He’s not the first white man I’ve dated. But let me think about the first. How did I feel when we went out in public? I was so aware of our couple make up and of the people around us. I used to look around for other people like us. I wanted to see other interracial couples, specifically other Black women with white men. I needed to see that I wasn’t the only one. I needed that validation. I needed to know that it was ok, that I wasn’t wrong. I would seek it out and comment on it too. That’s what he’s doing. I’m his first. He’s going through the same process I once did. Be patient, sis. Be patient. He’s clearly trying and it means so very much to me. He’s not afraid to acknowledge race in a world where so many people are. He’s one of the good ones. One of the few who makes me feel good and unashamed.
I remember when I knew I was Black –when I discovered and became truly aware that I was Black. I remember being ashamed of it, wanting to hide it, wanting to be something or someone else. I remember learning that Black doesn’t look the same on everyone or to everyone. I remember accepting that I’m Black. And, most recently, I remember wanting to constantly and loudly celebrate my being Black. I’ve found places and people in this world that see me as a human and not just as a race. I’ve found places where I feel comfortable and people with whom I feel safe. All of this has taken me a really long time. It has been a journey overcoming where I grew up. There, Black was a specific, singular thing and I was an anomaly. I did well in school, spoke eloquently, and cared about my career goals. I was seen as someone who turned my back on the Black population back home because my Black looked different.
I left home to go to college, intent on leaving my blackness behind or at the very least hiding it. But once I was there I saw Black on others that looked like my Black. I saw Black that looked different from each other’s and mine. It was all so different, unique, and beautiful. But it was all still Black. Just because I didn’t fit a certain mold it didn’t mean I wasn’t Black. I finally realized that I wasn’t doing “Black” wrong. I was just doing my “Black.” And that was perfectly right.
I get it. I’m Black. And at long last, I’m proud.
Candace was born and raised in a small town in Virginia and moved to Boston in 2016 to work full time for an education non profit. She is an actor who enjoys performing, creating, and writing. Being an artist, Candace knew staying in her small town was not an option and has since lived in a number of great cities discovering her passions and acting on her desires.