A disclaimer from the Author: The views below are my own reflections on a horrific crisis that has claimed far too much. My hope is that this situation de-escalates as quickly as possible, and that we actually learn from the lessons of today. My heart goes out to all parties in Ferguson, Missouri – and especially the families of those we have lost.
I woke up a few days ago, much like any other day.
I strolled into work, and opened up CMB’s trusty Twitter dashboard to monitor all of the social chatter around the seemingly happy topic of online dating. This particular day in the Twitterverse, however, was going to be anything but ordinary. And what transpired has caused me to revisit how I examine my interactions, relationships, and dates with people of a different race.
this was the day Michael Brown, an ordinary unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed.
Darren Wilson, an ordinary – white – policeman.
And the Twitterverse exploded.
Since this crisis began, there has been much talk about the role of race in the situation. Inevitable – but also very warranted given the circumstances. Our nation has a persistent desire to “walk the walk” of racial equality not only in words but in practice – it appears that the crime “Driving While Black” is still very much a crime in this city largely populated with black residents, and only 3/50 police officers identify as a person of color.
And while this blog is not a forum for discussing policy, ethics or race relations – it is a forum to discuss relationships – and what we learn. And race, like it or not, impacts those relationships time and time again.
With that said, I have a confession to make: I’ve exhibited the symptoms of “dating racism.”
You see, it’s not unusual to have a significant bias towards dating people of the same race. As many studies have found, this is a natural and expected social norm – and one that has been engrained in society for some time. Even through the late 1980s, two-thirds of Americans stated that they did not approve of interracial relationships. Measured by this standard, we have come a long way – but perhaps not where it counts.
The Insight I discovered: I had become a dating racist without even knowing it.
I have never dated outside my race (I’m a scrawny white boy). I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a stone’s-throw away from Stanford and the seemingly tranquil bubble of “Peninsula Living” that is ridiculed in many of the shows you may watch about Silicon Valley. My high school had a few kids of color – but it was largely a white student body, with a few students of Hispanic descent.
I didn’t even make my first African American friend until College – and talk about a culture shock, going from the “White Island” of the SF Burbs to West Philadelphia (born and raised, on the playground…forgive me, I can never stop). I consider myself a die-hard social liberal but have never even considered dating a woman of color – and whenever asked what my preferences are, online or otherwise, the image of my future bride is one with my skin tone.
Ferguson has brought out some of the evil in us all – and the underlying racist currents that still move through society. Unfortunately, racism still exists – dating and otherwise. What I learned is to slow down and reflect on past preferences, and ask – am I doing a disservice to others (and myself) by not being open minded?
Every crisis needs to have a learning moment. That one morning, watching #Ferguson flood in, my learning moment was that the closed-mindedness of people can lead to things much worse than a missed relationship – it can cause a community upheaval.
The first step…
With all this said, I vow to be open minded and not require a #Ferguson to question my social code. We are at a learning moment, and perhaps the first step is just reexamining your preferences. Because who knows what beautiful things you will find when you have an open heart (vs. an exclusive outlook) in both your dating and social life. So I vow to take that first step, and I hope you all do too.