Last summer I got kicked out of the Black Club.
I was minding my own business, waiting for my Colombian boyfriend outside the Virgin Megastore in New York City’s Greenwich Village, when a Black man came up and tried to talk to me. I nicely let him know right away that I was not alone. As G. walked over, the guy took in his barely brown skin and kinkless hair and proceeded to tell me what a disgrace of a Black woman I was. As I prayed G. wouldn’t take this opportunity to confront a lunatic, my would-be suitor concluded by telling me I was “officially kicked out of the Black race.”
This was what I had been dreading since G. and I began dating three years ago—the moment a Black man would get in my face for being with someone of a different race. And now it was happening, I couldn’t believe how okay I was. Maybe it was the ludicrousness of being kicked—officially, no less—out of the race. Or maybe it was that I had been prepared.
Over the years, as Black women I knew had broken rank and dated across the racial spectrum, I had heard the stories. There was my friend Lauren who had been spit at by an elderly Black man as she walked by holding the hand of her White husband. An old roommate had been gently informed that what she was doing with her blond-haired boyfriend was “against God and the Bible.” But both of their partners were White, I had always comforted myself, thinking that maybe I could slip under the radar because I was with a brown person, or at least a tan one.
Apparently I was wrong. As curious shoppers wondered what had set this wildly gesticulating man off, a dozen thoughts flew at me. Although the stranger’s outrage was unwarranted, I understood its source. How many times had I glanced sideways at a person walking down the street on the arm of someone of another race, stereotyping them almost instantly? Black guy in a suit plus White woman equaled someone who was climbing the corporate ladder, and she was another sign of his success. Asian woman plus White man meant he was her sugar daddy. Artsy-looking Black guy with White girl meant he was an Afroed or dreadlocked sham.
What did I look like to people, I wondered? With my locks and Uggs and vintage Louis Vuitton purse and a Latino at my side, did I come across as a Sex and the City–poetry-house hybrid who might fit in better on the streets of Minneapolis or San Francisco, places I’ve been told it’s hard to find a same-race couple? Or did I look as if I’d had enough, been dogged by more than my share of Black men, and decided it was time to be adored by someone who thought women my hue were wise, beautiful, enchanting and deep?