If you are a white woman dating a black guy, there is a whole new world you need to navigate and understand. How well you do this could make or break the relationship.
If you are dating someone black for the first time, you will need to check your bias and white privilege – probably on a daily basis.
It’s not just that you two are different, but that how people treat you is also different, whether you acknowledge that or not. Being in an interracial relationship comes with quite a few lessons about race, about yourself, and about your family and friends.
The first thing about your interracial relationship comes with its novelty. If you’ve never dated a black guy before, consider what that means for you. How comfortable are you being with him? How much effort are you willing to put into understanding him and his culture?
It all starts with being open to learning, being vulnerable, and checking yourself. Are you doing enough to truly understand your boyfriend and his world?
Here are 15 things you’ll only understand if your boyfriend is black.
1. You have to be ready to talk about race
Saying you don’t see color can be an issue. Pretending that there is no difference between a white person and a black person just isn’t helpful. You’ve got to be ready to talk about race and understand your boyfriend’s experience.
Colorblindness just ignores the role that race plays in life and society and sweeps under the carpet issues regarding unequal treatment and opportunities that people of color face each day.
If your black boyfriend needs to talk about white supremacy and that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t shut him down. In fact, you should be feeling uncomfortable. There is so much history of white superiority and you can’t just close your eyes to it.
It starts with recognizing that you being white plays a huge part in how people perceive and treat you – both socially and interpersonally. The same goes for your boyfriend.
You are in a position of strength. You’ve been born into privilege just because you’re white. Don’t forget that.
2. He might be feeling a bit insecure
If you only ever dated white men, your black boyfriend might be wondering why the sudden change. He might feel a bit insecure about whether you actually like him or you’re just trying something new.
He will notice when white guys chat you up. Don’t give him reasons to be jealous.
3. Your parents might be intimidating
If your parents are used to you only dating white guys, meeting your boyfriend for the first time might be a lot for them. Not only is he different from everyone else you’ve ever introduced them to, but he may even sound different. Culturally – he may be a lot different from you.
Even if your parents are perfectly polite, they might come across as either trying too hard or being a bit intimidating.
4. Some things you just won’t get
Don’t get annoyed at your boyfriend if he says: “You just don’t get it.” Chances are, most of the time, you won’t get it. Things like:
- A taxi might not stop for him when he hails it
- Some bouncers in restaurants might look down on him
- Your white friend might make offensive jokes
- You could be saying things that sound like white privilege and not even noticing
Sometimes you just have to step back and understand that your whiteness might feel intrusive and that he needs a safe space to express his feelings – and that might mean not with you.
5. He might not want to show you off…yet
If your boyfriend is dating a white girl for the first time, he might have some “coming out” to do – to his friends, family, and community. It’s not as easy as you think, so don’t take it personally if he’s not ready to introduce you to his family just yet.
6. He has to work twice as hard to get half the recognition
There’s a saying that people of color have to work twice as hard to get half of what white people get just for being born white. You’ll soon find that your boyfriend might be getting overlooked at work or school.
He might not get the promotion he deserves because of his race. He might be paid less money than his white peers, which will affect his confidence. He might be haunted by failure and the feeling that he’s not worthy.
Studies show that black men face high discrimination and depression, even when their education and income rise. So, if your boyfriend is doing well financially, that doesn’t automatically erase all the issues he has to deal with.
7. Black men are not what the media portrays them to be
Let go of anything you think you know about black culture and black men in particular and get to know the human being in front of you. Give him a chance to show you who he truly is.
Stay clear of reading mainstream news about troubled black people and what the media is constantly pushing your way.
8. People will tell you this won’t work
The truth is, no matter how great your relationship is, there will always be people who will insist that it just won’t work. These people are not necessarily racist, but they might just be very outspoken.
Some people out there will have had their own share of interracial dating that didn’t work out. That’s okay – not all dating leads to marriage and being together forever.
You’ve got to learn how to cope with the haters. If the foundation of your relationship is rock solid, you’ve got little to worry about. But if you yourself feel that this is a stretch, then maybe the haters have a point after all.
9. People say racist stuff all the time
Before dating your black boyfriend you probably didn’t notice all the racist things people say, but now that you’re with him, you will have a much better understanding of how common it is.
This is especially true if your friends say something racist and make it sound like it’s totally normal. You need to speak up. Normalizing racist jokes or commentaries just isn’t cool, especially for those on the receiving end.
It’s also important to realize that sometimes speaking up might actually offend your boyfriend. He could find it patronizing for you to be defending him and fighting his battles, especially as someone from a different race.
10. You should be educating yourself
When dating a black guy, you have to do your homework. That means reading books and watching movies that can open your eyes to the differences between you and how you take your privilege for granted.
Some good books about race include:
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race
- Girl, Woman, Other
- Don’t Touch My Hair
Some great movies tackling the topic of race include:
- Hidden Figures
- The Hate U Give
- If Beale Street Could Talk
- 12 Years a Slave
- Green Book
11. Check your biases
If you are dating your boyfriend because you wanted to be with someone “exotic”, that’s a bias. You can’t seek out a specific identity to date – that’s objectifying them and tokenizing them.
It goes without saying that making assumptions about black guys and how sexual or well-endowed they are is so deeply embedded in the white race and that it’s offensive.
If you are in an interracial relationship, don’t automatically expect your partner to educate you on their culture. You have to educate yourself and be open to it. Your education is no one else’s responsibility.
12. You need to learn to listen
When your boyfriend is sharing his experience with race, don’t dismiss it just because you haven’t observed it or you don’t understand it. You shouldn’t be playing devil’s advocate in order to “defend” your race.
If you say things like:
Maybe they didn’t mean it.
I think you might be overreacting.
Well, I don’t see it that way.
It means you are dismissing his point. You should respond with:
What can I do to help?
How can I be better at spotting discrimination or offensive language?
I am sorry you were treated that way.
The intimacy you have to build with a black boyfriend won’t be all rainbows and hearts. It might be a little uncomfortable, new, and scary. And that’s okay.
13. You learn a lot when you travel together
Traveling with your black boyfriend will open your eyes to a few things that might be really uncomfortable. It could be as simple as how you probably fly through the airport security as a white woman, while your boyfriend usually gets his bag checked and spends longer at security.
It could also be the looks he gets in another country, especially if it’s predominantly white. Your boyfriend might be the only black person at a wedding abroad, too. You will start to notice these things and see things through his eyes a lot.
Keep in mind that people in other countries may never have seen a black person. Depending on their own experience with people of color, they might be a lot less tolerant.
14. Black lives (and love) matter
You can’t date a black guy and not be aware of everything they’ve been fighting for in the past few years. If he wants to go to a protest, support him. If he needs to spend time with people and talk about everything that’s going on, give him the space to do that.
Black lives matter in society, and everything else about them matters too – including who they choose to love.
15. You can’t love someone but not love their race
An interracial relationship can be one of the most positive relationships you can have because it requires you to learn the most and grow the most.
At the end of the day – you can’t love someone but love their race. In order to have a healthy relationship, you need to be unafraid to open up and embrace your vulnerability.
You can’t lash out and defend yourself or retreat into a shell every time you make a mistake. Cut yourself some slack. You might say the wrong thing once in a while, you might make a joke in poor taste, but if your boyfriend loves you, he will help you learn and grow.
When you want a long-term relationship with a black guy, you need to start acting like you are a team. That means being able to deal with the criticism, the looks, the comments, the hurt that comes from racism. You will inevitably experience that.
Race is a complex thing. You can’t assume that a person from another race will ever know how you perceive the world and vice versa. All you can do is:
- Seek to understand
- Admit when you are being biased (especially to yourself)
- Watch your humor
- Appreciate differences rather than be intimidated by them
At the end of the day, we are all the same race – the human race. You’ve got to remind yourself (and your boyfriend) that you’re more alike than different. You can choose to focus on the differences and the things that divide you, or to focus on the similarities and what unites you.