Words by Zanele ChisholmU
pon reading an article on how Black women and Asian men are the least desirable when it comes to dating online, I remember wanting to hold every Black girl in my arms. I felt my heart in my stomach, eating itself with a slow-chew.
Since moving here for university in 2018, I found that Canada seems to be in a crisis of sorts when it comes to confronting the elephant of their own prejudice. Being neighbours with the United States allows for much of Canadian racism to be forgotten in the midst of hypervisible discrimination taking place in the U.S. But Canadians inability to acknowledge the falseness of their reputations as saints seeps into the way Canadians do day-to-day things, like dating.
For me, casual racism in the world of dating often reveals itself through comments about my hair. I remember talking to one guy who always felt the need to make it clear how he preferred my hair. When it was neatly braided and contained, he would compliment me, telling me how amazed he was that my hair could do that. But his discomfort with my natural hair would come through in questions like, “How do you do your hair like that? You really like that style, huh? Why did you take your braids out? How long does this all take?”
When a date asks me what I do, and I tell them I write about Black women, suddenly there are no more questions. Their interest depletes and they retreat away into a quiet discomfort. Yet these are the same individuals who rant to me about marginalized people and how much they care about social justice. These people constantly express their liberalness while maintaining actions that imply a Black woman’s love as lesser than.
I remember talking to one guy who I was particularly excited about. On the first date, we discussed consent, climate change, feminism and white supremacy, all while eating ice cream and walking the streets of Yorkville. I kept wondering what the catch was. Then when the conversation came around to an issue affecting the Black community, it seemed like he was memorizing my answers. Further, he’d speak over me on issues we disagreed on, or phase out once I tried to move the conversation past politics. There were never any questions about my personal life, nothing that could have allowed him to really get to know me.
Our conversation dwindled and then stopped all together maybe four days after our second date. Maybe there was no connection? Maybe he wanted to have a story about going out and hooking up with a Black girl. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve felt like a box to be checked.
There is a fundamental lack of thought and passion invested in loving a Black woman.
rowing up as a Black girl, I invested so much of my self-worth into dreams of being loved. I was afraid of his fingers getting caught in my hair, and what he’d say when they did. I was afraid he’d never call me beautiful and of unrequited love. I was always told of the hard exterior Black women have—I wondered if my skin would grow thick to be like them.
There is a fundamental lack of thought and passion invested in loving a Black woman. This is especially the case for Black women with darker skin, coarser hair, broader noses and bigger lips—women lacking physical features that adhere to popularized, eurocentric beauty norms. The more recognizably Black we are, the more people resist.
For this reason, we’re often depicted as people who have to be cracked like eggs to get to the good stuff. Nothing of their original form is ever good enough. Oftentimes, we’re attracted to people we see ourselves in. But if a partner can’t see themselves in my skin, it leaves me wondering—is my love uncomfortable?
With time, I realized that as a straight-passing, queer Black woman, other queer women didn’t see me. And as a Black woman, men saw and desired me but only in the shadows. I learned very quickly that the process of desiring another and being desired, as a Black girl, is confounded in crushing traditions of racism, sexism and heteronormativity.
I’ve run into so many guys who have “sleep with a Black woman” on their list of fantasies. Dating outside your community as a person of colour often comes down to that question of being a checked off box. Black women are underrepresented in discussions on love and yet hypersexualized by media, solidifying the idea that we are an experience for someone, but not a person worth sharing your life with.
We are human enough to provide pleasure but not enough beyond the physical. Our emotional and mental well-being will always be secondary to our physical presence in the world so we can serve others.
I learned very quickly that the process of desiring another and being desired, as a Black girl, is confounded in crushing traditions of racism, sexism and heteronormativity.
n the new year, I entered a stage in my life, and it’s all about being gentle with myself and loving myself. I’m still trying to figure out what that means to me, but part of it is staying away from dating apps for a while.
I used to think falling in love was the final form of healing. I worked so hard to make myself something picturesque for loving that I became disassociated from it. My romantic self has been wagered and molded to fit comfortably inside others’ ideas of love—to a point where, now, love feels violent to me.
But, things have gotten better. As I’ve learned to prioritize my desires, my self-love comes before everything and anything else.
Self-love is a radical act as a Black woman, and these days, that is my most important dream.