I'll just jump right in. I'm an African-American woman who dates anyone of any variety, unless he's an asshole, stupid or lazy. I'm sure I have other criteria, but the point here is that I'm pretty damn open-minded. Also, I don’t exclusively date outside of my race. I think those people are kind of weird and have misdirected racist views. So here's the thing, I know the Athens townie scene really well (I should mention here that I'm a little older, so I'm not talking about the typical student scene), and though people are generally amazing individuals, I'm having a difficult time dating, and I think it's because, dare I say, there's some race issues that people don't admit to in this town. This is not to say that white, Hispanic, Asian men who aren't attracted to black women are racist. That's purely a matter of taste. It's to say that men who are attracted to me don't or can't date me because I'm black, which then makes them racist. You see what I'm saying here or am I talking in circles?
Anyway, I recently joined Tinder, and within a couple of days met an awesome guy. We went out a couple of times, things were going swimmingly, and then BAM the race questions started, and then BAM the “it's not you it's me” text came.
Rhonda, this happens to me ALL the time. I'm beginning to think there's something about me, because it happens so often! But then I sit back and analyze the situation, which is always, “You're amazing, you're attractive, blah blah, but I can't date you, can we be friends?” which then makes me think I must be pretty cool, so it's got to be the race thing.
I'd be totally happy staying in my lane (race-wise that is), but 1) that's not who I am; 2) there's already a short supply of cool people, so dating ONLY within my race will likely mean many lonely nights; and 3) I shouldn't have to change my attitude because other people have a problem with the color of my skin.
So I guess my question is, do you think I'm overreacting and it's not about my race, but possibly something else that I'm not checking for? What advice would you give me if this WERE in fact the situation but I want to continue being true to myself and continue dating all types?
Black Girl Lost
In writing back to you, I found myself thinking, “Tread lightly, Rhonda. You’re addressing a very loaded issue here: dating in Athens.” From the outside, it seems as though it should be super-easy to date in Athens. The university is here, populated by lots of young (usually single) people.
But the reality is a little different. Undergrads are too young for you, and they mostly date each other according to the customs of their kind (bar-hopping in large groups then going to Gyro Wrap when they awake the next day). I don’t really know what graduate students do—work in their labs or libraries? And then there are the married people. So so many married people. Of all ages. What’s missing seems to be single professionals in the 25–45 age range. Or maybe they’re here and all hanging out at a bar I haven’t been to.
So, to amend what you said, I think there’s already a shortage of cool single people here. There are tons of cool people here, but many seem to be married. (Do cool people get married, or does being married turn people cool? For future discussion.)
I say all that to confirm that it can be hard to find people to date here.
Next, let’s get to the question of race. I’ll start by saying that, as you more or less said, there’s no accounting for taste, and people are absolutely allowed to have preferences.
On the heels of that, though, I’ll say that I know that white people never think it’s about race. They think they’re breaking up with you for every reason but your race. People—myself included—are influenced by their own unacknowledged and unconscious biases all the time. It’s not possible to know how much of your unsuccessful dating experience is due to discomfort with the idea of dating a black woman and how much is due to things just not working out (as often happens), but I think it’s safe to say that that both things are at play to some degree.
As to what to do about it, I recommend expanding your pool of potential dates as much as you can. Try to broaden your social network in Athens beyond your current scene, if at all possible. I also suggest looking to some other places for potential dates. Atlanta comes to mind. I suspect you’d run into less of what you’re describing in a bigger city. If you have any friends there, try to visit and spend some time with them and let them know you’re interested in meeting people there.
At the same time, expand your Internet dating horizons. The last two weddings I’ve attended have been couples who met online. You mentioned Tinder—think about trying some other options. I’ve heard good reports about OkCupid and Match.com.
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