Preference. It’s peoples favourite word to use when they’re trying to explain why they won’t date someone of a certain race or gender. Most use it to explain away their transphobia or anti-Black racism. The dating world is full of preferences and the queer community is not exempt from this as in many ways we are a microcosm of the larger society. However, for many of us, the choice to date or not date someone based on their race is formed out of survival and not a predilection for one or the other.
Being a Black Indigenous woman living on stolen land in a colonial society means that dating is a lot more complicated than a simple right swipe on tinder or bumble. Add living in the colonial capital of Canada and dating in Ottawa seems dismal in comparison to other places. So where does preference come in for a Queer, fat, Afro-Indigenous woman like myself? Well it’s a simple question. Do I prefer to be with someone who could call me a Nigger the second things get rough OR do I prefer to be with someone who shares and understands my life experiences? Now that might seem a little extreme to an every day non-Black person, but as someone who has had that happen to them its more common than you think.
The internet is filled with videos of racialized partners facing racist vitriol from their significant others and while most of these videos involve white men, there are just as many including white women. I know what you’re thinking, “But those are cis- straight white women, Lesbians are intersectional.” Listen I wish you could see the eye roll I did just writing that. I’m going to write this in caps just so everyone can understand BEING A PART OF THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY DOES NOT ERASE YOU RACISM OR TRANSPHOBIA! Whew I’m glad we got that out of the way. So now that we’re on common ground I hope you can understand why for me personally, dating a white woman, and even sometimes a non-Black woman, just isn’t an option for me. This isn’t actually about preference, I don’t prefer Black or Indigenous women over white women, because I don’t want white women to begin with.
Now I get it, you’re reading this thinking well, isn’t that exactly what a preference is. Wrong. A lot of folks these days don’t actually know what it means to have a preference. Instead of looking up some long winded dictionary definition of the term (lets be honest aint nobody trying to read that) i’ll just explain it in simpler terms. A preference is when you like two things but like one of the things a little bit more than the other. So I like both knuck if you buck and back that ass up (listen they’re both negro spirituals and equally as important to Black culture) but I like back that ass up a little bit more (its being played at my funeral). Which means I prefer Back that ass up over knuck if you buck. Saying you wont date dark skin Black women because you prefer white women isn’t a preference. That’s anti-Black racism and colourism. You just straight up don’t want to date someone dark skin (and FYI you’re a raging racist or have some internalized shit you need to work out). So I can comfortably sit here and say that not dating white women isn’t about preference.
Are you catching what I’m throwing out there? And before someone screams this is reverse racism (which say it with me, is not real) I’m going to explain why I feel this way. For me its more than just having someone who is of the same race as me, its deeper and more complex than that. As a Black woman there are things I’m going to face in my life that will be caused or upheld by white people, and thus white women. I need someone who understands that, who wont gaslight me, try to humanize my oppressors or to be frank, looks like my oppressors. I want someone who doesn’t equate feminism to the wage gap, hell I don’t want to be with someone who benefits from the wage gap. Yes, white women the wage gap war you fight so hard against leaves me out. I make less than cis white men and you. I want a partner my children can seem themselves in. I don’t want to have to explain why Back that ass up is a negro spiritual and should be played at my funeral and I don’t want to have to throw my seasoning away to cook Sheppard’s pie and casseroles for the rest of my life. And last but certainly not least I DON’T WANT THERE TO EVEN BE A SLIVER OF A CHANCE THAT MY PARTNER WILL FIX THEIR LIPS TO CALL ME A NIGGER. I want to feel safe in my home, in my bed and in someone’s arms. And for me white women do not and can not represent safety. And listen I have white women in my life that I love and respect, who have been there for me and held me down. But at the end of the day I know that can switch because of a factor that should be small but to society is big. I am an Afro-Indigenous woman.
I’ve been in Ottawa for 4 months now. I love it here. There are so many job opportunities, its so much cheaper than Toronto, I have some amazing friends here and it gives me a real chance to re-learn French. But it also means that finding the person of my dreams looks slimmer then I would like. It means that it takes about 20 swipes on a dating app for me to come across a Black or Brown face. I’ve seen parts of the QBIPOC community here in Ottawa and they’re beautiful and thriving. But it’s small and isn’t always as accessible as it is in Toronto. So I’m taking it one day at time. And just like the wage gap, job opportunities, the ability to be seen as docile, and access to health care, white women just have more chances of finding love, and that’s why they’ll never be a part of my preference for dating.
- Shanese Indoowaaboo Steele