For the past decade, I’ve dated within (black) and outside of my ethnic group (primarily white and Latino). I’ve never limited the potential of having a healthy and happy relationship by holding on to the notion that a woman. I’ve never limited the potential of having a healthy and happy relationship based off a woman’s ethnicity or cultural background. However, even though ethnicity wasn’t a determining factor in that regard, the differentiation of our human experience affiliated with it was definitely something that needed to be openly discussed, examined, and understood. I love diversity. I love that there are different ethnicities, and there isn’t any ethnic group, in which I’ve failed to find a woman that was attractive. Diversity is gorgeous, exciting, and desirable, to me. Yet, I understand there are some people are only attracted to people within their own race, for no other reason than because it’s just their preference. They don’t have any underlying agendas of conscious nor unconscious bias. Other than that, besides the occasional confused stares that me and the woman I was with would get from others, in public—that “Something doesn’t fit here,” “What’s she doing with him,” “He’s taking our women,” stare that my partner and I would get—race wasn’t something I felt that needed to be discussed with my partner very often. I didn’t care about stuff like that. If anything, it made the woman I was with more desirable. The fact that, to an extent, it was still not the “social norm” and that some people still frowned upon it gave our relationship the “forbidden fruit” effect. It was irresistible. That type of allure definitely isn’t a necessity for me to have a happy relationship, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was extremely hot. So, in my mind, I placed the topic of ethnicity solely within those confines and thought that whoever I was with felt the same–the concept that I admire the unique beauty of the person I’m with’s ethnicity but I recognize them as a complete and individual human being beyond their skin color and that my partner feels the same way. Yet, as I got older and as my dating life progressed, I learned that this perception of ethnicity, in regards to my relationships, wasn’t so cut and dry as that. Regardless of how I perceive myself as a human being, a very large portion of America has a very different perception of what a black man is and what his life is worth. Now, the typical response to a statement like that might be, “Well, you shouldn’t really care what people think about you.” And, quite frankly, I don’t. But, the playing field for someone who is black who’s trying to excel in America–educationally, professionally, politically, socioeconomically–is, in no way, leveled. So, my skin color is not something I can ignore exactly. My skin is something that should not be ignored. Most of the gatekeepers and the heads of the majority of the institutions that govern the aforementioned opportunities in life are normally not people of color and are individuals who most likely have no knowledge of the white privilege that has enabled them to reap the underserved sweet fruits of prosperity nor do they have an interest in implementing policy change in regards to systematic racism. Without getting too deep into that topic, I’ll say that it presents a special dynamic to me, a person of color, living here in America–one unique very unique to my human experience. Now, whoever you are reading this, you can deny that up and down or say things like, “Who cares what the world thinks about you?”, “You can make it, in spite of that,” “Other black people have been very successful in this country, so why can’t you make it,” You can’t make everything about race,” or “Slavery ended 150 years ago.” Blah blah blah. I’ve heard it all. Yeah…yeah…yeah, I already know all that canned rhetoric by heart. And, it’s that very way of thinking which leads me to my point. Rather than to trying and investigate, comprehend, or learn where my perspective is coming from, many have already conveniently placed me in a category, to avoid having to make such an effort–a category that says, I’m just another bitter black person that’s blaming racism for all their shortcomings. It basically just calling me delusional and accusing me of imaging an affliction that simply does not exist in my reality–the one I live in EVERY DAY and should know better than anyone else. That became a pretty big issue in those relationships and, in some cases, subsequently, it became a make-or-break one. If your woman is not making an honest attempt to try and understand a huge component of your very existence, in this case, being black in America, can you really say that person loves you? So, even though the women I dated weren’t overtly racist, race was still, indeed, a factor huge factor as to whether we could have a successful love life. Now, did I expect those women to become scholars on black history and completely comprehend the complexities of being black in America, in a week of dating me? No. And, as a matter of fact, other ethnic groups will never fully comprehend what it means to live the black experience in America. What I was looking for and what I clearly made known to them was that I wanted a legitimate effort, from them, to understand, though–to immerse themselves in the information of the history (THE REAL HISTORY) of black people in this country and not just the incomplete history that was taught to them through our decaying educational system. It was a challenge that, in most cases, they weren’t willing to take on. What I got was more of an “I’ll listen to what you’re telling me, but I still disagree with your logic” or a “Get over it already, it’s 2015” type of attitude. I’d experience situations where the lady who I was dating and I would be a get-togethers, with her non-black peers, and the topic of race relations would come up, and she was fully aware that I was cognizant of America’s racist perception about me and how racism has affected every single part of my life and the lives of my family and friends. Prior to those engagements, we’d had many in-depth and open discussions about the topic, watched a multitude of documentaries, and had read a number insightful and fact-based articles from very reliable sources, which broke down the meaning of racism in its entirety. Yet, she was totally ignoring the incredibly insensitive things they would say on the topics of things like police brutality, the wealth gap between whites and blacks, mass incarceration, etc.–things based on speculation and out of lack of empathy–instead of speaking up about it and challenging them on their microaggressions and blanket assumptions about my ethnic group. She didn’t want to make things too uncomfortable or edgy for her peers or family members. So, I was left to speak up for myself, in those situations. Situations like those made me ask myself: As a woman, if she was really been paying attention to what I’m saying is my own personal experience and if she was genuinely in love with me and planning on spending the rest of her life with me, eventually, was she genuinely concerned that I was getting accurate representation to the ones she was associating with? I came to the conclusion, hell naw, she wasn’t, but, yet, she was telling me how supportive she would always be for me and how she would always “hold me down” behind closed doors. Relationships are a team effort, and, in a team, you expect to be fully supported. I don’t want my teammate to simply agree with everything I say, but I definitely want my teammate to make a valid attempt to understand where I’m coming from. How can two effectively work and build together as one communed unit if they won’t accept all of the dynamics of their partner’s experience? That’s like being with someone who is extremely ill and treating them like all of their symptoms are all in their head just because the symptoms are physically visible. Man: “Babe, I’ve been having these extremely sharp pains in my chest every day. I feel like I can barely breathe. My heart rate is through the roof, too, and there’s extreme pressure in my head. I feel like I’m going to pass out when I stand up.” Woman: Well, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with you. You look perfectly fine to me. I think you’re being a little dramatic, dear. Everything is fine. Stop complaining about feeling bad all the time. It makes me uncomfortable. You’re completely healthy, and you don’t have anything to worry about. Man: Aren’t you at least going to check this thermometer? I just took my temperature, and I have a raging fever. I’m seeing white spots, babe. Woman: Babe, I swear it’s all in your head. You’re not sick. I don’t need to check the thermometer. I’m telling you that you’re not sick, and you need to stop overreacting. There’s been multiple situations, where white and Hispanic women broke up with me and then went on to marry or have kids with someone in their own ethnic group. And, no, I’m not a stalker. To passive-aggressively inspire my jealousy–out of some kind of weird revenge because I actually let them willingly walk out of my life instead of begging them to stay, they made it a point to let me know who their current love interest was and billboarded how happy they were, without me, via text or social media. That is how I know who they were with. And, yes, I guess, you can “go black and go back.” Was it ‘cause they didn’t want to deal with that “black baggage” and wanted something more familiar?” Who knows? The pattern of who they dated after our breakup suggests just that. With all that being said, I know that there are wonderful and supportive women of all ethnicities out there that want to understand and accept what it means to be a black man in America and who will support their man in any they can, for life. And, they’re definitely are white men willing to do the same for black women. They’re definitely an anomaly, in this day and age, though. The fact of the matter is, institutionalized racism has become so ingrained and normalized in people’s psyches, to be challenged on that racism is seen as uncomfortable, unsettling, abnormal, and bizarre–aka things people don’t exactly see as sexy or desirable in regards to things they want in their love life. Which is why I know why there are many black men and women who choose not date outside of their ethnic groups, and I really do not blame them. They would rather stick with their own ethnic group, because they want someone who already has an understanding of the black experience in America and who will fully support them in that respect. If you are black and you choose to date someone outside of your ethnic group, I challenge you to challenge them. Unapologetically and openly the talk about the TRUE history of black people in this country. Hold nothing back, and DO NOT water down harsh facts to spare feelings. If they can’t handle the heavy topics–and are not will deal with some white guilt, they will never truly love you and are not the ones for you. Challenge them on the covert racism that been institutionalized and that we’ve been conditioned to think is normal and “not a big deal”: (Read it. Learn it.) If they truly are your soulmate, the love of your life, or your ride-or-die partner, they will want to understand and become fully knowledgeable on the complexities of your existence. If they love you, they will actively seek out information on their own about race, without you telling them to do it. They will ask you questions. They will put in the work it takes to understand racism and realize that unlearning racist customs is a life-long commitment. They will sit and listen instead of objecting what you’re telling them–because racism no longer needs to be explained why it’s a fact and how it’s still systematically embedded into the fabric of America itself. It needs to be accepted and thoroughly understood by everyone living in this country. As a black man, my diversity is not meant to be ignored. God made my physical appearance different ON PURPOSE, not by accident. It’s to be admired and appreciated, not ignored. Saying “I don’t see color,” to me, means, “I don’t really want to understand.” So, in all, the primary thing I learned from dating outside is a more defined definition of what true love, in its entirety, is. If a woman can fully accept ALL of the complexities of my experience as a black man and as a uniquely divine being and is willing to fully support me in a way that compliments all of those attributes of my existence, then, there I can think no clearer definition of love than that.