By: Aisha Prater
Growing up in an inner city in Memphis where the majority of people who surround you are Mexican and Black, upfront racism is almost like ancient stories your parents tell or just something that you read articles about in the paper. Never had I endured racism upfront or directly towards me. Throughout high school I dated different races. A majority of those I dated were black, but intermingled, were a couple of Hispanics and white men.
When I first started dating my husband he was as bland as a person could be. He was what we call the stereotypical white person. He couldn’t dance, he walked outside barefoot,wore sandals everywhere,and couldn’t take any spicy foods. But I liked him because of the simple fact that he respected my culture by keeping his own.
In my experiences I’ve found that some white guys will be quick to mock our race when dating a Black woman. For example in the past I’ve had men go out and buy Jordan’s or even call me a “shawty” or “boo”. Some would even express how much they loved fried chicken and Kool-Aid. I often wondered if they realized that they where offending me more than impressing me, which was their goal. It made me realize that they where not into dating a real black woman but more into fetishizing black women with what they had viewed from the stereotypical movies that had perpetuated black women to be “loud,ghetto,with big butts,long nails, and fake hair”, but my husband did none of those things.
He stuck to his own culture with out appropriating mine which showed me that he understood that every black woman wasn’t what you would expect based off of media. Dating him came with trial and tribulations. Him dating a “nigger” or me being a “sell out” could’ve killed our relationship before it even had a chance to begin. Me growing up in a area where 90% of the people in my neighborhood where minorities made facing this new world of racism and prejudice almost a culture shock, and wake up to the real world.
I had for so long ignored the everyday racism that black people go through until one day I was pushed directly into it with me being the topic of discussion. My now husband received hate mail where my name wasn’t even mentioned, just the repetitive word “nigger.” The looks we would receive from people while just grocery shopping would make anyone’s stomach turn.
Expecting only disappointment from his race, I was also shocked that I had become victim to prejudice with in my own race. My husband was referred to as a “slave master” and I was his “bed wench.” To think that a black woman from the city marrying a country boy who is a soldier could bring people so much discontent.
Living in the dissatisfaction of prejudice and racist beings had changed me in a positive way that I had not anticipated. I was so stuck on being the victim that I did not even notice that I was slowly transforming into a outspoken woman. I soon realized that I did not have to be the victim instead I could be a educator.
I soon found myself staying up all night reading African American history books and watching hours of documentaries. If I was going to stand up for my race and marriage I could not go into the gun battle with a knife fight. I had to have knowledge of my heritage and knowledge on what made people prejudice and why they felt such way. If I understood the underling causes of their theories and assumptions, I could break it down and prove to them that their logic was nothing but misconstrued facts and ignorance taught by their environment.
I remember one incident in particular that made me realize how strong I had become. My husband was stationed at Ft.Campbell Kentucky. Around the holidays people on base start to decorate their houses. One family in particular had taken a black manikin and hung it with a noose upon their tree. In such shock, I just assumed that repercussions would be taken on the family. Viewing it my way I would think a soldier would be discharged. That same soldier could easily get deployed and a black soldiers life could be in his hands and he could let that soldier down with no guilt. But surprisingly nothing was done they just asked nicely for him to take it down.
A couple weeks after that incident I heard word of Michael Brown. Later I was discussing the case with my husband and venting on the hardships of being black in America. Knowing your ancestors help build this country but could still be shot down like dogs brought so much heartbreak. It ended in a screaming battle with the result of me crying. I realized I wasn’t angry at him, he truly said nothing wrong, I was angry at the world for be angry at me, angry at us. I had became such a fighter that I was willing to fight my husband.
This made me realize that I am not what people say. I am not a sell out, I’m a woman who is strong enough to do what everyone is afraid to. I can go in public holding my husbands hand with our son and not care who looks at me angrily, because what ever they believe I am, I am now intelligent enough to know that it is not true.
I believe that black people believing that going outside of our race to date, is what has been instilled in us by racists. We stick to each other because we believe we’re doing the right thing, but In all honesty that’s what prejudice people want. They want us to believe that everyone with pale skin is racist. They want us to believe that only a Black man can love a Black women. They want nothing more that to see us stick to our own race, box ourselves off as they laugh with joy.
I am a black woman, I was built to be strong. If my ancestors could survive slavery then the discontent looks of strangers in grocery stores should not affect me in anyway.
I symbolized my strength by cutting off anyone who was amused by any ignorance that stereotypes spread. I cannot count the number women of other races who have received the lashing of my tongue with historical facts because they asked or said something stupid. “No I cannot twerk”,”yes I know my father” ,”no we do not get food stamps,” ” my son doesn’t have good hair. All hair is good,” ” he’s not cute because he’s light skin, he beautiful because of God.”
Those are things that I would have never done three years ago. But now I have transformed into a woman that will always speak her mind and defend her race and marriage if it’s ever challenged. I am proof that you can be proud of your race and heritage and date outside of it.