Ever met a guy who talks Black and dates White? I’m not that guy. Not to get all Blacker-than-thou, but my race card cred includes growing up in the Bronx, graduating from a storied HBCU, and editing for both XXL and Vibe magazines. In the ’80s, high school B-boys questioned my Negritude because I read sci-fi novels and took honors English classes; but messing around with one of the cute Jewish girls in our ‘hood was out of the question (a Five Percenter around my way who crossed that line to sleep with a redhead never lived it down). Lots of media ink gets spilled nowadays advising Black folks to venture outside the race to find true love. Well, I went there myself only once, and the retrospect view is a little…complicated.
One summer night in the late ’90s, I headed out to see Mark Darkfeather—a friend’s neo-soul indie band—do a show over at a funky club known as Baby Jupiter. Pushing through the packed Manhattan venue (a sports bar these days…oh, how the city has changed), I lucked up finding an empty seat at the end of a banquette. I squeezed in tight next to “Shiho,” a cheery brunette in a raspberry beret who turned out to be roommates with one of the backup singers onstage. Shiho’s jet-black curls flowed over her shoulders; she had nicely thick thighs and new-age conversation. As it turned out, her mom was Japanese, and she hailed from California. We traded phone numbers, but my flirtation was rather innocent. As always, my preference was overwhelmingly for sisters.
Soon Shiho came by my place on a Saturday night, all by herself. Still, I was sort of naïve. Except for magazine editors, there was nobody in my address book at the time that wasn’t of color. My twentysomething pro-Black attitude meant not even really socializing with White people. The stance wasn’t based on prejudice so much as an honest disinterest, maybe even a cultural ignorance. After smoking a few, um, cigarettes, I discovered Shiho was a spoken-word poet getting her master’s at NYU. She was deep into Reiki healing, veganism and holistic health. I got to know her a little, with no ulterior motives. We listened to some Marley (her idol), watched a documentary on Haitian vodou, and she left. What?
Sunday brought the “So where is this going?” phone call, and I finally figured it out: Shiho was trying to give me some.
And I basically said no.
Or not exactly. I probably said I’d invite her back so we could take it there, but then never followed through. Watching the Soul Train Awards with Darkfeather a week later, he joked that if Shiho had been Black and Japanese instead of White and Japanese, she’d be lying up in my bed right then. Doubtless he was right. But with all the creative, vixenish Black women parading through New York City, I just couldn’t fathom fighting against the wind to date an Asian Whitegirl. Until I did.
Months later I was still single, Shiho was still open, and she came back to Brooklyn for a visit. We smoked again, watched some Mean Streets, and headed to the bedroom. Our long night together put the lie to anyone who’s ever told me they didn’t see color when it came to sex. The chocolate and vanilla skin tones, her silky hair (strands shed on my sheets afterwards), even her rhythm to a certain extent…it all took some adjustment at first. Shiho laughed outright after our sessions were all done, not because the sex sucked (it very much didn’t), but as if she’d manifested what she was after all along, or was expelling the last of her anxiety. She woke up the next morning and asked to use my toothbrush, a question I’d never ever fielded from a Black woman (I said yes, and bought another later that day).
There are actually only seven basic positions, and after Shiho and I sweated through them all that month (along with a voracious amount of other sheet-twisting activities), we had nowhere else to go but the outside world. Our first date turned out to be our last date.
After M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable—I loved it, she hated it—I explained to her about a senior at Harvard I was about to get more serious with. She initially suggested I actually date them both (!), but quickly let it go. Not to reduce her to “the Harvard girl,” future author Caille Millner was a brainy, stunning young writer from San Jose whom I met when speaking at the school that year. I found Caille more desirable because I hadn’t been with her yet (in the biblical sense), but also because she was a Black girl, among other things.
I was told recently that sisters practically expect so-called arty, boho, world-traveled, race-men brothers to stray with non-Black women, and I had to laugh. That’s the cliché. Besides being genuinely more attracted to sisters, part of resisting Shiho was my aversion to living that cliché. Personally, my American race obsession is pretty much gone after living over in Paris for seven years since—I’m naturally older and wiser too. France has its own race issues, but over there, I matured past living up to the Super Blackman ideal of my teens and twenties. When it comes to dating and race, I say: “Do you”.
Miles Marshall Lewis is the Arts & Culture Editor of EBONY.com. He’s also the Harlem-based author of Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don’t Have Bruises, There’s a Riot Goin’ On and Irrésistible. Follow MML on Twitter @furthermucker, and visit his personal blog, Furthermucker.