Thursday, April 17, 2003

The Disease Written by Toya

My 6-year-old niece has what we like to call in our house "The Disease". The Disease is a liking for white boys. Growing up in a white suburban area my entire life, I have been a carrier of this disease since I can remember. However, I was much surprised to see that my niece, who lives in a completely black neighborhood has also fallen victim.

Last Christmas, my niece and I walked hand in hand into Blockbuster, looking for movies to watch on New Year's Eve. As we walked into the store, she asked "Aunt Toya, do you like any boys in your school?" Now she knows I don't go to school but I knew what she meant. "Well, no honey. I don't." "Well, I do." she shyly admitted, "and well...he's white." I immediately thought" Oh no. Everyone is going to blame this on me. She has spent 4 days with me and everyone is going to think I brainwashed her. I haven't said a word about boys to her. I mean, she's six!"

I have liked boys for a looooooong time. Early on, I was not "fast" but I was rather enamored with the male gender and this included all kinds of boys:black, white, Puerto Rican, Italian (in Jersey, Italians are quick to tell you they aren't white. Now I don't know what you consider European but...). I remember in 7th grade I was in the cafeteria and I was thinking about the Growing Pains episode I saw the night before. Mike Seaver had done something silly for some girl that I thought was so sweet. And then I started to think about how all of the white guys I saw on TV were portrayed as sweet and sensitive guys and how black teenage males were always thugs, illiterate, or adopted misfits of society. I was really disturbed by this and was wondering if this was shaping my image of black men. I quickly thought about all of the positive black men I knew: my father who I have always had a strong relationship with, the black men at my church that were always so kind and encouraging to me, my "play cousins" in New York... I had no excuse of not having any active positive male role models in my life but my niece does and that is the basis of my concern. She is being raised in a single-family household and sees her dad on weekends. My dad and brother live far from her and the black men that I know she sees on a regular basis, not including her dad because I don’t know him, are nothing to shout about. I don’t want her to think that black men are inferior to anyone. I want her to love them and respect them regardless of what she sees in the media. I want her to believe the truth and not lies: not BET, not MTV, not the daily news. Not “Oh we’re just keeping it real”. So I am worried for her.

And my parents are worried for me. The general consensus is that I will marry a white guy. I have never come home with a white guy(all of my dating relationships have been with black men), but they know that I have often “kicked it” with some and my dad is pretty vocal about his disapproval of the very possibility of me marrying a white man. The last time we discussed it, my dad was driving me somewhere and I was telling him about a situation I was having with someone who was younger than me and that I was really struggling with the age difference and decided to just let it go and be friends. My dad mentioned something about the “brother” and I had to let him know that this guy was a “brother” in the Lord, but he was not black, he was white. Well my dad’s earlier response of” Age is not really a big deal” turned into ”Oh yeah, you made the right decision”. Now I have dealt with my dad’s disapproval of this for a long time and it no longer bothers me. It can’t because deep down, I think my family might very well be right. Due to my environment and who I am constantly in contact with, there is a great chance that I will marry someone white. But I thought even though my dad would trip, I thought for sure my mom had my back. I thought wrong. Later on I came home and my mom said ”Now honey, you have always been a different kind of child. We raised you to love all kinds of people no matter what color they were. But you are a BLACK woman, inside and out and I really don’t think that you should be dating someone outside of your race.” It was like a record scratched right in the middle of the breakdown in Jackson Five’s “Dancing Machine”. I just stared at her. This was the woman that said “I don’t care if he’s plaid or purple as long as he loves the Lord.” When a situation is suggested, it is easy to think that your response would be ideal as long as you aren’t met with the reality of it coming to fruition. Well, the rubber met the road and I saw my mom’s true colors. She kept talking and I stopped listening. After a while she just sounded like that teacher on Charlie Brown “Mwaw Mwaw Mwaw Mwaw, Mwaw Mwaw”.

I had to make a decision a long time ago that marrying interracially was something that I was willing to do if that is what God had for me. As aforementioned, you never really know what your response to something will be until you are faced with it. I thought it was a no brainer really. And then I went on a date with one of my white friends. It was in high school and he had just graduated. We went to our spring musical together and he had been trying to get with me for a while but I refused. He was especially charming this day, so I thought it would be cool just for one night. I had never been so disgusted with the ignorance of people up until that day. People that I saw in school everyday came up to us and didn’t even speak to me but spoke to him with a look on their face as if to say “What in the world are you trying to prove?” His ex-girlfriend even came up and said that she had seats for the both of them and to come on. When he told her he was with me she laughed and said “Stop kidding and come on”. And he was oblivious. He wrapped his arms around me and kept kissing me on the cheek as people stared at him, never making eye contact with me. “You know, Toya don’t you?” he asked because these people acted like they didn’t see me in class everyday. They stood there like it was a trick question. As we looked for a seat, I noticed a woman with daggers in her eyes staring at us and at that point I started to cry. Not because I was upset at her, I was upset at me. I thought I was strong and didn’t care what people thought. For the first time in my life, I questioned myself. Was I one of those people that kept others outside of my race strictly on a friendship basis or was I who I said I was? As we found our seats, I was visibly upset. My date turned to me and asked what was wrong. I said ”You don’t see it do you? You don’t see how people are acting because you are with me? They are staring at us.” He looked SO puzzled. “why he asked?” By this time, I am ready to start bawling. Still holding my hand, he looked down at both of our hands and said ”Because of this?” I managed to muster up a yes. He looked straight a head and said ”No, I didn’t notice.” As the lights went down, my face lit up. That was what it was all about. He didn’t see them because he saw me, WHAT?! That, my friends, is what it is all about. I leaned over, gave him the biggest kiss ever and we pleasantly enjoyed the rest of our evening.

So after my niece confessed to liking Aaron, a white boy with “yellow hair”, I told her that it was okay to like boys. God made us that way. However, it is important to be friends with everyone. Work on building friendships. Love all kinds of people no matter what their color is. She then looked at me and said, “Okay Aunt Toya. I understand. Oh yeah and there is also this boy named Seth…”

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