I wrote "The Reason" for a friend's website and within a few days of going up, we were contacted by a member of the Huffington Post who really enjoyed it and asked my permission to upload it to their website.
I was initially quite nervous about giving the Huffington Post permission. As a feminist and activist for women's rights, I'm an open book. I don't like candy-coating things and I don't like telling lies. I also choose to live my life with honesty and without fear -- something I feel that all women should be able to do without scrutiny or ridicule. after posting this article, I have realized that women have yet to be able to live life the same way men can, and that race is still an extremely touchy subject that has many commenters furious.
Looking at the comments below, I thank all who have supported my decision to speak from experience and I support those who have felt what I've felt, in some way or another. I also thank all those who actually read the article thoroughly and were able to thus understand where I was coming from.
I wrote most of this piece after going through an extremely tough time in my life. I was struggling being a minority in a new city, and I was also struggling with my own personal identity. Like many young university students, I went out partying, I had fun, and sometimes, I dated. Not that it is relevant to anything, but I allowed myself to have fun because I work extremely hard in school, as I always have.
Many of you are making comments just for the sake of sparking other's anger or hurting me. If you think my piece is all over the place, you may be right. If you think it was a rant, maybe it was. But the publication happened so fast that I didn't have time to revise. And honestly, I'm glad I didn't. These are my words, my emotions -- unedited. If they were changed in order for people to like it, then I wouldn't be true to the readers, or myself. It was time to come out, whether people would like it or not.
As you have corrected me, I feel that it is just as important to correct many of you: First, I do mention that I did not overgeneralize all white men a certain way. I spoke from my experience with white men. Those of you who read it through can appreciate this. I never said all white males were bad; however, in my experience as a minority in a city, a conversation with a white male, whether in or out of a bar, has almost always (9 times out of 10) come back to the colour of my skin. For my own sanity, I chose to date elsewhere. And that's my opinion, and my choice. The same way many people have their preferences, I am entitled to mine as well. That doesn't make it a "woman" thing, and it doesn't make me picky. It simply means that I will do what's right for me, and that I will not tolerate something that isn't working or isn't right.
Second, I am not speaking about Toronto. I mention right in the beginning that I from Toronto but live in a smaller city to attend university.
Third, if you look closely, I mention that I am of mixed race heritage. However, in that city, I am often classified as "black", and when speaking to white males, this is a constant factor in conversations.
Fourth, I have dated men of different races and cultures. To assume and to make overgeneralizations (like you believe I have in the article) that I only date black men and hate all white men, makes you guilty of what you have accused me of. I also did not say that all interracial relationships between white men and black women will include this aspect; this, again, is my experience that I have shared.
Fifth, this article is based on my experience as a single university girl in my second year. That means I went to bars, yes. Nothing wrong with it, and I have met amazing men and women in those settings. It may not have been the best place to meet people, yet as a newly 19 year old girl at the time, I had no intentions of meeting Mr. Right -- and I certainly didn't expect to meet men (white men in particular) who would call me "Shaniqua" and "Black Mama".
Lastly, this is not an article about sex or hooking up. It's about being a racial and gender minority in a city where we are few. It is about how being a woman of colour affects my relationships and ability to meet new people.
I seemed to have struck a nerve with all kinds of people, and if I have, then I have done my job. If you chose to read my piece, then you would know that I am speaking from experience. Experience as a woman of colour dating and meeting white men. If your experience does not match mine, that's okay. But condemning mine does not makes yours any better.
I find that people are not attacking my personal experience, but my self, my appearance, and my choice of previous partners. If that's how you are able to facilitate discussion, that's up to you. But then I hope you've made nothing but good decisions in life, I hope you are all 21, and I hope you all look like celebrities. However, I refuse to give in to anyone's comments unrelated to my article -- and I absolutely will not hide the fact that like men. I have had past partners. If, as a woman, you think that's disgusting, I'm sorry you feel that way.
Calling me a black supremacist, then, can't possibly work. Like I said, I am of mixed heritage. Because I have a preference when it comes to men, does that make me racist? Would you call a woman who hates abusive men sexist? Ironically, some of the comments on here border on supremacy. One woman from Liberia who enjoyed my post was attacked by someone who said she had no right to her opinion, as she was not truly American, but African. Is that not white supremacy? Is that the American way of treating people?
I think what many supporters are saying is that people feel no shame for talking about how dangerous, dirty, predatory, and violent black men are all the time -- hell, black men were once lynched for just looking at a white woman. Did those black men ever get to share their experiences? Do they get tell us "Hey. Please don't stereotype me. It's hurts when you do that. I'm not going to hurt you"? Don't men denounce black women -- even the men who haven't dated any -- just because of lingering stereotypes that they're angry and crazy? Why do we get to do that on a regular basis, as if it's a normal thing to do?
Do you see how hard it is for black men or women to be able to defend themselves when they are constantly overgeneralized in the media and in society? Why not? Maybe because they know there's no point in fighting ignorance. Maybe because when they try, no one listens. Maybe because it hurts too deeply to even try. But I chose to fight your ignorance. I chose to say yes, I have been hurt deeply by my representation as a woman of colour, and I have been more hurt by the fact that the white men I have encountered use those representations against me to mock me, sexualize me, dehumanize me.
For those also calling me a victim: one thing about me is that I absolutely take responsibility for all my actions. It was the way I was raised, and because of that I must say that this has offended me the most. But it is nobody's fault that I had bad experiences. Those white males could be ignorant to the truth of what they were doing, and I wasn't supposed to know that in speaking to a white male, whether in a bar or at the library, that he would take it as a cue to tell me how much he "loves black people". When I am down and out, I don't sit and home and cry. I do something about it. And instead of shrinking into regret and guilt as many of you hoped I would, I've decided to talk back.
Beating someone down for going through a crisis in any situation means there is an enormous lack of compassion within the walls of this community and society as a whole. People fail miserably at being understanding and empathetic when it isn't them going through a difficult period of time. In my case, many of you will never understand because of your position and location. For those of you who were able to be empathetic regardless if we come from the same place or not, I thank you. The world needs more people like you; not for something as little as a mixed girl having a hard time dating interracially (which seems to be the end of the world, here), but on a broader scheme such as for victims of war, the homeless, the abandoned, your loved ones, and strangers you see walking down the street.
The experience I chose to share with you was one of learning and understanding. I have since made peace with myself, and have been succeeding in all aspects of my life. I am quite confident with myself and have been in wonderful relationship for the past year and a half. I have given back to my community through donations, put on events on campus to raise money for local non-profit women's organizations, been published in several women's publications, and have made the honour roll throughout my entire university career. All my success and community involvement existed prior to my identity crisis. But like all of us, sometimes we fall from high places. Like I said, when I'm down and out, I do something about it. Unfortunately, many people don't have enough hope and wish for others to move forward.
If my experiences have offended some of you, I'm sorry that you didn't like it, and I'm sorry that you don't understand. I'm sorry that when the next time a woman of colour speaks on a subject like this, you will do the same thing to her. I'm sorry that you won't give her experience any second thought. I'm sorry that you won't even consider delving deeper into history. I'm sorry that when you hear a white male making sexual and racial comments about her ass or her body that you'll laugh along with them and say she deserves it. I'm sorry that you will continue to criticize other people who choose to be brave and share their experiences but will never have enough courage to come out and share your own. We can never hear enough about people's experiences, nor can we never hear enough about people's experiences with race, sexuality, and gender. Trying to intimidate us through nasty comments only continues to breed what this world should be trying to stop: separation, hate, secrecy, fear, and ignorance.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who enjoyed and understood the article. By doing so, you spoke up for yourself and for me. Thank you for all the wonderful emails from those who told me to keep going, that this article needed to happen, and that I have inspired them to do them same. And for all of you contributing, your comments have caught the eye of several media outlets that really enjoyed the piece yet were disappointed in the commentary. If you didn't think my discussion of dating was of any value, you weren't forced to read it. But you gave the article what it wanted: visibility and proof that we still have a long way to go.
My job is to educate those who want to learn on the potential dangers of privilege, power, racism, and sexism. It's not an easy road for any of us trying to do it. The only difference is that when people of colour come forward, make the front page of a well-respected news site, and break the silence by speaking truthfully about race, sex, gender, we are ripped apart and ridiculed. Sticks and stones will be smashed against our jaws in order to silence us. But words will never hurt us.