Since Martin Luther King’s birthday was this week, I decided this was the perfect time to address interracial dating. A few weeks ago I watched the documentary film Freedom Riders. It is the story of hundreds of civil rights activists who in 1961 brought national attention to the issue of racial segregation in America’s interstate transportation system. These brave individuals achieved this by traveling together in small interracial groups, and demanding equal access to bus and train seats and waiting areas in the terminals.  Doing this in the Deep South at the time was a dangerous venture, resulting in many of the participants being beaten, threatened, or arrested and sent to jail. Their sacrifices brought so much national and eventually international attention to the injustice of the segregation laws in parts of the U.S., that within six months the Interstate Transportation Commission instated rules prohibiting segregated transportation facilities. While Americans are horrified by what went on in Nazi Germany during World War II, it is especially shocking to realize this level of discrimination was going on in our own country only fifty years ago. Harder to believe still, is that Alabama only lifted its ban on interracial marriage in the year 2000, being the last state to do so.

Upon doing some research on the topic of interracial dating and marriage, I found a lot of statistics. It appears that interracial marriages have increased from 3.2% in 1980 to 8.4% in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. That doesn’t really seem like a large increase to me. However, this same source reported in 2009 that 83% of Americans approve of interracial dating compared to 48% in 1987. When broken down to generational opinions, it seems that the approval rate increases greatly with Millennials (those born from 1981 to 2000) to 93%. The ‘Silent Generation’ (those born prior to 1946) still had only a 67% approval rate, although that was a big improvement over 36% from the same generation in 1987. So, in the words of Bob Dylan, it seems that, ‘the times, they are a-changin’.

There are many more statistics on interracial marriage regarding divorce rates, economic factors, and education levels.  I’d prefer not to get too hung up on the surveys and statistics as there are too many variables that we cannot measure when it comes to relationships.  So at this point I would rather write from my personal perspective.

I grew up in a ‘Wonder bread’ neighborhood in the northeast, where a mixed marriage consisted of a Catholic and a Lutheran. I’m a second generation American of 100% Austrian descent – you can’t get much whiter than that (although I do tan well). I had some relatives who lived in Philadelphia’s inner city and had been mugged and robbed enough times to talk like racists even though some of their friends and most of their neighbors were black. At the same time, I watched Sidney Poitier movies with my mom as she commented on how handsome he was ‘for a black man’. I never really understood the whole race thing even when I watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but I knew it was an important movie and a great love story. Maybe I was just too young and naive. As a child, I just thought that if we continued to blend and procreate regardless of race, country of origin, or religious affiliations, we could blur all of the lines and there would be no reason to hate anymore. The truth is that bigotry isn’t an innate human trait, it is learned.

Now let’s talk about preferences. I prefer driving black cars because I think they look cooler and classier than any other color. Most of my wardrobe is black, or black and white. I like the stark contrast and besides, it’s easier to mix and match. I also love black and white movies and photography. And I like black men. I love men in general, and I love the diversity that this great big world has to offer – a world that doesn’t really seem so big once you’ve been around it once or twice. I have dated men of many different ethnic backgrounds, but my friends all know that I tend to be more attracted to black men. Many of my friends have never dated outside of their race, and even though they don’t judge it, I’m not sure they get it. If they all felt like I do, I wouldn’t even be writing this article. In fact, white men who have never dated out of their race ask me ‘why’ as well. There are a lot of flippant remarks I could make to that question like: “Once you go black, you never go back.” But that’s not really true, because I am still open to dating white guys, or men of other ethnic backgrounds. In fact, I have no more issues with race than I have with age. If I am attracted to someone both physically and intellectually, and we have enough in common to sustain interesting conversation, what difference does it make?

If you read my article entitled “Does Size Matter?” you’ll see that there are statistics that support the common beliefs about how gifted a man is based on his lineage. I’ve made wise cracks about that too, but there’s more to life than a large penis with a man attached, and in fact, they can be attached to men of any race. I have explained to my friends that most of the black men I’ve dated have made me feel like a goddess, and have been complete gentlemen in public, while knowing how to fulfill my desires in private.  I said ‘most’. There are always exceptions and I don’t like to generalize. I have told my friends that all of the black men I’ve dated have been superb kissers and are typically very passionate, sensual men, who are very in touch with their sexuality – an important compatibility point for me. Most of the black men I know have a keen sense of style and always seem to know just what to wear for any occasion. Of course I have a theory that it’s always better to be overdressed, than underdressed, so I appreciate that. I have wondered if even the most conservative brother just naturally possesses more ‘cool’ factor than the hippest of white guys. Or maybe it’s just that intelligent, self-aware black males try harder at everything they do, because they historically had to in order to get anywhere in our society. Not much different than women, really. And that’s what I have determined is the real reason I get along so well with black men. Everything else aside, it boils down to one primary thing – empathy.  If you look at the American history of women and of the black race, we’ve had similar struggles for human rights. I am a woman who worked in a white-male-dominated industry most of her life. As a result, I know what it is to be a minority who is stereotyped based on physical appearances. I also know what it is to have to work twice as hard as the majority in order to prove yourself.

I have dated, or simply spent time getting to know black men from many walks of life. Among them, rap artists, actors, models, executives, inventors, entrepreneurs, educators, a detective, an insurance salesman, a famous porn star, a male stripper, a famous comedian, and even a Bishop of a very well-known church. How’s that for diversity? I have had a number of black female friends as well. There have been a number of occasions where I was the minority at a party, or the token white girl at a gathering. One night I was in Miami having cocktails with four black friends – one woman and three men. After a couple hours of shared stories and side-splitting laughter, one of them asked me ‘are you sure you don’t have a little black in you?’ I looked around the table and said, “Well not at the moment, but I’m sure I could if I wanted to.” Ba-dump-bump.

How do we explain why we are attracted to some people and not others, and what does it really have to do with race? Why do some men have a thing for blondes, others for redheads, and some prefer brunettes? Why are some guys hot for women in garter belts and stockings, and for others it’s running shorts and ponytails? To find love is divine. So why limit yourself? What our society, due to ignorance, once deemed forbidden, then taboo, and perhaps shocking, is really quite acceptable now, depending what part of the country you’re in.  I was married to a white man and now I date black men. So what? I used to drink almost nothing but vodka when it came to adult beverages, and now I have taken a liking to bourbon. That doesn’t mean I’ll never drink vodka again. All I’m saying is: be open-minded. Look beyond the surface and allow yourself to get to know people from all walks of life, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation. These things alone do not define a person.