Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Sometimes it is pertinent to “re-visit” old topics when their relevance rises to the surface. I believe this is the case for the dating issues of interracial dating. I moved my original article to a featured place on the Single Parents page, just to refresh your memories of where we have gone before with this topic. Based upon recent reader responses and personal experience, I believe it is time to take this subject a step further – the prejudice underlying the issue.
I would like to first share with you the fact that I was born, raised, and continue to live in the Deep South. It matters – a lot – when it comes to prejudice and societal views. I am ashamed to say that when I wanted to bring my best friend home with me from elementary school, my father refused to allow her to come over the moment he found out that she was African-American. I was angry for weeks! Then I found out that I wasn’t allowed at her house either, also dictated by her father. Prejudice is a sword that often cuts both ways.
The point is that I was introduced to and learned to despise prejudice at a very early age. By the time I reached high school, it was common knowledge among teens that our parents believed that any “white” girl who would date a “black” boy was “easy” and that any “black” boy who wanted to date a “white” girl was only trying to “better” himself. Ridiculous views on both sides.
The only problem is, versions of those views still exist and we, as the parents of today’s teens, are the originators of them. Children are not born with prejudice in their hearts and minds. They LEARN it. Yes, some of it comes from their peers. But some of it comes from those who are in their lives everyday and actually hold the most influence on the child – parents and other family members.
The black/white issues today are nothing like they were when I was in high school. In my school, there was one young woman who was a child of an interracial couple. She dated both white and black young men, but none of them took her seriously – which is a shame, because she was a beautiful young woman and went on to build a very successful career. There were only a handful of teens that were brave enough to cross racial lines to date. They were shunned by both races.
Today, the same issues, plus dozens more, still prevail. My daughter is a sophomore at a local public high school. She is a strong-minded, opinionated young woman who hates prejudice as much as I do and refuses to give in to the prejudicial tendencies of her peers. We talk almost daily and I am often surprised at the vehemence that fuels racial prejudice in her peer group. I truly thought that society would be past this stage by now. I guess I thought that anyone with any common sense would realize the injustice of prejudice.
What has come to surprise me the most, however, is the fact that while prejudice of white against black has, for the most part, not improved; prejudice of black against white has greatly strengthened. I often hear about conversations where young black women are upset and ready to do battle because “those white (“girls” or other more inappropriate term) think they can come in here and steal our men.” Young white women are no better, believing that somehow they should always be the preferred date. Furthermore, the young women are primarily the “guilty party” in perpetuating these ideas. Today’s young men seem to be unified by gender against the thoughts of racial differences. Furthermore, rising from the stench of this type of reasoning, comes the idea that white teens want to be black and black teens long to be white.
I must admit, most of them would deny this idea with great insistence. However, it is true. There are all types of classifications in the heads of today’s teens that simply boggle my mind. There are “oreos” (black on the outside, but white on the inside), reverse “oreos” (white on the outside; black on the inside), there are those that purport mannerisms or talk the opposite of their race, those that are “pretenders”, and those who are simply “fronting.” None of it makes much sense to me; after all, I am “old.”
The mind puzzler for me is that while prejudice still prevails, these teens are also emulating those of whom they are prejudiced against. I am no psychologist and I haven’t done any studies, but I can tell you, based upon the conversations I have been privileged to listen in on, what I perceive as the root of this philosophy. It seems that today’s children are being exposed to mixed messages. There are still those who would love to fill their heads with prejudice, and there are those who are working to eliminate it. Our teens often are not sure what to think. After all, both sides can relay a convincing message.
“Dating within our own race insures that we are preserving our culture.” “They only want to date you so that they can say that they dated a black/white guy/girl.” Whether or not the “reasons” make sense, as teens, if the actions keep them connected to a particular group, they will prevail. However, as a teen, attraction (whether born of friendship or romantic interest) is also a powerful stimulus. Here is where often the conflict arises.
As parents, it is our responsibility to instill in our children/teens fair and just values. The truth is that the only difference between the black and white races is the color of our skin. Our hearts beat the same; our minds think the same; and our emotions work the same. We should not judge those of different races based upon the actions or ideas upheld by their ancestors. Today is a new day and we must let go of the past. All of today’s youth possess the potential for greatness. For those who do not seem to achieve this status, it is commonly an issue of confidence and self-esteem. We, as parents, need to be stressing to them that “being themselves” is the best they can be. Not only should we be talking to our teens, but we should be setting an example by which they can pattern their lives. Parents tend to think that they have little influence in the lives of their teens, but this is far from the truth. Honestly, today’s teens have either vowed to themselves to be 1) exactly like their parents, or 2) nothing like their parents. Whichever they choose, YOU are the primary influence.
A study in extremes – hatred for another race to emulating that race. What resides on the middle ground? Peace and harmony? The sharing of ideas? Acceptance? Progress? We will never find out unless we are willing to take the chance. How ready are you?