Relationships | Black, Female & Dating…Or Trying To? According to the Statistics, Why Bother?

Disclaimer:  All images used in this post are from the “Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism” by Rebelle Magazine. The images are a part of the “I Am, Too, Harvard” campaign, revealing the experiences faced by Black students at Harvard.

Please, visit both Rebelle Magazine and the campaign sites by clicking on the highlighted links! By the way, almost all of the pictures relate to my experience while at Stanford–I hope the students there will do something like this as well.

Also, I use the word “we” often, not to say all Black women are in agreement with me, but to express my solidarity with those who do have shared similar views.

 

 Now, on to the post!

Image from Rebelle Mag: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

 

Today, I came across the 2011 article “Why black women are justifiably bitter: The bleak relationship picture for African-American females” today.  While the article was far from shocking, it really laid out in a clear and undeniable manner the reality that many Black women face in trying to make gains in the dating market.  

Plus, the article was far more favourable than the now-withdrawn 2011 Psychology Today “Why Black Women Are Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women” (links to a Psychology Today rebuttal of the argument).

The article follows on the 2009 blog post by OkCupid, “How Your Race Affects the Messages You Get,” that indicates that Black women were, for the most part, shut out of the online dating world, being the users who sent the most messages while receiving the least replies.  Black women were also the most likely to respond to messages.  Black men as well as other races, OkCupid’s statics showed, do not consider Black women as relationship material.

Feeling depressed yet?

Image from Rebelle Mag: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Well, it gets worse.  It follows that if Black women are not considered relationship material, then surely marriage is out of the question.  That is where the article comes in and eloquently explains why Black women have every right to be angry/bitter in general.  Because although we are not considered for marriage, we are surely considered for sex.  As the article points out that “7 in 10 black children are born to unmarried parents.”

Oh?  Really?

I am not surprised given the dating statistics. Of course, given the grim statistics on incarceration and African-American men, it makes sense that marriage would seem unlikely.  Nothing wrong with having had a bad moment in life and having had to go to jail/prison, but it does make getting married more problematic.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

So, why I am writing about this?

Well, because I am frankly tired of reading the negative online commentary about Black women, whether it is about our hair, our skin colour, or weight, or our strength of character and fearlessness (a.k.a. our masculinity).

Men who have a problem with strong women, ought to avoid dating Black women, in my opinion.  Black women are not raised to be cowed by anyone.  We understand clearly where the dominant society has decided to relegate us and how some (apparently a majority) of our male counterparts view us.  (Let me not get into this statement: “black men who, according to social science data, are more likely than any other group of men to maintain relationships with multiple women.”)

 

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

We understand clearly that a good portion of our male counterparts are eager to mobilize themselves by marrying up and thus marrying light. We get it.  We get it that the kinkier and nappier our hair, the broader our thighs, the bigger our lips, bottoms and hips, the louder our voices, the more likely others will to try to shut us down or shut us up.  We get it.

The thing is…

We don’t give two cents about it.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Unworthy men and women (for our LGBTQ population), please continue to ignore us.  Please, continue not to respond to messages. Trust me, it’s much better this way, because we won’t be wasting our time on you.  And who would want to?  I am beginning to feel really sorry for those who do.

You see, while some people may see Black women as available (sending so many messages) and desperate (responding to so many messages), the fact is some Black women simply won’t do two things:

  1. Wait for permission to say what we want, and
  2. Be impolite to someone just because we don’t like them.

Have you ever thought about that?  Have you thought about the fact that some Black women simply own our sexuality and are polite?

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Can people get beyond the need to assign to us the roles of either

  1. the gold-digging concubine or
  2. the food stamp baby-making mammy?

Can we get beyond this already?  

What? No, we can’t? It’s far too important for maintaining the status quo?

Oh, well, forgive me.  I thought it was okay to be seen as human.

Image from Rebelle Magazine: Black Voices at Harvard Share Their Experiences with Racism

Of course, this is all just my personal opinion.

 

Secrets…Being a therapist…Why I blog…

INSANITY copy

INSANITY copy (Photo credit: Inspiredhomefitness)

The other day my sister, Michelle, posted the following to my Facebook page:

“Why are you skinny people doing this to yourselves??? I thought insanity was designed for overweight individuals???”

As you might imagine, the “insanity” to which she referred is the Insanity Workout exercise program by Beachbody and led by Shaun T.  Nine days ago, I decided to take the 8 week challenge and have been reporting my progress to friends and family via Facebook.  I am happy to say that I have completed each day thus far and intend to continue so doing.

Now, back to my sister’s comment.

You see, she is right.  I am not overweight and thus it would seem that I would have no just cause to take on such a workout program.  Right?

FIBROMYALGIA

FIBROMYALGIA (Photo credit: *SHESHELL*)

Wrong.

I decided to take on the Insanity Challenge, because I wanted to prove two points to myself:

  1. 1. I can achieve a high level of fitness as a person with fibromyalgia; and
  2. 2. I can take care of my body as I choose to without fearing input from others.

——

A world of secrets…

Back in 2008 when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my body had been changing rapidly.  As I wrote in my recent posts, I had gain a significant amount of weight in only a couple of years.  You see, before I started graduate school, I worked as a personal trainer and fitness instructor from 2002 to 2004. That period of my life was one in which I experienced a high boost to my body image.  I was strong and healthy.

My weight then was higher than what it is now, but it was never a concern to me.  My major concerns:  strength and endurance.  And if there is one thing that I have lamented greatly since having fibromyalgia was the loss of my physical strength and endurance.

With my weight gain came real health concerns, such as being warned about my blood pressure and having some other health issues being labeled as “due to excess weight.”

"If you had 5 minutes...,"  collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

“If you had 5 minutes…,” collage with magazine and cardstock by Diedré M. Blake, (2010)

It was frustrating to find myself in that state and feeling that I couldn’t do anything physically about it…like exercise in the way that I had in the past.  I was too tired.  I felt too much pain.  There was a bigger issue though…

Work.  

As many of you know, I am an art therapist and counselor.  I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders.  This area of specialization developed from my second year internship and subsequent job.   So, why would working within this area create a problem for me?  Simply this…

How does a therapist embark upon a health improvement that would mean significant weight loss while reinforcing to her clients that their desire to lose weight was unhealthy?

For a long time, I did not have an answer.  I worked in a place where there were strict rules on how food could be discussed and what foods could be eaten.  Discussion of weight loss, weight loss programs, and diets was forbidden.  This is not to say that these rules were always followed.

The reality was that a majority of the staff was female, White and American; and the fact is that a majority of White American females struggle with body image and disordered eating.   This is not to say that women of colour are immuned to such an experience.  So, as the saying goes, don’t get it twisted.     

—–

 

Being a therapist…

Also, there seems to be a very strange expectation, i.e. that all Black women are happy with being overweight.  I write this because of various experiences I had while trying to manage my weight issues.  The most memorable of these was an experience I had with an older White female nutritionist who worked at a local hospital.

I was given a referral to visit this nutritionist because both myself and my doctor believed that it would be good for me to have professional advice on how to safely and slowly lose my excess weight through diet, since exercise was proving difficult for me.  At that time I was about 50 pounds overweight.

I sat with the lady and stated my reasons for coming to see her.  From her lips came the following response:

“But you’re Black!  Why would you want to lose weight?  Aren’t all Black women a bit fatter that everyone else?  Aren’t you people use to being like that?”

Now, some may believe that I am exaggerating…but I kid you not.  Those were her  exact words that are engraved upon my heart and mind.  I was in disbelief.

There I was seeking help to lose the weight that was causing me severe health problems…and there was that lady telling me that I didn’t need to lose the weight because of my skin colour.  Huh?

——

So, I realized that I had to do it on my own.  I decided to take matters into my own hands as I wrote in my previous post.   The thing was that at work, although I had explained to some that I was planning to lose weight, there was apparently discomfort that I had made such a choice.

Moreover, I did not discuss just how much weight I intended to lose, because that was no one else’s business except for me and my doctor.  Looking back, perhaps it would have been better if I had simply stated a number, even though I did not have a number in mind.

The world in which I worked during that time became closed.  I watched as people stared at me with curious and suspicious eyes.  I listened as people made side comments about me.  I answered as people kept asking me, “haven’t you lost enough now?” or “why are you still losing weight?”

And then there were the painful rumours regarding eating disorders and even my sexuality.  It was a truly discouraging time.  I often felt alone; and between having fibromyalgia and being the only Black clinician on staff as well as the only art therapist, I often felt misunderstood.

My studio space became a place of refuge during the last year of my weight loss.  I watched as people, who were once willing to speak with me or were friendly with me, stop interacting with me.  And, in all honesty, the decision to move to Italy came at the right time as who I had been no longer was.  The new person did not fit in with my old world.

So, why have I written about this or about anything else?

Because it was time.  Especially as a counselor specializing in eating disorders.  You see, even counselors are human. 😉  Even we struggle with our bodies, including food concerns, weight and body image.

It is a strange paradox about the world of psychology.  As a counselor you are expected to help others in overcoming their problems.  At the same time, however, it is seemingly frowned upon by peers if you have problems of your own.

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

This Cold Hard Floor: II, watercolour and ink painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2006

There is a reason why…

research has looked into the suicidal tendencies of psychologists (counselors/therapists/social workers, etc.).

There is a reason why….

some of us feel that there is a need to be invincible.  That there is a need to hide what hurts us, to hide our struggles, to hide our true selves.  We walk about attempting to be the tabula rasa (blank slate) for everyone, including our peers…and it just doesn’t work.

There is a reason why…

many of us, who were once bright and shining candles, finally burnout.

There is always a reason why…

I write about this, as well as the previous blog post, to write the truth about a topic for which I held tremendous fear: my weight loss.

I write because I believe that it is the job a therapist to be human and to show his or her client that there is always a path to be found out of the difficulties of life, not just via book lessons but through setting the example by how we live our own lives and how we take care of ourselves.

Until Next Time,

D.

On the number 23…

The sound of Italian fills my ears as I stand, tired and sweaty.  The number 23 bus is too crowded, and somewhere nearby there is a baby crying.  I look behind me and see the tear-streaked face of a little girl, whose dark skin and dark eyes reflect my own.  Her hair is artistically decorated with many colourful bands, separating her carefully combed hair.  Even as her mother hands to her a small bottle to help calm her nerves, the little girl’s eyes glance around at the many strangers, who tower above her–How scary we must all seem.

In whispered and loudly spoken words, those who speak Italian say of the little girl, “Che bella…” and “Che carina…”  Her mother is busy speaking on the phone and does not seem to notice the admiration that her little one has inspired.  I am made to smile in the moment, because I can see that those around me are trying in their own way to show appreciation for diversity in beauty.

The elderly gentleman next to me leans over the little girl and tries to ease her worries, speaking to her in Italian as I have not experienced it before.  His voice is soothing and kind with a rich tone that makes every word that he speaks that much more exquisite.

“Non si preoccupi…non si preoccupi…non si preoccupi..”

The little girl’s eyes stare at him with wonder as the corner of her lips curve into a smile.

 

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

TWFB: No, thank you. I am not a prostitute…

Colosseo, photography by D.M. Blake (2011)

I am still listening to Vivaldi…Don’t ask…

(TWBF=Travelling while Black and Female)

I spent last night mulling over what my exact experiences have been as an overseas traveller since reaching adulthood.  The reality is that there was a lengthy gap, of almost ten years, between my travels overseas.

I had basically ceased all of my overseas travelling in 2001.  Partly because of my own anxiety around 9/11, the war, and also being in the process of becoming an American citizen.  Simply, at that time, it seemed to me to be in my best interest to stay put in America.  Thus, I did just that.

Of course, one thing leads to another (as in years passed by while I was living).  I moved from Florida to Massachusetts, studied, graduated, and then was working.

So, what have been my experiences since coming to Rome, i.e. as a Black woman?

(YouTube is a great travel resource.  Please, watch SaitamaFlowers has some wise words.)

Hmm…I suppose, for the most part, I have been treated respectfully here.  There are some things that I have come to understand and experience that leave me with some concerns.

In general, however, my grievances are a bit superficial…like not being able to find makeup to match my skin tone (Thank the universe for Kiko Milano! :)), and not being able to find hair products (Thank the universe for olive oil and Cielo Alto!:)), etc.  These types of things, which if one is persistent in seeking a resolution, then all should be mostly well.

It is true (again, this is my experience) that some older Italians are not accustomed to dealing with foreigners.

Sadly enough, while I was waiting in line in a grocery store, there was an elderly man who kept hitting me with his shopping cart.  At first, I thought it was an accident, but I recognized after the second/third/etc times that this man was having a serious problem with me.  Of course, I tried my best to redirect his behaviour, but he simply let loose a string derogatory words about my non-Italian status.

Luckily enough, the people in the grocery store, customers and employees alike, came to my defense and were quite apologetic, and they told the man that he was in the wrong.  The experience was shocking to me.  The response of the bystanders, however, gives me hope for the future of multiculturalism here in Rome.

It is true (again, this is from my experience and some research) that some Italian men see Black women (really, I should say here foreign women, especially young Americans) as easy sexual targets.

For Black women, it is possible too that we may be thought of as prostitutes as there is, apparently, a significant number of North African women who are considered as engaging in prostitution–This is an exceptionally difficult topic, and I am trying to handle it in the best way I know how.  Please, understand that I mean no offense.

First trip to Rome (2010)

One of the things to which I had to become accustomed was the staring.  People here stare.  When I write “stare,” I don’t mean like a lengthy sideways glance.  No, I mean stare.  They seemingly try to stare you down.  These days I treat it as a challenge…a little staring contest.  You know, like in childhood, Just who will be the first to look away?? 😉

Now, when I first came to Rome, I took major offense to this behaviour.  You know, it felt like I was being silently assaulted by these stares, because I did not know how to understand them.  A part of me was like, Do you seriously have, or want to have a problem with me?

Then, I learnt that the staring-thing was not just directed at Black people, or foreigners (yes, I asked several people), or people dress a little oddly like I do.  Oh no, Italians stare at Italians too…and I have witnessed it first-hand.  Actually, I find it quite amusing these days.

So, yes, people here stare.  Try not take it too seriously if you travel here. Of course, it is true that they may be staring at you because you are obviously a foreigner, but again it’s a cultural thing.  So, don’t let it upset your day…try to have a sense of humour about it.

I will say this:  it is important to learn the basics of the language of the country to which you are choosing to travel before you leave.  Practice aloud greetings and asking for help.  Also, it is important remember formalities of the country/culture.  The more you know about culturally appropriate behaviour, the better off you are.  Perhaps most importantly, it is important to keep a sense of humour, especially at the most difficult of times.

If someone offends you, regardless of intentionality, just remember to treat it like water running off a duck’s back.

Until Next Time!Best,

D.

Travelling while female…and Black (Part 2)

In Florence, photography by D.M. Blake (2011)

Where to begin…where to begin.  I am still listening to Vivaldi.

How is Vivaldi relevant to the topic?  Well, actually, I have found that listening to instrumental music is quite helpful when managing emotions.  And throughout my travels, I have most definitely had to learn how to manage my emotions (although I am not always the most successful).  😉

I have been travelling alone since 1987.  My first trip was a 3-4 hour long flight from Kingston, Jamaica to Boston, Massachusetts.  Strangely enough, I remember feeling neither terrified nor excited–I was busy thinking about the most appropriate way to act, in order to make the best impression on those who would encounter me.  Even at the young age, I had tapped into something that has served me throughout my travels of the years.  That is, neither fear nor excitement will get you anywhere, if you do not behave appropriately.

So, let’s fast-forward some years to 1996 when my mother and I decided to backpack from London to Edinburgh.  Although it was a great deal of fun, it was also my first instance of having someone look at me askance.  What I mean to say was that my long braided hair, bell-bottom (before they were called boot-cut) jeans, guitar slung over shoulder look along with my big blue Jamaican passport causes one of the (thankfully female) guards to do an extra check on me.  It was the first time that I had someone basically put their hands on my person in such a thorough manner.  And I remember recording that in the catalogue of my mind.

Apparently, I did not learn from episode 1996, because in 1999 when I travelled to Berlin to attend an overseas program, again I was stopped and thoroughly searched:  shoes removed and all.  Of course, I was still rocking out in my hippie-mode the long braids, guitar (I think), big blue passport, but then I had traded my jeans for cargo pants…you know, with the many pockets.  The guards at Tegel weren’t having it.  I wasn’t annoyed then…that came later.  I figured I would allow for stereotypes to simply be.  After all, even in the US, people pair Jamaica with the word marijuana, so…

Looking perplexed crossing the Charles River into Boston, photography by D. M. Blake (2011)

Berlin…to Prague?  No, I don’t think so…

Everything changed when I decided to take a trip to Prague to visit a friend in November 1999.  I remember clearly that it was an early morning trip, and already Berlin had become cold.  Even as I journeyed to Prague, I could see the pilings of snow covering buildings and streets–At that time, snow still fascinated me.  (Live in Boston for a couple of years, and you get over the fascination really fast).

So, what could have happened on that trip?  Well, long story short was that I, along with other people of visibly minority status, were escorted (I use that for the sake of politeness) off the train and told to return to Germany…i.e. even with my big old visa that gave me the right to enter into the Czech Republic and thus visit Prague.

Yes, that’s right.  My passport was taken from me and I was kept in a holding area (feel free to read into that a little) until train heading back to Berlin had arrived.  Mind you, in German I directly asked the German border patrol what the meaning of this was.  He equally directly and quite civilly told me that the Czech didn’t want people like us there, and that was the reason for our removal. Wait…People like us??  

Well, that was my first and last time to have an experience like that…and why?  The following is not a definitive reason.  However, I will say that the episode caused me to do something I never thought I would do… I decided to become an American citizen.  I understood that with my Jamaican passport, I would continue to run into problems. Now, please, understand that this is merely my experience and my then-logic.  I understand now that problems with travelling can occur regardless of your passport. The little blue passport, however, did help me in my travels.  No longer did I get the strange delays and the weird looks (okay, so I still got the looks). 😉

(Expat in Korea celestrial81186 at YouTube.  See part two here.)

Okay, so what does this all mean?  No, I am not saying every person of colour  who is not American should run out there, toss their citizenship, and try to become an American citizen.  I am proud to be an American citizen and equally proud to be Jamaican.  What I am saying is that it is possible that the origination of your passport potentially can help or hinder your ease of travel as a person of colour.  Again…these are just my thoughts.  Also, there is a difference when travelling to a place for vacation, and staying in a place for a longer period time, but I will come to that next…  😉

Also, if you have specific questions about travelling, please free to ask and I will address them in my next post.
Until Next Time.
Best,
D.

P.S. I was attempting to find a cute cartoon featuring Black women travelling…and so, I did as we are expected to do these days and went on Google Images…What did I find?  Well, nothing could be posted.  Many of the cartoons were quite derogatory towards Black women.  Now, why is that?

AMBW… What??

I have a tendency towards researching things.  Yes, I am a bit obsessive.  However, when I speak or write about a topic, I like to be as well-informed as possible.  In my last posts, you may have noticed that I have been using information from Asian countries, i.e. expats living in Asian countries like Japan and Korea.  I have been researching on YouTube what it is like for Black women to live in countries where they are a perceivable minority…Little did I know that this research would lead to…

Apparently, there is a growing celebration of interracial relationships between Asian Men and Black Women.  I had no idea.  Of course, I think it is brilliant that people of different ethnic/racial/religious/etc.  can and want to get together.  I am, however, a bit concerned by the seeming exoticism of it all…

I know in my life, I have tried to stay clear from people who are seeking to be in a relationship with me because they have a prepared plan of only dating Black women, because Black women are x, y, and z…,or who are seemingly fixated on my cultural background.  So, I am uncertain as to what is happening here with this AMBW push.

More importantly, I have noticed that there are even virtual battles that are being waged about the beauty of Black women and where we stand on the beauty standard totem pole…And according to some, we are at the bottom.  There are even some arguments that Asian men and Black women should get together, because we are both on bottom in terms of desirability…And I am like (yes, I wrote “like”), “What??!!”

Have I missed the boat here?  Was there some big thing that happened culturally that I wasn’t aware of it?  It’s true that I don’t watch television, listen to the radio, avoid newspapers and magazines.  So, it is quite possible.  When, however, did minorities exoticizing other minorities become in vogue.

(Very good YouTube video that addresses this issue. Video by Charly in Korea)

 My apologies for the tirade, but…

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

P.S.  This guy is just too much :D…

 (“Interracial Dating – Korean Guy’s Perspective”

by famousamos on YouTube)

Travelling while female…and Black (Part 1)

“Travelling Home to Rome….” photography by D. M. Blake (2011)

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a long conversation with my mother that included remembrances about her childhood and my grandfather.  There was something else of which spoke that made a deep impression upon me.  That is, she spoke about her travels around the world.

It is a bit strange, perhaps, that my memories of my mother are of old photographs:  my mother standing in snow-covered places, my mother amongst tulip fields and windmills, my mother feeding pigeons in a wide and open plaza, my mother on a ship…

My mother in places that I, as a child, never understood how she came to be there or if I would ever see such wondrous sights in my life.

I remember finding and displaying all the coins from the many foreign countries in which she had travelled.  Places with strange names, strange languages, differently shaped than the money I knew as a child in Jamaica.

How could one person have travelled so far at a young age?  So very far from the island country that served as a birthplace, and where she had both children and husband awaiting her?

Then again, how could she have not?  She was teaching us, her children (and even our father), something very important.  She was teaching us that no matter who you are and where you are, you should never limit yourself.  Think big, dream even bigger, and allow life to take you where you will it.

“How to Create Dreams I” photography by Diedré M. Blake, 2011 (Rome)

There are many answers that one could give, or rather, that I could give.

The fact is, I travel because I need to understand that nothing is this life can limit me but my own self.

Not the colour of my skin.  Not the kinkiness of my hair.  Not the language that I speak.  Not the relationships that I have built through blood or friendship.

Perhaps it is selfish.  I am certain that culturally, for some, this type of attitude is selfish.  For me, I see it as setting an example for the younger generation of my family, who will undoubtedly face a world that is filled with stereotypes, some of which will be aimed at them.

Trust me, travelling is not easy for people of colour, especially in parts of Europe, where the colour of one’s skin can mean a reason to be attacked (again, this is my own opinion).

Travelling, however, is one way of challenging stereotypes.    It takes courage to say, “Let me leave everything behind and go somewhere far away.”  And that is regardless of race/ethnicity/sexuality/religion/etc… Everyone, I believe, feels some fear when away from what is familiar, and from those who are accepting of us.

When we open our eyes and our arms to the world, we allow ourselves to see beyond stereotypes…Equally important, we allow for the world to see us as individuals.  Thus, why should the world not be our oyster?

I thank my mother for passing on the wanderlust that has allowed me to have and to act upon the desire to see as much of the world as I can…I suppose she, in turn, thanks her grandfather, who was a ship engineer.

Until Next Time.

Best,

D.

P.S. —

Some YouTube Links of Black Women Travelling:

Babs in Japan: “Love life and Japan” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VLx7Yc0dwU&feature=share&list=UL2VLx7Yc0dwU

Charly in Korea: “Black in Korea” http://youtu.be/mbLVIWNtdzo

Interesting Blog from China: “Life Behind the Wall”  http://lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com/