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Black Man Phobia
I was out the other night and met a beautiful lady. I normally don't see race. I never have. That is probably one of my weaknesses. I tend to treat people like people. So, it really did not matter that she was Caucasian and I am African American. We sparked up a conversation over a glass of wine and there seemed to be a nice chemistry. I am new to dating and a little shy. However, after about an hour, I got up the nerve to ask her out.
She was close to 50-years-old. She was a professional and her response left me speechless. She said, “Can I be honest? I don’t date black men. I never have. It’s how I was raised.”
I am not naïve. I understand that racism exists. I understand attraction and I know that not everyone is attracted to the same kind of people. I am not attracted to certain types of women. It was not the fact that she did not date black men that left me speechless. Her statement that it was how she was raised floored me.
I have dealt with this all of my life. I am from Texas and I have never seen race. I remember one incident where I went out on a bike ride with a friend of mine. Again, I understood that I was in the South. This girl was one of my best friends. We ate together, we did things together like go to movies with other friends and watch movies at my house. However, when we rode up to her house and her father saw me, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He started to stutter and stammer. The words that finally came out of his mouth were “This ain’t happenin.” He went apoplectic and soon our friendship imploded too.
The incident that ran me away from the church was similar. When I was in college, a couple of friends and I were looking for a church home. We visited this church because my mentor and benefactor, Floyd Nolan Jones, taught there quite often. It was called “The Church of Jesus” and they had a multicultural congregation. Even a few African Americans attended regularly. We made our decision and asked the pastor if we could come to dinner at this house and talk about joining his congregation. We had a great dinner. His wife was a wonderful hostess.
When the conversation moved to us joining his congregation, he was happy that my two friends, one Hispanic and the other Caucasian were going to join but he pulled me to the side. Remember, Floyd Jones was my mentor. He considered this man a brother. Jones was a bible teacher and filled an auditorium at my university every Friday night for bible study. He taught that racism had no place in the body of Christ. He even suggested, privately once, that I ask his beautiful daughter out. This pastor was his student.
He pulled me into another room, looked at me intently, and whispered, “I don’t know what you want here. I want you to know that I don’t think you will fit into our congregation. You should find a church amongst your own kind.” Most of the people in his congregation were my friends. My friends and I had told them about this wonderful place to worship. This man called me brother around all of them and now he was telling me that because of the color of my skin, I was not wanted in his congregation. A week later, I told all of my friends that I was leaving the church for a while. That was 23 years ago. That led to my discovery that most of the policies and political ideas of the church are based in the racism of fifties and sixties.
I moved to California in 1987. I thought it would be different, but the first time I rode my bike to the beach, a group of kids spotted me and one said, “Hey, there’s a nigger, let’s get him.” Thankfully, they thought better of it. I am big guy.
Each of these incidents made me look at myself differently. They made me reflect on what it means to be black in America. I even wrote about it for the Los Angeles Times. This last incident has made me rethink myself as a person and it has made me look at people differently. I see race now.
I am not just an intelligent, educated, creative single father. I am not just a teacher who is dedicated to his students. I am a black man and no matter how many degrees I get or languages I speak, I will always be just a black man in America. It is how we were raised.