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How to Date (Black) South African Girls

I’m white, and my partner is black. The blatant staring and incredulity can be boring enough to have to deal with day in, day out.

17/02/2017 04:58 SAST | Updated 17/02/2017 09:23 SAST
Christopher Clark

First off, apologies if you've been misled by the title of this post. If you're really looking for advice on how to date black South African girls (or rather, women), then this is not the place for you. I don't have the answers. And you and I are not buddies. We are not the same. So please, don't be weird. Don't make it weird. For both our sakes.

The title of this post is, however, not just for click bait purposes. It's a small adjustment to a very real article that some white Aussie guy called Jonno Something-or-other wrote for VICE some years back entitled 'How to Date South African Girls'. Aside from being generally crass, sexist, offensive and reeking of sour grapes, Jonno's article entirely failed to acknowledge that there is, in fact, such a thing as a BLACK South African "girl".

Interestingly, even most of the numerous sources that have criticised this article over the years have failed to acknowledge this gaping hole in a conversation (of sorts) about a country where roughly 70% of the population is black. So let's try to be fair to Jonno. Firstly, he can't help the fact that he's Australian. Secondly, there are a hell of a lot of South Africans – old and young, male and female, black and white and everything in-between – who are equally unable to consider dating anyone who isn't more or less the same colour as they are.

Over the past four and a half years, I've seen this fact made manifest countless times. Every. Single. Day. Because if you hadn't guessed by now, I'm white, and my partner is black. The blatant staring and incredulity can be boring enough to have to deal with day in, day out. People literally stop in their tracks, their jaw falls open and their brain suddenly seems to malfunction.

Contrary to what you might expect, the more youthful observers are often the worst culprits. On one occasion, a child of no more than 10 years old nudged a friend and said much too loud "Look! A white guy with a black girl. That's not something you see every day!" I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Some days I can make myself ignore it, but sometimes I'm tired, and I just want to be able to hold hands with my partner without feeling people's eyes on us from all sides. Sometimes I want to turn around and scream "For fuck's sake! It's 2017!". Other times I think about telling people that if they're so damn interested by us, we'll let them take a picture for R20.

People come up and tell us that what we are doing is "important" or "revolutionary" or "special." Though the intentions are undoubtedly in the right place, the inference is in some way the same: that because of our colour difference, our relationship must be about something other than just two people who love each other.

But worse than the staring and gawking is the perceived judgment that so often comes with it. Waiters and waitresses, both white and of colour, are visibly shocked when my partner takes the bill at a restaurant, as they've obviously assumed she's with me for my money; sometimes black women look at my partner and tut – they seem to feel that having a white boyfriend is some kind of conscious betrayal on her part; we once had to leave a hotel where we were visiting my parents for the day, because my partner felt uncomfortable about the way some old Germans were looking at her as we sat by the pool – something about the situation led her to believe they thought she was my prostitute.

Then there are the positive judgments. People come up and tell us that what we are doing is "important" or "revolutionary" or "special." Though the intentions are undoubtedly in the right place, the inference is in some way the same: that because of our colour difference, our relationship must be about something other than just two people who love each other.

I've even felt the judgments from many of my closest white friends. They've joked about my "jungle fever," or implied that I obviously just have a "thing" for black women, or that I always have to be different. In their eyes, this is confirmed by the fact that I just so happen to have had two black girlfriends in a row. Never mind that every girlfriend I had before that was white.

I suppose you might blame it all on the legacies of apartheid, but it's certainly not only my South African friends that are guilty. When I took my partner to England for the first time last year, an uncle reproached me for not "warning" him that she was black.

Even more strange, my English friends kept mistakenly calling my partner by my black ex-girlfriend's name. This is certainly not something that has ever happened when I've moved from one white girlfriend to another. But suddenly, it seemed my partner was just "some other black woman" that I'd got with because, well, she's black, and apparently I'm into that now.

Sometimes, people still just appear to feel that whatever our relationship is about it is just wrong for a white and a black to be together. Full stop. Simple as that. These are the types who will openly shake their heads and turn up their noses. I always wonder what they would say if I asked them why they think it's wrong. I'm sure many of them wouldn't have an answer.

I sometimes wonder how many people are scared of the idea of cross-racial dating or relationships because of all of this nonsense - all the assumptions, stereotypes and judgments that they would have to deal with from other people. It's sad really.

Sadly, some other black women also seem to swallow the reductive narratives. When they discover I have a black partner, they'll suddenly start flirting with me. Again, they don't seem to stop to think that maybe I love my partner for who she is, not for her colour. They just think I have a "thing" for black women, so they're also in with a chance. Which apparently is great for them, because some of them tell me that "white guys treat black women better." So in one fell swoop, these women reduce me to just "some white guy" with a thing for black women, they put down all black men, and both they and my partner become nothing other than a homogenised mass of black women willing to play along with my assumed fetish.

None of this is helped by the number of people who seem so happy to flawlessly play out the stereotypes. Anyone who's ever been to Jo'Burg or Long Street will have seen various German men dotted around the fringes (why is it always the Germans?), gingerly creeping closer to the nearest buxom black woman as if they were about to try a piece of sushi for the first time in their lives (the German women sometimes aren't much better for that matter). Then there are the fat, rich, old British men you see strolling around the Waterfront with beautiful black girls half their size and half their age.

Initially, I get angry at all of these people for dirtying the image of what my partner and I are by association, but then I realise that this makes me just as judgmental as the people who judge us, or at the very least equally primed to jump to certain conclusions. So I try to tell myself that maybe it isn't what it looks like.

There also seems to be a basic assumption from various different sides of the conversation that as soon as someone appropriate of the same race comes along, my relationship with my partner will crumble. I'll never forget the concerned look that a white male friend of mine gave me when my girlfriend struck up a very casual conversation with a black guy who happened to be standing next to us in a bar one night. It was as if my friend felt I couldn't compete with the mutual blackness this man and my partner shared, and that everything else paled (excuse the pun) in comparison.

I sometimes wonder how many people are scared of the idea of cross-racial dating or relationships because of all of this nonsense - all the assumptions, stereotypes and judgments that they would have to deal with from other people. It's sad really. Many friends tell my partner and I that we are so lucky to have each other and to love each other like we do. But how many people in South Africa, and elsewhere no doubt, are dramatically reducing the pool from which they might be able to draw someone they really love, just by their inability to consider being with someone who happens to have a different skin colour?

I'm not stupid enough to say things like "I don't see colour," or to claim that there aren't differences between my girlfriend and I that are predicated on our respective races. But as far as I'm concerned, our differences – both the racial ones and all the others – are precisely what make our relationship so much more interesting and intricate than the reductive narratives that so many people try to project upon us. Having said that, this doesn't mean that our differences define our relationship, for we are also so very similar in so many ways. The sooner that more people come to realise this the better – not only for us, but also for them.

This post was originally published on www.cawclark.com