Tuesday, February 14, 2012

From the Archives: Interracial Dating - Invisible Dating

I originally published this post two years ago

I went to a Valentine's Dance this weekend, and it was put on by church volunteers. Somehow the incredibly cheesy atmosphere made this one of the funnest events I've attended in a long time. They had things like poetry contests, pick up line games, etc. Aside from the organizers' ignorance to the fact that some people don't eat meat and would prefer not to have meat tossed in with every single dish (such as baked beans, for instance), it was just a great evening.

But then I saw a subtle and yet frustrating example of racism: there were several people dressed as cupids walking around the floor, holding their cupids arrows over couples in order to encourage them to either hug or kiss. For the most part they sought out couples while they were slow dancing, but they also went after people who were near each other during faster songs. A Madagascaran man was at the dance with a Caucasian woman, and it was pretty obvious that they were a couple. But when a cupid walked by, she held the arrow between the woman and a nearby casucasian man, even though this woman was talking to and standing much closer to the Madagascaran man.

Now, I know that I'm using the term "racism" pretty loosely here and that this cupid had no intention of hurting or discriminating against anyone. She was just having a good time and getting into the Valentine's Day spirit. Furthermore, it was an easy mistake that could have happened with any couple, regardless of race. But it still strikes me as more than coincidental that it didn't even occur to the cupid lady that a white woman would be on a date with a black man.

I know from having dated a black man in Utah that openly dating someone of a different race makes you stand out far more than it should. People give you funny looks and do double takes, and if you're a white woman with a man who isn't white, security guards are likely to keep an eye on him when they see you together, just in case you're at more risk than you realize. So I know just how much attention an interracial relationship can draw to itself. It had never really occurred to me before this dance, however, that the opposite sometimes occurs. That people sometimes are so unused to seeing interracial couples that they can't even see one when it's right in front of them.


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