Love in Black and White
by Krystle Amoo
Florescent lights and cobalt blue walls; that was the setting, when I met my love. Over a sea of faces and voices in waves cascading around me - the universe presented him to me. I was eleven years young, and unbeknown to me, this human would play a role in my future (deep inhale.) How beautiful and precious is that moment? At that moment, as significant as it remains, he was visible; and yet to him, I was invisible. I was black, and he was WHITE.
The years would pass, and our friendship had time to grow. I was no longer invisible to him, but although we had a love for each other, it was purely platonic. I wouldn't say I had a preference back then, but (not intentionally) dating white was never on my agenda. Going to a predominantly white school in the heart of Rotherhithe was instrumental in how I perceived my white relationships. I sometimes felt inadequate and less feminine in their world. I had accepted that in all my beauty, I did not possess a magnetic force strong enough to attract a white boy – at least well enough for him to love me unconditionally. Even at a young age, being loved FULLY, was the only reason I would give my heart away. I never challenged or went against this way of thinking, because all that I had been taught about black beauty by this point was that it always needed justifying…especially when the eyes of the beholder were white. In addition to my preconceived notion that I would never be deemed beautiful enough for a white boy, there were just too many fine brothers in my peripheral view for me to dream of dating outside of my race!
The number forty-five bus, steamed up windows and sticky upper deck flooring, was the setting for our reunion. I was visible, but for me, at that moment he was invisible. He was white, and I was BLACK. I was on route to college, a place I had started to immerse myself in my blackness. Although I didn't tick all the boxes of what being "black" stereotypically stood for – I was in full bloom and learning to love my skin. I was seventeen years young; at the time I was in a verbally abusive relationship, grasping desperately onto the idea of what love was, and here in the distance was what looked like hope (packaged in white skin). It was a hope for "real love" like I had witnessed in the movies, fairy tales and read about in my childhood books. The kind of love maybe is only possible in the arms of whiteness.
Sixteen years strong, three children and all of my early adult years entwined in whiteness. An authentic love, the type of love that I never doubted or felt had motive until two years ago. On what started as a journey of self-discovery and understanding I was faced with the presumption that subconsciously this relationship was not just merely based on the laws of attraction. When I began dissecting the desire within and the choice to date outside my race, I realised very quickly that this was not just a love connection – but instead, a psychological desire nurtured by my transgenerational trauma and my misconception of Black men.
I wanted to find out where this desire stemmed from. As highlighted before, I never envisioned a white partner in my early years – I couldn't even pinpoint an intense crush on anyone remotely white (apart from Zack Morris in "save by the bell"). It took delving a little deeper before I obtained the eureka moment I was so desperately looking to find. My desire to receive white love was developed out of my fear of being undervalued and being assigned a life of broken promises or heartache that were wrongly associated to my reference catalogue for black love. Looking simply back to the first Black man I ever laid eyes on, my father, is enough for anyone reading this to rub my back and say "fair enough." A man that showed me what abandonment felt like, the first man to bring violence out of the TV screen and into my home and the first man to normalise womanising and the devaluing of a woman. I can take it back as far as seven years old, endless stories that collectively would need a book in itself to document! His actions were not only to blame for the resentment I had developed for my father (a black man), the running commentary my Mother projected, condemning all black men to a pit of no good, also bounded me to a mental picture of what black love entailed. All my first-hand experiences of men in general (removing blackness for a moment) was utterly damaging. I couldn't tell you an Auntie's or friend's house I visited which had a permanent black male presence, and my cousins and friends were a sorority of unspoken disappointment and daddy issues! We never spoke about our families as a dysfunctional nuclear unit, we normalised it – and to be clear I am not talking for every black woman when I say this but I internalised these issues and laid them dormant within.
The reason these reservations for black love became active again is a testament to the power of the mind. Black love in my teenage years was all I ever dreamed of, and it was sufficient for me - even with all the broken relationships I had endured. However, the minute I began thinking about longevity, and the desire to be treated in a way that was what I deemed as love - suddenly all the trauma attached to black love was evoked, and I searched for something else. In the protection and salvation of myself, did I want to date and have children with a man like my father or my first love who cheated on me? Or a man like my North London lover who verbally abused me into a place of disappearing? The answer to those questions is no, and would white love have guaranteed me avoiding these situations - I know now the answer is NO! What a painful condition to find myself in; it took many sleepless nights, disagreeing with Umar Johnson’s view on interracial relationships (if you know you know) and therapy sessions before I reached a place of peace. What I needed as an individual, a woman who was desperately wanting more out of love, was found in the man I choose to give my heart to. At that time the universe answered my heart's desire and delivered it to me in the best way it knew how. I could choose to run and return to black love for all that it means to me now; however, it is not going to solve the issues at hand. It would also result in me losing my best friend; a man who taught me how to love, who has allowed me to evolve and has redefined what forever means to me. In all honesty, this revelation about how our love came about will always remain at the back of my mind; there will be days where it will arise reminding me I gave up on black love and turned my back on black men (which will always be a hard pill to swallow).
With all that said, are my past ideas and ideology the truth about black love? No. However is it the truth for a select group within my community, one hundred percent…yes! The fact is, It's the same for every community, it is actually a construct created by (as Bell Hooks puts it) imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy and for my community, it has been exacerbated due to slavery. It has taken something as pure as love and used it as a weapon of destruction. The transgenerational trauma we are allowing to descend to future generations is incubating the sickness that is destroying black love and what it represents. We actively need the representation and the responsibility of being black and in love. This could be a revolutionary act to save our race. It's a two-way street; both women and men have a role, and it begins with ripping off the dirt-ridden band-aid we have used to cover the problematic areas of black love, so we can start healing the wounds open and slowly. Looking at our families and community as a whole; talking about our experiences that influence all genders within our community to abandon, give up or become complacent with the cliché of black love. That should be our starting point. I'm hopeful my openness can open up the conversation, and we can all learn from each other. I chose to share this story not because I don't advocate interracial relationships (for goodness sake I'm in one), but because for some of my community the self-loathing that we project and internalise is rewriting our course. It's brainwashing us to deviate from seeing the beauty in each other. Some people may say it's not that deep; you're attracted to a human being and love sees no colour. I agree love should be practiced in all relationships regardless of what the receiver looks like. However, we are sitting on years of trauma, and when you deny the psychological influence that it has on how we see the world, you are denying yourself from true liberation. To be in a state of conditioning means you are making a choice that is not always of your own, a simple act as loving someone outside your race was conjured up by your environment even before you could say, love.
In all my work I take a stance from a black woman's perspective; it's all I know, and it’s what comes naturally. I am my case study, and therefore in the act of writing to save myself, I feel other women can relate to my experience; well, I would hope so anyway. I'm currently working on a collective or documentation of accounts I should call it; from the women that inspire me – writing about their relationship with their fathers and how it has influenced how they love or receive love. It would be interesting to have a hard copy of the similarities we share and hardly speak on. An attempt to understand black love and restore what it represents.