Home Relationships Guest Contributor Ms W on Inter-Racial Dating: “Is Colour Only Skin Deep?”

Guest Contributor Ms W on Inter-Racial Dating: “Is Colour Only Skin Deep?”

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We’d been talking religiously every night for two weeks. Conversations organically developed from simple greetings to soul-baring confessions. I clearly remember one night we spoke from 9pm until 2am. We would have continued until the break of dawn if we could; we hadn’t had enough of listening to each other, but his Blackberry battery had, cutting us off prematurely.

Our new relationship was blossoming. It was clear he was interested in dating me. He wanted to be more than just my midnight caller. And that would have been nice too, only there was a problem. He was white.

Now, I was previously married to a white man, my children are of mixed heritage, so you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d have no issue moving onto another white guy. But I do. I had many issues with it. During one telephone call in week 3 of getting to know L, I, as clear as I could make it, told him in no uncertain terms that I would not date a white guy, especially in Ghana. No Siree!

Why? When my then husband and I were dating in the UK, we’d get the looks and maybe a few comments on occasion too, but most people assumed that if a white man went against the grain and dated a black woman, it was for true love. My ex-hubby’s family was slow to come around to the idea of us dating. His father in particular, referring to me as the Big Mama (and there’s nothing ‘Big’ about me).  He was particularly surprised to learn that my parents weren’t school drop outs who liked to smoke dope and involve themselves in petty crime, like ‘all other Black people’, but were rather middle class medical professionals whose four kids attended private school in the UK. His ignorance continued throughout my 13 year relationship with ex-hubby until I made the decision to sever all ties with Dad-in-law. The reason? In 2007, he feigned surprise to learn that Africans do not live in trees and do wear clothes and don’t eat each other. Enough was enough.

But it wasn’t just the in-laws’ attitudes to our mixed-race set-up that put pressure on my relationship. Some young Ghanaian girls thinking any white man, married or not is up for grabs, put the final nail in the coffin.  You can spot them a mile away around Accra. The Gold-digger crew, whose uniform consists of a bad weave, false nails, hooker heels and a barely there dress. To them, a white man equals money, an easy ride for life. Any man will do, but the older, the whiter, the better. I abhor them, I’m sorry to say. They represent everything I’m not, and thus I knew I’d find it difficult to be mistaken for one, if I dared agree to date L.

But love and reasoning barely go hand in hand. By week 4, L and I ended up taking a little road-trip to the Central Region. We’d booked hotel rooms, and desperate to declare to all who cared to hear it, I was paying for the trip, not the White man. I wanted it to be clear to everyone that I was not a possession that could be acquired, I couldn’t be bought like the latest trendy gadget. As I stood at the reception desk, emphasizing the words, “I will be paying; bill me”, I caught L glancing sideways at me, with a smile spreading across his face. Fine, maybe I was being too paranoid, but this was important to me, I reasoned.

Unfortunately for me, we had the best two days on the road. That was it for L, he was hooked and he didn’t want anymore excuses as to why we could not be together. So, there was only one thing for it, I escaped to Nigeria for three days to get away from it all. By the time I returned, he was waiting for an answer. We met up at Rhapsody’s. We sat on stools next to the bar. I couldn’t focus; all I could think about was what everyone was likely to be thinking – young Ghanaian girl with older white man, equals seedy.

He told me he was falling for me and wanted us to have a relationship. I continued to hold back, even openly complaining to him that people were looking at us, thinking negative thoughts. But for a man who’s confident in himself and what he wants, he was undeterred. Now, we’ve been together for about 18 months, so it’s clear that I caved. However, I still become self conscious of us as a couple.  Only last Saturday, I met him at the arrivals lounge in the airport. He came forward, his lips ready to lock onto mine; I offered my cheek instead, still too self-aware. As we walked out to meet the heat and bustle of Accra, I secretly found myself wishing I had a ring on my finger, so that others wouldn’t assume I was the young gold digger type he was just about to spend one night with.

Strangely though, after Nana asked me to write this contribution, only one conclusion came to mind concerning my predicament – I was the biggest perpetrator of the negative stereotypes. I have a problem with young Ghanaian girls dating white guys. When I see mixed-race couples around town, I generally tend to think the worst – but that could be because I’ve seen too many false set-ups in Ghana to believe that many are genuine. It doesn’t help that most white guys, while in Ghana, do choose to date Ghanaian girls, treating them as some toy they’ve procured for themselves as a reward for finally making it ‘big’ in life. They were the late-starters in life, the ones who no girl would date when they were young geeks with little money. Now, they are old geeks with wads of cash and what better way to enjoy it than with a tiny, docile Black living doll (who’s willing to do anything their hearts desire for a dollar bill). So does L fit into this stereotype, you may ask? Quite frankly, no! L has dated women from across the globe, for many decades. He says he prefers Black girls though, dating them exclusively for more than ten years now. He loves our smooth skin – the darker the better, our toned physiques, and wrinkle-free features.  He also loves the diversity of our hair, like a chameleon, we can change our image in a matter of hours. He tells me regularly that he chose to speak to me the fateful night we met, because to him, I was the most beautiful girl there. And since then, he’s grown to love me for who I am.

This leads me to the reason for this post. Earlier today, Nana forwarded a request from an avid Adventures reader, wanting to read the experiences of someone who’s been in mixed-race relationships. To that reader, I’d like to share this simple truth – if you love him, and he loves you, colour really doesn’t matter. People are people. A few months ago L told me that he’s surprised when people highlight the fact that I’m black to him. All he sees is Me, Ms W, the ‘love of his life’. What do I see? The man I love, the man I’m so compatible with despite his age, colour or nationality.

But, if you want more practical advice, this is my simple guide to making a mixed-race relationship work in Ghana:

  1. DON’T fix a cheap looking weave (or a weave at all) if you want the outside world to see you as a genuine couple. Shallow I know, but bad weaves and falsies are the standard ‘look’ for gold diggers.
  2. In addition, flash a little flesh but not everything. Steer clear of hooker heels, especially when visiting the bars.
  3. Be prepared for his colleagues and friends to assume at first that you are an airhead. Be ready with witty one-liners that would leave them in no doubt that you have a working brain.
  4. Share your feelings and concerns about your relationship with your partner; he can help to make you feel more comfortable. For example, a good Nigerian friend of mine is married to a Dutch oil guy. She’s a housewife, but she handles their money, even in public eating places. He never puts his hands in his pocket. She always carries the cash and deals with the bills / workmen/ staff etc… This makes them feel like equals and reinforces the team that they are. When L and I go out, I contribute to evenings out too, unless L wants to treat me.
  5. Know that your man respects you and will defend you if anyone says anything negative about you  and your relationship. For example, a good friend of L’s visited Ghana recently. He’s currently having an illicit affair with a twenty-something unemployed, uneducated south African, whose bank account he replenishes every month. He made the cardinal sin of comparing her to me, and L gave it to him, making it clear to him that I was nothing like his mistress. Not all African girls are the same, and not all white men are interested in just your body. I was pleased that he did defend me, and that when you insult me, you insult him. He’s on my side all the way.
  6. And last but not least, know your man and love yourself. Dating outside of your race in Ghana is not particularly easy. There are stigmas and insinuations attached to it, which we are all guilty of making, but if you really get on well with each other, and both of you have a healthy view of each other, then love can conquer all. Even narrow-mindedness.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I started out writing a contribution to this and then when I hit the three paragraph mark I figured I might as well write my own blog post on it…

    http://www.fionaleonard.net/2011/06/want-to-hear-some-horror-stories-about.html

    I really admire Ms W for her candid post. I can relate to many of the issues she raises. I agree especially that so much of it is in your own head. There are times when I feel like I should be wearing a t-shirt with an arrow that says “Married for 14 years!” But as I mentioned in my post, the more I thought about it, the more I realised I couldn’t really come up with too many instances where the relationship had actually caused issues.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with her summation. At the end of the day you just see the person you love. The reality is that any marriage takes work.

    • @Fiona – Laughing at your “when I hit the three paragraph mark” ‘cos you were one of the people I thought about asking to write on the subject 🙂 Heading over to your site now…

  2. Would be a more heartwarming story without the negative stereotypes of folks she doesn’t know (reminds me of her ex father-in-law’s), and if her man didn’t prefer Black “girls”. Does he like Black women? And then goes on to describe ways in which he fetishizes them as well.

    I’ve been involved with foreign women in Ghana, and have had concerns about their fitting in. Overall, it’s a challenge. Most off-center Ghanaians – I include myself in this category – who have lived abroad for extended periods probably find more affinity with certain kinds of people. Usually, they aren’t Ghanaians. I, for example, am an agnostic, I can barely meet prospective Ghanaian in-laws without the issue of religion comes up. And, despite what Nana D says, most middle class Ghanaians have a sexual prudery going on, whereas the foreigners I meet seem to have moved beyond that.

    You have to decide that you can deal.

  3. @Fiona,I’ve just read your post and it was very interesting, thank you. One thing I realised is that whether its a man or a woman, the African in the relationship is seen as the opportunist – looking for money / status / power / visa etc…

    @Kofi – the objective of the story wasn’t meant to be heartwarming, but rather a candid assessment of my own experiences and I also admit in the piece that I too make negative generalisations about other mixed race relationships. Although I should add that I have met a lot of these couples that I describe and do know some of them pretty well too.

    I’m also slightly insulted on behalf of my partner that you would consider his preference of dating black girls to be a fetish. One definition of fetish means ‘a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree…’ It means you’ve made negative insinuations, and thus think that any white man who is attracted to black people by choice have some sick perversion about them. I said my guy is attracted to black women, I didn’t actually make any reference to sex – something our relationship isn’t based on at all. I used the term ‘girl’ (probably because that’s how I feel), but I’m actually a 33 year old accomplished mother of two, and my guy is in his forties.

    I am Ghanaian, but raised and schooled in the UK, having returned to Ghana only four years ago. If I followed your rule of thought, I’d also be left thinking that you have a fetish for non-Ghanaians and that Ghanaians are people you consider beneath you in terms of intelligence and worldliness… Like I said in my original post, people are people!

  4. @Ms W: not to flog a dead horse, but your original statement was not universally true… re “smooth skin – the darker the better, our toned physiques, and wrinkle-free features. He also loves the diversity of our hair, like a chameleon, we can change our image in a matter of hours.”

    When we start from that premise – all black women are alike, essentially – we are not operating in the realm of reality, IMHO. Should a relationship be based on this illusion? Hey, what do I know?

    “One definition of fetish means ‘a form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree…’ It means you’ve made negative insinuations, and thus think that any white man who is attracted to black people by choice have some sick perversion about them. I said my guy is attracted to black women, I didn’t actually make any reference to sex – something our relationship isn’t based on at all. I used the term ‘girl’ (probably because that’s how I feel), but I’m actually a 33 year old accomplished mother of two, and my guy is in his forties.”

    Maybe I made a “negative insinuation” but how could that not be in the realm of possibility, given the set up?

    I said I was off center and think that there is a lot sexual prudery in the Ghanaian middle class. I could be wrong on both counts, but I never said anything about “intelligence and worldliness”. Those are not my words and can’t be connected to them.

    Certainly, once anyone puts anything into the public domain, he or she invites comment and critical appraisal. It’s all part of the drive toward enlightenment, I guess.

  5. @Kofi – interesting points. Just out of curiosity, as a white person, if I said – I love blonde Australian men. I love their smooth tanned skin, their sun bleached hair…

    Would that be considered a fetishist approach?

    If I’m a white woman attracted to white men is that perverse?

    Or is it only a fetish/perverse when it’s a different colour involved?

  6. @Fiona, I don’t know that I have the answer to your questions, but, hey, what the heck…

    There is nothing wrong with anyone loving anything or anyone. I think anyone can fetishize anything by making it the focus of their obsessions, erotic or otherwise.

    What is an obsession? Don’t know the answer to that either.

  7. Very interesting post. To me it seems Ms. W is perhaps more self-conscious about how others are perceiving the relationship more than anything. This to me appears to be the biggest stumbling block.

    Anyway, my big sister was married to a French man for many years..Where better to test an inter-racial relationship than living in post-Apartheid South Africa from 1994 onwards?! If you were looking for a more racially polarized society, then that was the place to be. During my very brief stay at the University of Cape Town in the mid-late 90s, my black South African room-mate came to me hyperventilating one day that she had seen a white man kissing a black woman downstairs…I chuckled to myself; “If she is shocked now, she’ll probably die when my sister, brother-in-law and 2 year old niece come and visit!” Compared to South Africa, the US or Europe, for some reason I feel it would be easier to pursue a mixed-race relationship in Ghana….Being perceived as golddigger is way better than being racially-abused in the street… Or worse like the sad case of the Anthony Walker where a young black youth in Merseyside in the UK was murdered by ice-axe by drunken louts in what was believed to be a racially motivated attack stemming from the fact that he had a white girlfriend…

    Strange that Ms. W’s post has prompted me to want to ask my sister one question that has almost never crossed my mind; did you ever feel self-conscious about having a white husband or did anyone ever make any comments when you were out with D?

    My sister and her husband are now divorced and in the end it had nothing to do with race relations or cultural divides and more to do with reasons any couple of the same race decide to call it quits.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud.

  8. I had a similar reaction as Kofi when I read the part about smooth skin etc. The word that immediately came to mind was exoticism. I make no value judgements about the nature of your relationship. I’m just saying your description lends itself to that interpretation (among others). Words have a way of being ambiguous…the hazards of putting one’s self/story out there I suppose.

    That said, this was a very interesting post. I was pleasantly surprised by it because I haven’t come across a whole lot of candid discussions on race in Ghana. My husband is mixed race and the first time my family met him, my brother said “Ah, but you didn’t tell us he was…yellow.” Cracked me up all day. His family (in the Caribbean) has its own set of (very serious) racial hang ups. We don’t have to deal with it much though. The perks of living in an entirely different country from your fam and in-laws.

  9. @Kofi, no worries, I don’t mind being criticised, just highlighting how your words and thoughts are coming across also.

    @Abby, thanks for your comments and I know you’re right. I’m a lot more self-conscious about how others perceive our relationship, and I know that’s more to do with my personality than the mixed-race set-up, which seems strange.

    @Ebony, I think you’re right when you say there are a lot of ambiguity in words. I think I wanted to mention the fact that my guy simply likes black women because I’ve met people in the past who are curious to know the attraction from both sides. And I think we live in a world where it is assumed that Western beauty or white beauty is preferred by all. Maybe that’s why I was slightly offended when Kofi made a fetishism remark, because some people do view the preference of wanting to date black women if you’re not a black man, as abnormal. But never mind.

  10. I’m a Southern African woman married to a Swedish guy for 5 years now.. It’s been great. He treats me better than any man before me except my brothers. I met him while studying in Sweden at a University so we are both educated.

    I have had no problem at all with him being white and me being black. The ‘street’ harassment haven’t happen in Sweden only in my home country. Life is quite good and no one gives a fuck about us. Well I had some black men make snide remarks and give looks but nothing else and we just had some very beautiful coloured children.

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