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Shelby maintained she has "no qualms about people's race" but admitted she's never had a serious relationship with a black guy. The reason seemed more geographical, adding that she hasn't made black friends in Charlotte since moving back after college. Both agreed Charlotte is still very segregated, but Press stated he's dated more Latinas and women of mixed heritage than black or white women.
"It's interesting because as much I think that people say they're open, they're not — on both sides," Shelby said. "I think people do not like to step outside their comfort zone for whatever reason. The color of people's skin is a comfort zone."
Shelby's sister, who exclusively dates black men, is a university basketball coach, and the majority of people in her field are black. Shelby said people of all races "act funny" about her sister dating black men. She opened up about an experience with bigotry at age 13 when she and her family traveled to Oklahoma for one of her sister's basketball tournaments. Her sister was the only white player on the team, and she recalled how no one would seat the team anywhere they went to eat. It was a "bizarre" experience, but it allowed her to experience racism from a different perspective.
After the date, Press said that although he wasn't nervous, he didn't expect the conversation to go as well as it did. There was never "a weird, awkward pause," as has been the case for him on previous dates, regardless of race. He admitted he has to be careful sometimes about what he says when he's out with a white woman because "they may take something that you say the wrong way" and that he usually poses specific questions [like asking Shelby her opinion on the use of "black" vs. "African-American"] to see how comfortable a person is with certain topics.
And Press added that, even if his eyes were closed, he would've known he was talking to a white woman by the "personality in her voice." Shelby, on the other hand, said she felt like she was talking to just another person and has no "guidelines for physicality" when it comes to potential dates. She agreed that the conversation was two-sided, said that she felt comfortable, and that although she feels that everybone generally wants to be politically correct, their interaction stemmed from a position of honesty.
Based on their experience, both agreed that they would go out with each other, or someone similar, again. In the end, it was apparently the colorful personalities that stood out — and not the skin color.
Carrie Cook, a 27-year-old African-American woman from Charlotte, has never dated outside of her race — but not for lack of opportunity; a couple of white men have asked her out, but they were "not her type," specifying that it had nothing to do with race. While her preference is to be in a relationship with a "wonderful black man," she's not "closed off" to the idea of dating other races. A problem she notices is there still seems to be a chasm between the races, mentioning that, even at professional networking events, different groups seem only to congregate with each other.
While Cook feels Charlotte has progressed with race relations in the business world, the city still has a long way to go for her "with opening up the minds of folks who have that traditional Bible-Belt, Southern mentality."
"I don't think it's necessarily that interracial dating is the issue. I think that race relations are still the issue. It's more of an issue of getting beyond fear ... obviously, the historical implications of where our society has been — through discrimination, through oppression, through various means of disenfranchisement for different ethnic groups — rears its head, and it still plays a very large part in what happens today," said Cook, adding that she is turned off by "extremists" — such as black men who say they only date white women.
"I don't get that logic, especially because the woman whom he came from is not of that descent," she said. "... because if you don't like a black woman, you don't like who you are."
She contends this premise can apply to any race. And like most, she has heard her share of the stereotypes, such as: a white man will take good care of you, but he might be a psycho; a black guy may end up being lazy; and a Mexican will work hard, but you might be living in a house full of people. Still, stereotypes haven't kept her from dating interracially; she simply is not approached by men of other races. Though doing so would not be foreign to Cook's family because they are progressive and interracial relationships already exist there.
LOVE ZONE: Participants in our little experiment dined at Bask on Seaboard (1000 Seaboard St., Suite C-1, at the N.C. Music Factory. 980-613-8282. baskonseaboard.com.). Check 'em out — during lunch or dinner — for your next romantic (or not-so romantic) rendezvous.