Sense and Invisibility

A Black woman's perspective on hookup culture

by Jade Frost; illustrations by Walker Walls Tarver

I am not here to tell you a story of a desperate single girl or to have a pity party. I am not here to point fingers or to play the blame game. I can only tell you what I have observed from my time at Colorado College—I am here to tell you the truth. The truth about interracial dating and hookups on our campus from a perspective not often afforded a voice, that of a single Black female. I have talked to a number of students and have been through my own personal experiences, and it’s time for me to share these stories with you.

As if college isn’t hard enough, try finding companionship when you are a minority. It is very important to know and understand that the hookup culture is primarily made up of straight White individuals, and if you are not a part of that majority, you may not have a similar experience. So whether you are straight and a minority, a queer white student, or even a queer minority, your ability to participate in the hookup culture on campus is limited.

From what I’ve seen, it seems there are two outcomes that occur often when seeking companion- ship as a minority. Either it seems impossible to participate in the hookup scene at all, or you feel used. My experience has fallen into the first category. Whenever I go to a party, nothing really hap- pens. Someone might dance with me, but then they will give me a light tap or will say, “That was great, but I think I am done for now.” Then they will leave as if nothing happened.

Eboni Statham, a fellow sophomore on campus, has had a few hookups, but constantly felt objectified and exoticized, treated as less than human. She says, “It seems as though some people just can’t get inside their brains to separate race from love, dating and hookups and they make it a big deal. People have told me things such as, ‘Wow I’ve never hooked up with a black girl before’ or ‘Wow you are my African princess.’ Many people don’t mean harm, but it’s just so ignorant. I mean, one, I’m not from Africa and two, am I supposed to give you a medal for your ‘accomplishment’ of hooking up with a Black person?”

In both outcomes, it seems that when it comes to the hookup culture and relationships, the Black female is made invisible, her individuality and humanity ignored. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, noticed this invisibility, stating, “When I go to parties, I notice that Black girls and Asian guys seem to have a much harder time than the rest of us.”

During my short time at CC, I have changed certain things about myself in the hopes that someone might notice me. I may dress up a little more for class, or wear a different perfume. At parties I always think to myself, maybe if I show more skin, make more eye contact, flirt a little bit harder, or shake my body more, then maybe someone will notice me. And although I may actually show more skin or dance more vigorously, I still feel invisible to those around me. I remember dancing with a guy at a party. As our hips moved to the beat of whatever song was playing, I noticed something about my dance partner. For those 10-15 minutes that we were dancing, his friends were high-fiving and cheering him on, as if I was the winning shot in the NBA Playoffs. He then abruptly left without telling me or giving me any sort of signal. In that moment I felt used and invisible.

At a recent BSU meeting, someone mentioned that everyone has preferences—what if Black girls just aren’t your type? While it’s fine to have a type, it’s not OK to make the conscious decision that you do not like any Black girls at all. What makes you think that every person of one race is the same? And I know that attraction is not the issue, because y’all would get with the Beyonces, Meghan Goods and Lucy Lius in a heartbeat if you could. Part of sexual preference is due to how you were raised and what you are more comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t venture out and become at least somewhat open to the idea of dating another race. I mean, I was raised with football and the love of meat, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be open to hockey and vegetarians. It just makes sense to broaden your preferences. CC is open to recycling, eating gluten-free products, divesting and compost- ing food, but why aren’t students open to getting to know or dating someone of a different race?

I asked a lot of students about what they think about interracial relationships on campus, and the majority quickly responded, “CC is very open- minded when it comes to diversity and I don’t see interracial dating as a problem on campus.” Although I never used language about any “problems” with interracial dating, most people quickly reframed it in those terms, immediately assuming I was talking about a negative concept. It’s not like I am talking about global warming or class inequality. I am talking about getting to know someone of a different skin color on an intimate level.

Actually getting to know someone for who they are and not just because of their race is something that minorities, myself included, do not get to experience. One student, who would prefer to be anonymous, stated, “Whenever I am with a White person, they seem to point out my culture to me or their friends.” I have had this happen to me before and I’ve heard White people who are with minority students say, “Yeah, I am seeing this [insert any race] guy/girl, it’s pretty cool.” I’m sorry, but I am not one of the new blocks that you get to take this year: I am a whole person.

In addition, there is a level of secrecy more prevalent in interracial relationships, where one partner doesn’t want their family or friends to know they are dating outside of their race. By keeping that relationship secret, you might as well say, “Hey, I find you good enough for you to meet my bedroom and twin XL mattress, but I don’t think you should meet my parents, or my friends for that matter.” This attitude makes us feel like there is something wrong with us or that we did something wrong, when we know damn well that there is nothing wrong with us. Some students fetishize and objectify us and remind us of our race all the time. Other people actually get to know us, but many don’t give us the time of day.

I am not saying that this whole school is opposed to dating Black women (or people of other races), I am just saying that y’all haven’t had the pleasure of doing so. Wake Smith, a sophomore, states, “I find it to be essential that not just inter- racial couples, but all couples across the spectrum of diversity, love one another for the qualities of their character and their personal quirks, not just their novel appearance.” This is so true, and ties in perfectly with Statham, who says, “I just wish people can see Black is beautiful, Asian is beautiful, Latino is beautiful. People of Color are beautiful.”

As an equal opportunity lover, I know that love has no bounds and does not care about who you are, it just makes you feel some way about a person. We have all had to make sacrifices of some sort by com- ing to this school, but if I have to sacrifice not having any sort of relationship while being here due to others’ unwillingness to actually get to know me, then I should have every right to express what I am feeling.

You may think that this is just another angry Black woman ranting about something, or that this isn’t an important topic—well, you’re right about one thing. I am a Black woman who is passionate about the things that go on at this school. I am a person who is sick and tired of the same thing happening to her at almost every social event where she ends up feeling used or invisible by the end of the night. We need to keep conversations like these going if we want to see any change for the future. You can disagree with me if you want to, but like I said earlier, I am only here to tell you the truth. No one said you had to like it, but you sure as hell are going to have to listen to what I have to say.