Courtesy of Latifah Miles

Honestly, I'm Worried About My Black Son Dating White Women

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On a hot summer day in August 1955, a 14-year-old black boy was hanging out around a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. His friends dared him to walk into the store and ask the white cashier for a date, so he complied. The cashier, Carolyn Bryant, later claimed that he grabbed her hand and said, "How about a date?," though other reports contradicted her testimony. A few weeks later, the boy, Emmett Till, was beaten beyond recognition and died three days later. 62 years later, Bryant admitted that she’d never actually been whistled at and that she had lied about major parts of the incident.

But this tale, among many others, has served as a cautionary tale for black families of what happens when white women and black men interact. This tale, among many others, haunts me, because I am the mother of a black son — and I am terrified that my black son will date white women.

I grew up hearing Emmett Till's story. My mother was very clear about the expectations she had for my brother and myself: she wanted us to keep our home clean, go to school, and, in my brother's case, she wanted him to never, ever bring home a white woman. As a warning, she'd tell us the graphic details of Emmett Till's senseless death, and how he had died because a white woman had made a false allegation against a black boy. Even though we were being raised in the 1990s, decades after Till's death, we all knew that racism was still alive and well in this country.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

Now that I am a mom of a black boy, this conversation about black men dating white women has once again fallen into my lap. Although my son is only 6 years old and light years away from dating anyone, I know that I will one day have to talk to him about dating and race. While I am not opposed to him dating anyone who makes him happy, regardless of race, I will warn him that because he is a black man in America, there are real risks associated with him dating white women.

I will warn him that if he and his white girlfriend happen to get into a fight in view of the neighbors, there's a chance that the cops may be called, because in the eyes of the police, being an unarmed black man is reason enough to shoot someone.

I will warn him that he might be judged at family gatherings, because even though some people are open-minded about interracial relationships, his future partner might have racist relatives who won't be, and my son may very well have to endure a bigoted uncle's comments every Christmas dinner. I will warn him that if he and his white girlfriend happen to get into a fight in view of the neighbors, there's a chance that the cops may be called, and in the eyes of the police, being an unarmed black man is reason enough to shoot someone.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

I will warn my son that if he falls in love with a white woman, he should make sure that she doesn’t refer to herself as colorblind, because to be colorblind or to say that you don’t "see race" is the same thing as saying that you are too uncomfortable with race to confront the baggage that comes along with it. I will warn him about being the token black person among her white friends, which means that he might suddenly have to be an ambassador for all black people who have ever existed.

62 years ago, a 14-year-old black boy walked into a store on a dare. He was full of charisma and laughter, and he lost his life for it. And while we are far removed from the Jim Crow South, we aren’t far removed from the institutionalized racism on which this country was built.

I will warn him that when it comes time to have children, they might be teased for being biracial. Most of all, I will warn him that there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with being with a black man in this country, and most of the time, love might not be enough to keep a couple together.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

62 years ago, a 14-year-old black boy walked into a store on a dare. He was full of charisma and laughter, and he lost his life for it. And while we are far removed from the Jim Crow South, we aren’t far removed from the institutionalized racism on which this country was built.

As my son's mother, it would be careless of me to ignore the issues that might come up as a result of my son dating a white woman. It would be careless of me to ignore what it means in this country for a black man to date a white woman. So just as my mother did for us as children, I will tell my son the story of Emmet Till. If he falls in love with a white woman and she loves him back, I’ll support them. But I will still worry.