Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I don't think that I'm unlikeable. I'm nice to pretty much everyone I meet, I think I'm hilarious, and I try to stay humble (which is hard, because I'm undeniably awesome). My problem has to do with the fact that no boys have ever tried to approach me or date me.
I don't think it has much to do with my overall bodily features because I'm pretty much a hybrid between Steve Carell and Beyonce (on a serious note, I would give myself a 7/10 on a good day - nice teeth, groomed eyebrows, okay skin clarity, no third arm, etc). I think it may have more to do with my skin color. I go to a school that is primarily Caucasian, and I am one of the very few African-Americans in my grade.
I know it sounds like I'm whining without warrant, but please hear me out. In sophomore year, I decided to ask this really funny guy in my algebra class to the Sadie Hawkins dance. He blushed and said that he couldn't because "it wouldn't be right", but he told me to maybe ask "Michael" instead (the only other black person in the period). That same year, I asked another guy to my cotillion ball. He said, and I quote, "You're cute I guess but I don't do black girls. It's just preference, not racial." Fast forward to Junior year, where the guys at my lunch table were rating the girls in my grade. To my face, they gave me a 3 — but said that I could be at least an 8 if I were white, "because you have good features but you're too dark". Beginning of this year, I was asked to homecoming by a guy who I thought was extremely nice — until he said that he was sorry, but he could never see himself going on a date with a black person, and that I probably should have known it was a joke because "why would something like that even happen?"
Now, as a senior, I don't envision myself being asked to prom anytime soon. Of the 11 black people in my grade, 7 of us are females. When I've last talked to all of my ladies in a group setting, not one of us has been prospected by any of the guys at school, and we range, lookswise, from average to "ooh hotdamn she's fire".
I guess I'm not really writing this to ask for advice, and I don't really know what advice you can give. To my fellow Sparklers, if you or someone you know is planning on asking somebody who looks different from you to a dance, go for it. I don't want to go ahead and paint my entire school as racist, because that's not it. Maybe it is just preference, and maybe I would look better if I were white. But I just think that we need to stop pretending to live in an ideological post-racial America in which everything is dandy, and there are no racial problems, ever. When people dehumanize you just because you're a little bit different, it's one of the most painful experiences in the world.
Before we begin, here's a note for everyone who isn't the letter-writer: if you see yourself in the descriptions of her classmates; if you have ever told a person that he or she would be attractive if not for the color of their skin; and if you have ever uttered any version of the phrase, "I'm not racist, I just don't date [insert race here]; it's preference!"—then please, punch yourself in the face until you lose consciousness.
And when you regain consciousness, DO IT AGAIN.
Because you're awful.
And where our LW hesitates to say it, I won't: excluding an entire group of people from your dating pool based on racial identity is—incredibly enough—racist. And if you do have a self-imposed blanket ban against black people, or brown people, or people whose ancestors hailed from some continent other than Europe, then you need to think, hard, about how you came to pick up and internalize the gross idea that an entire group of human beings are an unworthy, undateable monolith. (Hint: You weren't born with it.)
As for you, Sparkler, I'll admit: my initial response to your letter was... well, something unprintable, followed by a note to my editor asking whether we might have received it via time-traveling telegraph from 1960s Alabama. And you're right: I can't think of a single word of advice, at least not the kind that offers a solution—but that's because this is not your problem.
So what I will tell you is this: please do not, for even one minute, allow a bunch of toxic asshats to undercut your confidence. And please do not, for even one second, allow yourself to wonder if they might be right in their noxious pronouncements. They aren't, and it kills me to see you suggesting as much—especially when you could be politely calling them out for remarks that are beyond-the-pale repulsive. When someone asks, "Why would something like that even happen?" in reference to dating a black person, the most appropriate response is not to wonder if he has a point; it's to say, out loud, "Because not everyone is a small-minded bigot."
Which, gratefully, is a thing that is actually true. And while it's also true that we don't yet live in a post-racial wonderland full of rainbows and sunshine, there's still a wide, lovely world beyond the confines of your casually hateful high school where the behavior of your classmates is considered horrifying and unacceptable. So hang in there, keep your chin up, and fight whichever battles you have the energy and inclination for—and be glad that before long, you'll be free to seek out and surround yourself with people who don't suck.
Is your high school full of casual racists, or is it a rainbow utopia? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Click for the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.