It’s probably pretty rare for a young black woman to start her dating life in a relationship with an outright racist, but for Arielle Gray, maybe it couldn’t have started any other way.
Gray, who is black, grew up in a mostly white Boston suburb before moving with her family to Atlanta. She says her parents tried to instill a sense of cultural pride in her, but peer pressure prevented that pride from sinking in. It also allowed stereotypes about dating within her race to sink in.
“[Black men] are no good, they’re not trustworthy, they’re criminals, they can’t really love you the way that you need to be loved, they won’t be able to support you,” Gray says. “…Black men aren’t interested in black women, that’s a big one.”
Her first boyfriend, who was white, shared her love of rock music and the sitcom “Family Guy.” Eventually, they moved in together. Subtle hints began to indicate that this interracial relationship was not built to last, like him avoiding bringing her home to meet his family.
“He told me…his grandmother doesn’t even want to go to a bagger at the grocery store that’s black,” Gray recalls. “She doesn’t trust a black bagger. Little things like that, and he would find them funny. And I was like, ‘That’s not really funny at all.’”
College opened Gray’s eyes in a lot of ways, including how poisonous this relationship was for her. Things really unraveled after an argument about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, where he said something that many of the movement’s supporters find irritating: of course black lives matter, ALL lives matter. Macklemore, a white rapper, addresses this point in his controversial single, “White Privilege II”:
“If there was a subdivision and a house was on fire, the fire department wouldn’t show up and start putting water on all the houses because all houses matter,” Macklemore says. “They would show up and they would turn their water on the house that is burning, because that’s the house that needs the help the most.”
Gray says she looks back on that relationship with gratitude, because it helped her confront her own internalized racism. Clearly, she’s glad to be done with that guy, but she doesn’t blame him for what happened.
“Had I been more accepting of myself and of my people I would have never entered that situation in the first place,” Gray says.