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When it comes to love, race is only skin-deep

DIFFERENT TIMES: As our children grow up and meet different people at college and university, we are in no position to judge who they bring home for us to meet

THERE WAS a moment when we attended my younger daughter’s intra-school choir singing competition last week when I thought, 'Oh, my Lord, my daughter is at a school with no black boys.' And I wasn’t happy about it.

Graciously, over the course of the three-hour marathon event for parents to cheer on their singing progeny’s team, my concerns were somewhat allayed when, one by one (or choir by choir), a smattering of boys the shade of my daughter’s dad emerged. There really were only a handful. I counted six or maybe seven in total. Yes, I was counting.

And each time I saw a black boy on the stage I nudged my wife with my knee as we sat in the auditorium. She was getting fed-up with the nudging and wondered whether I had to be so insistent.

Hang on a minute – I am not making a racial point out of it, or anything like that. I am simply a concerned father who is wondering where in this world my daughter is going to find a black man if she so chooses to be with one. The options are already limited, as many of you ladies who are reading this will testify.

My main concern is that we, as parents, limit our children’s access to the few boys out there who are interested in dating black girls, by growing them in a world where there are even fewer black boys to choose from. Do you see what I mean?

GOBSMACKED

I would probably never have even entertained the subject had my daughter not decided to leave the best grammar school in the country – and an all-girls’ one at that – for a mixed school to do her A-levels. Because, when she was at an all-girls’, the question of where in the world she would find a black boy who was interested in a black girl had been suspended in my mind. We didn’t need to address that until she went to university in another couple of years, by which time we wouldn’t have any say in the matter in any case, and she would pretty much have to fend for herself and make her own choices. But now that she’s in a co-ed for the first time in her life, the question has rendered me somewhat gobsmacked as I counted the number of black boys at her school on the fingers of one hand...and a bit.

Like I say, I’m not making a racial point out of this, and I am not proscribing who my daughter might end-up with. I don’t doubt that there are a lot of little white boys who are attracted to black girls and would make suitable consorts for my little princess. And I don’t have a problem with that. Why would I?

For one thing, it’s got nothing to do with me who she falls in love with. And, for another thing, let she or he who has never dated across the colour lines cast the first stone. Everybody knows that I was an equal opportunities dater in my day. And were I not married to the @queenoflovers on Twitter, I would still welcome women of all colours and creed to come dine with me. For me, ‘dating’ was never a matter of race, but of something deeper than that.

SHANKED WITH A FORK

I’m not saying that race is only skin-deep. I’m not that stupid. But when it comes to love, I gotta tell ya, race is only skin-deep. I knew that back when I went through a spate of being the ‘guest who’s coming to dinner’. I was like a young Sidney Poitier (without the looks, of course) and when the parents of my dates guessed who was coming to dinner well, one or two of them were like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. One or two of them were also like Alf Garnett.

I remember being chased out of a house by some step-father to one gyal who was like Alf Garnett, also without the looks (no, the step-dad, not the gyal – honestly, what are you like?). He picked up the first thing that came to his hand (a fork) and chased me out of their house – I swear down, 'til death us do part. I have been shanked with a fork.

Thankfully, we live in more enlightened times now, and it ain’t about guessing who’s coming to dinner. It is more about borrowing Cupid’s wings and reaching for the skies with them and whoever your daughter chooses to be with. Which leaves every black father with an almighty conundrum. When I first became a father to a beautiful girl, I always believed that there would be days like these some time in the distant future when I had to go and get a shotgun from somewhere to marshal some young man up the aisle with my pregnant daughter or to dissuade him from coming to my door.

DETERMINING OUTCOMES

I also knew that there would be no way that I could know for sure if some young man was shimmying up the drainpipe at the back of my house in the middle of the night to creep into bed with one of my daughters. But boyfriends don’t do that no more. They expect to come to your front door and tell you to your face that, "Hey, Mr. Brown, I’ve come to check your daughter.” They ain’t afraid of whether you’ve got some buckshot in that double-barrel sawed-off or whether you were only styling it out.

Anyway, enough about me, let’s get back to my daughter...Does anyone believe that the environment that you put your children in does not determine their outcomes in life? Have my daughter’s chances of marrying a black boy not been severely reduced by her choice of a school which you could describe as being a ‘spot-the-black-boy’ institution? Or is education and the school that you go to more than skin-deep?

Dotun Adebayo is Britain’s most listened-to black radio talk show host. He presents Up All Night on BBC Radio 5 live Thursdays through Sundays on 909/693 MW, The Sunday Night Special on BBC 94.9FM and Reggae Time on BBC London 94.9FM on Saturday evenings. Tune in if you’re ranking!

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