For girls of color, dating can be challenging

Finding relationships at a predominantly white school is tough

Dating in high school is hard. Developing a crush, gathering up the courage to ask them out, and then if things don’t go well, dealing with the sting of rejection. This is universal. But what about when you’re a girl of color in a predominantly white school? All of this: Magnified.

I entered high school with high expectations. I was convinced my experience would reflect the countless teen movies I spent my childhood watching. Everyone would be dating everyone, and I would certainly be caught in the loop. I sat patiently waiting for my turn — when I would be included in the action. What I failed to realize, however, was that the girls in those movies were almost always white. These whirlwind romances never really applied to me. 

Throughout high school, there have been times where I’ve genuinely thought something was wrong with me. I don’t exactly consider myself shy, and I doubt my peers would. Yet, it felt like it was so much easier for my white friends to get into relationships. What made them get asked out so much? How were they so confident in asking others out? It’s not like it was always on my mind, or that I walked through high school constantly angry about it, but there were certainly times when my frustration would boil over, and I’d be left with sinking self-confidence. 

Being a girl of color surrounded by mostly white people automatically takes a toll on how beautiful you perceive yourself to be.

A couple of times I’ve actually asked my white friends how they do it — how they manage to slip into relationships fairly easily. And one of my friends told me, “Stop it, you’re very pretty. You probably just need to be more aggressive about it.” Though her advice was genuine, I don’t think she quite understood the added fear that comes with asking someone out when you’re non-white and all those around you are. Being a girl of color surrounded by mostly white people automatically takes a toll on how beautiful you perceive yourself to be. And when the “dating pool” is predominantly white, you also have fewer options to date other people of color. I, of course, don’t believe that you have to date within your race, but for people of color, dating within your own community can be more comfortable. You have shared struggles, shared culture and shared history. Most of all, you don’t have to worry about race being a factor in rejection. Because the reality is, if you do end up liking a white person, you can’t help but wonder whether they would even be interested in dating someone like you. Experiencing rejection is unpleasant, but experiencing rejection because your crush “doesn’t date Asians girls, or Black girls, or Latinas,” is even worse –– and that fear can be paralyzing. And while I can’t speak on them personally, there are also added complications that arise if you are a girl of color that is part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

On the (completely) other hand, when people did show romantic interest, I found myself doubting whether it was genuine. Did they like me as a person, or did they like me because of my race? Am I simply a conquest, an opportunity for them to go out of their comfort zone? Am I being fetishized? For those reading who are white, perhaps this feels dramatic. But I know many girls of color that have experienced this. People sliding into their DMs expressing how much they love Asian girls, or Black girls or Latinas, etc. Or people complimenting the color of their skin. Part of me craved the validation, at least someone was giving me attention, right? I (wrongly) felt guilty for rejecting something I told myself I wanted.

The hard part about this is that there’s no concrete solution. There’s little that you can say or do that will make dating easier. However, one thing I’ve found helpful is talking with other girls of color. One of the most painful parts for me during high school was thinking I was alone in my experiences. However, recently I had a discussion with some other girls of color that are seniors, and they have had very similar experiences over the years. I went away from the discussion feeling validated knowing that there is a significant difference in dating at Shorewood when you’re a person of color, as opposed to when you’re white.

if you do feel like dating is harder than it’s supposed to be, then it probably is.

For all of the girls of color still in high school, or who have yet to enter high school: try to remember that your success when it comes to dating does not define you. Obviously, all girls of color are different, and some are naturally more outgoing and ready to put themselves out there, and therefore may not feel disadvantaged. But if you do feel like dating is harder than it’s supposed to be, then it probably is. It doesn’t mean you’re undateable, and it has nothing to do with your beauty. I would also suggest sharing your experiences with others. The worst thing that you can do is accept the circumstances as being your own fault. I definitely wish someone had told me when I entered high school that dating is not like the movies, especially when you’re a person of color. I don’t think that would have stopped me from being frustrated, but it might have stopped me from feeling like something was wrong with me. And lastly, try to remember that who you date or don’t date in high school does not define the rest of your life. There is so much more out there in the world, and you’ll have the chance to get to know many different kinds of people.