My search for Mr Woke: a dating diary

My search for Mr Woke: a dating diary

August 12, 2018 | More from Food Trends | Tags: ,

My search for Mr Woke: a dating diary

After many bad experiences, I took a vow to date woke men only. I even went on a Guardian Blind date…

I tend to come to things late: Twitter, The Wire and puberty were all delayed arrivals into my life. And losing my virginity was no different. I rocked up to the University of Manchester in 2010 tragically chaste and sexually frustrated. It was what you might call a pre-woke epoch; we were still drunk on lad culture. My flatmate Liam quickly fashioned himself as the toplad; he would confess later that hed made a secret bet that he could shag every girl in the group.

By the middle of my first year, my turn had come. I was in his room on the pretence of watching a film, but the foregone conclusion have sex, then pretend it never happened was punctured irreparably. As we kissed, Liam whispered: Ive never had sex with a black girl before the anti-aphrodisiac for women of colour everywhere. That was the end of that. Luckily, university was full of other young, drunk people with plenty of leisure time, so it wasnt too difficult to get laid. But an awareness of my race, and a persistent bout of thrush, followed me through university and beyond.

I had spent most of my teens avoiding thinking about my ethnicity; blending in and miracle boob growth were my principal wishes at that age. But at university my sense of difference was heightened. It wasnt just confined to the obvious: the lack of BME students or academics, or the history lecturer who claimed that British colonialists were well-intentioned. It began to crop up in my love life such as the time I was asked whether my vagina was pink inside (FYI, it is).

The more I learned about racism and feminism, the smaller the pool of potential suitors became. While being thoughtful, funny, smart and able to put up with my unbearable flaws is a must, I became aware that my match also has to be serious about social justice to be my type on (recycled, sustainably sourced) paper.

Today, my work involves researching the links between race and inequality for two thinktanks. If woke means being alert to injustice in society, especially racism, then I am on constant high alert. A potential partner needs to be at least on medium alert for it to be workable. Eventually, I took a vow to date woke men only. But only after numerous bad experiences.

It was on exchange at the University of Toronto, aged 21, where the first racist domino fell. No longer shackled by my virginity, I woke up naked but for a coat on a strangers bathroom floor. I was pleased to find it was the flat of the best-looking guy at the frat party. We dated for a few months, but unfortunately Sam turned out to be a Republican and a biological racist. At a party, he told a confused group of fellow students that black people are biologically predisposed to violence, before tagging Kim isnt like that, on to the end. Lucky me. An important lesson was learned: check if theyre overtly racist before intercourse.

Ive shared a bed and overpriced meal with some less obviously deplorable offenders back home in the UK. With a university boyfriend, the incompatibility started small. I collected newspaper clippings about institutional racism in the Metropolitan police, but he wasnt convinced. I asked him not to smoke weed with me in public, explaining that the rules were different for me. He didnt understand why I cared. After we broke up, he admitted that he never spoke up when people made racist or sexist comments at work. I knew our friendship was finally over when he sent me an ill-judged treatise on race from the white males perspective while finding himself in India.

James Baldwin said that to be black and relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. Its not the sexiest Tinder tagline, but dating someone not woke does leave you in a state of constant fury. Im all for debate, but I dont want my relationship to be reminiscent of Question Time. Im looking for someone to be angry with, not at. There are enough other reasons in any relationship to be enraged, so why add another one?

But even after my vow to find a woke guy, things didnt go smoothly. There was the man who, while nice, wanted to talk about whether Cecil Rhodes was that bad before Id even had a morning cuppa. While on a date at a smart restaurant, he asked whether I had a dad, because he knew this was a problem in my community. Once it became clear that he only dated women of colour, my doubts grew. Sure, people have types, but nothing makes you feel more like a trinket than being chosen for your ethnicity. No one would say all white people are their type, apart from white supremacists. People specify and give details: brown hair, blue eyes, tall or short. Perhaps theyll even talk about personality!Black and mixed-race people are not a type.

When my white friend told me how much of a confidence boost Tinder was, I didnt have the heart to say that for me it was anything but. Black women receive the fewest messages on OKCupid and the fewest swipes right on Tinder, and my inbox was no different. So, for 2018, I swore Id meet people in real life. On New Years Eve, I was asked out by a guy at a party. He was intelligent, attractiveand, according to my wokeness calculator, 65% woke the highest score yet. To reach this level, you must be at ease with a few basics. For example: you know reverse racism isnt real; you never play devils advocate without knowledge of a subject; and you understand that poverty is not the fault of poor people. The rating couldnt go above 65% in this case, because he is a civil servant with centrist foreign policy views. And he hadnt read the Malcolm X autobiography.

But after months of dates, attending parties together and the purchase of a Scrabble set, I had no idea whether or not I was still single. The funny thing about the Foreign Office is that it tends to make staff leave the country for years at a time, with no consideration of my dating plight. Would I have to start the whole, wretched woke man search from scratch?

Kind of. Turns out our expiration date is coming up faster than expected: hes getting a new post abroad. So when Weekend asked me if I would take part in their Blind Date series, I said yes. Fingers crossed hes wide awake.

How to be woke: the dos and donts

Dont say
All Lives Matter
OMG, Im nearly as dark as you in this heat!
But you guys have Beyonc?
I dont know much about this, but…
Im just not that into politics
You cant say anything any more
The N word or P word (even during Gold Digger)

Do say
Black lives matter
What pronouns do you prefer?
Racism is about power and prejudice
Its true, Britain didnt build the railways in British India
Poverty is not the fault of poor people
I dont know about that subject, tell me more

  • Names have been changed.

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