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Her presence, despite the poor video quality, commands the screen."And I kind of thought about, like, well why is that? The idea that we should travel abroad — particularly to Europe — to find love has a home in online discussion groups, travel websites, blogs, and Facebook pages, all of which earnestly and enthusiastically encourage us to "swirl," i.e., date non-black men (the term is designed to evoke a half-chocolate, half-vanilla soft-serve).

As much as I wanted to believe in sites that told me differently — that men across the pond were just waiting for my arrival — I felt like I also knew better.

And while these sites say they intend to expose black women to a world of possibilities, the "possibilities" seem to predominantly feature black women with white men — a move that, intentionally or not, presents interracial dating as aspirational.

As a painfully self-conscious biracial woman, I had struggled to date at an Ivy League school, and studying abroad was as much an escape as it was a necessary academic endeavor for an international relations major.

But I am also a European Union citizen, born in Hungary to a Hungarian mother and Nigerian father, and my optimism was tempered by the reality of my experiences living and traveling in Europe, experiences that taught me I was both Other and object.

"Are we going to start talking about some of the issues going on in America, why there's not so many black female couplings ... We'll just go to Europe and find a white guy.'" "That's not what we're saying," Weaver told me via Skype from Rome.

She's a former Los Angeles socialite who ran a once-popular site for affluent African-American Angelenos: Malika Walker arrived in Rome two weeks ago as Weaver's new assistant.Her boss said she "can't even keep up with" how many dates Walker has been asked on since arriving."I guess you could say my stock is up in Europe," Walker told me, with an exuberant laugh.The video is a defense of the company — directed at "haters" who have criticized Black Girl Travel for encouraging black women to date men in other countries."The heart of what we do is about empowering African-American women with options," says Fleacé Weaver, founder of Black Girl Travel, in the clip."I have done a lot of research and talked to a lot of women in this country, and what I'm hearing is: You can't find dates, you can't find mates, you can't find husbands."Weaver, a statuesque black woman flanked by two chic employees on either side, is all long lithe limbs and wavy hair. "What you gotta do is open your mind." Weaver's not alone in her exhortation to black American women.At first glance, Black Girl Travel seems to be like any other American international travel club, just one that caters exclusively to black women.But buried toward the bottom of its About Us page is a fuzzy You Tube video that indicates a wider problem.But black men are more than twice as likely than black women to marry outside their race, perhaps because stereotypes about black men and sexuality increase their desirability — while comparable parallels aren't often available to black women. ' I love my black kings, I'm holding it down!According to some advocates of interracial dating, unlike black men, black women face a unique pressure to date within their race."Black women are the community," said Christelyn Karazin, founder of Beyond Black White.com, author of Swirling, and creator of a new interracial dating show Swirlr, told me via Skype. ' Meanwhile, so many of us are so miserable and unhappy and think that we don't even deserve to be happy — that it's about being black first and a woman never." Karazin, who also spearheaded a controversial movement advocating against single motherhood in the black communtiy, describes tangled and knotted long-standing ideas about black desirability and femininity — or, the supposed lack thereof.While "in a perfect world love would be blind," she wrote, in the United States — and its polarized racial landscape in which black is essentially bad and white is essentially good — our romantic decisions are also political ones, whether we'd like them to be or not.The practical, not the political, was certainly the driving force for Weaver when she founded Black Girl Travel.

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