Something New is Getting Old

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I wouldn’t have wanted to date white guys before, but they’re killin’ it right now – Justin Timberlake, Orlando Bloom, Paul Walker. Every hot guy I see is white.”

—Rihanna, Vibe Vixen August/September issue

According to CNN, black women are warming up to the idea of “dating out:”

For years, Toinetta Jones played the dating game by her mom’s strict rule.

“Mom always told me, ‘Don’t you ever bring a white man home,”‘ recalled Jones, echoing an edict issued by many Southern, black mothers.

But at 37, the Alexandria divorcee has shifted to dating “anyone who asks me out,” regardless of race.

“I don’t sit around dreaming about the perfect black man I’m going to marry,” Jones said.

Black women around the country also are reconsidering deep-seated reservations toward interracial relationships, reservations rooted in America’s history of slavery and segregation.

They’re taking cues from their favorite stars — from actress Shar Jackson to tennis pro Venus Williams — as well as support blogs, how-to books and interracially themed novels telling them it’s OK to “date out.”

[Is it just me, or does anyone else think that "date out" sounds suspiciously like take out? Like black women are walking up to White-Guy-2-Go, like "I'd like a tall blond please, with a side of surfer - easy on the emo."]

The CNN article continues:

It comes as statistics suggest American black women are among the least likely to marry.

[Yeah, yeah, trust me, we know. Is there a dating statistic quoted more often than black women are least likely to marry? If someone knows of another one, please let me know!]

“I’m not saying that white men are the answer to all our problems,” Jones said. “I’m just saying that they offer a different solution.”

She reflects many black women frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows: They’re nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and more than twice as likely to be unemployed

[Looks like the Black-Men-2-Go Franchise is falling on hard times...]

While CNN (and the other outlets I saw this in before seeing the CNN link) are doing their best to promote discussion about this “trend,” they are conveniently forgetting that “dating out” isn’t exactly new.

Check out this statistic from the article:

Census data showed 117,000 black wife-white husband couples in 2006, up from 95,000 in 2000.

There were just 26,000 such couples in 1960, before a Supreme Court ruling banished laws against mixed marriages.

So…before it was legal, 26,000 black women still found a way to marry Mr. White? So, we have a solid 40 years of black women dating – and marrying – white men of their own free will. Interesting.

Personally, I have four main issues with this article:

1. It reinforces the “black men are underachieving” stereotype.

Black women are refusing to comply with that message about just find yourself a good blue-collar man with a job, or just find a black man,” Moore said.

She pointed to low rates of black men in college, a place where women of all races often meet their spouses.

Black women on campus largely are surrounded by non-black men: In 2004, 26.5 percent of black males ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college versus 36.5 percent of black women that age, according to the American Council on Education’s most recent statistics.

Even after college, Roslyn Holcomb struggled to meet professional black men.

“I wanted to get married (and) have children,” she said. “If I was only meeting one guy a year, or every few years, that wasn’t going to happen.”

The Alabama author eventually married white.

So I suppose the assumption is that if a black woman does end up with a white man, he must be a high achieving college grad? I guess dating an under-educated white guy isn’t really an option – obviously, if we wanted that, we’d keep dating black men!

2. White Men are the Only Option

Notice, no where in the article does it mention black women dating Asian men, Desi men, Latin men – it’s all about the white guys. The interracial dating label apparently applies only to white-POC combinations.

[On a semi-related note - white men, how do you feel about being a trend?]

3. Black Men Do Not Really Get a Say in this Article

They’re made even slimmer, grumble many black women, by high rates of successful black men choosing blondes. For some, they argue, white wives are the ultimate status symbol.

“They don’t want a dark chocolate sister laying around their swimming pool,” Moore said.

Jones remembered being troubled when a white man politely approached her around 1990. Her stance softened years later, after a sobering party experience.

“All the black men literally pushed (us) out the way to talk to the blondes,” said Jones, who soon declared, “I’m going to date whoever.”

Black men and women have openly feuded before.

[...]Ayo Handy-Kendi, creator of Black Love Day, argues blacks are simply reacting to messages linking success with whiteness. She referred to a string of successful athletes with white partners, including golfer Tiger Woods.

“They normally rejected their culture and they went to the acceptable standard of success — a white woman,” said Handy-Kendy, who thought it ironic high-achieving black women were mimicking the behavior.

All of these quotes exemplify some of the worst of the in-fighting that happens within the black community. It is always someone’s fault. Fingers are pointed, tempers flare, and eventually someone comes out with “Well if you weren’t so _____.”

I honestly felt like I was reading a transcript from BET.

Then again, I think I would have rather had “Dr.” Tiy-E Muhammed, Lauren Lake, and Thomas Lopez-Pierre back than tangle with…

4. These So-Called Experts

…cited in the article.

From referencing Halima Anderson’s Date a White Guy Blog in the article notes, to Evia Moore (whose blog I could not find a link to), I was finding the sources cited highly questionable.

But most questionable of all was the inclusion of Tim Alexander, director of Diary of a Tired Black Man. Taglines for the movie:

“Creating a National Dialogue for Change.”
“It’s Time We Get Real and Fix Some Stuff.”

And my favorite -

“Now, it’s the Black Men’s Turn to Exhale.”

I see why they need to exhale – looking at the evil sneer from the female lead on the movie poster, I held my breath involuntarily. The trailers and promos also serve to promote the stereotype of evil, nagging black women henpecking their men to death. (Make sure you watch both the high budget trailer and the low-budget one. You’ll see what I mean…)

Tim Alexander also has multiple radio interviews on his site, including one in the UK where he reveals he has been engaged six times – and has never made it to the altar. I suppose he would be an expert in dysfunctional relationships…

Alexander’s views are made clear in the article:

It’s a frustration director Tim Alexander tackles in “Diary of a Tired Black Man,” a frank film covering everything from black women’s demeanors to their weight. Frustrated by black women, the main character dates a white one.

“To a certain degree, black people are sick of each other,” Alexander said. “It would be better for black men and black women to open their options.”

Thanks Tim. My boyfriend and I will make sure to open our options and not support your movie.

[Personally, I'm saving my cash for Akira's Hip-Hop Shop or Neo Ned - two films that look like they'd be worth my $10.]

I don’t know why I am even surprised at this point – everyone loves an angry black woman/frustrated black man story to laugh at, be amused by, and feel superior to. The fact that this type of story is repeatedly picked up just shows me how far we have to go before we can have an honest discussion about interracial (and intra-racial) dating.

Still, one small thing does stand out.

As much as the movie Something New is referenced in these articles, it is interesting to see that the underlying message of the film is continuously omitted. Something New wasn’t about finding a white Prince Charming – it was about being true to yourself. In one of the movie’s closing scenes, Kenya’s father breaks it down:

Edmond McQueen: The point is, love is an adventure, Kenya. It’s not a decision you make for others. It’s a decision you make from your heart. Anyway, the boy’s just white, he ain’t a Martian.