On Interracial Dating – The Black Panel (3 of 4)

Blair Underwood and Cynthia Nixon

Welcome back to the Black panel on Interracial Dating. Our panelists are:

N’Jaila Rhee, the mastermind behind BlaysianBytch.com (link NSFW); Damon Young, better known as The Champ and one of two VerySmartBrothas; Ashley – longtime reader and friend of the blog; Cheryl Lynn, Digital Femme extraordinare, rabblerouser, and longtime friend of the blog; Andrea Plaid – our own Sexual Correspondent; Dani – long time friend of the blog; Sewere – long time commenter, one time contributor, and friend of the blog; Tami Winfrey Harris, long time contributor and editor of Love Isn’t Enough and What Tami Said; Kadian Pow, friend of the blog and occasional contributor, and Helena Andrews, author of Bitch is the New Black.

If you have not dated interracially, what has contributed to the reasons why not?

Damon: This is an odd question for me to answer, because while I’ve never “dated” interracially, the first woman I slept with in college was white.

Outside of the fact that she was a senior and I was a freshman, our two month long relationship was pretty unremarkable. It was your garden variety college fuck buddy arrangement — I don’t think I ever even saw her before 1am — but the circumstances around us meeting each other were so wrought with contrived stereotype that it could have easily been the premise for an episode of “The Game”

Basically, she approached me at a bar, and asked if I was “Damon Young from the basketball team.” When I replied “Yes,” she whispered “I want to fuck you” in my ear. I (obviously) obliged.

Now, although I realize that this story can be deconstructed from a thousand different angles, it’s important to note that if she never approached me that night, I still probably would have never slept with and/or dated a white woman.

Why? Well, for starters, I’m much more attracted to African-American woman than I am to any other demographic. I’ve also been lucky enough to live in places where black women are bountiful and (most importantly) I’ve been lucky enough to have attractive black women attracted to and interested in me. While I definitely find women of all colors and cultures attractive, I’ve never had a need to “step out.”

And, even if I did feel that need, all of my flirting, approaching, and dating experience has been with black (and “black acting” Hispanic) women. I mean, I know that women are, for the most part, women, but there are some subtle and not so subtle differences in the way that different cultures of women act and respond to romantic interest. Basically, I have no clue how to approach non-black women. I wouldn’t know what to say, how to flirt, how to gauge interest, etc.

Also — and since we’re being candid here, I’m going to be candid — the type of white women who are more attracted to/interested in dating black men usually aren’t attracted to black men like me. While I’m dark-browned skinned and over 6 feet tall, I’m not ‘black” enough for the type of white woman who’d easily approach a black man. This isn’t a compliant, just an observation. Again, this could be a symptom of the cultural vacuum I currently reside in, but I bet this extends past the ‘Burgh.

N’jaila: Damon, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I usually feel like I’m not the “type”.

Damon: N’Jaila, I wonder if there’s a white man and woman on a Google document somewhere out there discussing how black people who exclusively date whites aren’t into white people like them.

Ashley: My first sexual encounter was with a white guy. I was a freshmen in high school and he was a sophomore in both my spanish and math classes. We were an unlikely duo. He was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed lacrosse jock. I was brown-skinned, threw the shot put, read Eric Jerome Dickey novels, and thought Lil’ Zane was going to be the next great MC. However, we bonded over AIM. We both thought that our spanish teacher looked like Santa Claus and we loved Linkin Park. It was unusual… Our friendship didn’t extend beyond AIM or in class. When we were with our respective groups, we’d just nod our heads to each other and keep it moving. I’m not sure why that was the case. It was something we just didn’t discuss. We ended up bonding over our curiosity about sex. It was just that simple. After it was done, we both agreed that either we were awful, or it just wasn’t that eventful. I transferred schools and we never kept in contact. I ran into him a few years later and it was sort of awkward. Not because of the sexual encounter, but because we both knew that we had something “there” – even if it was just friendship. However, we didn’t know how to overcome our differences. And even when we saw each other again he seemed awkward.

I date women and I’ve realized that in the lesbian community race is not as big of an issue. I get approached by women of all hues of the ‘Lbow’ and there doesn’t seem to be a big purple elephant in the corner. Women, by nature, tend to be more willing to discuss race, differences, and anything! They’re also, from my experience, more willing to step outside of their comfort zones. I was totally open to dating whomever I clicked with. I went to an all-black college and black women were the most accessible. As simple as that.

I do, however, find myself more attracted to black women. Not necessarily just aesthetically, but culturally.

Damon: Ashley, I don’t know if I agree that women are more willing to discuss race and differences and whatever. Maybe women are more likely to discuss those things with another women, but you’d be surprised at the conversations men have when there aren’t any women within earshot. It’s not all porn and fantasy points.

The Essence article on “The Relationship Market” posits that for black women to raise their dating stock, they need to diversify their holdings (I.e. date white men) which would put them in a better position to negotiate. What are your thoughts on this article?

N’jaila: Can I just say how dehumanizing this whole “dating as the market place” is? And to whom must Black women raise their stock for? For whom do we need to gain value? If any group of man sees me as a commodity and one of lower worth BECAUSE I’m Black than those men are not in my dating pool. I refuse.

This is pretty much saying that Black women aren’t being unfairly devalued because of a racist and sexist establishment but because of Black women’s deficiencies in picking partners.

Damon: As my homegirl pointed out in something I wrote for VerySmartBrothas today, black women can be interested as hell in dating interracially, but that doesn’t mean shit if the interest isn’t reciprocated. On the other hand, I know firsthand that many non-black men — men who’d be open to dating a black woman — don’t consider it as a real possibility because they assume that black women won’t be interested in them.

The most interesting point the author brings up is the idea that if more black women married outside of their race, the marriage rates for black women and black men would increase — an idea that I don’t disagree with. It actually does make sense that, if there was a more even ratio of single black women and single black men, the men would feel more pressure to commit and ultimately marry.

Ashley: Can someone post a link to that? I just want to make sure that I’ve actually read that one. There are so many floating around. I was responding to the WSJ one.

So I finally made sure that I read the correct article. I’ll be honest… I think black women should date whomever they fall in love with. I’ll be the black woman who just says what I think: it’s ridiculous that some black women are so committed to only dating black men. I mean I get the whole Obama/Cosby thing…

However, I also don’t think that the solution to the marriage “crisis” should be approached from the same angle as, say, buying a Kia Sorrento when you really want a BMW. It’s much more complicated than that.

Cheryl Lynn: Black women should date the men that they are physically and emotionally attracted to and everyone else should shut the hell up. Can I please get at least a full one-year ban on articles about black women, dating, and marriage? The plethora of articles is starting to make me a bit paranoid. I was perfectly happy before! Now I’m lying in bed at night wondering if I’m going to be childless and single until the day I die. Jeez!

Tami: Yes, Cheryl! This idea that black women, apart from all other human beings, needn’t consider who they are attracted to and who works best for their lives and goals, makes me cringe. It’s all about getting the ring! Who cares if you have to act like someone you aren’t and pledge your life to someone you aren’t interested in? You’ll be married! I believe in dating men of all races, but the idea of dating a non-black man purely out of desperation is ridiculous and surely offensive to any men involved.

It’s not that the Essence piece didn’t make some compelling arguments. It’s just that I’m weary of black women being instructed on what they need to change to be marriageable.

Andrea: All I got from the article is “Black women, date outside the race so Black men get jealous and will want to date you!” It’s as if the article advocates using other men of color as pawns in the continuing war between Black women and men. What did Audre Lorde say about using without the consent of the used is abuse? And Essence and Banks are totally cool advocating this? ::gasface::

Damon: Andrea, I didn’t get that perception. From my understanding it was more of an encouragement for black women to stop exclusively shopping at Whole Foods and be open to buy produce at Whole Foods, Wegmans, Target, and Trader Joe’s. (This analogy made much more sense in my head.)

Andrea: Indeed. LOL!

Helena: If a woman’s main goal in life is to get married. Like the title “Mrs.” means that much to her and her life won’t be the same without it, then yeah go on ahead and date everybody. Date midgets! Date convicts! Date Coal Miners! Whatever. But if a woman’s goal and desire is to date and marry a BLACK man, then telling her to do different doesn’t really help does it?

Also no one every discusses why more black women don’t date white men. Perhaps because my black body has been preyed upon in the not so distance past in this country. I’m not saying I have some genetic predisposition to not dating white men because of slavery and Civil Rights, but you grow up in a country where a black woman’s body was sexualized and dehumanized by white men and where having a legal relationship with a white man wasn’t possible until the middle of the last century? Am I the only one who remembers the John Mayer Madness? Come on. I don’t date white men now because 1) I don’t know that many socially and 2) I feel safe with black men. Those are my personal issues, obvs, but they can’t be ignored.

Sewere: That article was just downright offensive. First of all, dating doesn’t work as a market and the sort of “signaling of higher value of goods” is just another racist and sexist way of describing black women. But even if we were to accept the dating other women to increase stock with black men, how does that actually work out? If the author has already stated that a lot of the successful black men don’t want to be married and online data continually shows that non-black men aren’t engaging black women, how does that increase the stock and options of black women? Wouldn’t a more effective approach address damaging representations and portrayals of black women? I also want to add that I completely agree that black women should not limit themselves to black men only and they should be open to dating other men. Minor rant: Honestly, bearing the burden of the community is just another way of policing black women’s choices denying them their individuality and humanity. Let’s not also forget that the article neglects the realities of LGBTQI black folk out there. /end rant.

Dani: I’ve written before about the spate of articles and “news” shows examining black women and marriage. The Essence article is better than much of the other coverage in that you get the sense it was a black editor and a black writer or team of writers trying to do something useful for black women, rather than trying to slyly undermine or demean us. But this article repeats many of the same problems in that it assumes that black women are this monolith sitting around plotting how we’re going to get to the altar. Are there really people who are willing to date someone they’re fundamentally not attracted to so it can increase their “bargaining power” with black men? It just seems like a dehumanizing way to be talking about people’s emotions and desires. I stand by what I’ve written before: We need to take seriously the idea that black women are marrying at lower rates than other women because we’re asking real questions about how such a move would benefit us and when faced with lackluster answers, we’re opting out. We need to consider that black women are perfectly poised to craft new approaches to intimacy and care-giving and family-building. We’ve always done this. It’s time to get support for these actions – the same kinds of subsidies and benefits government offers married people. I’m not saying all unmarried black women have intellectualized their situations to this level, but I’m still looking forward to the day we see more people asking why marriage is seen as *the* key to social, economic and family stability, when instead we could be fighting for policies that do more to support unmarried people.

Kadian: The thesis of this article makes dating and relationships seem like a well-plotted poker game. I absolutely detest game-playing when it comes to relationships. It’s not a very adult way to approach such things. In an ideal world, Black women would date whomever we choose. I did. I do think the commitment to dating inside the “race” is a sticking point mostly for heterosexual African Americans.Interracial dating is far more common in other western countries like France and Britain, where I now live. I remember being shocked by the prevalence of this the first time I visited London 11 years ago. Britain is not without its racial issues, but the historical context is different from that of the US.

Also included was a supplement on fashion and dating. Considering that black women are considered to have standards that are too high, how did you feel reading that second article after “The Relationship Market?”

He's Got the Look

From left to right: The Baller, The Banker, the Boho, and the Blue Collar

N’jaila: I didn’t really get too invested in the fashion article, its seems like a little fluff piece. Of course my idea of fashion is matching my heels to what ever color Power Ranger is on my t-shirt that day. I’m in no place to judge a man by his clothes. I’m quicker to judge a man by what console he plays or if he favors Marvel over DC.

Damon: Yeah, it was definitely fluff, and I’m not in the business I’ve telling people what they should be physically attracted to. I mean, I probably won’t be dating any women who dress like Nicki Minaj any time soon, so I can understand a woman preferring a certain look as well. Like it or not, your wardrobe choice does provide a glimpse of your personality.

Ashley: I agree that it was a fluff piece. Shows like ‘Single Ladies’ and ‘The Game’ have paid homage to and created these aspirational black personalities. It’s almost like that book ‘Our Kind of People’, we’re still fixated with maintaining class structures. It’s evident in the different characterizations of the how each man is outfitted. I mean a “baller boo”…. Seriously? I know plenty of engineers pulling down six figures and they’re definitely rocking a tattered t-shirt, jeans and flip flops.

Cheryl Lynn: Well, I’ll just go ahead and out myself as a black woman who doesn’t read Essence–or any women’s magazine. The focus on relationships is irritating and they cost too much money. I got a subscription to Esquire for $4.00 and that magazine is the business! Yes, that’s terribly off topic, but I’m always proud of a good deal!

Damon: Cheryl Lynn, when I found out that a year’s subscription to Esquire was only 4 bucks, I thought I was being punk’d. Seriously, can someone explain to me how a greeting card — a totally useless object that’s usually only read once and placed in a fucking shoebox — can cost as much as 12 months of one of the best magazines on the market?

Tami: What? $4 for Esquire? You know I’m bout to be all over that!

As for that fashion piece? Hot buttered bullshit. I could have stomached it if it had been written as fluff and no positioned as serious advice.

Andrea: As much as I thought the piece was foolishness, it does address the not-so-subtle issue of class presentation via clothing. It served as a dovetail to the IR dating story because it reinforces the idea that the popular Black female opinion is the Goldilocks Average: not too working-class, not too bougie, but dressed enough to look like the man trying to look “baller,” which seems to translate to “moneyed enough yet ‘keeping it real’.” It’s, like the IR piece, is another way to keep the Essence audience aspiring for or maintaining Black middle-classedness.

Helena: Listen, one time I saw the sexiest looking man I’ve seen since falling in love with Taye Diggs’ teeth in high school. I was walking to work and he passed me on the street. He was in jeans, a tight white T-shirt and Timbs. He looked like a construction worker. I smiled. He smiled. And we both kept it moving in our opposite directions. Walking away toward to the metro I thought to myself, “Damn, Helena, he coulda had yo’ babies.” Anywho, so I get on the Greenline and who do I see sitting across from me? Timbs Dude. And he flashes his Taye Diggs teeth and says, “We have to stop meeting like this” or “This must be fate.” I can’t remember. So I chat with him on the train. He’s sweet and very loquacious. I blame Tyler Perry for happens next. I give him my number. He asks if I’m headed to work and I say that I am. Then I ask what he does. His response: “Well you should always start a relationship with honesty, right? Well, yeah, I live in a halfway house. I just got out of jail. I did seven.” The end.

Damon: Typical black woman. Can’t give an honest brotha a break.

Sewere:
I couldn’t make head or tail of the fashion article, plus it was just ridiculously classist, the “investment banker” look, the “blue collar” look and the “baller” (what does that even mean?). I know a lot of blue collar folks who wear buttoned down shirts and slacks and a ridiculous number of PhDs who were jeans and rumpled shirts to work… I guess the article just strikes me as utterly incoherent.

Dani: I felt like it was a typical Essence moment. I like looking at the hair spreads and reading some of the articles. But inevitably, I always hit a moment when I say to myself, “I live on a different planet,” and turn the page. That said, it speaks to something the article on dating seems to miss: the central role that personal preference and desire play in the choices we make. In the same way the women in the style article were fundamentally, irrationally irked by their boyfriend’s sartorial choices, some women are going to be fundamentally, irrationally irked by a man who doesn’t get their 90s R&B references or who doesn’t dance with them way they like or who doesn’t appropriately appreciate their mother’s macaroni and cheese. And that is fine. People have the right to want what they want and hold out till they get it.

Want to read more? Jump to part 1, part 2, or the full series.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AQYH334RYACFVUIOSLRXOM6EYY Jimoh A

    “Black women should date the men that they are physically and emotionally
    attracted to and everyone else should shut the hell up. Can I please
    get at least a full one-year ban on articles about black women, dating,
    and marriage?”

    And can I get an A-MEN?

  • Anonymous

    It’s funny cause I dated the UPS guy and he was one of the most intelligent and engaging people I’ve ever met. We both liked sci-fi and simple dates. So yeah, don’t knock someone just b/c of a job title. Anyone could be making bank with suitable employment and money management skills. I really think most people who don’t go to college don’t accumulate nearly as much debt as those who attend college and need financial assistance. It makes me wonder if before taking the plunge I could have led a simple life for a while, backpacking and working across the globe.

    I think a lot of working class people go to school. Quite a few students hold jobs and some take care of families at the same time. It’s hard work but it can be done.

    But college should not be considered this ultimate source of knowledge. It does not have the monopoly on book learning.

    Regarding the black man types, it’s as silly as those personality tests that try and simplify the human population into just a handful of types. That’s just not how it works in reality. None of those qualities are mutually exclusive.

    And agree with Dani that people have a right to hold out for what they want. No one should have to settle. Let people go about their journeys to finding what they’re looking for.

    And thanks for the info Cheryl. I might get my own subscription of Esquire now. :)

  • kkm

    i loved the essence article (mark your calendar – i only read essence every couple of years) but what i love about the excerpts from the book (that i also never would have said before) is the base articulation of the power differential in having a marketplace where black women are at a statistical disadvantage – and a disadvantage that just increases with our education levels. when i discuss this simple law of supply and demand with white guys – they are intrigued. black guys just blink owlishly and remind me “not to get too big a head” or that i “think too much”.  of course, before going out with a woman (or two or three or five. or black and white or…) the sociocultural expectation of compliance in order to attract a (black peer) mate is dismaying, and frankly constant.  i also have been told by black male peers that i am “not easy” when i raise the same point. i do not believe that i am less than but the numbers in the available pool speak for themselves. for example, if i were a college student in arkansas in 2007 – there are 250 women for every 100 men in college (http://www.prb.org/Articles/2007/CrossoverinFemaleMaleCollegeEnrollmentRates.aspx). as an aside, i’ve lived many places where women say they would move to just find a peer/partner.
    -kkm

  • LM

    “…I wonder if there’s a white man and woman on a
    Google document somewhere out there discussing how black people who exclusively
    date whites aren’t into white people like them.” 

    Had to laugh —
    I’ve had that conversation, though not yet on a Google document.  I’ve met
    a handful of black women in a dating context who have said or otherwise
    strongly indicated that they exclude black men from their dating pool.  (To be fair, I’ve met non-black women who’ve
    said the same thing.)  For me it’s not a
    far leap to conclude that 1) they’d be uncomfortable around many of my friends
    and 2) their bar for me is set low because I appear to be white.  

     

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    “Black women also seem to get married a lot later in life so when people talk about that figure that 42% of Black women are not married they fail to ask what age demographic these numbers came from , usually they are talking about women 18-25 , when you raise the age to 35 the amount of unmarried Black women drops dramatically” – N’jaila (Asian Panel, part 2 of 3)

    I read about this. A couple of college professors, one from Howard and one from another HBCU, I can’t remember which, crunched the numbers and realized that Black women seem to just have different marriage patterns from White women. I sort of figured that was the case. But what is very surprising to me is how little traction in the media their study has gotten in either White or Black media. I guess everyone loves stories that ‘other’ Black women or are negative. But one that is positive is ignored.

    And regarding Essence Magazine; Please don’t forget that Essence is owned by Time, Inc. Which means that Essence is a Black appearing magazine but isn’t really. So I think it’s smart to distrust the motives of Essence in the same way that we have a healthy distrust of other White or so-called mainstream media.

  • JA

    I love this series. I have printing it out and handing it to various families members so they can stfu. My mother married a White Man and I was so happy because I had a father. Even though they got a divorce, they both showed me that love has no race and to be with/marry anyone you want to. Now that he has been remarried to a Latina, our rainbow coalition(as my brother calls it) is very happy.

  • Eva

    No one should ever date anybody out of desperation.  Also there is nothing wrong with not being married and not having children, in fact living that way might be better for some people.   I really don’t care about dating someone of my race, what I want is a man who has been through hard times and knows how to come out the other side, someone who has some type of spiritual life.  The other things are just dust in the wind to me. 

  • Tiffany

    And to whom must black women raise their stock for? For whom do we need to gain value……      

    THANK YOU N’JAILA!!!!!!!!!! And what’s sad is this is coming from Essence magazine.  They essentially are saying they have bought into the idea that black women are somehow less than.  It’s sad and quite disappointing

  • Pingback: On Interracial Dating – The Black Panel (2 of 4) | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • DC

    I think this is a conversation many of us have one way or another with ourselves, families or whoever else thinks it’s their business. I’ve spent most of my adult life outside of areas where there are many black people, mostly by accident. Along with that ends up a lot of dating people who don’t look like me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought more pragmatically about it; wondering whether someone would be adept enough for me to take them home to “my people” and not have them be so confused that they wouldn’t know how to act, etc. 

    I feel more militant about it, like “I’ve mastered your world. Now master the other facet of mine.” I’ve even considered moving someplace where the odds that I’d meet more sistas would be likely, but I’m not really in a position to do that right now. I think my ideal scenario revolves somewhere around meeting someone who I share much commonality with and who happens to be black too. 

    Not the least of which because it’d make my mom happy and because it’d be so much easier to be in a relationship with always questioning the obvious…but, I’m also open to the possibility that it might not happen that way. And I’m not sure what to make of it, because I know that personally I’m not exactly sure I love the idea of being assumed to be one of those dudes that married white chicks to be something he’s not.

    But I’m not sure I have the desire to alter my life in such a manner to make my relationship some kind of living testament to the struggle either. Because if it doesn’t work, you don’t get a rebate on the time wasted trying to invent something that wasn’t within your truth to begin with.

    Good discussion. 

    • Sewere

      @3b77723c197256583beb7f47fc3315ac:disqus

      I feel more militant about it, like “I’ve mastered your world. Now
      master the other facet of mine.” I’ve even considered moving someplace
      where the odds that I’d meet more sistas would be likely, but I’m not
      really in a position to do that right now. I think my ideal scenario
      revolves somewhere around meeting someone who I share much commonality
      with and who happens to be black too.

      Are you living in New England too?

      I swear I would give my left ass and kidney if I could just move to Brooklyn or DC.

      • DC

        I sort of spend some summers in New England and the rest of the year in Denver.