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

Mississippi Masala

Welcome back to the final 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.

The article brings intraracial class issues in stark focus when Banks says:

“Give a blue collar brother a try” is what I call the Tyler Perry belief. It’s misguided advice and it often leads to bad relationships and the high rate of divorce for black couples. We’re the least likely to marry and the most likely to divorce. The reality is, if you’re a college-educated black woman, you have less in common with the guy you grew up with from the neighborhood who’s driving the UPS truck and more in common with the white guy who sat next to you in history class in college.”

What’s your reaction to this statement?

N’jaila: Having tried to relate to the white guys in my history classes I think the above statement is bullocks. I mean, you can take me and my brother, same racial, economic and social background and we have very different views on race, relationships, religion and myriad of other things – and we grew up in the same household. So I’m not a very firm believer that you will automatically have anything in common with anyone you meet based on perceived shared experiences. I think what a white male experiences in college and what a Black woman does could be so vastly different that some might even argue that its not a shared experience at all.

I’ve had white student look at me in shock when I told them that I was working to pay for my college education, they actually believed that most Black people got in for free and the government paid my tuition or assume that I was accepted into the college not on academic merit but because the school needed to fill a quota. I went to Rutgers University the most diverse campus in the country and I still had White students that did their best to stay away from anything and everything Black. So what would I have in common with one of those people? Am I to believe that because we sat next to each other in History of Western Civ that that White guy has ever thought of bringing home someone that looked like me to his mother?

Also, being college educated doesn’t stop a person from sharing opinions and beliefs with someone that did not complete the same level of education as them. I think that statement is just plain class-ism.

Andrea: Yep, it sure is. And that’s exactly what this article is getting at: maintaining class privilege. In essence, everyone should stick with their socio-economic kind. But it’s also good to remember that Essence, in its racial-uplift efforts, for a good long time promulgated the message that its middle-class, college-educated readership date Black working-class men. The “dating outside the race” pieces they ran generally side-eyed IR relationships, as if the women doing it made good copy but were doing bad by The Race™. But, as the “Black male shortage” became the mantra (“all the good Black men are taken!”), the IR stories Essence ran became more “lenient” in its attitude towards interracial relationships. And now, we have this piece, which is Essence offering its Negro Imprimatur by calling such relationships “practical.” Nothing about love and/or desire…”practical.” The subtler message is Black women not deserving of wonderfully wildly heart-stopping love except from Black men, if at that–in all of the homophobia dripping from that idea.

Ashley: I don’t agree [with Bank’s statement.] Asking me to switch to Cheerios – just because the corner bodega ran out of them – when I’ve been eating Raisin Bran my entire life wouldn’t work either. This binary solution for black women – stay single or date outside of your race – approach needs to stop.

Also – can we please STOP acting like Tyler Perry’s version of the blue collar brother actually exists! It’s just an awful fantasy.

N’jaila: Espeically because you might end up just as miserable, men are men not matter what the race. I think its more likely for me to end up with my pink rabbit than a white, black, or whatever race man.

Andrea: You have one, too? ::daps::

N’jaila: Oh honey , I have quite the collection.

Andrea: Gurl, we got each other’s email addies. We’ll chat later. 😀

Tami: Classist nonsense! My husband does not have a degree and yet is one of the smartest men I know. We both love history and politics and British sitcoms. Anyone who knows us knows we are compatible, despite his spending time in the military rather than a college classroom.

You cannot judge compatibility by the academic degrees anymore than you can by skin color. It’s interesting that in telling black women to broaden their choices they also tell us to narrow them.

Cheryl Lynn: I know that guy driving the UPS truck! He’s one of the smartest and nicest brothers I know and he’s also taken. Not by me, but another black woman has swooped him up and she is not sharing. And guess what? I have a lot in common with him–more than I have with the upper-class white guy who sat next to me in history class. I may be a college-educated black woman, but I still grew up working class. I have a lot in common with blue collar men because I was raised by one. “Give a blue collar brother a try” is misguided advice? Um, we are dating them! Happily! Right now! With good results. Who wrote that? Why do we have to put down one group in order to open ourselves up to another? What’s wrong with blue collar men of any race? I’m sorry, that just hit a sore spot with me. Perhaps the writer meant “no collar” instead of “blue collar”? I’m not dating the dude on the corner–’cause he’s the dude on the corner. But the guy who drives around the corner in the UPS truck? Fine with me. I just wish there were more of them.

Helena: Banks assumes that you and your fancy pants degree are making more than the UPS man. Um no. I have two fancy degrees and my uncle who drove a truck for 20 years could buy and sell me in day. True, money is an issue in any relationship. It creates a power dynamic that can be either destructive or supportive. But degrees don’t make direct deposits.

Sewere: Like everyone has said, this statement is just stupid, there are so-called blue collar workers who own their own businesses, who have all the trappings for a stable relationship that to assume that just being blue collar disqualifies them from being partners. Furthermore, where is the data that shows that such pairings are likely to result in divorce? And why the bloody hell is the white guy the default rather than the latino guy? Also, what about the other side of the equation, how many white guys are sincerely interested in dating black women?

Kadian: Firstly, that statement presumes that there aren’t any “blue collar” white guys or Black guys in college. Huh? Anyway, as a college educated Black woman, I have dated that “blue collar” White guy. It did not work out specifically because of those differences (and personal reasons as well).

In terms of coverage, these articles are often propagating stereotypes about the achievements and overall value of black men. Why isn’t that discussed more often?

N’jaila: I think it has to do with the long complicated history of the vilification, sexualization and comodification of Black men. The mainstream has gone through so many versions of the Black man. I think they feel they need to keeps tabs on the Black Community because we’re the “White Man’s Burden”. I think a lot of the time Black men are seen as sexually virile but morally bankrupt and good for labor but not able to really achieve higher education

Of course these are just ugly stereotypes, there’s no natural force that keeping Black men’s “market value” low. Its an ugly White supremacist attitude that refuses to acknowledge Black men’s value. The mainstream isn’t trying to discuss situations and attitudes that show their ugly side.

Cheryl Lynn: “The mainstream isn’t trying to discuss situations and attitudes that show their ugly side.” That pretty much hits the nail on the head. Anything that involves a serious look at institutionalized racism isn’t making the six o’clock news.

Sewere: Because outright pathologizing of black men has always been in the fabric of US narrative.

Damon: The (non)value of black men is never really the focus of this discussion for the same reason that the weatherman on the evening news doesn’t feel the need to point out that the sky is blue. Everybody already assumes it to be true, so there’s no use in pointing out the obvious

Ashley: I pretty much agree with Damon. Because we feel like most of those stereotypes are true.

Helena: It’s like beating a dead horse. Nobody wants to be the last to kick it. Instead these articles rather vilify black women since we’ve been living too high on the hog. Clearly, we got too hype about ourselves.

Of all the stories about the black community to tell, why do you think the media is so enamoured with this one?

Helena: Because this story is so easy. It writes itself–repeat the same tired numbers, get a few quotes from some single black girl who works for NASA (they’re everywhere) and then tack on a kicker that provides no concrete solution because there isn’t one.

N’jaila: Like I said before, stories like this make the mainstream look more “normal” and why would anyone not want to hear more about how other groups should be like them?

Damon: ***Taken from “The Bottom Line: Why The Media Cares So Much About Black Women’s Dating Habits” — something I wrote up last night***

“Why the hell is the media so gotdamn worried about what’s going on in black women’s bedrooms?”

Depending on who you ask, the popular answer ranges somewhere between “White men are preternaturally obsessed with black booty. The recent release of “The Help” didn’t make it any better, as the thought of black mammies in tight white dresses stirred a primal lust that made the WSJ’s editors decide to go with that topic” and “It’s a conspiracy to destroy the black family and ultimately ensure that Sasha Obama never has a prom date”

But, while both of those theories have some merit, I believe the answer is much, much simpler:The media is obsessed with who, where, and what black women date because we’re obsessed with reading and talking about it.

That’s it. No conspiracy. No subterfuge. No byzantine plot to permanently sabotage black love. You aint going to get murked by any albino monks for finding out the “real” answer. The media gives a shit because we give (approximately) 100,000 of them, and us giving 100,000 shits means more links, more Facebook likes, more comments, more page views, and, most importantly, more ad money.

They’re not idiots. They’ve seen the oft-shared articles and features their colleagues have written about successful and single black women and how the church is holding black women back and how an urban black woman has a better chance of finding Lebron’s hairline than finding a man, and they want an invite to the orgy of easy page views too.

Cheryl Lynn: It’s profitable. It sells books, ad space, tickets and more. I wish it was something that could be discussed “in house” without millions pressed up against the glass gawking–but that’s not an option in this age. There is no “in house” anymore.

Ashley: The mainstream is tired of talking about how broke, uneducated, and criminalizing we are, so they looked at their one black unmarried employee… and some young, budding journalist had an “ahhh haa!” moment. It’s as simple as that.

Andrea: There’s an old adage that racism makes Black men feel stupid and Black women feel ugly. All of this copy and these ads and books and whatnot continues the centuries-old racist meme of “Black women are unmarry-able,” which is another way for Black women to feel ugly.

Sewere: As I said above, pathologizing black folks has always been part and parcel of this country’s history. To do anything otherwise, would be almost revolutionary.

Dani: I think the last sentence in the sidebar Q&A with Banks is really telling: “If White women want to understand what’s happening in their own world, they need to understand what’s happening with Black women now.” But reinterpret what he’s saying, so “what’s happening” becomes evolving beyond marriage rather than continuing to yearn for some yesteryear ideal. These authors who have so much advice for black women suggest that we contort ourselves any kind of way to fight our way into marriage, into coupledom as the key organizing principle of adult life. I think there’s a concern (clearly among Christian conservatives and other right-wing forces, but also in the mainstream) that black women may start refusing to accept the terms of the debate. And once we do that, it’s a wrap. Because other women will, too.

Kadian: Dani makes a good point about coupledom and marriage being the central institutions of adulthood. If the statistics about Black women and marriage are looked at differently, perhaps Black women are pioneers railing against the establishment of marriage rather than being victims of racism. As a married Black woman whose is not classed as “married” by homophobic/discriminatory US laws, my marriage has more to do with legality and protection than participating in the hegemonic institution of marriage.

Is there anything else we didn’t cover above that you want to discuss?

Sewere: No one is discussing black intra-ethnic relationships. For hetero-relationships, data has consistently shown that black intra-marriage has been on the rise and that it far outstrips black and non-black marriages. In fact, black and non-black marriages only account for less than 5% of all black hetero marriage, intra-black marriages far more prevalent than black interracial marriages. It would be really interesting to see the dynamics of these kinds of relationships. The little data I’ve seen of hetero marriages shows that African-American women marry non-African-American black folks at a higher rate than African-American men. Now I think the complexities (stereotypes and realities) involved in these relationships are more interesting than the usual black-interracial relationship discussions.

Ashley: I would love to see mainstream black media to pay more attention to black lesbian relationships. I also agree with Sewere and I would love to see more attention devoted to intra-ethnic relationships.

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  • mana

    Wow. Do you think it’s solely because of race that you are being treated that way? I’m black Canadian and in my travels, all the white dudes I’ve been have been so nice! Maybe it’s because I simply ignore the ones that ignore me, I dunno.

    Anyway, really? A person is willing to go to such lengths to blackball a person because they are of a difference ethnicity and showed romantic interest. Really?! And in Denver?! Wow.  >:(

  • Pingback: So Anxious « what's a black girl to do?()

  • Soulsentwined

    History and social sciences classes are the worst place for POC to try to relate to white people. That is when their privilege and racism denial really shows.

  • Lalaward41

    They don’t find each other because they don’t hang out in the same areas. My parents were both accused of “acting white” growing up and they found each other in college. (For the record, my mother is half white and looks like an European Jew) I didn’t find many like minded black people in my university because they had few black Jews.

    I also think that social isolation of sticking out with other blacks causes some individuals to consider dating other black people less of a priority.  Unlike my parent’s generation who were segregated into black institutions, many younger blacks who are accused of “acting white” in  contemporary culture may choose to hang out with a more racially varied crew. They may find potential mates of different races in this milieu.  

    Marrying someone black may have less cache depending on one’s background.  For many of my black Christian or secular girlfriends, marrying someone black is very satisfying because they share similar outlooks, customs, ect.  While I proudly integrate black traditions into Jewish holidays and always do something for Black History Month or MLK day, my daily life as an observant Jew is too different to meld with a non Jew.  I do know some black Jews, and I’ve dated a few, but my most successful relationships to date have been with Ashkenazi Jewish men. Because I share a culture with my Ashkenazi Jewish boyfriend (I’m part Ashkenazi Jewish too), we don’t have problems relating to each other. 

    American blacks are facing changes analogous to the Emancipation of Jews in Europe.  While we certainly can’t assimilate and pass (I wouldn’t want to anyway), after integration, we have to choose the level in which we want to be involved in the black community and our master identities.  Some people will want a very black centric life while others will choose to be more assimilated. This is the new normal. 

  • Anonymous

    Can’t wait for the white panel. Also develop a south Asian panel. 

  • Anonymous

    I agree. It is sort of like the black women and black men who claim they can’t find other black people who are college educated and “professional.” I find this hard to believe. 

  • kkm

    another lovely series of articles/readings. my prior response simply said “yep” to your opening post.  but my experience with advanced degrees and interracial dating has turned me into some kind of black museum object among my own people. because of my education i’ve become undesirable to my own people. and while i have absolutely zero desire to talk about the postmodern take on bar peanuts in bed i also believe that my experiences exist in a place where i have fewer and fewer black peers and more and more isolation. interracial dating is not my preference – but a way i adapt to my various environments and the paucity of black peers.

    • Lucille L

      This is sad. But you made a choice when furthering your education. And all choices have unanticipated consequences. U cannot love people based on their sole skin- that is what u are discovering.
      Bonding over shared negative experience does not preclude from intra racial prejudice.
      Instead of trying to fit, I would say look for the Ugly Duck (Swan in Progress) in ur present surroundings.
      Ultimately, Black is what is comfortable for you.

  • kkm

    my reaction to this statement is: yep!

  • Anonymous

    This was a great series. I would like to know about what to do if you are involved in a predominately white or non-black industry and trying to navigate the dating scene? I have more in common with my white male friends, as the black boyfriends I have had have always labelled me as “weird” or “too white.” Finding a common ground with my partners has always been a priority, but then there is the race factor – you might have common interests but there is always that elephant in the room. I believe that some can ignore it but because of what I do ( and what is important to me) I personally cannot. The majority of my partners have been white or Latino, and I find that commonalities is not enough to stabilize a relationship. I’m feeling too weird for anyone, right now. 

    • Lucille L

      From what I understand, i would say take a dating histus now. Double disappointment (with both black & white) will have left u jaded. Even if u met a good guy, u’d be too hurt to interact healthily with him.

      Next, focus on ur blessings. If love is not on the agenda, u can concentrate on work & ur other interests (gardening? cooking classes? salsa? learning new languages? astronomy ? whatever appeals to u…) Desperate people send off a desperate vibe & no one wants to the sole rock of such a person. But if u are keeping busy with interesting things, people get a different vibe.

      Also, maybe you should try another dating scene- mixing job & love is risky. Think about alternative dating scenes when u return to the love game.

      As for the race factor, take it lightly… Not every men u meet is ur ex(es). Could there be another reason that the race factor that played into ur failures? It is important that u are not stuck in a I’m undateable rut.

      If needed seek help.

      I wish you success.

  • Kay

    “…perhaps Black women are pioneers railing against the establishment of marriage rather than being victims of racism.” YES. All the news doesn’t talk about the fact that there may be some Black women who don’t want to get into a traditional marriage situation. A lot of Black folks in the U.S.  have always had big family and friend support networks because the Man, woman, 2 children, and dog wasn’t possible or culturally wanted and according to white folks that’s “pathological.” So screw that.

  • Janet White

    Genius roundtable. The topic is on Interracial dating and it begins with thinking thru Tyler Perry’s stance on race & class, and ends with a plea for black lesbian relationships. Not to be all queeny here, but this is absurd.  If you want to talk about media ignorance of lesbians of color and the class-based disappearance of Black men, that’s great. But don’t call it a panel on interracial dating!  What about an actual analysis of media articles about Black women and White men? Or about White women and Black men?  Or, literally, ANYTHING on interracial dating? Or if you don’t want specifics, a meta-discussion about what interracial even means in any other context than America (Brazilian culture, for example, is entirely different on interracial sex/marriage)  so as to keep our imperial (even if colored) views a little tempered?

    Also, Sewere, I read that article you posted below.  Aside from the pathetic tendency in the psychological sciences to paint everything in a science light (patterns of “mating”? are we humans or animals?) it’s rather weak on the cultural aspect.  We don’t only do things because of biology and pigmentation; to agree to that would be to completely buy into our enemies idea of genetics as determining culture.  It is culture that structures family life, not some innate drive to propagate the species, as if we were a microbe.

    • Anonymous

      Clearly, you missed parts 1, 2, 3, as well as the explanation post. Why not read a bit more carefully before you start foaming at the mouth?

    • Anonymous

      Completely off the topic of interracial dating, but human beings are animals! That doesn’t mean individual genetics determines  individual culture, but we do have behaviors that are nearly identical across ethnic groups and races because we are the same species!

    • Lucille L

      I totally agree.
      This panel is too diverse -;)- to give food for thought.
      I suggest we get a discussion on lesbian experiences : background, 1st times, black world reaction & media portrayal. IR lesbian relationships: through both races lenses…

      A discussion about the I only want to marry a Brother phenomenon: this is definitely an American idea. As a French African, this has not been a priority in my upbringing and I would love othernon US  Blacks  thoughts/experiences on that.

      A discussion on IR: fantasies, real experience & family reactions. Personal prejudices meeting partner’s prejudices. And whether Black/white is easier than other pairings. Do u renounce ur identity or affirm it while dating IRcially?

      We could go on and on. Racialicious had a wonderful idea to create discussions on such a popular topic.
      The discussion only lacks direction. Please, learn from your 1st try and surprise us again.

      As with other media discussion, the subject is so vast, it would probably resurfaces. Hopefully readers would get to know the panelists & read Racialicious more often 😉

      • Anonymous

        Like you mentioned and some others have hinted, I was hoping to see more discussion on some of the more practical matters that may come up within an interracial relationship like reconciling cultural differences and dealing with racism/privilege/prejudice within the relationship. For example, in my experience (at least in the US), few white people in nature are beyond racism 101, if they have even reached that point. So many stereotypes regarding black people are still so strongly imbedded in America’s psyche (and sadly, pervasive globally as well) and they influence nearly everyone. Misconceptions and downright ignorance have often hindered potential relationships for me (a black woman). It is just too big of a turn off. Maybe I am just too progressive and sensitive. How have others dealt with these issues? Is this not as big a deal for you if you and the person are so strongly compatible? Or do you only date those with progressive attitudes toward issues of racism and oppression? Did you ever date someone who felt like you were an exception to the rule and not like those “other black people”? Was this attitude grounds for dismissal, or maybe you actually agreed with it? Or maybe you were so infatuated you felt it didn’t matter at the time.

        • mana

          I’m a black female and my current bf is white…and not just white, but ran-with-the-skinheads-in-his-youth white.  I’m college-educated and he’s school of hard knocks-educated. So far it works, but will see. If there are problems, it has nothing to do with race.

          I don’t think he sees me as an exception to the rule (though I perceive him/his circle as kind of a cliche heh) –  as he says, “you can’t help who you fall for.” He saw a cute girl in a bar and went for it, it just so happened that she was black.

          However, the response from his friends are interesting…

  • Dee

    I really couldn’t find anything I identified with in this discussion/ panel and I’m still processing a lot of it. It was definitely interesting.

  • The other JQC

    College educated and working class are not mutually exclusive.

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

    I agree with Ashley about our media needing to cover Black lesbian relationships. In our media we are treated the way Black people in general are treated in the mainstream media, as an after-thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cocojams-Jambalayah/100000590546331 Cocojams Jambalayah

    Sewere:, when you mentioned ” black intra-ethnic relationships”, I thought you were going to talk about dating, marriages, and other short & long term romantic relationships between Black people from different nations and ethnic groups. For instance, I know a number of African American women who have married men from West Africa. And I also know African Americans whose spouses are from the Caribbean. While those relationships aren’t interracial, they are inter-cultural. Yet, because many people lump all Black people together, you seldom read or hear anything about those types of Black relationships. 

    • Sewere

      Hi Cocojams,

      Yes, that’s exactly what I mean, I tend to go back and forth on using ethnicity
      and culture as synonyms. Basically, what I’m saying is that there is such a
      rich diversity in the relationships between the different ethnicities of black
      folks in the US (and franky everywhere) that focusing on the miniscule
      black/white or black/non-black person of color is missing the forest for the
      trees. I’m not saying such relationships should not be discussed at all… as a
      matter of fact I think black/non-black person of color relationships get the
      short shrift. I just think the entire focus of articles like the Essence essay
      are arguing are going for the sensational and contrived rather than the
      sensible and realistic.

      P.S: For those who care to read more about the article I was referring to, the
      citation is Batson, Qian and Lichter. Interracial and Intraracial Patterns of
      Mate Selection Among America’s Diverse Black Populations. Journal of Marriage
      and Family 68 (August 2006): 658–672