On Interracial Dating – The White Panel (3 of 3)

Parenthood

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

Megan Carpentier, friend of the blog, formerly of Jezebel, now executive Editor of The Raw Story; Sam Menefee-Libey, friend of the blog, one time contributor, and blogger at Campus Progress; Jill Filipovic, friend of the blog, and Editor of Feministe; Porter, technologist and friend of Latoya; Lauren, founder of Feministe and long time friend of the blog; Allison, long time friend of the blog; and DC, Allison’s brother.

Have you ever been considered a race traitor for flirting with/dating/marrying someone outside of your race? Or, have you observed that behavior from others?

Megan: Back in 2007, I went out on a couple of dates with an African-American man that I met at a bar that was (at that point) on the front of a wave of DC gentrification — on our second date, we went to a decidedly interracial party in a then-gentrifying part of town: we left to “take a walk” (i.e., make out absurdly against various trees in between hand-holding and talking) and we got hollered at by two women on a porch who strongly felt that I shouldn’t be jacking “their” men — let’s just say they used some words that I won’t repeat and hadn’t ever had directed at me before, and which definitely killed my mood. Then they called him, effectively, a race traitor. It felt shitty all around, though I think he was madder at them for what they said to me than vice versa.

As Sam and I both hinted at above, in many white communities, expressing that thought is simply unacceptable and thinking it is even beyond the pale, really. So my sole experiences with it have been as the partner of the person to whom it’s been directed (the guy I just mentioned, my HS ex I mentioned earlier, a college boyfriend who was Latino whose mother was quite upset about my race). So while I understand the roots of the sentiment more as an adult than I did as a teenager, it still seems like a crap thing to say to anyone, regardless of their race.

Sam: I think most of us on this post are urban-dwelling twenty-something professionals, unlikely to encounter that kind of sentiment. It’s probably a question worth asking, it may just require a different sample set.

Jill: I’ve never been called a race traitor for dating someone non-white — at least not to my face. The closest I’ve seen is women expressing frustration with men from their same racial/religious/cultural groups routinely dating women who are outside of their racial/religious/cultural group — with the idea that those men are rejecting women who share their racial/religious/cultural characteristics (and to be clear, I don’t think that’s anywhere in the ballpark of calling someone a “race traitor”). Interestingly, most of the examples I can think of where there was some discomfort or critique of interracial dating have come from women — I don’t know if that’s because I just tend to socialize more heavily and more intimately with women, or because dating is still cast as a game where men hold most of the power and get to pick what “kind” of woman they want, or a little of both. But it seems notable.

Porter: To my knowledge, I haven’t been considered a race traitor. Perhaps it’s occurred but went unexpressed. Not having to worry much about that does feel like a fortunate case, at least somewhat. Not sure if that is white privilege. Probably, in part. Also, I think moving so much has made me a bit more immune to what most groups think of my demographic traits (even if I worry about being boring or uncool), except my parents, which may have taken me longer than many to be more detached from.

The Korean gal I dated in high school definitely got some race traitor pressure, for which I felt a bit guilty, and also, rather angry. Notably, the tight group of Korean kids (mostly male) didn’t coordinate behavior towards me. They weren’t exceptionally cold to me, nor particularly embracing. She heard it, not me.

I think I’ve witnessed more criticism of interfaith dating than interracial dating from my friends and social networks at an earlier age, which is a bit more surreptitious. While one’s faith, especially at a younger age, is inherited from parents like race is, a faith has the appearance of being more of a choice, and thus, easier to criticize some for and be scandalized by. Or, another take: since I was in largely white communities, they had to find SOMETHING to discriminate by!

Daniel:  I’m not entirely sure who I would be a traitor to! Again, perhaps the answer may be because I grew up in a bubble where interracial relationships were part of “the norm” and that labeling didn’t happen so often. Who exactly would I be betraying though? I certainly don’t feel like I have an obligation to the “white” race in any way, and certainly not in my desire to have the partner of my choice. Perhaps this might be different in a more tight-knit community. For example, if I grew up with the framework of “everything about you is white” and it was an integral part of my existence, perhaps I would feel some guilt for introducing someone “other than white” into my life. Such an idea is quite terrifying to me, for I can’t honestly say that I know someone who is completely devoid of influences from other racial communities.

Allison: My community of friends and extended relatives doesn’t adhere to all of the dominant social norms. I’m white with friends and relatives of color,. In this circle, some of us are straight and some queer, some able-bodied and some disable. Some are working-class, some are more comfortable, and some are struggling to make ends meet. We’re all in this together. Through friendship and kinship with this community of complex, well-rounded individuals, I’ve experienced a profound awareness: when it comes to challenging a lifetime of internalized identity politics, the only person I have to worry about betraying is myself.

Anything else you’ve noticed that we didn’t cover above?

Megan: One thing I’ve noticed which has come up in a lot of the other panels is any discussion of class or its intersection with our dating choices? Which, not to generalize, may be because I wasn’t exactly born into class privilege, so it stands out to me a bit more, and it’s something I have struggled with in terms of dating as an adult. But Lauren and Jill both noted implicitly in their answers to the first question (and I alluded to as well at some point), racist stereotypes and assumptions about interracial dating often have a class component to them within white communities, even as — as the Esquire article and the writers on the Black Panel noted — dating outside your race in seen as a class privilege for particularly African-Americans. Which, to a certain degree, belies my experience when I am visiting my hometown and the surrounding areas: many of the interracial couples there aren’t college-educated and don’t come from money, but rather come from similar class-disprivileged backgrounds to one another. And not that those couples don’t encounter familial resistance or raised eyebrows on one side or the other or both, but it does make it somewhat easier for me to resist the characterization that interracial dating is exclusively a function of class privilege or “dating up,” though certain racial pairings remain less common.

In terms of class, all of the interracial relationships I’ve had (and many of my intraracial relationships) have been with people who come from class backgrounds similar to mine: first or maybe second generation to attend college, limited funds growing up, public schools, saddled with school debts to try to claw our way up the economic ladder (or who got to where they’re at by a less conventional means, be it military service or forsaking higher ed because the money wasn’t there). I’m more comfortable with someone else who expects to have to hustle and struggle to get ahead than someone who expects to just do well, which I often view as a function of growing up comfortably middle class or above and never struggling for money. It just some times feels like there’s a secret coded language among well-off people some times, to which because of my childhood economic status (and, to some degree, cultural traditions) I don’t have access, and which (when dating) leads to the same series of arguments, misunderstandings and lack of communication.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that it hadn’t come up, especially reading the contributors to the other panels’ takes on the intersection of class privilege and race. I had never thought about it that way… but then when I thought about it in my life, I actually sort of had the opposite experience? Which perhaps speaks to my own class background and how I was raised more than anything else.

Allison: Both of the partners I referenced in this discussion were the teenage children of single mothers. We were all conscious of the fact that money was not in abundance, but we shared what we had when we had a little cash to go around. In both relationships, going out to eat meant I usually paid for the both of us because I’ve worked steadily since I was 16 and made sure to save what I could. It’s not too much different now that we’re all adults. The last time M and I had dinner, I paid. He works in television, but it’s more for experience than a high paycheck while he works his way up the ladder. He’s always appreciative of my generosity. In return, he’d always be the first to offer me a ride somewhere (I hate driving) or else surprise me with a visit from 4 hours away. We may not always have the same amount of money in the bank, but it’s never been a question for me that we’re equals.

Sam: I have a few lingering thoughts. One is that we didn’t actually talk with/to each other, which is disappointing. There are certainly things said I’d like to engage with, both to challenge, and to praise. We also didn’t really address the Essence article, which is totally fucked up (the article that is, not necessarily our not addressing it). The main thing that’s sticking out for me right now, though, is the dearth of systemic or political analysis here. It pops up here and there with a few sociological concepts, but it’s mostly implicit or lacking from our series of personal stories. Personal story telling is an incredibly important tool for political work, one that I both use and teach often in my work, but I feel like our stories, no matter how rich they are, aren’t really serving any particular, explicit, coherent agenda/point/argument/claim (or even several conflicting ones). The “So What?” seems to be somewhat elusive here.
I have some real anxiety about trying to supply any of this single-handedly, and I should note that, for now, I’m focusing my comments on this particular roundtable. I’m glad that white people, both het and queer, think about race when they date People of Color. I also think it’s a pretty low bar to clear. (I’m trying really hard not to snipe at any other contributors to this post. I’m writing this the night before the roundtable closes, likely after everyone has done their final read through and please note that this is in no way fair.) The questions that concern me when thinking about interracial dating are, in this arena what constitutes racial/social justice? These are really sticky questions in which its helpful to examine how we dealt with racialized dating dilemmas, but I think we need more here. I know that I hesitated to take up much space (until now that is) with long stories and as a result my experience is described in mostly broad and abstract terms that aren’t discernibly Queer or illustrative of any of the subtleties of the situations. I’m assuming that my fellow contributors also left their descriptions brief and somewhat truncated.
My point here is that there are some particular threads between our stories that we can tease out that are directly related to the Essence article. One is that race overlaps with and affects socio-economic class. There are many others, which, again, I’m hesitant to begin examining here because of the absence of other answers. For now, I’ll leave this to commenters to elaborate on.

  • Sprinkles

    It’s interesting that you used a picture
    of Jasmine and Crosby from Parenthood.  I
    initially was drawn to Parenthood, because I was interested in seeing portrayed
    a relationship that closely mirrored my own. Unfortunately as the season went
    on, Joy Bryant’s character, Jasmine, was reduced to the angry black controlling
    woman stereotype.   Her fiancée even
    ended up cheating on her with Minka Kelly’s character who is portrayed as the
    sweet, innocent, girl next door type. 

    What’s interesting to see is that a good
    chunk of Parenthood’s predominantly white fans supported Crosby’s infidelity
    and have nothing but contempt for Jasmine. 
    The words “suited” and “compatible” are often thrown in the comments
    section when anything about these two pops up.  
    People even question if he genuinely loves her or only cares for their
    son. A million and one reasons are given to why the white guy shouldn’t be with
    the black girl.

     Because of the negative portrayal of Jasmine,
    I have stopped watching Parenthood all together.
     

    • Soulsentwined

      Sounds like what happened in the tv show FlashForward with the Asian American man engaged to a African American women plot line. He cheated on her with a white lesbian and many fans rejoiced.

  • distance88

    I also wonder how the conversation/comments might change if the topic wasn’t focused primarily on interracial dating (which may not require much/any commitment, and may only involve superficial family interactions) to long-term interracial relationships/marriages (which usually require quite a bit more commitment, and to become ‘engulfed’ (for lack of a better word) in the other person’s family).

  • distance88

    I also wonder how the conversation/comments might change if the topic wasn’t focused primarily on interracial dating (which may not require much/any commitment, and may only involve superficial family interactions) to long-term interracial relationships/marriages (which usually require quite a bit more commitment, and to become ‘engulfed’ (for lack of a better word) in the other person’s family).

  • distance88

    I also wonder how the conversation/comments might change if the topic wasn’t focused primarily on interracial dating (which may not require much/any commitment, and may only involve superficial family interactions) to long-term interracial relationships/marriages (which usually require quite a bit more commitment, and to become ‘engulfed’ (for lack of a better word) in the other person’s family).

  • distance88

    I’m always a bit wary when people (esp. whites) are a bit too eager to trot out their interracial dating history… even if it is not their intention, it usually either comes across as an attention-getting ploy (“I don’t just have any old girlfriend, I have a Black/Latina/Asian girlfriend!”) or as some sort of ‘badge of honor’ to prove that they ‘get it’ racially.

  • distance88

    I’m always a bit wary when people (esp. whites) are a bit too eager to trot out their interracial dating history… even if it is not their intention, it usually either comes across as an attention-getting ploy (“I don’t just have any old girlfriend, I have a Black/Latina/Asian girlfriend!”) or as some sort of ‘badge of honor’ to prove that they ‘get it’ racially.

  • distance88

    I’m always a bit wary when people (esp. whites) are a bit too eager to trot out their interracial dating history… even if it is not their intention, it usually either comes across as an attention-getting ploy (“I don’t just have any old girlfriend, I have a Black/Latina/Asian girlfriend!”) or as some sort of ‘badge of honor’ to prove that they ‘get it’ racially.

  • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

    I’m commenting here directly to the OP rather than any of the commenters, as I’m going to reference a few of the commenters. Not sure if anyone will see this now but I’d love a response so I can get some clarity.

    Throughout the White panels and especially on this post I’ve seen the feedback that readers were disappointed in the White panelists and commenters’ stories – that they seemed blase and without analysis of the situations they described. In the comments to this entry, there were a few that I’d like to address as I *think* they are referring to things I’ve said in my comments and even if not, I’d still like to understand. Here are the comments I’m referring to:

    By Libra_Lady: So
    spare me the whole, “Whites would NEVER show they disapprove of IRRs”
    mess.  Whites need to quit trying to play innocent regarding ALL types of
    race relations. Oh, and all those Whites weren’t Klan members or
    neo-Nazis.

    By Kate: I have
    heard this idea expressed out loud by suburban upper middle class whites so I
    do not buy into Ashley’s belief that white people know better or simply don’t
    think those thoughts.

    By Grace: As for
    the “everyday white people” comment, I understood it as simply
    conveying the idea that society has that unless you’re a card-carrying member
    of the KKK, neo-nazi groups, or Stormfront, you’re Not Racist, which I’m sure
    we all know is bullshit.

    When I answered the question from the OP (in the comments, I’m not the Ashley on the panel), I answered based on MY experiences and how I thought people would act toward ME. I know that there is racism besides the flagrant KKK types, and I know that polite, middle-class Whites who would never think they’re racist, say racist things to each other as well as to POC. But when thinking of how those same people would respond to me? That’s a different thing. The people in my world may not all believe the same things as I do, but they know enough about me that they can’t say certain things without reproach from me. So I can’t imagine a White person calling ME out for MY interracial relationship – not unless they believed so strongly against the relationship that they’d be willing to be cut off from me. No one I know cares about me so little or believes my relationship is wrong enough to do that . . . thus my imagining of a KKK type who doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. 

    But do I think that the same people who would not say something to me, might say something to a POC? Or possibly another White person who hasn’t been as vocal about what’s acceptable to them? Definitely possible. So I feel as though my comments were taken to mean, “I don’t think Whites have an issue with interracial relationships, the only real racists are KKK types” when what I thought I’d conveyed was, “People in MY life know that doesn’t fly and they’d have to be really out there to say that stuff TO ME. So far, it hasn’t happened.”

    I wonder if that just sounds the same as what I said before, if I am still missing something. Am I just being defensive from (maybe) being called out? Would my comments about my personal experience have been taken the way I intended if I’d detailed more of how I know this may be just how I have been treated, acknowledging that others may have a very different experience? Is that the sort of analysis that other readers were hoping for?

    At any rate, I’m sorry to the readers who told their stories of being treated poorly because of who they were dating or married to. Those are terrible things to have gone through.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, I quoted Megan from the panel, not you.  And I still believe it is shortsighted and inaccurate of her to do all this assuming regarding Whites’ ersatz better manners about their views on interracial dating and marriage.  This idea that Whites are more polite about it which leads many to assume that Whites are more okay with interracial dating is mistaken.  Just because Whites may not tend to say things to perfect strangers on the street doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways for them to express their disapproval.  There is more than one way to be a rude bigot.

    • Anonymous

      Actually, I quoted Megan from the panel, not you.  And I still believe it is shortsighted and inaccurate of her to do all this assuming regarding Whites’ ersatz better manners about their views on interracial dating and marriage.  This idea that Whites are more polite about it which leads many to assume that Whites are more okay with interracial dating is mistaken.  Just because Whites may not tend to say things to perfect strangers on the street doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways for them to express their disapproval.  There is more than one way to be a rude bigot.

  • Anonymous

    Is there going to be a panel where the POC and the white people will discuss any of this?

    No.

    One of my big issues/problems is that I feel as though the white people don’t acknowledge or understand the reactions that they get from POC, the privilege they have in not having to think about race, and the reason why (in my opinion) the ways that POC react to them are not equivalent in terms of the impact that they have on them and their position in society.

    That was kind of the point. We went with white people who for the most part are a part of the Racialicious community, and still, these gaps in perception persist. I would venture to say most of the commenters on the white panel could easily break the points you discussed down intellectually. (Porter may not, but I asked him to participate as the more average white person who hasn’t really given tons of thought to social justice. But then again, I wouldn’t underestimate him.)

    These conversations are hard to have in “mixed” company.
    This entire site is mixed company.

  • Anonymous

    As Sam and I both hinted at above, in many white communities, expressing that thought is simply unacceptable and thinking it is even beyond the pale, really.
    Oh really now.

    I can tell you from PLENTY of experience that Whites have no problems making their disgust with IRRs known.  It’s just that Whites tend to be more passive-aggressive and sneaky about it while Blacks may just tell you straight out their views.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of MUCH of that treatment from White women.  I was either on decent or neutral terms with these women until they found out I dated White men.  Then the claws came out. The snide, just-on-the-safe/ambiguous side of the line remarks that increased in frequency and spleen.  Being left out of various activities business and leisure.  Sometimes there was a final confrontation where I was accused of being essentially a bad person for a group of vague, ill-defined and supported reasons when the real reason was I had offended these women by daring to think I was good enough to date one of THEIR men.  And don’t let him be a dude they either want or would want!

    I’ve been fired from jobs due to WW racist insecurity because I didn’t play second fiddle to them.  Makes it very difficult to establish a career especially when you know you can’t trust those people for a decent reference and when the next group of WW you work with end up stabbing you in the back yet again in the workplace.

    My husband has gotten it from both WM and WW who both act like he did betray them as he also didn’t seem to be the type to “go in for THAT sort of thing.”  WW act bitchy with him after their attempts to seduce him from me fail.  After all, they were just trying to show him he didn’t have to settle for the likes of Black me.  That he was actually worthy of a WW.  And they thought the seduction would be an easy success.  After all, their rival is a mere, lowly ni88er gal.  My husband was even fired from a job because he had a White, racist boss whose demeanor toward my husband changed for the worse when he found out my husband was married to a BW (his first wife).

    So spare me the whole, “Whites would NEVER show they disapprove of IRRs” mess.  Whites need to quit trying to play innocent regarding ALL types of race relations.

    Oh, and all those Whites weren’t Klan members or neo-Nazis.  They were regular, everyday Whites who’d probably clutch all sorts of pearls if you were to intimate they were racist in any way.  They’d, especially the WW, would say they were all for interracial dating.  The WW who said that, 95% of them meant they were all for interracial dating for themselves!  Not for WoC and definitely not for BW to engage in it.

    • guest

      Since when is it okay on racialicious to  demonize an entire group of people based on their color and gender (eg WW)? Calling these ‘bitchy’ women ‘everyday Whites’? I’m not even white I found this comment really inappropriate and in total violation of Racialicious’ comment policy. I’m all for calling white people our on their privilege and sharing person stories of racist treatment, bus this went too far.

      • Grace

        While I could’ve done without the sexist “bitchy” (a word I’m admittedly trying to remove from my own vocab), I don’t see a problem with what she posted. I reread it to see if I was perhaps missing something, but everything I read I took as simply anger over her specific experiences. I think perhaps what throws you off is her use of “WW”, which perhaps some could take to mean *all* white women, but again, based on what she wrote, I took it to be in reference to her specific experiences. I think perhaps what can also throw folks off is her anger. Anger is a very demonized emotion, and unfairly so, I think. Her anger is justifiable, in my opinion. As for the “everyday white people” comment, I understood it as simply conveying the idea that society has that unless you’re a card-carrying member of the KKK, neo-nazi groups, or Stormfront, you’re Not Racist, which I’m sure we all know is bullshit.

      • guest.

        I don’t see how she demonised anybody.  How is it possible to call white people out on your privilege or share personal stories of racist treatment without mentioning the race or gender of people she’s calling out??
        I would also like to point out I am the same guest who made the comment below under the name guest but not the guest who made the comment above.  Next time I comment I better come up with a m0re unique user name!

    • Kimmy

      “Sometimes there was a final confrontation where I was accused of being essentially a bad person for a group of vague, ill-defined and supported reasons when the real reason was I had offended these women by daring to think I was good enough….”

      WHEW! Thank you for verbalizing what I have felt in a particular situation over the last few months. Up till now, I have that vague, uneasy feeling that I was just “looking for race in everything,”
      - a feeling which is generally, WHOLLY UNTRUE- but now I can actually speak on what I have experienced in regards to my own issue. Thank you!

    • Kate

      I get where you’re coming from. I’ve experienced a bit of this animosity as well, especially from white women when they realize I in no way want to be their “black best friend” and that white guys occasionally express interest in me over them. For some reason this side of the story rarely gets talked about. I also know that white people who do not come off as card carrying racists do express the “race traitor” sentiment, there are a lot of people who believe white women who date black men are somehow tainted or lowering themselves. I have heard this idea expressed out loud by suburban upper middle class whites so I do not buy into Ashley’s belief that white people know better or simply don’t think those thoughts.

    • Mickey

      “They’d, especially the WW, would say they were all for interracial dating. The WW who said that, 95% of them meant they were all for interracial dating for themselves!  Not for WoC and definitely not for BW to engage in it.”

      I think they were full of shit if they told you that they were all for interracial dating. If they were all for IRR, they wouldn’t give a rat’s ass that you were involved in an IRR. This seems more of the attitude of we-can-take-your-men-but-we’ll-be-damned-if-you-take-ours. You having a white husband was a clear blow to their precious ego. WW had the same mentality back in the days of the Quadroon Balls in New Orleans and other southern cities. They felt that they were loosing their men to WOC and were mad about it. Talking about history repeating itself.

      • Anonymous

        Right.  It’s more them trying to preserve their pedestal status.  

    • MizMom

      I was just thinking about this right before I saw your post. Since dating my husband it seems very difficult to have white female freinds. To this day my ex best friend cannot admit that telling me that our mutual white friend Alexandra “would have liked him (my boyfriend-now husband) too” when I announced that I was falling in love with him was inappropriate. Or that inviting him to a “hook up” party for Alexandra when she knew I couldn’t go was also inappropriate.  The hook up party was a party in which eligible bachelors would be invited in order to help Alexandra find a date or a man. I kept wondering why a man in a relationship would be included in this.  Right  now, I am in an all white community where the white women spend a lot of time scrutinizing my domestic habits (which are minimal) and generally stalking and harrassing me. They can’t say the word “nigger” but they certainly act it out, every day.

      • Anonymous

        I announce that I’m married to a WM to WW essentially to try and weed those chicks out.  Doesn’t always work.  I’ve told some WW that and they acted all blase about it, until they actually saw my husband.  And then they wanted to act brand new like I hadn’t told them anything.  See, they didn’t believe me or they didn’t want to believe me when I said I was married to a WM.  Them seeing said WM in the flesh means that I was telling the truth.  I’ve had most WW act a damn fool towards me after realizing that my White husband was actually White and my husband.

  • guest.

    It is interesting to hear white people talk about racism amongst themselves. I’m glad the guy at the end mentioned structural racism, a lot of non-racialised(if that’s the word) people don’t get that, they think it is about “identity politics”.  They talk more about the racism of “society” than their own feelings but I guess it would be difficult to discuss openly.It is the sense of entitlement when white people talk about their “choices” that turns me off. I’m not a white man’s choice. The other panelists talked about feeling unsure about approaching white people but white people assume they have a right to approach non-whites for dates and it is ‘society’ or individual racists who might object, all they have to do is be brave enough to make their choice.  I always notice the reaction of white men when I reject them, they weren’t expecting me to be non-compliant.  

  • Grace

    Hmmm, I’ve been mulling and mulling (and still waiting to see that South Asian breakout thingy, lol) over this white panel discussion. One, I would like to say that I appreciate that some, if not all, of the panelists seems to have at least a working/basic understanding of their privilege. While the privilege most certainly comes through (and I take it that’s a big part of the “differeent” feel of this panel versus the others), it’s refreshing to at least see folks acknowledging that it exists. Not that I’d expect anything less from Racialicious, of course. :)

    First, I would like to *attempt* to address Sam’s question about IR dating and social justice, specifically “What constitutes social justice?” It is most certainly a sticky situation, because “sticky” is probably the definition of human relationships. One of the things that comes foremost to my mind is vocalization–essentially speaking up when faced with, or witnessing, oppression. I’m a poor, black, bisexual woman–believe me, I know it’s hard. But I think revolutions and social justice movements around the world, past and present, are proof that voice is important and silence gets us nowhere. That being said, human relationships being sticky as they are, and oppression being as fucked up as it is, I’m aware that’s not always safe to speak up. Being a shy person myself, I’m also aware that before we’re activists, we’re people–people who get tired, scared, frustrated, etc. So, I’m in no place to judge someone with privilege EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. that they don’t speak up. No one’s perfect.

    And, in keeping with the whole “we’re people first” theme, I would just like to say, privileged or not, people are people, and while, particularly as a black woman, I can not only empathize, but relate to feelings of worthlessness that our racist society has heaved upon our backs, I most certainly don’t find verbally attacking people acceptable (not that I’m assuming others do–just sayin’), regardless of whether the person being attacked has social privilege of any kind. Making people feel shitty is not “trivial” in my book. -__-

  • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

    Agreed.

  • nicthommi

    I feel as though Megan does not understand that “dating up” in regards to interracial dating does not usually refer to money or economic privilege.   From my experience as a black woman, many groups would view dating a black woman as dating down even if she was Michelle Obama or Condoleeza  Rice, and that kind of economic and educational background is what my friends and I have.  An Asian or Asian American family does not want their son to bring me home, despite the fact that I have an academic pedigree that they would covet for their own kids.

    When it comes to interracial relationships among the underprivileged, dating up refers to attaining the white beauty standard.  The kicker is that white becomes synonymous for beauty.  And that is where you will see people giving WW for example extra points for being white.  Flaws that would not be acceptable in a WOC are seen as okay because of the whiteness.

    The privilege on this panel is not unexpected but still a bit much to take, but the candor is appreciated but it is not much different from what I hear from the white people I know.  They do not have to think about color and they want to act as though we have the power to affect their place in the hierarchy.  Two black women yelling at you from a porch is so trivial in regards to the messages that I get from everywhere as a black woman, and more importantly, those messages affect my place in society in a way that you will never experience.  The black man who dated you will continue to date and perhaps marry a white woman.  I wish the only barrriers I had to face in regards to relationships was an occasional side eye or smart comment. 

    • http://www.megancarpentier.com/ Megan Carpentier

      You’re right that “dating up” has a specific connotation of class privilege for me: I’ve only ever heard it in the context of dating someone with  money, and in the panel that I read where it was discussed (to which I linked), it was discussed in the context of the acquisition of wealth and education. It’s more clear to me from your comment that they meant both, so thank you.

      But, I didn’t suggest that the comments from those women (or from boyfriends’ families) to me were comparable to what POC (or specifically you) experience regularly — what I was suggesting is that what they said to him was pretty unfair to him, and was explicitly trying to answer the question Latoya posed as to whether I’d ever experienced that or seen it happen to others. It seemed unfair to judge him (or react so harshly toward him), or his dating history/experiences, based on seeing him with me on one night. Maybe he has continued to date white women almost exclusively — I don’t know, as we didn’t keep in touch — but it’s also entirely possible that he doesn’t (and, from what I know of his dating history, I very much doubt it).

      And, most specifically, I didn’t say that what those women said to me had any power to affect my place in any hierarchy, just that it disturbed an otherwise pleasant evening (which was the intention, I assume). I merely said that it was a crappy thing to say to anyone. He certainly got the brunt of it, much more than I did; I’d just never experienced it before from strangers on the street.

      • Anonymous

        Megan, I believe the point that was being made to you is that you tell the story and don’t give it a whole lot of context. Yes, it was a negative experience. But in the context of what people of African descent typically have to deal with, it was like a mosquito bite. It may not seem that way to you because you’ve been largely sheltered from it, and I think the point that nicthommi was making is that you don’t acknowledge that as part of your storytelling. I agree with nicthommi that it was a problematic omission, and I hope that instead of responding defensively, in future you’ll consider how you can improve your contribution to anti-racist struggle by telling the story differently.

        • http://www.megancarpentier.com/ Megan Carpentier

          I apologize if it appears I was responding defensively. I was attempting to give it the context that it lacked in the first place — I realize now that it appears that I was more bothered by that than I was or by what was said to him, but it wasn’t in keeping with what I was trying to convey. I did find it difficult to walk the line between relating his experience in that situation, which I thought was the more likely hurtful one, without being a position to ask him about it years later (though it didn’t end on bad terms, we didn’t end up staying in touch after), which is why I led with my experience. It unfortunately wasn’t something we were in a position emotionally to discuss in-depth at the time (on the second date) outside of each of us apologizing profusely to the other for having put them in that situation and trying to figure out how to make the other person feel less unhappy about having experienced it.

          I am not used to prefacing in my personal writing, but I am not sure how to accomplish the acknowledgement that I know this isn’t comparable to the lived experiences of WOC without having done so, so if you have suggestions in that regard, I would appreciate hearing them. (I will try to check back this weekend, weather permitting.)

          • Anonymous

            I think you can just say that these experiences felt terrible, and at the same time, you recognize that they are comparatively small drops in a very big pool, and that this gives you some sense of what a mess it is out there. Provide some analysis as part of your story . . . 

            A more general complaint that I’ve heard from everyone I’ve talked to about these interracial dating panels is they’ve been long on storytelling and short on analysis, so I think it’s not just your storytelling that was problematic (if that makes you feel less individually targeted). My boyfriend won’t even read them anymore because he’s so annoyed.

          • Anonymous

            Analysis on what, exactly?

          • Anonymous

            Analysis on the contexts in which people are making these statements. I understand that some of this was just to get some storytelling done, and I agree that that’s important. But what I have heard from a lot of people is frustration with things being said unchecked. Some of the commenters have been catching stuff (which has been great!) but various problematic things have just been said without being challenged either by fellow panelists or by the interviewer’s questions.

            I almost feel like people weren’t pushed, and should have been pushed, to question some of the things that they said, especially ones that perpetuate potentially problematic viewpoints. People talked about how guilty they feel about what their partners of color experience in terms of negative comments they get, and that was interesting to hear, but I also think it also needed to be unpacked. How does it relate to stereotypes about white guilt? Is it the same thing? Is it problematic? Or isn’t it? How is it different? There just seemed to be a lot of narrative and not a lot of critical thinking about the underlying content of what they were saying or thinking. I am interested in knowing the panelists’ answers to these questions.

          • Anonymous

            That’s why it was called a week of conversations, not a week of analysis. We asked people four main questions, some group specific questions, and asked for their reactions. That is all. We aren’t on a podcast. We aren’t working with just one group of people, with unlimited sets of time.

            This was already a 40 hour plus project, and the demands just keep rolling in. “Where are all the men? Where is the South Asian roundtable? What happened to the indigenous roundtable?”

            Seriously people. We do analysis every freaking day. Narrative is important, especially on something like dating that no one wants to talk about for critical audiences. If you want people to examine things in their lives, you have to give them the space to be honest, and the pressure on all the roundtables thus far has been exactly what you are asking to do – to hide problematic thoughts and pretty up their narratives to show accountability and antiracist progress. But real life dating doesn’t work that way. And from where I sit, this is more valuable, because now, we have a lot of different spaces to start out from. The panelists revealed far more than I hoped they would about their lives and loves and many, many common threads have emerged.

            Just like you don’t create a marketing plan without doing market research, you don’t try to talk about IR dating without figuring out where people are coming from – even if its ugly. We could continually rewrite Carmen’s “I can’t be racist, I have interracial sex” piece, or we can start changing the convo. We opted to change the convo.

          • Grace

            Ahem, for the record I just happen to have two simultaneous crushes on South Asian men (one being Kal Penn, the other being a former co-worker who recently moved upstate), so as a Black woman who only since college has really entertained the thought of dating Asians (and this crush on Kal Penn is SO serious, lol), I’m just REALLY interested to hear their perspectives.

            No pressure here–in case you thought I was trying to be a douchebag, lol.

          • Anonymous

            Ha, Grace.

            Reached out to three – one has said yes – we shall see.

          • Mina

            Could you post a link to Carmen’s piece, please?

          • Anonymous

            That’s why it was called a week of conversations, not a week of analysis. We asked people four main questions, some group specific questions, and asked for their reactions. That is all. We aren’t on a podcast. We aren’t working with just one group of people, with unlimited sets of time.

            This was already a 40 hour plus project, and the demands just keep rolling in. “Where are all the men? Where is the South Asian roundtable? What happened to the indigenous roundtable?”

            Seriously people. We do analysis every freaking day. Narrative is important, especially on something like dating that no one wants to talk about for critical audiences. If you want people to examine things in their lives, you have to give them the space to be honest, and the pressure on all the roundtables thus far has been exactly what you are asking to do – to hide problematic thoughts and pretty up their narratives to show accountability and antiracist progress. But real life dating doesn’t work that way. And from where I sit, this is more valuable, because now, we have a lot of different spaces to start out from. The panelists revealed far more than I hoped they would about their lives and loves and many, many common threads have emerged.

            Just like you don’t create a marketing plan without doing market research, you don’t try to talk about IR dating without figuring out where people are coming from – even if its ugly. We could continually rewrite Carmen’s “I can’t be racist, I have interracial sex” piece, or we can start changing the convo. We opted to change the convo.

          • Kimmy

            My guess is that analysis is referring to not just recanting the story, but putting the story more in context. I think this panel, as most conversations on this site, are valuable because of their depth. And I certainly agree that in this section of the panel, there is a clear unease about digging somewhat deep into what privilege is and how that reflected in their personal experiences. The majority of responses are playing it extra safe! Granted, I understand it’s not easy to acknowledge the fact that just by your virtue of being born on the right side of societal standard, you have myriad advantages. However, this is Racialicious, and as readers we expect to see that to a real degree.

  • kkm

    @ sam (+plus any other panelist who wants to weigh in…) – i wonder if the absence of malice is another manifestation of (white) privilege. the white panel reminds me of that race switching show that ice cube (?) did a bit back.  the response of the white family was (father i believe it was) was that he was waiting for someone to out and out call him a “nigger” while he was dressed as a black man. since it never happened – he wondered what poc were upset about. my questions to you, sam, are: why are there such spaces between your panel’s narrative of ir dating and the other groups’? and what influence does the intersection of class, location (urban, rural) and educational status have upon ir dating? :0)
    -kkm

    • http://www.OneInTheHandBlog.com Ashley

      I’m not a panelist . . . I don’t know if privilege plays a role in Whites not getting as much flack as non-Whites (I think that was your question) – not saying it doesn’t, I’m just not sure if it’s a part. Likely, as privilege plays a role in so much. One thing I think surely plays a part is that for the most part, Whites know it’s socially unacceptable to say obviously & maliciously racist things. My guess is that whatever other things play a part in it, not wanting to be branded a racist plays a role in Whites not saying anything, or saying things in a more coded manner.

    • http://www.megancarpentier.com/ Megan Carpentier

      I think class, education and location have a huge impact on the perception of interracial dating in white communities (and one’s ability to do so without catching a lot of flak). As other panelists also addressed (and Ashley said above and below), there are just certain things one isn’t allowed to say in polite company, which isn’t the same as what one actually thinks, and it comes out in coded ways (which is something we addressed yesterday). Most of us grew up in communities that don’t tolerate (overt) racism and which look at least somewhat benevolently on at least some varieties of interracial relationships.

      At least for my part… I didn’t want to impute feelings or reactions to people I dated with whom I didn’t discuss it in detail, or with whom I haven’t discussed it in years. So I deliberately avoided doing so in most circumstances, which means my writing reflects only my experiences and reactions to situations, for the most part, which makes it more of a privileged narrative than I’m ideally happy with. I think that has a lot to do with some of the gaps, at least, as well as the privilege I have (or have taken) not to care what people say/think about who I date.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=27502812 Sam Menefee-Libey

      @kkm, sorry I’m just looking at the comments now.  I’m not sure I understand your question.  Could you rephrase?

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad that white people, both het and queer, think about race when they date People of Color. I also think it’s a pretty low bar to clear. 

    I just left a comment with the exact phrase, “low bar to clear”, on the second part of this roundtable.

    I’ve also been thinking a bit about the kind of work I had to do in order to feel less ignorant* in a context of interracial dating. I don’t live in an exclusively white world in terms of friendships, which I think is really important. Plus, a ton of reading and researching into anti-racist themes and privilege. Learning how to listen to people’s experiences has been a major task for me, and I know I’m not even close to finished. But it almost feels like at some point I switched  “sides” from “well I’m sure that remark was well meaning but ignorant…” to “gee that sounds upsetting, what did you think when you heard that”. And this is such a basic way of making common cause with my friends, or my boyfriend, that I do believe it is a very low bar to clear. If I could not do this I wouldn’t expect any PoC to feel remotely comfortable at my table, let alone in my bed.

    Listening more, empathizing more, realizing more, is often on my mind. Not in order to be the good white person, but to be A good person, period.

    *I was about to write “more comfortable” but really, so much of this is about examining one’s own privilege and learning to feel less comfortable with the way things are… if that makes sense…