When they only date white girls & other musings on interracial dating

The drawback of being a creative person is that sometimes you have a thought & it just will not leave your skull.

I have a good spidey sense, so I can usually tell when I meet a man who has been believing that Psychology Today hype about black women being mannish or whatever. Still, it’d be nice to have some kind of hand sign, T-shirt, or whatever that would separate the WODAWGS — Will Only Date A White Girl — from other potential suitors.

Taye Diggs. Still fine.

I’m about to start reading  Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed by Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn, so the question of interracial dating has been on my mind. The book seems to be a guidebook for black women who date interracially, which has been a hot topic in most media focused on single black women.

Specifically, I noted that Ralph Richard Banks’ book, Is Marriage for White People? was the most recent work to remind black women to broaden their dating options:

Banks writes with acuity and directness about the costs of that loyalty to black women who are most negatively affected by man-sharing and its consequences. He also mentions the skewed online dating market, where white men basically exclude black women outright (through silence or an explicit preference not to date us). He also offers a more balanced, objective viewpoint of how black women basically keep themselves from finding happiness in interracial relationships. Banks’ central thesis is that by dating outside of the race and marrying outside of the race more often, black women may save black love.

The reason it would be helpful to know if people only date within their race, though, is because you can’t ever take for granted that you’re not being fetishized as a black woman. And all of this talk about black women trying to get chosen because they’re so desperate, unfortunately, builds the mythical case that if a single black man is within a 50 mile radius, the nearest single black woman will hunt him down & trap him, Black Widow style.

As if you can make someone who doesn’t want you or anyone who looks like you in the first place want to date you with the stench of desperation alone.

When I was younger, I had a very simplistic glare reserved for black men who only dated white women — as if it were a personal assault against my very existence. I think my internal rationale was: One less date for me and what is wrong with me, anyway?  instead of Um, you can have that one, I’m good.

I believed that the person you chose to be with was a reflection of what you desired in yourself. And I desired (and still desire) black men. But at some point, particularly when I lived on the West Coast, I was surrounded by so many black men who were dating outside of the race that I became immune to it and finally just accepted that grown folk are allowed to choose their own mates. Eventually,  the presence of black men who only dated white women to the exclusion of other races (particularly black women) stopped hopping on my last nerve.

That only happened, though, once realized that I had limited my options based on what they were when I was younger. I didn’t date white guys until I was out of college, and even then, only sporadically. When I ventured into interracial territory, let’s just say it wasn’t as smooth as Something New made it seem.

I thought a lot of white men in popular culture were hot (looking at you Richard Gere) but because I never saw images of them with black women (there were rare exceptions…Iman and David Bowie, for starters) somehow the concept of white men who found black women attractive  seemed…distant. The kicker? I was shocked to discover that random black men (usually the ones who didn’t date black women!) felt some kind of way about that. Apparently, they, too, had a gaze reserved for black women who dated outside the race.

News reports say that the number of people dating and marrying interracially is creeping up as the taboo associated with dating outside the race starts to fade:

About 24% of African-American males married outside their race in 2010, compared to 9% of African-American females. However, the reverse is true for Asians, where about 36% of females married outside their race compared to 17% of male newlyweds. And intermarriages for white and Hispanic people do not vary by gender, researchers found. Intermarriages also vary by region. In Western states, about one in five people, or 22%, married someone of a different race or ethnicity between 2008 and 2010. That drops to 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest. Interracial dating services have also cropped up online, offering those looking for love an opportunity to find their preferred matches.

I only have anecdotal evidence. Among my friends, I would say four out of 5 of the married black women I know have partners who are not black. Most of my friends are a little on the maverick side, granted, but still. Those are pretty interesting statistics. I’m interested in hearing from y’all about your interracial dating experiences. If you only date a particular race, why is that? And if you date interracially, have you noticed that society has become more accepting? I’ll be back with a review of Swirling shortly.

18 thoughts on “When they only date white girls & other musings on interracial dating

  1. Interesting post & I will be sure to read the book as well. I married outside of my race (I am a black woman married to a white man). I have to say that early in our relationship (we have been together over 13 years) we would certainly get stares on the street, particular in Chicago where we lived at the time. The hardest looks always came from black women – a general “how dare you” look of disdain directly mostly at me.

    But… my husband & I are always THRILLED to see another “couple like us” out & about. However the opposite pairing (black man/white woman) is not something I feel a strong connection to. Not sure why, I guess my own prejudices allow me to think that perhaps a black man who is with a white woman does so out of dislike for black women, whereas a black woman/white man couple comes together out of a “love against all odds”.

    This distinction is completely nonsensical and wrong, but it’s where my mind goes…
    Although, consider the following info: “The role of gender in interracial divorce dynamics, found in social studies by Jenifer L. Bratter and Rosalind B. King, was highlighted when examining marital instability among Black/White unions. White wife/Black husband marriages show twice the divorce rate of White wife/White husband couples by the 10th year of marriage, whereas Black wife/White husband marriages are 44% less likely to end in divorce than White wife/White husband couples over the same period.” Perhaps my thoughts are too far off after all?

    There does seem to be an increase in Black Wife/White Husband pairings, at least by my personal estimations. Census data backs up my unscientific conclusion:
    Black wife/white husband couples:
    – 2000 – 95,000
    – 2006 – 117,000
    – 2009 – 196,000

    As more evidence of the increase in black wife/white husband pairings, we were recently featured on this awesome blog: http://justlikemecouples.blogspot.com/ where couples like us are featured.

    • Leslie, I completely agree – that’s where my mind goes, too.
      It’s hard not to imagine the separate scripts for interracial pairing among black women compared to women in other races.
      Although, I’ve been writing about Asian Americans and there is some…resentment? Maybe not the right word…but there is some tension in that community over the high rate at which Asian American women date outside of the race. They might get more crap over it than even black women do, which is hard to imagine.
      But when I went looking for black men in popular culture with white wives, in the span of 10 minutes, I stumbled upon Terrence Howard (Asian wife) and Wayne Brady, who was also pictured with an Asian woman.

      I think it’s interesting that black women were giving you salty looks, though. I have always gotten those looks from black men. Maybe because of the dreads, they’re surprised?

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  3. My father is black. My mother is white. In the rural South they had to go to another state to get married because the judge refused to honor Loving vs Virginia. When I switched to a public middle school as a 12 year old, I quickly found myself in an odd situation as I was neither white nor black enough to fit into either’s cliques. My friends came from loners (metalheads, nerds, geeks).

    I have dated far more white women than black. I wanted to say it is because I have more in common, but the black women I have dated had just as much in common. I wanted to say it is because there are not many opportunities for me to date black women, but that would imply I have no ability to change circumstances so I could.

    The real reason may be comfort. The girls I liked as puberty awoke were white. The strong family ties I have are mostly white. The strong friendship ties are mostly white. I have strong nerd and geek tendencies which celebrate whiteness.

    No one seems to care when I am out in public alone with a black woman. I often have to explain to white women in the same situation why it is people were staring at us.

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think what you mentioned about comfort/nerd/geek tendencies is totally understandable. Often, when people give me (unsolicited) dating advice, they suggest that I will end up with a white man because of my nerdy tendencies. I know a lot of brilliant men of color, but in the past, my intelligence has been more of a barrier than a bridge in some of those relationships. Not all, thankfully. It’s all about finding someone comfortable with all facets of your identity. When I gave interracial couples evil looks, I can see now that some of it was the envy I had about what they found and wondering if I would ever find it.

      • Not only do I have to find someone comfortable with all facets of my identity, but I have to be comfortable with hers, and we both have to be comfortable with our own. Think one of the reasons I like reading your blog is the opportunity to think about some of these challenges.

      • Thanks, that means a lot to me. That’s key – comfort with self, then comfort with another, then comfort with yourselves as a unit across milieus. At least that’s what I think I understand.

        But the gaze of other people is really challenging in that regard. It can also be a lesson. Because when you’re comfortable with yourself, then you can meet whatever weirdness other people try to project with the understanding that you know who you are and what you need.

        The rest you can release. I practice this more than I would like to :-)

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  8. Joshunda: I finally became acquainted with this incredible blog and first let me say thank you for becoming my next rss feed reader obsession. Your hitting on so many topics that are relevant for me right now, I’m giddy.

    I come from a family that is fairly diverse, particularly on my mother’s side. I am a black woman with an Aunt who married a white man, an Uncle who married an Asian woman, and my mother, who divorced my black father in my late twenties and married a white man. My cousin pool looks a bit like the United Nations when we all come together, and for the most part? I find that incredibly beautiful and inspiring.

    That said, I noticed that I have a tendency toward discomfort when I happen across black men who follow the philosophy, “anyone but a black woman” when dating. In my hometown Philly, I ran into them occasionally – but when I moved to Austin, Texas nearly 8 years ago that encounter went from occasion to the norm. And despite my own diverse background with generations of happily interracial couplings that seem truly based on love and nothing else…I found myself struggling with anger and defensiveness.

    Over time, I’ve found the defensive and rage has dulled to a mild annoyance (bet you my glare looks a lot like yours), but only because I see it so much here that I’ve given up dedicating so much negative emotion to it. Why? Because there are so many things in this life that cause anxiety or worry or distress. I simply can’t dedicate any energy to anyone that would reject me based on what they suspect they know about me, based on my race. And, if you’re inclined to that sort of mass judgment, we probably wouldn’t make it very long anyway. So, is it really a loss for me? The older I get, the more the answer becomes a resounding no.

    My mother (who also migrated to Texas) said a while back to me, “perhaps you need to consider other races, too if you’re ever going to get married.” That immediately made me acknowledge two points: 1. While men of my race may be “over” me (not a notion I wholly embrace), I am by no means over them. 2. I’m not sure, as I turn 40, that the notion of being “married” means anything to me anymore. I no longer view it as an “accomplishment” or something I’m “supposed” to do. If it happens, great. But I won’t do it for any other reason than I feel spiritually, emotionally and mentally connected to a male to the extreme of wanting to create a life partnership with them. Divorce rates constantly show me that partnership is considerably more difficult than we believe.

    So, am I okay with interracial dating? Yup. Am I interested in dating outside of my race? Not especially. I am most attracted to men in the image of my father – tall, brown and spirited. Does this mean I won’t consider it? No. At this point in my life, I’ve seen and realized that anything is possible.

    • Cheryl, you said so many things that resonated with me that I’m starting to wonder if we were separated at birth :-) Especially the part about marriage and being attracted to men like your dad. Thanks for that.

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  13. I only see an attack on black love. It’s a huge silent movement to destroy black love and black people. It’s more talk about interracial love than the races actually healing self hurt through communication and working together not just trying to confuse and persuade everyone to mix like we are mutts with no racial history it won’t work. It’s a coverup for the real movement.

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