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.

Dealbreaker piece at GOOD Magazine: I was his sugar mama

I learned so much from this relationship:

Dealbreaker He Wanted a Sugar Mama

(Illustration by Liz Mamont for GOOD Magazine)
I never wanted to save the world—just every stray cat, directionless friend, and single man I’ve ever met. This tendency started with my mom, a fiercely independent woman who tried to care for me in spite of her fading mental health. At the height of her bipolar mood swings, she extolled my beauty and smarts. At the depths of her depression, she called me worthless and almost choked me to death. I didn’t just learn to fend for myself—I learned to fend for her, too. l stole money, saved all my after-school income, and figured out how to stretch fast-food meals between us for days.

When I set out on my own, I soon attracted other people who needed to lean on me. My best friend in college was the perfect example. A former child actor and the eldest son in a Caribbean family, he was charming, handsome, and needy. He was a Bronx-raised nerd of color like me. I loved the way he shouted when he entered a room. He made the best chili I’d ever tasted. I had a romantic dream about him shortly before I visited New York for a baby shower. We hooked up once. Then he called me after a wedding and asked if I would be his girlfriend. Thoughts of biracial babies danced in my head, and I said yes.

Ultimately, despite the shenanigans of that relationship, it cured me of ever trying to save anyone ever again in my life. One of my mentors likes to say, “You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it.” But it’s also true that we are culpable for the things that people “do to us” in relationships. I took full responsibility for ignoring my intuition and allowing myself to be used…but that took some time.

Dating Dispatches: Richard, the white rapper

When I was traveling between Houston and Beaumont, I covered this hip hop conference in Houston called The Third Coast conference. Yeah, I know.

The story never ran because my editor at the time didn’t like hip hop. But I had just bought my own car, and I was feeling free. A friend and I hung out after the conference with this rap group from Pittsburgh. The quietest among them was Richard, and we hung out separate from the group.

The Hip Hop Dalmatians, Rin & Tin, From Brown Sugar

When I tell you I can’t remember a single conversation I had with Richard, I’m not exaggerating. The conversations we had were about Biggie, Pennsylvania and the fact that his mother thought I looked like Erykah Badu — probably because he had never brought another black woman into her kitchen before. I don’t think I was even wearing a headwrap at the time.

(Note to self: Even some of the coolest white men have families that are a little bit dismissive of black people and sometimes they all think we look alike. That scene felt like it happened a century before Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan got down in “Something New.”)

He was the first of several men I dated who had a love affair with the glorified gangster life, which included smoking more weed than seemed humanly possible or even necessary for blacking out the entirety of his existence. This didn’t make him a big talker. That made our three-month long-distance relationship pretty challenging.

I tried, though. I flew to Pittsburgh. I hung out with him for a weekend. Soon after that, he decided he was going to the Marines.

One day I will write more about my love of military dudes. Something about the willingness to die for what you believe in, the structure and discipline military life requires. Oh — and yeah — my dad was in the military.
Our romance ended abruptly when he said he bought a ticket to come visit me in Beaumont and instead, I called him in Pittsburgh that morning and his mother said that he’d missed his plane so he had just decided to stay home. I think he sent a card, but I was so heartbroken that I dismissed it. He called and said he signed up for the Marines I think, and at some point, I got a card from him saying when he was going to Camp LeJeune and then I never heard from him again.

I spent the next four months chatting with men on BlackPlanet before I drove across country to Seattle.

Reads for the weekend: Get your hustle on, Digital Sabbaths & Rihanna

1 in 7 new marriages are now interracial, reports GOOD Magazine. Every time I see one of these reports I keep thinking, “Black women still need to get on that, huh?”

Speaking of GOOD, I loved this piece by one of my favorite writers, Courtney Martin: Hustin’: How I Became My Own Mentor in a Freelance Economy. She is such an incredible force in the world. I want to be like her.

I wrote a review of Baratunde Thurston’s new book, “How to be Black,”  in the San Francisco Chronicle. Good book. Really funny.

This doesn’t count as a read, but if you haven’t heard Meryl Streep talk about acting & cussing a little bit on Fresh Air, you should check this out.

Maybe it’s not the evil Internets that are keeping you from connecting to people. Rebecca Rosen on the myth of a Digital Sabbath as the savior of all relationships.

I thought I should say something about Rihanna and Chris Brown but two eloquent writers summed up my thoughts best. Ta-Nehisi Coates is always on point. This post at NewBlackMan is also great.

Finally, I’m working on a book about being happily single, and have been digging in the archives of my personal journals. Here’s a great quote from Galway Kinnell that touched me way back in 1997 and still resonates:

For everything flowers

from within

of self-blessing: though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing it’s loveliness

to put a hand on the brow of flower

and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely

until it flowers again from within

of self-blessing.

Dating Dispatches: That one time I tried speed dating

Now that I’m in my thirties I can look back at my early dating life and laugh.

At the time, some of this stuff was just…horrific.

When I first started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, one of my early assignments as a feature writer was writing about speed dating.

For perspective, you have to understand: I was raised in New York. Men who were interested in me did some now-inappropriate catcalling that I learned to think was sort of endearing until I got called out my name for refusing to give my number to a man who grabbed my elbow on my way to the subway.

On the West Coast, the passive approach to dating (e.g., “Let’s get together some time”) made me a little nauseous in comparison. Ironically, I was living with a boyfriend at the time I got this assignment. (That’s another post for another time, but…we met online and he was about 50 pounds heavier in person than he had been in the driver’s license photo he shared. I should have known something was wrong when he sent me a picture of himself taking a picture in a mirror.)

Anyway, I go out to the Hurry Date event with an open mind. I meet a tall, handsome black man who tells me he sells pharmaceuticals and that wasn’t a pleasant euphemism for selling drugs. (That was an actual joke he made.) We exchanged numbers. Check. I had a few moments with a guy from the Midwest who was wearing a Patagonia vest. Huh. Next.

The reason I stopped going to speed dating events, though, is because of the last guy I talked to. I had my name tag on my shirt, this polyester red and white and black number I got from a thrift store. It was nice to my curves, but bad for my name badge. The stickiness started to come off. So I put it on my thigh before I went to talk to the next guy. He might have been Persian. Really beautiful brown eyes. Thick brown hair. He seemed smart. He was doing something with his hand, it was sort of tucked behind him. I went to adjust my name tag in the middle of our conversation and he said, “What are you staring at?”

I blinked. He blinked. Maybe we have 45 seconds left on our little speed date. “What?”

“Are you looking at my hand?” he demanded. “Why are you staring at my hand?!”

I tried not to burst out laughing but it was really hard not to. Then I realized that he was missing parts of some of his fingers. And he thought I was gaping at his nubs. I didn’t have time to explain that I was just moving my name tag. The bell went off, and I got up and didn’t bother trying to shake his hand or anything.

I’m still scarred. But that memory makes me laugh. You can read the rest of that story here, if you want to get the full thrust of my first and only speed dating experience. Don’t let me keep you from the fun if you’re considering it, just be forewarned that crazy things can happen.

Is Marriage for White People? A Review

I read Ralph Richard Banks’ short but thoughtful book, “Is Marriage for White People? How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone” with a lot of resistance.

Part of the reason I started writing about the contented single woman’s perspective is because media coverage largely lacked the perspective of single black women who have been blamed and maligned for not doing enough to get married. Their standards are too high, they’ve got too much education, they don’t have their stuff together, they love Jesus too much — on and on. I couldn’t imagine there was anything uplifting for me to find in a book with this kind of title. I was wrong.

 


In my defense, I’ve been hearing some version of this message all my life, so I didn’t need a Stanford professor to break it down for me. I read the title and rolled my eyes. “Great,” I thought as I popped Advil and read the reviews. “Another book that will hurt my self-esteem.”

Banks set out to study marriage and found himself engaged in the stories of black women who said they had not seen the hurdles they faced in the relationship market reflected in pretty much any story being told in popular culture. As a result, in Banks’ book, all of the statistics I get sick of reading and reflecting on related to the number of black men in prison, the high percentage of black unwed mothers and high divorce rates were just briefly mentioned, not belabored.

The popular culture sentiment reflected so often by mainstream news media outlets and pretty much everything Tyler Perry has ever produced reinforces the belief that black women do themselves a disservice by being too highfalutin. Banks wisely points out the way this plays out in movies that depict women overlooking and dismissing blue collar men, for instance. Even if it’s inferred, few people just flat out say what most African Americans know: Black women are the most loyal women to black men in the world, even if more black men marry interracially far more.

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.

 

It’s a thesis that is, again, an empowering and refreshing one. For us to find out if it’s true, a lot of black women will have to learn to accept and confront the limiting beliefs they have about who finds them attractive and why, but also to spend some time deprogramming themselves.
I include myself in that group, since I viewed the book as a sort of mirror for myself in some ways. Like the women he writes about, I have made assumptions that white guys would largely not be able to appreciate my beauty, though Banks’ data suggests that black women married to white men find that they are more accepted without weaves and straightened hair than they are with black men. Those beliefs were reinforced by a lot of drama dating losers on online dating sites. I picked up my toys and went home after a couple of years on and offline dating, in part because I realized that the “relationship market” was more exhausting than any of the three jobs I held at one time.

More important, though, was the fact that I had not gotten comfortable enough with myself to appreciate the beauty I wanted my prospective mate to appreciate. I wanted to clutch my fear of rejection, hold on to my powerlessness, because somehow keeping myself powerless felt like a way to be less intimidating. Even if I was failing at finding a partner, I reasoned, at least I could have a virtual community that shared my loneliness.That brings me back to the best and most surprising thing about Banks’ book. The tone and main point of the book is not to make black women feel responsible for their single status or to give us pointers for how to make it better.
It is an encouraging, straightforward look at where things stand, and because, as he says, “white follows black”  — which means that white women will eventually have to face the same challenges single black women are facing if they haven’t started to already. While I’m not a fan of the provocative title, one other flaw is that the book doesn’t end neatly as much as it completely stops. Nevertheless, it is well-done and an important work of up-to-date scholarship on African American relationships. If you’ve read it, I’d be interested in hearing what you thought of it.

Robin Thicke says there are only “a few good White men” for single black women

I know he’s with Paula Patton and everything, but I have a serious crush on Robin Thicke.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s adorable and I am a vocal admirer of fine men. But then he was quoted in Madame Noire advocating for black men. Here’s an excerpt:

On whether black women are better off with white men
I think that’s ridiculous. There are so many good Black men out there that are hardworking, decent, and handsome, you know? To start that rumor is as bad as starting any other negative rumor. There are great Black men out there. There are only a few good White men — trust me. (Laughs) Good luck finding a good White man who understands your journey. I only have three White friends. I’ve got 20 Black male friends, who are all good men who take good care of their wives, and good care of their children. I know amazing Black men. Maybe the women have to take better care of their men. Maybe you’re being too stubborn. Maybe you’re not saying you’re sorry. You have to take good care of him, too. You have to give love to get love.

 

He’s so fine I’m going to completely fail to critique the woman-blaming in those last four sentences and just focus on the positive. It’s the holidays, after all, and we don’t even need to go into that whole “I have a ton of black friends” thing. (I see where you were going with that, boo.) Now I have “Wanna Love U” with Skateboard P in my head.

TGIF. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Festivus.

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