Like many black women, in 2006 I went to see the controversial movie “Something New” starring Sanna Lathan and Simon Baker. Lathan plays Kenya McQueen, a successful, hard-working, black woman trying to climb the corporate ladder. Like many women, Kenya longs to find the perfect black man. Enter Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) an attractive landscaper from an entirely different social class, oh and he’s white. The two initially bump heads, but like everyone else in the magical land of Hollywood, they fall in love and live happily ever after. The film sparked an ongoing dialogue concerning the singlehood of black women. During the film’s release, the media bombarded us with ominous statistics like 70% of black women are single and 45% of black women will never get married. Accordingly, even if every black woman married a black man 1.5 to 2.5 million black women would be left unpartnered because of the lack of marriagable black men. Lastly, we heard that the more successful a black woman is, the less likely she is to get married. The media, which loves to marginalize black women, had a field day with hundreds of discouraging articles, news segments, and editorials. And then black women panicked! After all black women have feelings too. We want to find love and support. We enjoy romance and affection. Like any other women, we do not want to be alone.
We learned through the film and through the barrage of media, that black men are no good. They are either low down or down low or otherwise undesirable. The miniscule few who actually have something to offer are married to white women. So what solution does our media propose? How can the media capitalize off of black women’s suffering while making themselves appear racially progressive? Suggest that black women actively seek out relationships with white men! Boom, solution! Just like the movie, in sweeps the very desirable (and very white) Brian Kelley, patiently waiting in the wings to fill the black woman’s void. The great white hope has come to rescue us! Alas we poor Nigresses are saved!
Not exactly! First there have been several articles questioning the validity of the gruesome statistics. So the diagnosis may not be completely accurate. Secondly, the prescription may not be either. Consider that in the United States the vast majority of people marry within their own race. Compound that with the fact that many white people still cling to antiquated views on race, and that many white men (especially American white men) are closed-minded and refuse to consider a black woman as a dating option (see http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/).
Another problem I have with the ‘solution’ is that it presupposes that black women are the closed-minded ones. Accordingly, black women are surrounded by a plethora of intelligent, attractive, and quality white men, but refuse to date them because they are pining away after black men who are unavailable, abusive, or nonexistent. The white men are just waiting in the wings, ready to swoop down and whisk away these black women to paradise…if only these women would simply overcome their prejudices and see what is right in front of them. I laugh out loud! I do not believe most women are like Kenya McQueen. Sure, women have their reservations, but I don’t know of any woman who would forgo a quality relationship out of some perverse loyalty to men who do not want her. Contrary to the stereotype, most black women are open-minded and white men are not exactly sitting around waiting for the right black woman to fall into their arms*. As the okcupid article I linked suggests, the majority of white men exclude black women as a dating option, despite the interest showed to them by black women.
Moreover, the simplistic solution stereotypes three groups of people: black men, white men, and black women--black men are no good, black women have too many hang ups to know what is good for them, and white men are two thick to realized they are unwanted. Do you see the problem?
So should black women date out! Absolutely! Good, kind, successful black women should seek out relationships with good, kind, successful men and race should not be a factor. Women in general should go beyond the race issue and look for someone who shares their values, ideals, and beliefs. People should also date who they are attracted to. If you are primarily attracted to white men, then by all means date white men. Even if there were hundreds of available brothers, I think black women should still keep their options open. My problem isn’t with dating out, it is the idea that black women have to date out or be doomed to a life of celibacy. It’s dating out because of fear. When fear is the motivator bad decisions are inevitable.
To be fair, yes there are some white men who are seeking real relationships with good women and race is not a factor for those men. I have nothing but the highest regard for those individuals. But, if I were one of those open-minded white men, I would feel kind of, well, crappy knowing that black women are only interested in me because there are so few black men. It would make me think that if the situation changed and suddenly hundreds of black men became available, my woman would leave me. That’s not how we should treat people. We should not view people as our back-up plan or as placeholders.
I also suggest that black women gain a deeper understanding of themselves. If you tend to attract and date losers than dating a white, Latino, or Asian man is not going to guarantee you find happiness. If there is something in you that attracts abusive relationships, than the only thing that will change for you when dating out is the color of your abuser. Address the underlying reasons for poor relationship decisions, and then seek out men who have the internal characteristics you are looking for, regardless of race.
Lastly, can I debunk some of the madness that masquerades itself as knowledge on the internet? There are several online resources that talk about how to get a white man. I encourage black women to date Latino, Asian, Brazialian, Eskimo, South African or any other kind of man, not just limit themselves to white men or even just men in the US. So how do you date out? I really do not believe there is a secret recipe for interracial dating success, regardless of what some of the online content would have you believe. Since I am on the subject of online-hype, I have to admit that I am tired of the youtube vids in which black women do “show and shares” displaying their white husbands and boyfriends like my preschoolers do their new toys. What originally started out as a community supporting interracial relationships (something I’m 100% for) has, according to one author, become a viral onslaught effectively marketing “a certain kind of picture of who black women should be with.” She goes on to say, “it’s difficult to scroll through picture after picture of beaming-black-woman-with-smiling-white-man and not feel that interracial relationships are being idealized, rather than simply celebrated, an experience discomfiting enough that it has at times made me question my own relationship with a white man.”
So what can we take from all this? 1) Statistics and media hype should not be the primary motivator for who you choose to date. 2)The same people promoting interracial dating as a “solution” are not addressing the underlying reasons for why there is such a lack of quality black men 3) White men are not our saviors. Racism has not suddenly come to an end. 4) Interracial dating/relationships can be beautiful and healthy but, 5) interracial relationships should not be sought after because of fear or because of the glut of interracial images online that seem to promise an interracial happily ever after. 6) The color of the man does not determine who he is: his character does.
I went to see Something New with my boyfriend, who happened to be white. I did not date him because of the gloomy statistics, the dearth of quality black men, or because I wanted to experiment with “something new”, but simply because he was fun. He was a good friend and we had a lot of chemistry. The end! As a single woman, I look for men who have substance. Sure, I have my preferences (Eastern European men are so hot), and yes I can be superficial, but when I am evaluating a man I try to look for those characteristics that will be long-lasting and I endeavor to see beyond socially constructed boundaries like race.
*See how subtle racism is? See how white men become the heroes, and black women are depicted as the ones with the issues.