Friday, December 15, 2006

Looking for Mr. White:
Black Women and the “Something New” Movement

Bossip, an urban entertainment blog, recently posted pictures of actress Kerry Washington, a black woman, with her fiancé David Moscow, a white man. Beneath the image of Kerry gazing lovingly at her betrothed is the caption: “You have saved me from all these trifling niggas, David!”

I realize that most of what Bossip and many other black entertainment blogs write is tongue-in-cheek, especially when it comes to interracial couples. But hidden beneath the humor is the notion that the white man is the sister’s savior when it comes to relationships, a white knight redeeming the dark diva in distress.

Lately, I’ve noticed that many black women applaud (if not downright encourage) their sisters’ decisions to date interracially, a move that would have been labeled as selling out just ten years ago. “Sisters can do it too!” seems to be the battle cry of this dating revolution, what I call the “Something New” movement. When Halle Berry started making the rounds with blonde hottie Gabriel Aubry, the response from black women seemed to be: “Go for yours!” As one gleeful female blogger put it, “All the brothas are just mad ‘cause her main man right now is white. She gave negroes a chance, and they screwed up!”

Part of this paradigm shift is in direct response to the growing number of black men/white women relationships. I’ll admit that I’m not immune to being reactionary. I live in Los Angeles, which has been dubbed the “Jungle Fever” capitol of the West Coast, and I often grow weary of seeing Heidi on Hakeem’s arm. For a few months, I was actively seeking a white man to date, even crushing on several white male friends. I was seriously contemplating creating tee shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Looking for Mr. White,” and passing them out to all my black girlfriends in defiance of these clichéd “brothers with others” couplings.

I realize that I’m embracing a double standard. I am loath to watch anything featuring Taye Diggs or Cuba Gooding, Jr. because of the “white wife” factor, yet I give props to Grey’s Anatomy cutie Justin Chambers for having a spouse named Keisha, and to green-eyed soul singer Robin Thicke for flaunting his black wife, Paula Patton, in his videos. I avert my eyes when I see Heidi-Hakeem hookups in the malls, restaurants or streets of L.A. – projecting onto these couples the same invisibility and marginality that I experience on a regular basis – yet I give a fist-in-the-air smile when I see Rasheeda hugged up with Biff. It’s as if these white men are affirming the beauty, value and self-worth of black women in a culture that relegates them to video hos, emasculators, corporate shrews or gold diggers. These couplings are also a slap in the face to a society that places a premium on white womanhood.

Yes, I know that love is – and should be – colorblind, but many black women are crossing the color line in relationships out of necessity. According to a 2005 U.S. Census report, 43.4 percent of all black women have never been married. We are confronted daily with statistics about the shortage of eligible brothers, in addition to the academic and professional disparities that exist between the sexes. In an MSNBC article, Sanaa Latham, star of the movie Something New, shares her own dating quandary. “It has to happen, if we don't want to be alone,” she says regarding the rise of black women’s interracial relationships. Yet she admits that black men can be the harshest critics of said relationships – even those brothers who have white women hiding in their sexual repertoires.

Sanaa recalls the backlash she felt for being with a “white, liberal, educated” man. She says, “There was moments with him where like we would be in Harlem. There would be five brothers on the corner, and this is an awful feeling but you're holding his hand and you want to pull your hand away ‘cause you don't want the judgment. And you're gonna get the judgment even if it's just in looks.”

Why are black women held to a more stringent standard when it comes to dating outside the race? Why are black men allowed to experience color-blind love every time they step out with a non-black woman, while sisters are accused of being race traitors, constantly reminded of our antebellum past when black women were objectified, infantilized and raped by their slave masters? This lack of balance and fairness further serves to marginalize us and reinforces the notion that we aren’t being heard or taken seriously by our male counterparts.

Except for one relationship, my preference has always been black men, and I never imagined being with anyone but a brother. But as I grow older, I’m learning to keep my options open. Sisters have to demystify deeply-rooted beliefs we have concerning our interracial relationships. This will challenge us to rethink the long-held notions of “loyalty” we have regarding black men. I don’t want to go on a quest for “Mr. White” simply to combat the black men/white women pairings I see on the regular. I know society tries to ascribe fear on our hearts based on statistics and the threat of spinsterhood, but I refuse to engage in an inauthentic relationship for fear of growing old alone. I’m not averse to trying “something new,” as long as I do it based on mutual attraction, not redemption.


Anonymous said...

Well on point. I might need to start searching for Biff. I'm really diggin the Searching for Mr. White, t-shirt idea. I say we mass produce those bad boys and rock them like the Black Panthers rocked black leather and Afro's. I'm down. This is a revolution that should be televised! Girl, i feel a poem coming on! LOL! Can you tell me and my man just broke up? :)

toinetta said...

As always, you know i have something to say. i date white because they ask me out. i am tired of being objectified when i walk down the street in my business suit. i am tired of making excuses for why someone i've dated for two years isn't in an exclusive relationship with me. i'm pushing for all my sistas to do it atleast once -- it's nothing like the stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

I too have dated white, as you know, girl. And I was shocked to realize how much I missed the company of brothers, because the only time I have ever been objectified or marginalized in a relationship was when I dated a white man. What did I learn from that experience? That assholes come in every color. That deep down I will probably end up with a Black man because I like how brothers have always treated me. And, that I won't be afraid to date outside of my race again, in spite of the Jerk, because I know that no one person speaks for their entire race. Unless that person is Maya Angelou.

Mike the PoeT said...

writing is your gift
& your ability to make sense of these issues is exceptional..
Thanks for taking the time to write this,
you are also hilarious as well,
much respect!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe those stats about the lack of "eligible" brothas. I know a LOT of brothas who are single, have great jobs not actively dating Becky (or Maria Conchita and Su Yon - that's a different story, LOL) and are actively seeking black women, etc. For whatever reason, the relationships aren't there. I don't know what it is, but it seems like there's a huge disconnect between black men and women. Maybe we are all too idealistic about our choices in a mate? Dunno

If folks want to date interracially, more power to them. I just don't like when people make excuses for doing it. If you are really "feeling" someone and they are a different race, go for it. However, I'm wondering if bro's, in general, place the same stigma on black women when they date interracially, BUT with another minority group.

Now on another point and this is going to sound very petty. When it comes to IR relationships, I think the stares come because one of the parties happen to be attractive or something along that line. If a black female looks like a troll and is with a white guy, I don't think brothas would care, LOL. However, if she's pretty of course guys get mad and feel if it wasn't for the "other party" being there, they would have a chance with the woman. I tend to think this works with all racial groups, too. -- Mr. M

Anonymous said...

Great Blog, Nicole... I'm actually engaged to a wonderful white man... but I admit to only dating brothers until I came to California four years ago...

A lot of it felt like the brothers here weren't really try to feel a natural sister... but it was also compatibility issues -- you'd be surprised how many brothers were like "see you later" when I told them I was agnostic...or super pro-gay marriage ... or "a bit of a hippie" -- which was great, because it's nice when your dating pool self-selects...

I feel like you should date whoever you get along with the most... a person who complements your personality, has the same political beliefs, and enjoys the same activities as you... because it's generally hard to find some one who "gets you" ... no matter what color you are...

Though as the child of a black marriage... I do worry about the disconnect M is talking about. I have a ton of black female friends... but all my black male friends are actors that I've worked with ... it feels like black women and men aren't even generally friends anymore... there seems to be a lot of anger on both sides... which really worries me.

As of now... every single one of my closest black female friends is married to a white man... and though I don't think you should actively seek out a particular race... that does seem to be the trend.

Thanks for the fantastic blog!


Anonymous said...

I say go for it, sistas. But, please, don't fool yourself into believing the myth that white men (or women) are the answer to your dating woes. Know yourself, your likes and dislikes, your vices and pet peeves. In other words, doctor, heal thyself. If YOU are scandalous, a white man won't want you any more than a black man. NO man loves a hoe for long. And, listen up...if your track record consists of a long line of "trifling Niggas", Miss Kerry, Miss Halle, et al, ask YOURSELF why you are attracted to that type of man. And beware, because the Aryan nation is filled with "trifling Honkies". A white man will string you along just as effectively as a black man will.

Regarding the stares you receive when you're out with Biff, I feel your pain. It's ironic that I ONLY get attention from black women when I am with a woman who is not black. Why is it that if I am alone and I step to a sista, she looks me up and down with disdain? Could it be that I dress down..I don't wear my income, I invest it? Discuss.

Ladies, by the way, there is no shortage of black men...that's the excuse used by (a) black men who want to justify dating you AND your girlfriend and (b) black women who want to justify dating broke-ass, deadbeat dad Hakeem. And, if you are 35 or over, you shouldn't be dating "Hakeem" anyway. Us brothas who are 35+ have AMERICAN names. I'm 40, and my name is BRIAN (not Bilal). Hey, I guess I'm not that anonymous, after all. MUCH LOVE.

Sita said...

Throughout history, men and women have faced challenges regarding pairings. Whether it is for religion, sexual preference or racial background, society has always drawn a line of demarcation. And, this line has always been crossed. There is nothing new in the 21 century that hasn’t already happened in the past. We have a way of repeating history. What is new is the rate at which we are able to convey these pairings to the world. It makes good copy for gossip rags, story lines for TV entertainment series, and conversation in general. In today’s society, it appears to be a case of keeping up with the “Joneses”! Most black females feel what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And, so it has become a rivalry between black men and women to compete at the same “game”. Love or genuine feelings should be color blind, but the scope of today’s relationships takes on the appearance of a Hollywood production. It isn’t “cool” to date or marry just an ordinary person. First it was; he/she had to be good looking, then he/she had to have money. Has the ante been raised to he/she has to be white (or at least look white)? It is a sad commentary that race seems to have upstaged love when we speak of relationships or marriages today.

Anonymous said...

Ummm Mr. M,

This large population of single, successful brothas you know....Can I meet them?!

Just wondering ;-)

Anonymous said...

Excellent discussion point. I've never dated outside of my race, however, I'm open to it. In my travels, I've never come across a non-black male that I was interested enough in to pursue.

One anonymous poster said 'cool dat' to interracial dating, just don't make excuses. I agree. Another anonymous poster said 'go for it, if that's what you want'. I agree with that too. In my opinion, it's a personal choice and the choice is yours -- just let it be for the right reasons.

But the reality is, whenever the race ingredient is thrown into the relationship mix, controversy sparks. You will get the looks. I just hope my sistas understand that dating Mr. John doesn't make her any better than if she were dating Mr. Raheem and the same holds true for Ms. Sue and Ms. Keisha when my brothas date.

Always proud of you Nikki. (Remember me cutting loose at Sears?)

Anonymous said...

Girl, I read this article on digital underground and I have to tell you it is well-written and on point. Kudos! Thanks for exploring a sista's perspective.

Anonymous said...

Your article was very insightful. If I may, I would like to add a few points to this discourse. It's difficult not to look at the relationships between black men and women without a "historical" perspective.

As black people in this country, we suffer from what is termed a "psychotic break". Much of the past is detached from a memory standpoint. We all know of slavery and the devices used to subjigate us to the social norms of what america was, and has become. But, in my humble opinion, we fail to deeply understand how this has affected us on a subconscious level. We live in a society that we have had to adopt, adjust to and conform to. Due to the "ghosts" of slaverys' past, we play the race game with the best of them, sometimes not realizing "we" are the pawns in this chess match. Our belief in this culture exceeds our level of reason, sound judgement and understanding of what is "inherently" true.

The lynchpin to any civilization is the relationship bewteen the men and women. If you can penetrate that element of a groups ability to function, you have effectively reduced them to rubble. As black people, we struggle to recover, but the game keeps introducing new pieces. Through socialization, economics, religion, education, it's like we are trying to push a truck up a hill at a 45 degree angle, one wrong move and it's back to the bottom. And this works for both the male and female.

Deep down, black men and women want to be together, and we all know this. But their is a force, that keeps us at bay and until we are willing to confront it "collectively", we will continue to struggle with eachother. We have yet to confront this force whether it be out of fear, ignorance or denial. We look for that diamond sparkling in the sand, all the while ignoring that which is in our reach!

Now we are in an era that emasculates the man and masculinizes the women, but that is part of the "Aquarian Agenda". And thats a whole nother story!!!!