Wednesday, August 8, 2007

“Why Talk About Black Men At All?”

Since Dionne Walker’s AP article “More Black Women Consider ‘Dating Out’” appeared earlier this week, it has quickly spread as a topic of discussion across the Web, after being broadly reprinted everywhere from the Guardianto CNN. Featuring our “own” Rosyln Holcomb and Evia Moore, the article focused generally on the increasing numbers of BW dating and marrying interracially, and contained some discussion of the reasons for this growing phenomena.

In the wake of this increased focus has been an increased scrutiny of the blogs and message boards where sisters gather to meet and discuss their interest in, and experiences with, interracial relationships. One consistent criticism that both pre-dates Ms. Walker’s article, and has been amplified in it’s wake, has been the claim that BW in interracial relationships focus inordinately and unnecessarily on BM. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this assertion is based on the assumption that BW in interracial relationships need an “excuse” to date out, and therefore engage in “BM-bashing” as a justification for their desire for non-BM. Why mention BM at all, we are asked?

I would never presume to speak for any other bloggers or for sisters in interracial relationships more generally on this issue. However, the subjects that I choose to discuss here are based on my interests, and what I see and hear around me from other sisters in terms of their challenges and concerns. My own decision to date interracially was not strictly happenstance—I have always been attracted to a wide variety of men, but as I began to think about marriage, I began to realize I could easily go months without meeting a compatible BM, while I was encountering compatible non-BM on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. This inspired me to do what those of us from academic families typically do: a little research.

That research made it clear to me that my individual experience was one that educated, middle and upper middle class BW who were interested in marriage were experiencing in increasing numbers. While I had been raised and socialized with the expectation that I would eventually meet and marry a compatible BM, I didn’t experience the absence of such a man as a “crisis” or a “shortage.” For me, it was pretty straightforward: my priority was ultimately to build a great life with a great guy. Since there were still plenty of great guys out there, nothing crucial about my plans had changed, anymore than meeting more guys who were 5’10 than 6’2 would change my plans.

Nevertheless, I did recognize that for BW for whom race isa crucial factor in a choice of mate, there isa shortage, and I would feel dishonest if I didn’t point out that I think these women are probably selling their opportunities short as a result of their perspective; this was one of the reasons I chose to discuss the role of narrative earlier, because the story so many BW tell themselves of “I must only be with a BM/there is a BM ‘shortage’” is an important force that prevents too many sisters from having the life that they want and deserve.

It would also be dishonest of me not to address the social pressures that BW who date and marry interracially often face, and to confront the source of those pressures and point out some of the key reasons they are illegitimate. There are lots of wonderful men out there; if you want to maximize the number of great men available to choose from, race is criteria that it would be wise to discard. This is not a statement of judgment or a statement of blame: it is a statement of fact.

Will there be people who see such a statement as “BM-bashing”? Sure. Will there be people who will decide that women who articulate such considerations must be “desperate”? Probably. But to my mind, desperation is a fear response, and nothing is more desperate than someone who refrains from speaking what she knows is true because she is afraid that people will call her false names and think false things of her. I know who I am. I know what my motivations are. I know that I am not an angry or embittered person, and that I have no interest in bashing anyone.

Therefore, I sometimes discuss BM here: because BW who date and marry interracially are constantly confronted with the question of whythey are not with a BM (see my prior post, “Questions and Answers.”) To simply answer honestly “because I met this non-BM and fell in love with him” is rarely satisfactory to questioners, who will take any inclination to ignore them as a sign that you have been intimidated into silence by “shame” over your “desperate” choice. As a haven for sisters who are attracted to all kinds of men—and who refuse to be controlled by the fear of rejection, or the fear of being called a “sell-out,” or on the basis of any other fear—I am more than happy to provide a forum for us all to express our own reasons for our choices: because ultimately, it is all about us.

15 comments:

pioneervalleywoman said...

Good afternoon, Aimee!

What I find interesting about this discussion is a false dichotomy, built upon a binary that relates to black women's experience of the "male gaze": black v. white.

Am I sounding too academic? Smile.

The binary: black men as the natural allies and partners of black women, versus white men as the evil enemy.

The false dichotomy: presumes that all men fit into a box based upon race, when evil v. good behavior in relationships, for men and women, is not race-based, but is inherent in the individual.

Because of this false dichotomy built upon the binary, the choice of black women to date and marry interracially is seen as a "false consciousness," in that we are acting contrary to our interests as black women.

Something must be wrong with her, because she is not fitting into the ideal which has been socially prescribed by her community. Was she desperate? Was she harmed by black men? Is she a sell-out to her community?

But the problem with this perception is that it negates the role of individual situations and circumstances.

We might not even need to talk about black men at all, but the discussion comes to us!

As you said, the social script says we should have partnered with black men, but the realities of our situation didn't coincide.

In our educational, work and social settings, it was far easier to find non-black men to date than it was to find black men to date and marry.

Yet, the prescribed narrative would have us hang our heads in shame, as though we have committed some sin for which we are blameworthy.

Gigi said...

Hey there Aimee :) Howdy!!

I do not encounter BW or BM asking me questions or expressing dismay about my decision to marry a WM- *phew*.
The issues that used to infuriate me were the open mouthed stares from young WW and some older Wcouples. Grrr
I have since learned how to deal with those because I reckon it goes with the territory. Minority in a minority undertaking, Oh well!
My happiness and the finite time I have in this world far override any thoughts, expressions, asinine remarks or 'grunts' that may come as a result of my decision. HAHA
I am deliriously happy with my beau, he is a good husband and father and I wish every woman would pursue her own personal aggrandizement with unabashed zeal! I certainly did!! LOL

On 'AT'>AnotherTopic, my brothers are very educated, well placed and learned BM. They are also respectful of BW, kind and giving, Christian and gentle men married to wonderful BW so I deeply resent any attempts to cast aspersions on BM as a group.
Thankfully, this has not been the thrust of most bloggers.

Also, it is almost unimaginable to me that a BW in this day and age, who wants to settle down and get married, would choose to limit herself to same race dating alone. With the stats out there?? Such conduct seems ATROCIOUS!!

Evia said...

Because of this false dichotomy built upon the binary, the choice of black women to date and marry interracially is seen as a "false consciousness," in that we are acting contrary to our interests as black women.

You hit the bullseye!! To many black people that I know or hear talking everyday really believe that--

black=good and white=bad,

If a black person does anything terrible, it's because of de evil white man, particularly if it's a bm. Therefore, it is perfectly logical according to this faulty/extreme way of thinking for many black folks to think that a bw hates herself, is mentally off, lacks black pride, is sleeping with the enemy, or etc. for "choosing" to be with a "bad/evil" (white) man. LOL! One of my girlfriends thought I'd had a mental collapse when I, a level-headed bw, announced that I was going to marry a white man, and she was serious.

This is the same thinking that causes many bw to be destroyed by a typical DBRbm. Many sistas cannot conceive of him as a man who would do terrible things to her,(until it's too late) simply because he's black, whereas if a wm smiles at her, she gives him the evil eye.

Someone does need to analyze why it is that so many black people tend to think in this binary way. Is it because they are too lazy to exercise their critical thinking abilities? Or what?

It makes black people very easy to manipulate. Most of life is not black or white, there's a whole lotta gray in there. I admit that processing the gray areas forces people to do some deep thinking sometimes, but boy is it worth it!

Many blacks can't get away from binaries like "wrong" vs "right", for ex. or guilty vs innocent. They rarely look at the nuances and shades involved in certain situations. This is actually a MAJOR factor in creating the hordes of DBRbm.

So many Black males are NEVER held accountable or responsible for their actions by the majority of the black community. Even if they burn down a house with their children inside, you will hear some black people fishing around for an excuse. From a very early age, young black males hear this and file this away for future use and when they need it, they use it and it works like a charm almost all of the time.

For ex. I get so sick and tired of hearing black folks blaming the school system for black children who perform poorly in school. Many of the children have become lazy or are not encouraged in the proper way to do well in school by their parents because their parents lack sound parenting skills, or they don't supply other things that are important in child-rearing, but they or black "leaders" in the community want to put ALL of the blame on the school system.

African children and other children of African descent who attend the same school will excel, yet most AA parents dodge reality and still can't/won't accept that their children (and them too) are mostly responsible for the poor grades. So this tendency to think in a binary manner is a major culprit in the downward spiral in the black community because it distorts reality very badly. This is a very serious problem and if you try to point this out to them, then YOU become the enemy.

pioneervalleywoman said...

Hi Gigi!

The issues that used to infuriate me were the open mouthed stares from young WW and some older Wcouples. Grrr...

My comment:

This is something I've noticed too...because I live in a rural, majority white area, as did my husband before we married.

We've had this response from white as well and once or twice from Asian women. So rude!

I wonder whether they have the same reaction when they see a white woman with a non-white man.

Gigi said...

Hey there PioneerVW:

Howdy!!

I have seen quite a few asian woman give me "da evil eye' too..HAHA especially as my beau is a dashing green eyed adonis haha-- ok ok, so I am a LITTLE biased LOL.
As for the brazen asian women, I give them the evil eye right back and No, I do not believe that look is for all non-white women across board. I think they reserve it for WM/BW couples. Honest!

I read somewhere that in the asian community, the generally held belief is that the darker the skin the less intelligent and less attractive you are! Also there is a belief that marrying a WM is marrying up?
As for the other ' shocked lookers' I have chosen to ignore them-they are amusing mostly. Oh well, their misconception, their bias, their LOSS! :)

I love your posts by the way :)

pioneervalleywoman said...

I'm glad you like the posts!

I've heard the same thing too, that marrying white is marrying up, and that darker people are frowned upon, seen by the lighter skinned Asian elites as darker peasants. So long prior to even getting here in this country to deal with blacks, they had their own biases against darker peoples.

Of course, we're the one everybody hates to see with white men! We are supposed to be the ones nobody wants!

So we go against the grain, by being attractive to the men they most want to have.

Let them eat their heart out!

:)

Aimee said...

pioneervalleywoman said...

What I find interesting about this discussion is a false dichotomy, built upon a binary that relates to black women's experience of the "male gaze": black v. white.

Am I sounding too academic? Smile.

The binary: black men as the natural allies and partners of black women, versus white men as the evil enemy.


Good morning PVW!

I think you've gotten to the root of the issue: the presumption that a BW/WM pairing involves "natural enemies," and must therefore be inherently deviant. If you start from that premise, there can NEVER be an explanation for such a relationship that is healthy or positive.

We might not even need to talk about black men at all, but the discussion comes to us!

This is the element of the complaint that's never acknowledged. How much of that article was about BM at all? And yet, the idea that BM are being "bashed" has animated the entire backlash hysteria that certain quarters seem to be experiencing around it. It's the refusal to acknowledge, again, that no matter what the discussion is actually about, there is a certain segment of the "black community" that will ALWAYS bring it back to BM and their perceived victimization.

Of course, one arguably "positive" outcome I've witnessed is that on Black Voices and other such sites, for the first time EVER, I see BM anxiously extolling the virtues of "black love" and urgently discussing the need to protect that love against the white supremacist "conspiracy" to undermine it by attempting to tempt BW into traitorous interracial unions. LOL!

Of course, as far as I'm concerned, there's really only one relevant question to ask all those "brothas" who are NOW so concerned about "black love" and saving the black family: are you married to a black woman? :-)

Aimee said...

Welcome gigi!

I've seen some of the "surprise" reactions from AW as well, and found it, well, "surprising." I've found that AW do not really see their relationships with WM as being "interracial" or in any way "aberrant."

I also think some AW have adopted the mentality of WW who see themselves as preeminently desireability, and are simply dumbstruck when they see men that they view as equally desireable with women that they view as inferior. When you see other women as "competition," it's always upsetting to see another woman getting a "leg up."

pioneervalleywoman said...

Greetings, Aimee!

As usual, I’m quite glad to do my part in creating our "narratives."

You mentioned: I think you've gotten to the root of the issue: the presumption that a BW/WM pairing involves "natural enemies," and must therefore be inherently deviant. If you start from that premise, there can NEVER be an explanation for such a relationship that is healthy or positive.

My response: Exactly. Halima over on her blog has generated a discussion about this, black women being told that only black men can love and understand them; a white man just can't cut it.

I find several aspects of that argument troubling.

Number one, that sort of attitude tends to lead women's "internal compasses to become confused," because the evidence presented to support it is usually based upon "blackness" in the abstract, divorced from the personalities of the individuals, their ability to work on and build a relationship together, as though blackness alone is enough.

Number two, it can also degenerate into the worst types of stereotypical arguments about men's sexual prowess, which is absolutely ridiculous. No person's ability of that nature has any relation to his or her race. Black women have traditionally been stereotyped in this way, do we want to perpetuate it?

Number three, and worst of all, is the argument that no matter how well a bw and wm might work well together in their relationship, he is really deceiving her, and she is really deceiving herself in believing he really loves her. No one likes to think she is being made a fool of. This argument tells black women that is exactly what is happening.

This argument plays into ancient history and stereotypes which don't always reflect contemporary realities: black women's sexual objectification under slavery and Jim Crow--black women seen as property, not women to be respected as wives and mothers--is being overgeneralized into the world of today.

So those who make that argument are attempting to warn women that they can't trust what they see, hear, observe, experience and know in their gut, because one day, the axe will fall, and their wm partner will do them in.

All women must go into relationships with their eyes wide open, and with their critical thinking skills razor sharp, regardless of a man's race.

But this argument of black men as the natural lovers of black women presumes that black women must not use their skills to observe and assess when dealing with a man who is black, because black men are their natural allies and partners, which ignores a greater reality: A man's propensity for goodness is not race based.

Aimee said...

pioneervalleywoman said...

those who make that argument are attempting to warn women that they can't trust what they see, hear, observe, experience and know in their gut, because one day, the axe will fall, and their wm partner will do them in.

All women must go into relationships with their eyes wide open, and with their critical thinking skills razor sharp, regardless of a man's race.


I was thinking of your analysis as I read two different arguments being made at black websites I sometimes visit. The first is discussing the NYU professors' daughter who was recently murdered by her boyfriend:

the tragic mistake that the murdered nyu professor's daughter Boitumelo McCallum made was hooking up with this nothing guy, Michael Cordero, in the first place.

the first time she heard about where he grew up, how he grew up, that he had dropped out of school, that he had been arrested a couple of times, that he seemed to have some sort of substance abuse problem that caused him to land in rehab, etc., etc., etc., the very first time she learned of his background, she should have said to herself, and if necessary to him, "i'm too good for you" or "you're not good enough for me", however she wanted to word it, and then be on her way.
RESPONSE: i hate to say it, but that's what probably attracted her to him in the first place


The second was expressing disappointment in Sanaa Lathan for suggesting that BW should open their options to interracial relationships:

I seriously i think the state of black america really needs to be looked at....there are alot of black men out there that are just as smart as a brotha in law school....or any other prestigious institution....but in my opinion a degree does not make a man....his attitude does....i see alot of "professional" black men that are dogs and cheats.....why are we looking at men as people to invest in us financially instead of looking for a person that has a good heart.....i'd rather date the good guy that works in mc donald's with some determination in his life...than a lying as bastard that makes 50,000+ a yr
situation....and even if the man gets tired sometimes....ill help him get that inspiration he needs.....

I am going through alot with my man....but I am still with him because I know his heart is good...but he's just been thrown alot of bullsh*t his way and some of it is by his own doing.....but im patient and i try to be as loving as possible...because love does heal if the person allows it....but everyone is so scared...to lose that they lost the battle before it even begun....

our mothers tell us to be independant and all that jazz.....its just as bad as YT parents telling their children to make sure they "marry well"

why can't we teach our children to be good people and be humble enough to see beauty in all kinds of people instead of teaching our children how to manipulate things and pass down our bitterness to the next generation?


To me these types of arguments, which you can hear BW making all day everyday, are prime examples of the way that BW's internal compasses are confused by "something is always wrong with you/it's always your fault" thinking.

Won't date the guy with a record and "issues"? Why can't you be patient and humble and "work with" your man? You'd prefer a cheating bastard who makes makes six figures over the dude who's had some bullsh*t thrown his way and made a few mistakes bur has a "good heart"?

You give the "brotha" with the "good heart" and the hard knock life a chance? Well, why didn't you expect him to beat the crap out of you? That must have been what you wanted, right?

No matter what choice we make, someone will have a problem with it, and we are always discouraged from developing our own instincts and then trusting them. That's why it is so important that we learn to recognize our own interests and look out for ourselves and each other. It's a hearbreaking reality to face, but no one else is going to do it.

pioneervalleywoman said...

Won't date the guy with a record and "issues"? Why can't you be patient and humble and "work with" your man?


You'd prefer a cheating bastard who makes makes six figures over the dude who's had some bullsh*t thrown his way and made a few mistakes but has a "good heart"?

My response: Why should a woman work with a guy who has issues? The purpose of being in a dating relationship is not to help a man work out his stuff. That is what social workers and therapists are for.

Why should any woman be with a man who will be a cheat, regardless of his salary?

It is as though these are a woman's only options, when there are plenty of men who:

earn good salaries, don't cheat, have goods hearts, and no issues to work out.

It's about finding a man of character and integrity, not a man with "stuff."

pioneervalleywoman said...

Aimee, some other thoughts.

You posted: No matter what choice we make, someone will have a problem with it, and we are always discouraged from developing our own instincts and then trusting them. That's why it is so important that we learn to recognize our own interests and look out for ourselves and each other. It's a hearbreaking reality to face, but no one else is going to do it.

My response: Let's face it, certain types of thinking within the black community inculcate low self esteem in black women.

Without question, women with low self esteem definitely have "their internal compasses confused," because they can't think for themselves, don't trust their own judgments, and think that believing they deserve the best is asking for too much. The community tells them, moreover, that to do all of the above is wrong and disloyal.

As women, their obligations are to their community, as defined men, which inevitably means protecting the interests of men. Rejecting black men who are not good for them means they are disloyal and selfish.

That is why blogs like yours are so important, Aimee, it's a place for us to talk about these issues. I post here because it is not "just about me". It's the reason why I teach in a university setting and work with lots of young women trying to make their way.

It's about women out there we will never even know, but who read your blog regularly, and who might find our insights valuable.

pioneervalleywoman said...

The young NYU fac brat story really touched me. I went to school there, and I knew faculty who lived in that faculty housing complex.

Here are some other ideas.

She might have been with him out of a sense of rebellion, perhaps, against her parents' values.

Or, as you suggested, she might have been with him because of a sense that a black woman should not judge black men who have "issues."

On the other hand, she could have been with him out of a sense that he embodied "authentic" blackness, an attitude which influences many middle class black youngsters today.

Some might play with thuggishness, ie., in how they dress, or speak on certain occasions, but others get too close to it in real life, in the form of the people they permit in their lives.

Pursuant to this perception, the traditional middle class values generations of earlier blacks strove to develop in themselves and inculcated in their children, is somehow seen as inauthentic and "white," as though black people throughout history and different cultures have not valued: personal responsibility, law-abiding behavior, education and upward mobility, and an interest in laying a foundation for the future.

The thuggish lifestyle is seen as "keeping it real," or as the legitimate coping mechanisms of oppressed black men suffering from racism, as part of an oppositional culture--some ties to radical black nationalism, an absolute rejection of whitey and his values. Criminality as the means of getting what they don't think they can get through authentic means, ie., law abiding behavior.

The scariest of all is that some young women see men like these as embodying authentic maleness.

Frightening.

roslynholcomb said...

"...because BW who date and marry interracially are constantly confronted with the question of whythey are not with a BM (see my prior post, “Questions and Answers.”) To simply answer honestly “because I met this non-BM and fell in love with him” is rarely satisfactory to questioners,"

First, why would you discuss your romantic choices with others in the first place? Unless we're talking about close relatives its none of their goddamned business why you chose the mate you did.

Why are you interested in 'satisfying' these questioners? They're idiots and not worthy of response, let alone satisfaction. Assuming that they're not feeding, clothing or sheltering you, who really gives a rat's ass what they think?

Free lesson: No matter what you say to the soul patrol they're not going to change their views. So why talk to them at all? Anyone who has the nerve to ask you why you're not with a black man really isn't worth even responding to. But if you have to, its been my experience that a very pithy 'because I want to be,' tends to shut them up more quickly than all the lengthy explanations in the world. And certainly some long drawn out conversation about black men totally defeats the purpose. This is not about black men, and talking about them only sidetracks the conversation and insults us all.

Anonymous said...

It is so funny to me that history has portrayed dark skinned people as the dummies. Um...ok so pigmentation has malevolent affects on cerebral functioning? My epidermis dictates my intellectual capacity? That is absolutely hilarious and it's sad that Asians and Whites have perpetrated should foolishness as truth for so long. Anywho...the double standard in the so-called black "community" is so trite. What's ok for them is prohibited for us? I get comments from black men and usually I ignore them, but catch me on a bad day and I've ripped a few of them new holes .