As I sat across the table from a friend of mine in the Toronto Eaton Centre food court, devouring my non-toonie Tuesday KFC three piece meal, I blurted out, “I don’t think I’m a fan of interracial relationships where it’s black men and white women.” Looking quite confused, he followed my seemingly uncensored and quite problematic statement with a simple, “Why?”
“Why?” I thought. And yet again, I found myself plunged into conversation about interracial relationships… b ut, this time, with a spin. I was not going to discuss black men, nor white women. They have been discussed enough. “What about black women?” I counter-questioned. “Do we not matter? Do we not exist?”
Knowing exactly what he was going to say, he uttered, “Yes, you do. Why don’t you just date outside of your race too?”
His response set the tone for exactly where I wanted this conversation to go: a discussion of black women and non-black men in relation to that of black men dating white or non-black women.
When discussing heterosexual interracial relationships where the dynamic is black men and white or non-black women, several fail to see how this makes the black woman invisible. But also – the overarching issue at hand, which is the aversion both black and non-black men feel towards black women.
But in order to understand this concept in its entirety, one must see how relationships – and our construction of relationships – within this patriarchal society are highly gendered.
The act of sexual or relationship courting is an inherently male act. In other words, man seeks woman, and it is very rare that this linearly masculine dynamic is reversed. Having yet to demolish the patriarchy, what may seem like a very “traditional” method of courting is still occurring with great frequency. Further, it is often the approach expected in heterosexual dating or sexual relationships by both the male and female parties.
Thus, to make claims that black women should simply date outside of their race like black men is naive and lacks an understanding of the gendered implications of courtship and dating relationships. Black women do not have the same gendered privilege within dating as black men do. We are not able to simply go outside and “pick up” a non-black male in the same ways that black men can, non-black women. It does not work like that.
Furthermore, this claim is highly problematic because it puts the onus entirely on black women to seek other dating options without interrogating the real issue at hand: the (seemingly universal) aversion to black women shared by both black men and non-black men alike.
Rather than asserting that black women should go out and find non-black male partners, I instead ask you to take a critical approach to this topic. That is, not simply just that black women are not dating outside of their race (and, thus not getting married to the same numbers as their white female counterparts), but that men are not dating or seeking to date, court, or marry black women – ultimately resulting in the invisibility of the black woman.
John Mayer, in a recent interview with Playboy Magazine, shares this sentiment all too well. When asked, “Do black women throw themselves at you?” He replied, “I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist.” Not stopping there, this sentiment hit a little closer to home when a commenter on my article, “Shawty wanna lick me like a lollipop” (Commentary, November 3), stated “I do not find black women attractive. I am not at all racist. It’s just that I am not sexually attracted to black women…”
These statements are prime examples of the aversion shared by men of the varying racial spectrum towards black women. Often aesthetically depicted as unattractive (or not depicted at all), constructed as un-wife-able and viewed as non-suitable dating or sexual partners (i.e. increasingly saturated images of black teenage pregnancy and young black mothers, welfare and poverty-stricken black women, et cetera), black women, while historically hypersexualised and hypervisibled, are dualistically rendered hyperinvisible.
The masculine-specific gendered implications of dating, the aversion expressed by men of all racial backgrounds towards black women and the growing pandemic of unmarried black women in our current society all speak to this hyperinvisibility. Black women are not seen. We are not seen as partners. We are not seen as aesthetically worthy beings of courtship. We are not seen as potential lovers.
Thus, until this aversion is critically analyzed as one of socialized and learned behaviour, rather than one of coded, individualized personal preference, under white supremacist, heteronormative patriarchy, interracial relationships will continue to remain an all-too-haunting visual reminder of the broader social structures, processes, and attitudes in which black women are structurally, socially, and systemically denigrated as beings unworthy of heterosexual partnership, relationship and courtship.
Tyrone Speaks is a column written by Christiana Collison on the subject of black feminism. It appears every other Wednesday in commentary. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.