Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Black woman seeks white man for promotion of marriage among her race

Yes, I know the title of this post sounds absurd doesn't it but that's precisely what a black male author is suggesting in a recently published article in the Wall Street Journal entitled An interracial fix for black marriage. It was forwarded to me by a friend who happens to be black and also happens to be married to a white man. She and I have had this discussion about black women dating outside their race a number of times in particular following advice from her older African-American aunt who pronounced to us, then single black women in our late 20s that when it comes to most black men "they either gay or they in jail".

Now I agree with the core argument made by author, i.e. 'black women should not just limit themselves to black men' but unlike the author I don't believe this will in some way promote marriage within the black community, it's simply put - a numbers game. There are more 'available' black women than there are black men so unless you're willing to share....there just wont be enough to go around. I confess I've never been great at maths but it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Admittedly I haven't always held this view but as I've gotten older and I'd like to think wiser, I changed my tack regarding the dating game in part because I realised that relationships really do not have to be that complicated. I know a number of couples who on paper would seem incompatible because of their different cultural backgrounds but in reality end up having more in common with each other than with their so-called ideal match. Also what makes couples click is far less tangible than a country, ethnicity or a language; if it were simply about finding someone from the same culture as you surely there would be fewer divorces within specific communities. We could all marry the son of our parents' friends and be done with - same educational background, same cultural values etc etc....but ofcourse marriage isn't science. This is where again I disagree with the article's suggestion that black women would do better marrying someone who is as educated and as accomplished as them; in my humble opinion two high powered professionals do not a long-lasting and happy marriage guarantee ....but let's leave that for another discussion.

Back to the whole lack of eligible black men debate that we've heard all too often, It's important to also put this article into context, the statistics cited by the author are particular to the USA though I would concede that they are no doubt similar to those in the UK, however in Africa and I suspect the Caribbean, a successful and eligible black man is far from becoming an endangered species. In countries where black people are not a minority, the question of finding successful black men rarely arises because all the lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, politicians are black and I would dare to add, they outnumber the women. So it is a given that if you're educated, you will find a black man who is as, if not more educated than you. Granted if you live in the UK or the USA, this fact doesn't really help you much which is why I agree that as successful black women we should think outside the box but not only to date men from other races but to also date men from other walks of life. Personally I don't see why Love should come with a degree or a six figure salary and I'm sure we can all attest to knowing high-powered couples who look fantastic on paper but are as miserable as hell in real life. The values we should be promoting are mutual respect and love not his and hers mercs and sizeable investment portfolios.

All this being said, I have to add that I do sympathise with black women who find it hard to date outside their race because I think sometimes it's as simple as who you find physically attractive and many simply feel they are not attracted to white men. However I still think we should be careful of convincing ourselves of such absolutes because even though we think we're not attracted to the white men we see everyday, how many of us will turn down an offer from George Clooney or Robin Thicke or Matthew McConaughey or the gorgeous Jason Lewis? My theory is, if we can drool at the fine white men on our screens then surely that means we don't find all white men unattractive.

Last night I watched Something New with Sanaa Lathan who stars opposite some fine white man whose name I forget, and thought it dealt with some interesting questions regarding interracial relationships. In one scene Sanaa Lathan's character complains to her white boyfriend (the hot one) about not being able to talk to him about the pressures she faces as a black woman in a professional environment on a daily basis. She makes reference to the African-American expression 'black tax' which refers to black people having to work twice as hard in order to achieve the same thing as their white counterpart. Something which her boyfriend understandably had never heard of. Although glossed over, for me this raised an interesting issue that could have been further explored, i.e. how do our partners from different cultures deal with similar problems that are real for us but that they will never experience. But while issues of racism and discrimination are real for a number of people from minority groups, it need not be our daily mantra. Yes it may happen, and yes we will find ways to deal with it. If our partner, be he white, black or green is compassionate enough, he will lend an ear while we rant about the boss who double-checked our work simply because...or was quick to point out how 'well' we speak as though this were not expected. I also think that a lack of empathy can happen even within our own race. I have friends who are often frustrated with their husbands (from the same race) because they feel they just need someone to listen while they complain about discrimination issues at work or the supermarket or the kids' school. Yet for many of these men, every problem has to have a solution, this business of just talking for the sake of it, airing your grievances just doesn't make sense to them. As a result they are no more sympathetic to stories of perceived or real discrimination that we just want to 'discuss', than they would be if they were white.

So Mr. Ralph Richard Banks while I agree with your core proposition, i.e. black women please be open to dating outside your race, I don't agree it should be done for the 'Greater Good' unless ofcourse that greater good is You + A loving partner + A happy life.


Momma Iz said...

Nice blog Hibiscus. I agree that black women should be more open-minded about their dating options. Black, white, Asian etc... I have friends on both ends of this debate - some who swear they'll NEVER date outside their race & would rather wait around for Mr Right in he form of someone closer to their skin color & a couple who married outside their race & swear they'd NEVER EVER date black men again. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I was a little offended by both extremes. I believe just being open to other options (& in the process not canceling out or frowning upon your own race) is the way to go. You'd be surprised what form 'Mr. Right' comes in.

Momma Iz said...

.... On the other hand... I think it's wiser to date/ marry someone whose education background is a little closer to what you've achieved. Not right to generalize but sometimes some men don't take too well to their spouses being better educated or having a more successful career. Maybe this is an extreme comparison but would a LSE graduate date a high school dropout selling pancakes in a kiosk? For starters they wouldn't be in the same social circles. But, I'm thinking of places like Africa where we tend to be 'snobs' about stuff lik that. I wonder if the same extreme would apply say in the US? A YALE graduate dating the cute guy working at McDonalds? mmmph!?

The Hibiscus Notes said...

Yes I know but what about the Yale Graduate dating the guy who works in a bar to make ends meet but is a photographer. There's nothing stupid about him but he's just chosen not to take the corporate route. As my late great grandmother used to say 'Book learning is not sense'. There are a number of 'social-underachievers' who are far smarter and have a lot more to say for themselves than the ones society considers Superachievers.

Twinmama - Cairo said...

As always, on-point observations Hibiscus Notes!!

My 2cents: Indeed marriage is not a science and its longevity/success begs understanding - what makes it work? what causes the breakdown? As you say sometimes the most compatible on paper don't/can't make it. Yet the most improbable seem to (explain Mel Gibson with his 7-kid forever Catholic marriage then David Bowie & Iman). I've had to do some researching on this point myself and conclude that an inexplicable & intangible connection exists that lents the union that cliched 'whole is greater than the sum of the parts' thus some obvious bonds don't work whilst the not-so-obvious do.

There MUST be a meeting of minds intellectually with or without a pegging to formal higher education/profession. Book sense DOES NOT EQUAL sense oh! Yet no relationship can survive the inability to communicate at the same/similar level of intelligence. How else to have that awesome mind-blowing conversation when you're too tired for sex?! :)

Now about dating outside of your race: I've dated a man from each of the 5 continents and see nothing wrong with marrying anyone from anywhere if that 'connection' is there!! For those who exclude potential mates based on their race, it's their loss as IMO being with an 'other' does not reduce who you are, rather it adds to the richness of the experience of this existence!

ME - I've ALWAYS been a sucker for that mind-blowing conversation and I don't need my eyes for that so skin colour can't matter!!

Kinna Reads said...

I like this post and your analysis of this thorny issue. I admit that I'm far from understanding what makes some relationships work and some fail. Certainly, the insistence on dating only from one's own race has to with comfort zones. Which may in the end not be all that comfortable. There is always a power dynamic at play in relationships. Who is educated more/who earns more etc. Seems some men are not comfortable with dating a woman who earns more etc. We need to be more open to all sorts of things. But that is very difficult when most people have not been raised to be open. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit more fortunate because I was brought up around self actualizing empowered African women. Most black men are not able to deal with strong black women. On the other side, if black women have such a keen fixation on having chocolate children, then their best hope would be to learn more about the African male, instead of buying into the stereo type about the backwardness of the African male!""

The Hibiscus Notes said... - an Essence article I read a few years ago and loved - still so true today