This week [March 18-22, 2013] JETmag.com is giving away copies of Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community. The new anthology contains personal stories from celebrities and major public figures on love, relationships and marriage in the Black community. Click here for a chance to win a free copy and read below for a brief excerpt.
He was tall—important for a lot of women, but for one who stands 5’9”, crucial—and even in her five-inch heels, he towered over her. Fine, and athletic; he plays pickup ball. Ooh wee—fun-neeee! He had them cracking up all night! And generous too; he didn’t let anyone else pay for one round, plus he left a NICE tip. Gentlemanly, courteous, chivalrous. And more than one sister noted how cute he was, if we’re being honest. The right age, the right kind of job, and he was definitely trying to holla. Everything was perfect!
Except he wasn’t Black.
“I don’t get jiggy with the swirl,” my soror said, and with that, the subject was closed.
Chocolate and vanilla, swirled in the dating world. I’ve often wondered why the swirl I do see seems so lopsided. The swirling I notice is Black and White and the former is almost invariably male. For the longest time, I thought White men simply didn’t ask out Black women, for the most part—and that still seems to be a large part of it. But something else is at play here.
Black women, for the most part, don’t want to get jiggy with the swirl.
Let’s be honest. For some Black men—not all—the White woman is still a chest-thumping, high-water mark of achievement: “I got that.” Uncle Ruckus will tell you that White women are beautiful with their thin lips, long necks and the smell of an angel’s burp. Say what you will about the ragged remnants of slavery; Massa’s insistence on protecting the precious Missus from even the glance of a studly fieldhand left as much of a legacy, I believe, as the N-word. Emmett Till was brutalized because he supposedly whistled at a White woman across the street. So today, these men will show YOU. They’ll get in Missus’ quite-willing knickers, and they’ll dare you to say a word. They’ll strut proudly in front of the crowd with an adoring Caucasian of variable attractiveness who may have her own legacy-inspired, rebellious reasons for wanting to explore the dark stud herself. People often want what they’re told they shouldn’t have, yes?
There are plenty of the highest-profile Black men who are with Black women, and seemingly happy about it. Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Boris Kodjoe, Grant Hill… Photos of them with their wives are likely to draw fond sighs from Black women along with the Twitter-inspired hashtag, “#BlackLove.”
Too, there are high-profile White men happily embracing Black spouses: Robert De Niro, Robin Thicke, David Bowie—not to mention whoever’s courting Halle Berry for her hand. It’s not as if ALL Black women say, “No” to dating interracially. But the same history that put Massa’s and Missus’ daughter Missy on an end-all be-all pedestal also left scars of a different sort for Black women. Objectified and victimized by Massa as his belly warmer-on-demand, the Black woman’s sexuality was taken from her, brutally, in those days as the Black man stood helplessly, painfully by, lest he lose his life trying to defend her honor. Theoretically, slavery’s remnants then resulted in generations of Black men who either work to protect Black women’s honor–or those who reach for Missy, the forbidden fruit.
I was stunned the first time I heard a Black woman say she could never date a White man because of how her ancestor might have been raped during slavery. Too, there was shock the first time a Black man told me—angrily!—he would be appalled at a Black woman dating a White man, for the same reason. A historic grudge, made modern.
I have to wonder why some men whose Blackness seems so very part of, so essential to, so inescapable from, what they achieve and the trendsetting marks they make upon this color-saturated world—Sammy Davis, Jr., Quincy Jones, Cornel West, Tiger Woods, Julian Bond, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte—find themselves in relationships with White women. Whether it’s because of what they talk about or what barriers they broke, the fact that they are embraced with so much Black pride that it’s like wearing a mantle of royalty then seems to carry a question mark with it that says, “Huh?!” when their White spouses are revealed.
Then I have to wonder why I even give a second thought to trying to look from the outside in at somebody else’s relationships. Oh, I’m embarrassed to be caught on that judge’s bench. Truth be told, in theory, I am in favor of interracial relationships. Yes. I’m absolutely sick of the little box you’re supposed to check on this or that form that identifies your race–yet at the same time I embrace the One-Drop Rule because I think it shows how stupid its architects were.
I embrace the One-Drop Rule, however and by the way, because I think putting the “Black” label on someone who “looks” White shows how inane the social construct of race can be to begin with. I chuckle at the White coworkers who believe our colleague is White when everyone who’s Black in the office thinks she’s passing. I think only race mixing for a generation or two or three will make everyone so hard to genetically identify that asking anyone to check a little box to identify your race and ethnicity will become as stupid itself as the One-Drop Rule. Yet while I’m all rah-rah for race mixing, I still give a suspicious side-eye when I see a fine Black man with a “Becky” on his arm. Is he one of those guys who thinks Black women are too loud/angry/nappy-headed/independent/unambitious/not good enough? Is this chick some sort of “prize” to him, or did they fall in love without regard to color?
“Cuba Gooding, Jr.,” I nod, oh-so-knowingly. “That’s an example of an interracial marriage that you know was based on love. I mean, they fell in love in high school! Not after he got rich and famous–like that basketball player or that singer dude or that wide receiver!”
In the mid-2000s, there was a statistic that said 73% of Black/White interracial relationships involve Black men with White women. Too, the newest Census data of 2010 found that Black men are nearly three times as likely to marry outside the race than are Black women—24%-9%. Interracial marriage is at an all-time high in the United States, says the Census—every one in 12 is a mixed marriage. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 86% of Americans approve of interracial relationships. So swirl jigginess is growing in acceptance and actuality, but Black women seem hesitant.
The hesitation may be as basic as the idea of “#BlackLove,”and modeling our families after what we’ve seen in previous generations; it may be the desire to be with someone who relates to a shared ancestry and who can discuss Driving While Black because he “gets it.” And there are many Black men who feel the same way.
Let me be clear: I understand that je ne sais quoi about Black men that makes women swoon. Not sure if it’s something in the DNA or the pheromones, but there is an innate pull that is often felt in what seems the fiber of one’s being when THAT Black man comes near. Don’t make me try to analyze why the blue-eyed soul types or the silent, strong types, the ones who just WALK like they just have that som’n som’n, are the White men who make me swoon. It’s clear that that indefinable quality, that unspoken gasconade, may be seemingly inherent in the brothers, yet it is not relegated solely to Black men. So the swirling shouldn’t be dominated by them, either.
Let’s get jiggy with it, sisters.
Veronica Waters is a news anchor and reporter for Cox Media Group in Atlanta, on News/Talk WSB, KISS 104, and B98.5 FM. An alumna of Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University, in 2007 the RTNDA honored her series on “Snaring Internet Predators” with an Edward R. Murrow regional award for investigative reporting. She is a dues-paying, nine-white-pearl wearing member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.