You Can't Make Your Son Date Black Women

Race Manners: When's the last time anyone fell in love out of a sense of obligation? Here's what you can do instead.

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(The Root) --

"I just read your ' "Mixed Kids Are the Cutest" Isn't Cute' column, and I thought your comments on the things that are said to and about biracial children were very good. But let's take it a step further. What about the 'other' little girl? The 'pure' (for want of another word) black little girl who grew up hearing the same comments you heard about how lighter skin was better? That was me.

"It is one of the reasons that I constantly encourage my son, who has two black parents, to date black women. I am not a racist, but I tell my son that if he chooses a black mate, he is reinforcing to another black little girl that black is beautiful.

"So many people believe that this attitude is racist. But I believe I can promote black dating for my son as long as he is aware that people of another color are not inferior. So the question is this: Can I, as a black mother, encourage my son to date only black women and let him know that is my expectation?" 

Well, you can encourage, promote and expect that your son will date black women all you want. But I think that approach will set up both of you for failure.

That's not meant to dismiss the pain and frustration that fuel your question. When it comes to the ways in which black women's beauty and desirability have historically been devalued, I get it. You get it. No need to rewrite the book on that here. So it's understandable that you would assign a lot of social, political and personal weight to the racial side of your son's (or any black man's) romantic choices.

You're not alone. Your stance echoes the "little wince" Jill Scott was slammed for admitting that she felt in the face of interracial relationships. It reflects the widely held sentiment that made "You're telling me you're leaving me for a white woman?" extra dramatic way back in Waiting to Exhale.

It taps into the emotion behind the idea that President Obama's "selection of a black wife, particularly a dark-skinned one," mattered, and even that things might not have gone as well in 2008 had he made a different choice. The tension between heavy (and pretty messed-up) historical stuff and individual choices gives interracial dating a permanent VIP spot on the list of evergreen hot black topics.

You're not the first mom to worry about this, either. "This is a situation that I hear about all of the time," says Aimee Meredith Cox, a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of African-American studies at Fordham University. "Black mothers wrestle with the tension between wanting to instill racial pride and a love and appreciation of the diverse beauty of blackness with wanting to honor the individual choices their children make around their social and romantic relationships." 

So when I suggest that you drop the pressure, I'm not doing a love-is-colorblind-postracial-Pollyanna thing here. I just don't think it's wise to attempt to soothe that infamous "wince" by micromanaging your son's dating choices.