(The Root) —
“I’m an African-American woman with dark skin; short, natural hair; and a curvy body — all things I love about myself. I also love my boyfriend, who is Caucasian, and even better, he loves all these things about me. Not to attack my black brothers, but I’ve gotten more positive comments about my appearance from him than from black men in my 31 years on this lovely earth.
“It’s great, except numerous friends have suggested or outright said that he fetishizes black women, and it’s making me question my own relationship. I feel that we have a lot in common as individuals and he sincerely loves me. How do I respond to them and explain this to myself so I don’t feel self-conscious about my great relationship?” –Fretting About Fetishism
Let’s give your friends the benefit of the doubt and believe that their apprehension about your relationship is sincere, rather than inspired by a concern-trolling appetite for gossip or, worse, plain, old-fashioned jealousy.
After all, I’m sure you’ve thought about what could explain the attempted interracial intervention that’s happening. The views of the Volunteer Fetish Police are likely informed by much more than I could even begin to capture here about the history of black-white female-male relationships (think slavery and rape, for starters) and the residual sexual objectification of black women’s bodies that continues, perpetuated by people of all races and both genders.
So where you see yourself and your boyfriend as the perfect image of a happy couple, it’s possible that they’re superimposing Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Where you feel the adoring gaze of your significant other, maybe they’re seeing that all wrapped up with Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman being gawked at in 19th-century Europe.
These concerns about black women being sexualized and objectified, in particular from the perspective of white men, aren’t all tucked away in ancient history, either. I just stumbled upon a SoulBounce piece from a few years ago demanding, “Someone please explain why Justin Timberlake continually gets a pass to fetishize and exploit the image of Black women. Right now.” The author lamented, “[A]fter watching him aggressively pulling on a chain wrapped around Ciara’s neck only to later use her bending body as a leaning post in her new video for ‘Love Sex Magic,’ it’s getting ludicrously difficult to understand.” More recently I’ve asked why some white men are weirdly obsessed with Michelle Obama’s butt. (Seriously, what was that all about?)