Why Do Italian Men Love Black Women?

Race Manners: This seems to be a real thing. But if you enjoy the attention, you don't have to explain it to anyone.

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

(The Root) —

“I went to Italy, where Italian men love black women. My male friends here in the U.S. seem to think I’m exaggerating this when I bring it up, or act offended when I rave about the great time I had there and how much I enjoyed the unusual amount of attention and praise (yeah, I’ll admit it!). How do I explain to them that it’s not an attack on U.S. men — it’s just true? Also, what is going on over there, and how can we get American men in the same frame of mind?” –Into Italy 

Well, when it comes to Italian men, black women and “What is going on over there?” you’re not the first one to notice something. Not even close. It took about four seconds for me to confirm that, as I did some preliminary poking around in response to your question.

In addition to the (possibly legitimate? I don’t know, it looks a little sketchy) “Black Women Love Italian Men” blog, an initial search revealed a good-size handful of inquiring minds asking the non-experts at Yahoo questions similar to yours. There, at Ask.com and on plenty of other forums, the Internet provided some very anecdotal and unofficial validations and explanations for what you experienced. Here’s a taste:

* “There is this stereotype that black women are prostitutes or something like that. Anyway, just ignore that. Have fun!” 

* “I’m a mixed race woman married to an Italian, living in Northern Italy, and I can tell you your skin colour does not matter to them.”

* “Italian have a thing for sisters, and that’s a fact.”

* “If you are wondering whether or not if Italian men really do love black women, the answer is, of course we do!”

Satisfied? Me, neither. And I thought your question was an interesting one that required a more authoritative take, especially because given recent headlines, the answer to “Why do Italian men love black women so much” very clearly isn’t “Because all black people are warmly embraced by all Italians.”

Quite the opposite. The country has had more than its fair share of bigotry and hate-fueled incidents over the past few months. Think bananas thrown at Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black government minister (prompting the Guardian to ask “Why Is Italy Still So Racist?”); hateful taunts against black soccer players that are practically as common as goals at games in the country; and, most recently, an Italian gymnast’s racist remarks after she lost to black U.S. gymnast Simone Biles.

That you’re asking the question back in the states is also relevant in light of the old racism- and colorism-fueled narrative about black women getting shunned in the dating department. This was most recently brought to our attention by this guy who announced that he would never date a black woman. It was a reminder of some of the depressing data about how race plays out in online dating and the real-life attitudes that likely reflects.

So I did some real research. Why, in Italy, of all places in the world, do we keep hearing that black women are not only welcomed romantically but also seemingly put on some sort of a pedestal?

Bad news: I still have no idea.

Admittedly, I started writing this response assuming that I’d end up speaking to someone who had authored a book on this phenomenon or studied interracial relationships across the world, or at least had some well thought-out theory about Italy’s specific culture and history (maybe something to do with Ethiopia?). I was expecting something that could explain why what appears to be widespread bigotry didn’t touch black women in this area (or, maybe it did, but just manifested in some type of hypersexualization way).