Whether it is about a same-sex, interracial or nonconforming relationship, as a rule, I tend not to involve myself in the question of whom other people choose to love, and it’s not because I have a self-righteous sense of egalitarian, progressive thinking. It’s mostly because I have one universal rule for other people’s masturbation, relationships and post-poop wiping:
You do you.
While I generally don’t give a damn with whom another human being chooses to have sex, I have lately found myself engaged in conversations about Kanye West, Donald Glover, Serena Williams, et al. They begin as debates on music, television or sports, but usually devolve to the same common denouement as almost every black-centric discussion: white people.
Most conversations about West lead to the Kardashian clan’s predilection for devouring and spitting out famous black men. When Williams announced her marriage to Alexis Ohanian, an assortment of black dudes took to social media to announce their butt-hurtedness, as if they had a chance to wife her. The celebration of Glover’s artistic brilliance comes with the reminder of his seemingly public fetish for Asian women, a perceived past denigration of black women, and the fact that his current girlfriend and the mother of his children is a woman of no color.
According to a common narrative, these stars cannot claim pro-blackness while choosing “other”; that truly loving black people excludes the possibility that they can choose to share their love with someone outside their race. It is regarded, by some, as an indication of self-hate or, at the very least, an oxymoron.
Although this bootleg psychological hypothesis is questionable, the more interesting part is the existence of the question itself. Why is the subject even a matter of discussion? What is the origin of the innate feeling shared by so many of us that prompts us to keep bringing up this topic?
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Maybe America did this.
Aside from the recent surge of a bro-tep philosophy that incorporates a disdain for black feminism, menstruation (yes, it is actually a thing) and women who believe they can do what they want with their vaginas, most people agree that black women are the most marginalized people on the planet. They exist at the intersection of worldwide patriarchy and the uniquely American brand of racism.
While I cannot pretend to fully understand the impact of sexism and how it affects women, I do understand racism. It is not just embedded in the white psyche but also manifests itself in the black mind.
When well-qualified black people are rejected for a job opportunity, overlooked for a promotion or (hypothetically) kicked out of Starbucks, it is impossible for us not to wonder if it is because of the color of our skin. Being black comes with a paranoia that makes us question everyone’s intent.
We have repeatedly seen our best and brightest black men choose white women over black women once they reach their apex. The College Dropout Kanye was with a black girl, but once global superstar-producer-musician-fashion designer Kanye got on, he left our asses for a white girl. The same holds true for Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Richard Pryor, Terrence Howard, etc.
At least part of the reason that these men are superstars is the support of their black audiences. It is certainly possible that these men may have found better-qualified candidates, but because we live in a country where white women are hailed as the standard of beauty and purity, it is impossible not to wonder why successful black stars routinely give white girls the promotion. It might very well be paranoia, but it is hard not to attribute at least some of it to the American belief that the best things in life are bleached.
And black men have the same thoughts.
To a statistically much lesser degree, successful black women—like Halle Berry, Tyra Banks, Maya Angelou, Kamala Harris, and both Venus and Serena—also marry or date outside their race. When some excuse this by pointing out black men who may have rejected or treated them badly in the past, not only does it reek of a double standard, but it is the same logic that white people often use to demonize black men. No one should be able to police a person’s individual preferences or dictate how another person feels, but black men can’t help wondering if they are being kicked out of the metaphorical Starbucks because of the actions of another black dude.
But again, in spite of Ben Affleck’s nanny-bedding, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s maid-screwing, Donald Trump’s pussy-grabbing and white college boys’ date-raping, America would have us believe that black men only want big-booty caricatures of black women who can offer sexual pleasure on their way to “da club,” while white men are sprinkling rose petals at the feet of their forever loves.
The most disheartening part of all of this is the overwhelmingly common narrative that love is a universal common denominator that transcends race. That may very well be true. But why is it that whenever anything or anyone “transcends race,” it manifests itself in whiteness?
Whether it is used to describe love or celebrity, “transcending race” has become a synonym for embracing whiteness. No person, art form or emotion ever transcends race without snatching a piece of itself from black people and handing itself over to the white masses. Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and hip-hop all transcended race. The phrase, in and of itself, insinuates that blackness is something to overcome. The only race that ever needs transcending is the black race. Whiteness does not require transcendence.
This narrative can be explained by the eye test. According to Pew Research, 18 percent of black people marry someone of another race. If you assumed that you were going to a mostly black party with 100 people in attendance, you’d notice the 18 white people and say, “There sure were a lot of white folks there.”
Black men overwhelmingly choose black women, and black women overwhelmingly choose black men. The only black president is married to a black woman. LeBron James, the greatest basketball player on the planet, is married to a black woman.
The richest black woman in America (Oprah Winfrey) has a black man for a partner. The most acclaimed black actor (Denzel Washington), actress (Viola Davis), male director (you can choose between Spike Lee, John Singleton and Ryan Coogler), singer (Beyoncé) and rapper (Jay-Z), and every married black NFL quarterback, are all with black partners.
Even though the question might be as interesting as it is ubiquitous, it negates the fact that blackness is limited only by our perception of it. The existence of the entire discussion is indicative of the fact that blackness is often defined—by ourselves and others—in relationship to whiteness.
There can be no definitive answer to the question because each black person is an individual whose attractions, romances and ultimate love are shaped by his or her own personal experiences as a black person in America.
But perhaps we should all stop giving a damn.