Monday, December 21, 2009

A white prince isn't always the right prince

Okay, after this post I'm on two-week hiatus...for real...
This weekend, Pia of Adios Barbie and Love Isn't Enough sent me a link to Allison Samuels' latest column at Newsweek, where she applauds Princess Tiana of Disney's latest "The Princess and the Frog" for choosing a non-black prince. Now, let me say upfront that I may have too much Samuels-related baggage to properly evaluate the writer's columns. I've been giving her writing the side-eye since Zaharagate. But something in the way she implies that the answers to black women's romantic challenges can be found in the arms of the closest non-black man bothers me.

Since the 1960s, marriages between black men and white women have been steadily increasing—14 percent of all black men are now married outside the race. Yet only 4 percent of black women do the same. Why? Black women, for better or worse, have always seemed to maintain a loyalty to the ideal of the black family unit. That's understandable, even noble, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense when so many black men don't feel the same way. Combined with the disturbing number of black men in prison, that means 47 percent of all African-American women today never marry. With those numbers, I say it's time for many black women to start thinking, and acting, like Tiana. Read more...

Samuels and I seem to agree on one thing: that black women should not let the color of a potential suitor's skin get in the way of making a meaningful romantic connection. Most of the important criteria for a successful relationship have little relation to race. You cannot tell whether a potential partner will be supportive, loving, reliable or honest, based on the amount of melanin in his skin. You cannot tell whether a suitor will make you laugh or challenge your thinking or whether he shares your values or dreams for the future. You cannot tell whether he is smart--someone with whom you can stay up all night talking politics or art or bad "B" movies. You cannot tell whether he will fit in with your family and friends. You cannot tell whether he will be an attentive and inventive lover. Yes, race, class, nationality and other factors influence many of the things mentioned above. But ultimately, whether a love connection turns into a long and meaningful partnership comes down to factors beneath the skin.

The answer for black women--ALL women--doesn't lie in seeing non-black men as romantic saviors. Black men are not deficient. White, Asian, Latino and Native American men are not perfect. The answer for a black woman--one who wants to enter into a heterosexual marriages or long-term relationship--is to value herself and to hold out for a man who values her as well. You won't know Prince Charming by the whiteness (or blackness) of his skin, but by whether or not he fits the criteria above for you and you for him.

One last note: I have not yet seen "The Princess and the Frog," but my understanding is that Prince Naveen's ethnicity is left to the imagination. Most viewers have read the details of the movie to determine that he is not black, at least not in the way we have come to define "black" today. But given the complicated history of race in New Orleans, where the film is set, (and indeed America, period) should people rush to assume that a light-brown skinned, straight-haired, French-speaking man does not have African ancestry? And what does it say that people are judging Naveen as not black enough, based mostly on his appearance? Perhaps someone who has seen the film can enlighten...

Taking a holiday break: Back on Jan. 6

Okay, regular readers of What Tami Said may have noticed that posting has been spotty of late. I'm in the midst of holiday hubbub at home and lots and lots and lots of important stuff at work. So, rather than wallow in a case of "the guilts," as I have been for the last few weeks, because I feel I should be posting daily, I'm going to take a short break from blogging until after Jan. 1.

I'll be back Jan. 6 all refreshed and ready to dig into issues of race, feminism, pop culture, politics and more.

Enjoy the final days of 2009!


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