Monday, March 29, 2010

Social capital and denying the pain of black women

Neo-soul singer and actress Jill Scott is taking some undeserved heat (IMHO) for her opinion piece on interracial marriage that appears in the current issue of Essence. Now, let me state for the record. I have NO PROBLEM with interracial relationships. We would all do better to evaluate people based on our shared values and interests rather than skin color. Back in my single days, I was an equal opportunity dater. Despite arguments to the contrary, I'm not so sure Jill Scott is opposed to interracial dating either.

In this month's Essence, Scott writes an opinion piece attempting to explain the outrage expressed by some Essence readers when Reggie Bush appeared on the magazine's cover. At the time, some black women were offended that Bush, who is dating a white woman (Kim Kardashian), would be lauded on the cover of a magazine for black women. While I don't agree with this sentiment, I understand where it is coming from. And so does Scott. She writes about "wincing" when a new friend--an accomplished black man--revealed that he is married to a white woman:
Was I jealous? Did the reality of his relationship somehow diminish his soul's credibility? The answer is not simple. One could easily dispel the wince as racist or separatist, but that's not how I was brought up. I was reared in a Jehovah's Witness household. I was taught that every man should be judged by his deeds and not his color, and I firmly stand where my grandmother left me. African people worldwide are known to be welcoming and open-minded. We share our culture sometimes to our own peril and most of us love the very notion of love. My position is that for women of color, this very common "wince" has solely to do with the African story in America.

When our people were enslaved, "Massa" placed his Caucasian woman on a pedestal. She was spoiled, revered and angelic, while the Black slave woman was overworked, beaten, raped and farmed out like cattle to be mated. She was nothing and neither was our Black man. As slavery died for the greater good of America, and the movement for equality sputtered to life, the White woman was on the cover of every American magazine. She was the dazzling jewel on every movie screen, the glory of every commercial and television show. She was unequivocally the standard of beauty for this country, firmly unattainable to anyone not of her race. We daughters of the dust were seen as ugly, nappy mammies, good for day work and unwanted children, while our men were thought to be thieving, sex-hungry animals with limited brain capacity. Read more...
Yes, the days of slavery are long past, but this view of black women as less desirable, less beautiful, less feminine and less valuable than white women persists. It is illustrated by the women who are featured on mainstream magazine covers...and those who are not (Vanity Fair anyone?). It is confirmed by the missing and exploited women that are covered 24/7 on cable news...and those who are not. It is underscored by statistics that reveal who is likely to marry...and who is not.

Black men are not immune to the message that black women are "less than." Black women know this. We know this because we live it.

- We watch brothers fetishize light skin; long, straight hair and keen features. For most, the "preference" is subconscious, but some (Kanye, I'm looking at you) have no shame about saying it out loud. (I once dated a black man who admitted that he and his friends preferred women who looked like they were "mixed with something (other than black)." Apparently, my eyes, which he thought "looked kind of Asian" made me acceptable. Needless to say, that relationship ended with a quickness.)

- We see how First Lady Michelle Obama, an attractive, accomplished, articulate and conventionally feminine woman, has been recast as an angry, animalistic, and masculine harpy.

- We watch violence and sexual degradation against black women by black men go unacknowledged in our community. (R. Kelly....NAACP Image Award...for real?)

- We read the "what's wrong with black women" books and articles, often written by black men. (Hello...Steve Harvey.) Or, we watch Tyler Perry movies to learn where being educated, professional successful and self-sufficient gets you. (Hint: According to Perry, alone and unwanted.)

- Speaking of Tyler Perry...He and Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and Keenan Thompson are sure doing their part to keep the fat, black, sassy, masculine, aggressive black woman trope in play.

- We hear what brothers say when we aren't around. I shook my head at the scene in Chris Rock's "Good Hair" that showed a bunch of black men in a barber shop holding forth on the awesomeness of dating a non-black woman with straight, silky tresses.

The scene made me recall a white floor mate in college who exclusively dated black men. I recall how she shared that some of her paramours, in complimenting her, could not help but denigrate black women: We are too mouthy. Our butts are too big. Our features unfeminine. These black men repeated the most ugly stereotypes about black women--women like their own mothers. Yes, my acquaintance could have been feeding her own insecurity, but the dating situation on campus seemed to confirm her stories. It was not uncommon at local clubs to see tables of black women sitting idle, nursing their drinks, while men jockeyed for the white co-eds.

I'm not sure that the dating experience for black women in mixed environments has improved in the nearly 20 years since I graduated college. My stepson reports that the black girls at his majority white school "don't really date."

Now, I've never been one to spend time mourning over someone who doesn't want me.
In any case, I am happily married and who dates whom represents no loss for me. And I do think no one should begrudge love between two people. But I don't think that's what Jill Scott's "wince" is about. Nor is it about black supremacy or hatred of white women or a belief that the races shouldn't mix.

As she said, it has everything to do with the story of African-descended peoples in America. More specifically, it has to do with the history and present of black women in America. It has to do with being a body that is constantly demonized and marginalized, not just by the majority, but by your own people, the men who share your history and with whom you might find refuge. And though you cannot tell by looking why one person chose another person--whether that black guy over there picked his white girlfriend because they are uniquely suited, because love struck them like a thunderbolt or because society says women like her are the ideal or all of the above--the "wince" isn't about fact but feeling. It is about feeling confronted with the reality of your lack of social worth and the limitation of your own choices. (see Racialicious on how race bias effects online dating choices.) And that is painful.

I am not surprised that many non-black folks hearing about Scott's essay don't understand. We do not have the same history and we do not occupy the same space in the realm of heterosexual dating. The black woman's social situation has few parallels among other races, although Asian men have similar (low) capital. This is not the same as John Mayer talking about his "white supremacist dick." Through his comments, Mayer was upholding the sexual hierarchy that Jill Scott is lamenting. In other words, in a world of white supremacist male members, it can get pretty, fucking lonely for a sister.

Jill Scott did not say that interracial relationships are bad. In her essay, she attempts to explain what it feels like to be the recipient of hundreds of years of sexism and racism; hundreds of years of "less than" messages from within and without our communities.

We may, intellectually, believe in a love unbounded by the chains of race, but that doesn't stop the pain.
Our minds do understand that people of all races find genuine love in many places. We dig that the world is full of amazing options. But underneath, there is a bite, no matter the ointment, that has yet to stop burning. Some may find these thoughts to be hurtful. That is not my intent. I'm just sayin'.
Scott explains in more detail on CNN:


The New Black Woman said...

While I see where she's coming from and what she's getting at, I can't say I relate to her. I have never "winced" when I find out a black man is dating a white woman.

I find myself in the minority when I'm with my black female friends when they start lamenting the fact that a brother is married or dating a white woman.

I guess I've never thought of my destiny being tied to what black men do, say or who they choose to spend their lives with. And, quite honestly, I feel like black women who do this tend to find themselves holding back their potential whenever they take such decisions to a personal level.

Whom a random black man on the street chooses to dates has nothing to do with my life and my well being. My fate is not decided by who a black man bears children with.

David Browning said...

@The New Black Woman
I agree with The New Black Woman. I get turned down all the time when I ask girls to dance in salsa clubs because they see I'm not Latino - they take one look at me and say No thank you. But I think that reveals a closed-mindedness, an prejudicing personality. These Kanye-clones who think "straight tresses" are so important are not the men you want to be dating!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Tami: Thank you, as always, for breaking it down.

A_Gallivant said...

I read Jill's article and yours and while I may not wince or feel the bite as she suggests, I do understand her call to have a honest discussion about what may be calling to us subsconsciously when we date. I remember being told I was too dark to be attractive to boys when I was a kid, so there is some truth to her piece. It's so silly to dismiss her thoughtful piece as racist rather than engage her on the content. A worthwhile piece of reading.

By the way have you heard of this piece:

Tami said...

New Black Woman,

I don't disagree with you. And I don't think Scott does either. I think people have the idea that the "wince" Scott writes about means more than it really does. She did not say: I wince, then go home alone and lament my sorry position in the social hierarchy. Having an immediate visceral reaction does not mean that you don't move through that feeling. It is just an immediate feeling born of being marginalized.

Someone over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog at The Atlantic explained it well. Because of the history of racism in employment, many black people, upon losing a job to a white person, might wince at the thought that their race played a role in why they weren't chosen. Now, race may have had nothing to do with it, but one wouldn't be outrageous for letting the thought cross her mind, considering our racial history.

Milaxx said...

I understand the wince. I think what makes me more uncomfortable are when light skin and straight hair are perceived as more highly valued.
Fortunately my circle of friends is varied enough that I don't have give it more than a passing thought.

I do applaud Jill for voicing something that needs to be discussed. I think we are so afraid of offending that we shy away from discussing race.

roslynholcomb said...

I remember being at a Jill Scott concert years ago with my husband when she went on a rant about this subject. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking she seriously needed to get real.

If black women are being hurt by this, then I'm sure it is something that needs to be discussed, but I've always thought it was rather bizarre. Like The New Black Woman said, I've never felt that my destiny was tied to what black men do or don't do. I feel no ownership or interrelatedness to them so I don't see their choices as a rejection of me. I just don't understand how the choices of a complete stranger would have that type of effect on me. I'm eternally grateful that these feelings missed me.

As for being afraid of offending, I'm not sure if that's the issue. My strongest feeling when I hear black women express this sentiment is embarrassment for them. Why on earth are they concerned about the choices of men that don't want them? Further, why on earth would they expose that to others? Do they really think those people give a damn? Do they really think black men are going to hear them weeping and wailing and have some kind of epiphany? I'm thinking not so much. Black men are perfectly happy sexing the rainbow, frankly I'm amazed that black women haven't gotten a grip by now.

NOLA radfem said...


This may be my favorite piece out of everything of yours I have read. Actually, it is!

You broke this down in a way that I - a white woman - could really understand, could feel deep down. I can understand that visceral reaction some have. It makes perfect sense to me, all you said about black women's history in this country and the current (STILL...sigh) white beauty standard and the white privilege white women (still) enjoy.

And exploring this topic is, I believe, INTENSELY BRAVE. When we dig down into those visceral reactions we may have around race, some of what we find may not be pretty. Some of it is uncomfortable. Finding oneself "wincing" about certain race-related reactions can make us feel guilty. But as my favorite sociology professor / Academic V.P. for Diversity used to tell us, "When something (in analyzing or discussing race) is making you uncomfortable, that is a sure sign that you need to keep digging."

Well explained, even for the white privilege crowd (LOL). Beautifully written and moving. Thanks, as always, Tami.

P.S. I know I owe you a note. Thank you - big! It has been nuts.

P.S.S. Regarding white beauty standards - I got a bathing suit catalogue from Newport News the other day. The beginning of the catalogue, the bulk of it, has regular bathing suits of all types, worn by either white or at least rather light women. THEN, about 3/4 of the way through, there is the section on the body- correcting bathing suits - you know, hide big hips, cover a big butt, distract from a tummy that sticks out. AND EVERY SINGLE MODEL IN THAT SECTION IS A DARK-SKINNED BLACK WOMAN. WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN????? Never mind, I mean, I KNOW what it means...2010 - lots of white people losing their damn minds with rage because this president is black and catalogues still relegating black women to the "you're not skinny enough" part of the bathing suit book.

Post-racial -- are we there yet?

Neex said...

She doesn't feel that way in London? Wow, well she should try living here then, that reality has been ours for a long time also! So much so that it is much more accepted here. The issues still exist here, I've was once told by a black male friend that his friend (also black) actually said he didn't want black children that is why he was dating a non-black woman. I wasn't that shocked to hear this. I guess we 'wince' less because its become the norm and speaking on it is futile. I used to be more wiled up when I was in my teens/twenties but that is over 10 yrs ago now and I've moved on from being concerned with who people choose to date/marry or impregnate.

D'Ven said...

I understand what she is saying, as it is a more articulate version of what I'd tried to explain to others over the years.

While I occaisionally get the wince, it really didn't happen to me on a regular basis until I personally encountered a man who vocally expressed some of the stereotypical things some black men who date non-black women say. That a dark woman with short nappy hair was not attractive, although he was dark with nappy hair. Who argued for over a year that I had to be mixed with something because I'm caramel with wavy nappy hair, instead of just nappy hair. That his constant "preference" of women who look more like Michael Michele and Jennifer Lopez as opposed to browner women didn't mean that he didn't like black women. The wince gets especially pronounced when, out and about on the town minding your own business and looking to have a good time, you walk into a mixed establishment and feel overt hostility and avoidance from black men. That's what people don't understand. You can educate yourself to not judge other people, to not get upset about the choices of others, but guaranteed you will have random strangers reinforce the very negative ideas you were trying to avoid. And they will swear up and down that they play no part in your oppression.

Kjen said...

I don't think it was Jill's piece was racist/anti-interracial relationship.

However, personally, I found myself not denying her pain, but wondering what to do with it.

It seems as if I've read and heard these comments (I feel hurt/rejected by interracial couples) so many times before.

The "dialogue" will normally consist of a back and forth exchange of monologues about the author's individual pain, the historical racist legacy that maybe (probably) is driving their choice, love of your race although you date interracially, and the importance of individual choice.

And then fin. And still, there will be the pain. That's what I wish this dialogue would address or at least attempt to answer.

Tami said...


I think the solution lies not in discussing this issue, which (you're right) is discussed to death with little resolution, but actually DOING SOMETHING about the marginalization of black women and other women of color. That marginalization is really the root cause of the "wince."

roslynholcomb said...

Yeah, but doing something about the marginalization of black women requires undermining one of the central tenets of white supremacy/skin privilege ie the superior beauty of white women. We'll see that happen around the time Sarah Palin gets a triple digit IQ. That is, never.

Frankly all this navel-gazing benefits no one, because the solution is not in our hands and the ones who have control of the situation have no interest in altering it. People don't generally change things unless it's to their benefit. Black women need to get real and understand that dating is not an equal opportunity game, actually life isn't either. It would behoove them to grow up and start getting in where they fit in.

I do wonder though as to Scott's obsession with this issue. Is it possible that she's been benefitting from light skin privilege herself only to suddenly have the realization that these days being a 'redbone' isn't good enough to help her keep up with the Kardashians? I guess maybe it's the fact that I've never had such privilege that makes it possible for me to simply not give a damn.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

Another great post. Thank you Tami.

shannon said...

I find the sort of shaming of black women who express their feelings sad. Apparently, anyone who feels hurt when some guy says I don't date black women because of [insert bullshit here] isn't as mature and enlightened as the shamers.

And people who say this hurtful bullshit aren't strangers.

roslynholcomb said...

I don't think the women who feel this way should feel ashamed, I just don't see the benefit of sharing it in a public forum. I don't see how playing into the "unwanted black woman" meme is beneficial to black women. The world is not your therapist. If you feel this way and it's impacting your life there are trained professionals to help you deal with it. Certainly CNN who's and their "black women it sucks to be you" programming is not the place to find any kind of real solutions to anything. Surely those that are affected by this issue have friends, pastors, therapists, etc... available to them to help them work through the issue. It seems to me that the point of all this is not the elevation of black women over marginalization, but instead some crazy effort to seek comfort and sympathy from the masses. It's not like the whole world doesn't already know. It's even been fodder for comedians for a few generations now. Even the rappers love to chant "I'll leave you for a white girl." So again, what is the point?

Tami said...


I get what you're saying and I agree. I worry about the cummulative effect of all this "sucks to be you, black woman" ish that seems to be the rage these days.

On the other hand, I am uncomfortable with the idea that black women can't express, for a moment, their pain over their marginalization for fear of appearances. I mean, the Internet is all about expressing emotions. Folks are navel gazing about stuff far less important than this all over the place. But when a black woman says: Hey, sometimes all the crap that I carry gets heavy and, despite myself, seeing an IR relationship can be triggering, she's fairly demonized and told to just be quiet and strong and get over it. (Not saying you're saying this...just talking about the tenor of the debate).

Black women have made a career out of being quiet and strong and swallowing our pain, and it is killing us. We have a right to express our emotions like everyone else. Scott DID write her piece for a magazine targeted at black women. I guess it's a function of our global communications age that that internal conversation became broader than I imagine makes a lot of us comfortable.

zoopath said...

Roslyn said: Yeah, but doing something about the marginalization of black women requires undermining one of the central tenets of white supremacy/skin privilege ie the superior beauty of white women. We'll see that happen around the time Sarah Palin gets a triple digit IQ. That is, never.

----I totally agree with this. I know exactly what needs to happen to prevent wincing but progress on that subject is going to be sooooo slow that Bw would be better served by adjusting their perspective on intrarracial loyalty. That way, they wouldn't be hurt when they see a BMWW couple. If you don't feel attached to a group of people, then you won't be hurt if they choose to love someone else.

I don't find anything wrong will Jill Scott discussing her feelings per se. It's just bad timing, I've had it up to here with the it sucks for BW/nobody wants them/they have hair issues/they ain't got but 5$ stories. I seriously need a break.

roslynholcomb said...

I'm not telling black women to be quiet and strong, I'm telling black women to be STRATEGIC. Have we stopped to think about what all this counter-programming is about? We've been ignored by the media since we've been here, now all of a sudden they can't stop talking about us. Do we honestly believe that they suddenly give a damn? Of course not. They're counter-programming against Michelle Obama and what it means that suddenly we have a black First Lady. That undermines white supremacy and they're in a frenzy to counteract that message and the impact that it can have. God forbid a black woman actually think she's fit to be First Lady.

So what do we do? Instead of putting our best foot forward and show ourselves in our magnificence we play right into the media message. That will undermine the marginalization of black women. This woe is me message does nothing to do that. And that's their intent.

Scott wrote her article for Essence magazine which is nothing more than another arm of that same media that seeks to destroy and undermine black women. How could it be otherwise in a magazine that encourages black women to go to strip clubs to seek mates? Essence magazine is neither owned by or helmed by a black woman, so in what way is it OUR magazine? It's not. They knew exactly how black women would respond to putting that man on the cover, that's why they did it. And black women played like along with the bullshit. Better to simply ignore such foolishness and focus on that which uplifts us.

By all means have the dialogue, talk about it with people who actually give a damn about you. The media (and that includes so-called black magazines) in this country serves one purpose: to maintain the status quo and that's white supremacy. It is not your therapist, stop acting as though it is.

Kjen said...

I think the Scott's piece is getting so much backlash, in addition to the stereotype of strongblackwoman=silence, is because we are suppose to be in the post racial age where multiculurism and meritocracy rule the day. Her story of feeling winnowed out simply doesn't fit and is considered passe. Honestly, I do understand that - how many times have I dismissed hearing about an "old school" white guy talking about how he "feels" as if he's being winnowed out or a guy, any race, saying that he's feeling emasculated because of changing gender roles. The image society likes to promote is somewhat progressive, but the individuals within society are struggling to come to grips with the old and new.

*it does seem as if there is a growing genre of 'sucks to be black women' lit right now. slightly annoyed at the timing of scott's piece right now.

Tami said...

You know what, Roslyn?

You're right.

I can't even counter what you said. All great points.

Fachtna said...

@Rosalynholcomb - the reason why Jill Scott's article is important is because there are white privileged feminists like me who are grateful for this brief opportunity to learn a little about the insights of others with different experiences.

I am extremely grateful for these brief glimpses, because it is not anyone's job to teach me about the experience of racism - that's my job.

And yes, it is perfectly fair to say that it increases my "white guilt," which helps nobody (Hello, Avatar), but it increases my understanding of Jill's lived experience, and I don't have to pester my very patient friends of color to ask stupid, privileged-white-person questions when I can read them in relative anonymity on the internet.

Thank you for this space. I will shut up now and go back to reading.

Dark Moon said...

I understand where Jill is coming from--some of us are painfully aware off being rendered completely invisible by the Black community that uses us as fodder for their own aggrandizement and by the wider society that loves to denigrate and dismiss black women as not being real women at all. But I have to hand it to Rosyln--what she said makes absolute sense. She is right in a strongly philosophical sense, but you know what—when have Black women collectively ever given each other any leeway—when have we as women ever done much to try to uplift each other in a way that we have successfully inoculated the message that we receive from Black men and mainstream society. The idea of rugged individualism works for those who honestly have a sociopathic streak and not caring about anything or anyone, but an average person cannot successfully actualize unless there is a person or group to model behavior and action. In other words, we can't emerge, full force in a sterile vacuum.

Anonymous said...

The white woman's pedestal:

"And if you should, by some chance, fall in love with some of their women, be careful to puff them up with lots of praise, and then, when you find a convenient place, do not hesitate to take what you seek and to embrace them by force. For you can hardly soften their outward inflexibility so far that they will grant you their embraces quietly or permit you to have the solaces you desire unless first you use a little compulsion as a convenient cure for their shyness."

-Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, on how to treat women of the farmer's class.

Anonymous said...

While I believe Ms. Scott makes valid points on this subject, I'm a bit dismayed and annoyed that she choose to 'express' it right when she has a movie and an album coming out. Please.....

Jamdown said...

I am very curious as to what saying "whenever I see Black men with White women, I wince" accomplishes.

Do you think that Black men are going to say, "Oh you poor Black women. We'll end our relationships with White women and start marrying Black women only"?

Black women need to move on with their lives and focus on making relationship choices that are productive. You don't have to wait around for a Black prince - there are other men out there.

Sitting around whining about what Black men do is a waste of time.

Please stop!!

Tami said...


I debated approving your comment, because it so completely ignores the OP and nearly every comment here. Scott's post wasn't about "what black men" do. It wasn't even, at its heart, about IR relationships. It was about the marginalization of black women in American Society. And how that, for her, triggers a moment of self doubt when she sees a bm/ww interracial couple.

It's just not about you.

Jamdown said...

My comment was no different than those made by The New Black Woman and Roslyn Holcomb.

It's not about me because I don't wince when I see Black men and White women together.


Anonymous said...

Jill Scott started doing a column for Essence a couple of issues ago. Evidently this piece is one that got everyone excited.

Q said...

"Someone over at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog at The Atlantic explained it well. Because of the history of racism in employment, many black people, upon losing a job to a white person, might wince at the thought that their race played a role in why they weren't chosen. Now, race may have had nothing to do with it, but one wouldn't be outrageous for letting the thought cross her mind, considering our racial history."

I think the unfortunate aspect of her piece - and by extension, yours - is that it speciously uses the legitimate gripe of potential black negligence to justify what are substantively baseless assumptions. I think it obfuscates the issue, which isn't simply a woman who carries the weight of institutional biases, but a woman who used those institutional biases as an excuse to prejudge another person and the rationale for their relationship. Her reaction may have been emotional and honest, but I think any analysis of the issue is incomplete without also calling it a petty and unfair. This isn't just a racial issue, it's a personal issue; and despite the racial context for these assumptions, the conclusions are as personal in function as they are wholly unfounded.

How can anyone look at a black male in a relationship with a white woman, know only these details, and then go into a conclusion about why? Just as you may find the media narrative of a militant, unattractive black woman as insulting, I find it equally insulting to use history as the rationale for a "wince" that Jill Scott - and anyone in her situation - has no right to possess, much less voice. The outrage - such as it is - shouldn't come from letting the thought cross her mind. It should come from the fact that she voiced her thought without recognizing it as bad. Saying that the emotion is painful and that it hurts strikes me as a hollow equivocation that ignores the more pertinent question of whether it was warranted.

I don't think any rational, informed or appropriately sympathetic person is unaware of the issues surrounding the repercussions of the black American experience, but I think it undermines those issues when structural inequities are used as the basis for a prejudice that's just as ugly and shallow as the prejudices rendered toward black people. If people wish to make arguments about the media's racial bias, their black representation and how it informs reactions toward black people, those are perfectly valid subjects. But using those arguments as a pretext to explain away the odious nature of Jill Scott's comment demeans the merit of those arguments.

Perhaps she can be called a product of her times and of her experience, but those experiences being negative doesn't make either her thoughts or feelings in this matter "right". In separating the historically understandable from the morally justifiable, I find that many respectable commentators are engaging in a relativity that makes otherwise righteous anger toward racism and negatively racial inclinations seem selective instead of consistent and principled.

Tami said...


I would argue that no one--certainly not Jill Scott--said the wince was "right." She seemed to be explaining where the scars on her psyche came from, which, IMHO, is usually the first step to healing.

Q said...

And in making that argument, surely you would be just as quick to acknowledge that no one - especially Jill Scott - is calling her reaction "wrong", either. Which is one of the many points I attempted to outline in my original post. If she didn't think her reaction was justifiable, then why did she proceed to explain her emotional response as though the things that made it objectionable were negated by adverse racial interactions? And why did you do the same?

The argument of your post is not one that recognizes the issues inherent in her negative reaction to a complete strangers relationship; it's one that implicitly states that the historical and societal treatment of black women justify that impulse - which is merely an extension of Jill Scott's argument. I understand empathizing with her position and I understand the quest to see and explain where she's coming from, but starting and stopping the argument from those two points is a regressive exercise that excuses the unacceptable. The impulse that Jill Scott articulated is not something that merely needs to be described. It needs to be challenged.

No one has a say in another persons personal romantic choices. No one knows the rationale or extent of a complete strangers attraction. No one should be - or is - in a position to make a judgment - or have a reaction - about two people based solely on their skin color. No one has a basis to further assume that the selection of a person of another race says anything about their perception of race. My problem with Jill Scott's column is that she didn't acknowledge any of these uncontroversial points, which makes me question the depth of her introspection on the subject.

There are many, many intelligent black commentators talking about this. You seem to be amongst them. But any explanation of her reaction that doesn't acknowledge the moral quandaries in her line of thinking is woefully inadequate. She didn't couch her reaction as an emotionally unjustified response to a guy being with a white woman she's never met. She couched it as a response arising from burdens derived from interactions with wholly unrelated people. The problem here is far more subtle than the publics reaction to the emotional qualms of black women. The problem is that people are using racial history as a weapon to counteract perspectives that would - by themselves - be considered at best contemptible, and at worst, racist.

I don't see why Jill Scott should be immunized from the same thoughts I would have if a white person told me that they had a negative reaction to their child, sibling, or friend dating a black person. And saying "that they have a different reason" strikes me a disappointing moral equivocation that holds the indefensible to arbitrary, racially based standards.

Tami said...


I am of a mind that there is no "wrong" and "right" that can be applied to feelings; "wrong" and "right" can be applied to actions. And I think a lot of folks are conflating Scott's feelings with the actions of people who mistreat IR couples, which is unequivocally wrong.

I would imagine there are a lot of white parents of white children involved in IR relationships that wish their children were involved with someone of their same race. They are welcome to that wish. And I don't think that wish is entirely unnatural--it's certainly not uncommon. Indeed, I would bet, based on what I know about them from their son, that the parents of a white boyfriend I dated years ago would have preferred that he was dating a white woman. But despite that wish, they were unfailingly kind to me. And THAT is what matters.

I also think it is not moral relativism to acknowledge that white Americans and black Americans have different histories and presents. I think we should; therefore, evaluate some of our racial views differently. I think it's preposterous to pretend our beliefs re: race come from the same place and experiences.

Alexis L. of One Grand Home said...

Late to this discussion but I did want to chime in....I know the wince, I have felt the wince, I understand the wince. I left the wince somewhere back around 2000.

I don't think that Jill Scott is a bigot or prejudiced. I think that the she is a wonderful woman, a dyed-in-the-wool 'race' woman who wants to the kind of black love that was last publicly waxed about in the 1960's. And I get that. But I am critical of Jill: For a woman so privileged monetarily and in terms of her talent, fame, opportunities and spiritual evolution, I think she should spend more time actively healing the bite than trying to justify it.

There is a point in one's life where you have to realize that other people's *love* doesn't hurt you or cost you anything and separate that from the *hate* that does damage your experience. For black men who think straight hair is superior to kinky hair, that is an instinct borne of hate, not love and whether they happen to be partnered with a white woman or a black woman, they are someone who has internalized oppression and ugly myths of European superiority. The thing, though, is that as an aware person, you really do have an obligation to your own spirituality to stop seeing the mere racial composition of a couple as code for that kind of hate. You cannot know what exists between two strangers and it is a prejudiced exercise to project your suspicions onto every pairing that doesn't seem ideal to you.

Where did my wince come from? Mostly from the black women in my life who openly criticized BM/WF couples as signs that black men didn't want black women. And while I understand where their pain came from, I think it is time for black women to stop passing to our sisters that same cup of pain and saying, 'Drink, taste the same bitterness I taste every time I see a Latina flip her long hair or an Asian woman marry a black man or a black man pursue a white "girl"', which is what Jill unfortunately has done. We can fight real oppression and take a minimum of baggage with us on the road; I know it. But that's a burden that we have to lay down and I would have so much rather she have done that then defend this self-corrosive reflex.

So many men (and women) find Jill beautiful, talented and desirable. Really, she should meditate on the love she is feeling and not the hate or rejection. I'm sure she would find the right man much easier to find in that mindset.

Christy said...

Reading Jill Scott's article made me feel uncomfortable and confused until I read your post. Thank you for writing something that's so hard to write about in such a clear way.

What really resonated for me is when you brought up the guy who told your college friend why he didn't like dating black women. It's really hard for me to hear people say they go for a certain type of person when the attributes they describe are physical. A gay guy friend of mine boasts that he likes black men, or a straight guy friend who has a thing for Asian women... It just seems like people are focusing on the wrong things.

ChyennePeppa said...

It could be portrayed as BM not wanting BW because they date WM because of the extreme misogyny in the Black community towards Black females. It also stems from self-loathing Blacks who are dating interacially based on racial stereotypes. It is meant as an act to debase Black women. Of course there are those who genuinely have interracial relationships out of love, but there are also ones who date interacially out of prejudice. There's a difference between preference and prejudice,but not many Black Men and White men know this, so they often pit us women against eachother by dating the "opposite" of what they are supposed to date. I believe if you eradicate the sexism from the Black community, Black women will feel loved, but until women are seen as people, they will continue to be judged more than males,thus unavailable in the dating market for same-race relationships. Nothing is wrong with IRs at all, there is however, something wrong with dating a person based on what they "aren't" as opposed to what they are. This usually leads to a failed or unfruitful relationship because it's based on negativity, not love. I love every race of male as long as they treat me right, so IR is not a problem for me in that respect. However,again, there are White and Black men using White and Black women to fight against eachother. I am fearful that if I date interracially that it might be the case, but I know the signs. If he badmouths White women and tries to lift me up, I am not to be bothered with him. However, I don't see many WW doing the same -this is probably because of Whites having a little racist in them,and believe these negative stereotypes to be true.

In the end I have always felt hated as a woman and as a Black woman, so it matters not to me about what Black men see me as,however,it is offensive to not only Blacks themselves,but the White Women and White Men who allow themselves to be held up as racial trophies to be prized. Hopefully we can end this by uplifting Black women by putting down misogyny in the Black community,instead of uplifting it through listening to cheap music, normalizing abuse,and treating women like commodity.

Anonymous said...

Also, it is very typical of a non-offending IR couple to shout to the mountains "NOT ME!" to the offended Black woman-that is just as bad in my opinion. You try to deny the feelings and words they hear out of other BM's mouths by grouping up and saying how good "you" are and how non-racist the foundation of "YOUR" (general "you" & "your") is,and brushing off the feelings BW have. What Neg IR Dating (Dating Based on Racial Stereotypes and Hatred of One's Own Race) is give a false presentation of IR dating,and one would THINK Pos IR couples would try to tear down Neg IR (closeted self-loathing racist),but instead, they tear down the BW, or downplay the racism in some IR relationships. It does nothing for the Black movement if you still hate your friggin self or are racist towards the race of woman you lay next to in the morning. It does nothing for the IR couples , but why aren't they bitching along side the women who are offended? Is it because they're women, or *black* women?

I'm not refering to the women who scoff at random IR couples who walk on the street, I am talking about the IR couples women KNOW they date based on hate,under the disguise of "colorblind love". Also , could it be that these Neg IR males are exercising patriarchy?What's better than pitting two women of different class,and race,against one another? What better for Black women to do instead of stepping up their game ,getting a good education,to argue and be berated in various ways by Black men? It is a distraction to be concerned with people you do not know, but to those who are dating based on hate, self-hate, they need to be checked whenever they talk bad about Black women to their faces.

Really instead of saying "Not OUR Relationship!" , why can't they ever say "That's messed up"? It's because many of them think that they've opened a magical valve that opens up to a Colorblind philosiphy,only to be shattered when they find out someone called their beautiful biracial child (and they are beautiful,as are all children) a "darkie", "big lips", "nappy head","slant-eyed". Couples who are aware that color matters usually call racists out on their b.s., while many IR couples adopt the colorblind philosophy,therefore, trivialize the negativity Black women receive as a race,and the negativity Black women get from Black men. Live a day in the life of someone who was flawed for not being born the right shade of brown,and having a vagina,and you'll understand.

"NOT US!" is not benificial, "NOT ME!" is not benificial to anyone but your own self.It is to help you sleep easy at night. Calling out racism in IR relationships brings positivity to IR relationships, it would remove the stigma, and it would help you sleep better at night instead of being comfortable ignoring what BW are saying. Because you may end up with a "loud", "big mouthed", "nappy-headed" little girl. You want her to know that she's fine and pretty the way she is, you want her to know that because she posseses Black traits makes her beautiful, and no self-hating loser can tell her otherwise.

Chyenne again


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