Thursday, June 11, 2009

Give Me Some Room

I'm going to need some extra leeway from y'all with this post because while this is a topic I've thought about a lot, it's not something I claim firsthand experience with.

Let's take a trip into the past of Big Man.

A young, rotund boy is enrolled in a Lutheran pre--school in a majority black city by his well-meaning parents. Unlike many of the schools in this city, Young Big Man's (YBM) pre-school is pretty diverse racially. Children of various races mingle and enjoy each other's company, and YBM doesn't notice any problems from the adults in charge.

While enrolled at this school, YBM becomes enamored with a lovely young lady named Jennifer. (At least I'm assuming she's lovely because I don't really remember her face.) YBM likes to set up his naptime mat next to Jennifer's and, in the storied tradition of young boy's everywhere, he takes special care to trip and torture her when the opportunity presents itself.

Caught up in youthful infatuation, YBM decides to tell his mother of his crush. He talks about how much he likes her and then promises to point the young lady out to his mother the next time they are at school. That time arrives, and YBM follows through with his promise.

And things have never been the same...

See, I may not be able to remember much about Jennifer, but I do remember that she had long, blonde hair and bright blue eyes. That's right, Jennifer was a white girl, and my mother most definitely is not. My father still teases me that when my mom found out exactly who I was swooning over, she couldn't remove me from that pre-school fast enough. Our whole household went to Def Con Infinity because I thought the swirl action was the way to go.

That was my first time realizing that there were little girls I was supposed to like, and little girls I wasn't supposed to like. My mom would later drive that point home by directing my brother and I to make sure we brought home little, black girls for her to meet. No exceptions.

Some folks would call this racism, and I can understand that sentiment. However, I've always seen it as an attempt to instill in my brother and I an appreciation of black women and a sense that when we went looking for a mate, a black woman should be at the top of our list. But, a lot of folks would question teaching a child that lesson.

Yesterday, I talked about black women and their standards and how some of those standards are not going to help them find the black, Prince Charming they crave. One of my commenters mentioned that the biggest standard is the one I didn't mention. Namely, why does Prince Charming have to be a brother?

I'm a firm believer in the fact that it's possible for any two human beings to fall in love regardless of color. I'm also a believer in the fact that you have to want to fall in love, to fall in love.

By that, I mean that for two humans to establish what I feel is a true "love" for each other, they have to be open to the idea of developing feelings for each other. So, while it's possible for black and white folks to love each other in relationships, it's often unlikely because most of the time we aren't even considering each other as potential mates. (I said potential mates, not potential mating partners. There is a difference.) Some folks think this is a crying shame, I'm not so sure.

Many people seem to think that all it takes is a wave of the magical, post-racial wand and black women will suddenly remove their love shackles and find true love in the arms of a non-brother. If only black women would open themselves up to the possibility of dating outside their race, well they'd find a host of new opportunities.

On the surface, this makes sense. By confining themselves to only dating brothers, sisters are playing a pretty difficult game of Where's Waldo? when it comes to finding a husband. But, that premise assumes that sisters are confining themselves. While it's true that many sisters were raised in homes like mine and were taught to always bet on black, for many of them their decision on who to date hasn't been conscious but a reaction to life. Women are taught to date the men that chase them, and if only one group is chasing, well you can expect one group to do most of the dating.

A friend of mine joined an internet dating site recently and she said that one of the things she noticed is how far down the list black women are when it comes to desirability. She said that those sites ask you to check which races you are open to dating on your profile and that controls who contacts you. Anyway, she's found that many cats will have every race of women, but black women checked. It's like being a black woman makes you completely unacceptable as a mate. And that hurts.

There is a myth that if only black women would open themselves up to other races, they'd be swept off their feet by suitors of every hue. The reality is that for a variety of reasons, the interest in black women from men of other races is not strong, and those cats with the most interest are often the cats every woman would prefer to avoid.

I think that was one of the things that drove my mom to push my brother and I towards black women. She felt strongly that we needed to see black women as beautiful and worthy of marriage, and I'm sure that was connected to the fact that so many black women get told the opposite everyday. But, that's not the only reason she said what she said.

My mom also understood that relationships are hard for everybody. The joining of man and woman may give our lives a sense of completion, but it also adds frustration the likes of which many of us have never seen. That strain is only magnified when you add the additional stress of dealing with somebody of a different race who probably has a very different outlook on life in this country. Like most parents, my mom probably thought that steering us towards black women was a way of helping us avoid failure.

Honestly, there is a certain comfort that comes from being with a black person and feeling like they just "get" you and your experiences. I'm sure there are interracial couples that have the same dynamic, but I'm betting it's harder to find when you cross the color line.

So, the reason I didn't talk about black women embracing the idea of going interracial is because I'm pretty sure that's a not a big part of the problem. Sure, there are some women might benefit from opening up their dating pool, but I doubt that would work for most sisters. Just look at the segregation that is still a problem in our schools, neighborhoods and churches. If we can't integrate there, why does everybody think integration in the bedroom would be such a slam dunk?

Thanks for the space to speak.



Lisa J said...

Holla & Amen. It is still kinda sad about Jennifer though, I mean you were just a little Big Man. BTW, can you believe some of these wing nuts are trying to blame liberals, Rev. Wright and Farrakhan for that racist fool shooting up the Holocaust Museum. Sick.

Big Man said...

Yeah, I can believe it.

People are stupid.

Deacon Blue said...

Doesn't bother me so much that your mom would want to encourage you to be attracted to black women. Kinda wigs me out that in a pre-school infatuation of all things, she felt the necessary move was to pull you out of the school entirely. Seems a bit extreme even with my rudimentary understanding of the social dynamics involved here.

Anyway, I get all the points you are making and cannot really argue with them, because this is a tricky area all around. So even though I am a white guy married to a black woman, nothing you've said offends my sensibilities. And Mrs. Blue certainly would prefer that Son of Blue bring home black girls, but that hasn't always been the case.

However, I just don't get how black women are so far down the frickin' list. Not that I ever put them at the top precisely, either...but then again, for me, all colors were attractive, so pretty much everyone that wasn't white ran an equally close second to the white girls. (Even my color-myopic ass will still acknowledge that I was attracted to my own race slightly more than all the others.)

Big Man said...

Ain't nothing wrong with being attracted to your own race more than others.

It's normal when you think about it.

But, like you said, why are black women so far down the list? What's up with that?

That Girl said...

you know I'ma have to do a real response...maybe even (gasp!) a blog post about this. Being as it is, I gotta go get paid (or do the work to ensure a direct deposit) so I'll be back. You're saved as new in my bloglines and you know I have some counter for ya (smile).

Deacon Blue said...

I think, Big Man, what REALLY confuses me about black women being so far down the list is that men are often a superficial lot when it comes to attraction. They look even more so than women do (I think) at whether the person is "sexy."

Black women hold their age, their looks and good skin texture for longer than most other races. I think they might even beat out Asians in that regard. You'd think that a group of women with such predominantly good genes for looking good long-term would appeal more to all men, whether said men were "normal" or "freaks"

MCBias said...

Love that you're making the point about same race making marriage easier. It's true. I think that the rush to declare inter-cultural marriage cool, while well-intentioned, may be faulty. Even if one person is city and the other is country, you're going to run into a lot of disputes in a marriage.

MODI said...

I understand what your mother did, and I don't think that the concept is transferable to majority groups.

What your mother does not know at that young age is if you liked Jennifer in some purely random way or if it was a subconscious commentary on viewing white girls as better than black girls through social conditioning. The latter, or even the chance of the latter would need to be nipped in the bud. So I see her act is one of love, self-esteem, and pride.

Now here is a question for you. Let's say that you are a 30 year old adult, clearly have a healthy cultural pride that was helped instilled by your mother (beyond your romantic relationships) and just so happened to fall in love with a white woman.

If you came home one day as an adult and told your mother that you wanted to marry her for the best of reasons, to your best guess -- how might your mother react?

Not judging Big man's mother either way. I'm just trying to get to the root of hit all.

Raving Black Lunatic