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One brotha wrote: "Asian/White females seem to do more for you and they don't have so much attitude and drama."

White Out?

By Esther Iverem
SeeingBlack.com Editor

Talk about Black men who hate Black women! Click here!

Though the debate has raged, in some form or another, ever since Miss Anne first beckoned Willie from the fields with her fluttering fan, it landed at BET.com recently when some "brother" posted a message saying something like, If you want to know why Black men date White women, I offer three words: PEACE OF MIND. (Of course, a load of cyber pestilence rained down on his cyber head.)

"It's a cop out on the part of a Black man to blame Black women for his choices," says author Grace Cornish (click to purchase).

Since then, a man identifying himself as Black in a relationship with a Korean woman wrote in, "Black females have attitudes, it's always 'me, me, me!' Not all but majority. Asian/White females seem to do more for you and they don't have so much attitude and drama." His partner chimed in, "I'm a Korean/White female and I think the reason why Black guys are more into my race or mixed girls is [because] Black girls are always talking about, "he gotta have a car, money, and blah, blah, blah."

Finally, a Virginia high school student describing herself as "a young White lady," said that her Black boyfriend assured her that she "had given him a better relationship then any Black girl could."

Sounds like a lot of fan waving and hitsay dumped in the faces of Black women, the latest slap in a long series of slaps. (the de-throning of Vanessa Williams, Shaharizad Ali's ignorant book, comments by Wesley Snipes) We have been asked accede our queenly beauty and bodies, though desired, violated and politicized, to be lesser than that of others. We've been asked to bear children and see them sold, or abandoned by their fathers. We take on the world to defend our children and men, a small percentage of whom make it point to show, in return, only contempt.

I emphasize "a small percentage." I know perceptions can be skewed in large and small places like Minneapolis or Columbia, Md., and by high profile cases concentrated on by the mass media. But the fact is that we are still the national minority group most likely to marry within our group. We are the least meltable, despite several studies that indicate Black men are more likely to marry outside the race than Black women. A Japanese co-worker once told me that he and his wife were the only two Japanese people in their circle of friends married to another Japanese person. (So Miss "Korean/White," "blk" guys are not "more into" your race.)

But this increasing tendency of some Black men rankles some Black women. But, more importantly, the over-hyped trend serves as endless grist for the mill of television and radio talk shows, books, films, Internet chat rooms and message boards. Mass media profits big time from the notion and image of the supposedly angry, scorned Black woman standing in the shadows while her man hops to fence to be with Buffy. This notion of our bitter selves, which demeans us as a total people, is quite entertaining to America. In contrast, the anger of White women is never shown or exploited in quite the same way. Think about the scene in "Save the Last Dance" when Kerry Washington's character asks the Julia Stiles character why she has to date a Black man. Don't White women already have the world, she asks? Of course the White woman here is given the moral high ground. After all, it's only about love. Or is it?

We learn what to love, what is beautiful and what is sexy through the images of love presented to us. And, as I first wrote in a piece five years ago but which is still true, there are scarce images of Blacks together as lovers, and of Black women as the pretty love interest in films and television shows. When a Black woman is made the love interest, say in a film like "Monster's Ball," it is always twisted. In this film, her White lover was/is an open racist who, even though it unknown to her, participated in the execution of her husband. The story line, which renders Black men as hopeless, uses the legacy of racism in an unconvincing manner to belittle its impact, and historical and present-day consequences. Considering the nonstop media onslaught that trumpets "White is Beautiful," Black people are doing well to still appreciate and love each other.

There are other and related factors too, such as the incidence of more Blacks growing up in White majority communities where young Black males, as part of established media culture of desirability, are pursued by females of other races. But Black girls, relatively absent from that media culture of desirability—unless you count music video babes—are often frustrated in the dating game. I sometimes look with disbelief at friends and family who have only surrounded their children with White folks and then are dismayed that their sons bring home a White girl. Well, who did they expect to come home? Serena Williams?

Also, much of the anger of Black women (and Black men)—expressed on BET's message boards (some statements edited slightly for editorial clarity) stems from statements that lump all/"most" Black women into one attitude and way of being.

"Black men and women love the man and/or woman of your choice," says one post by a Black woman. "But don't tell me that you are doing it because I'm not good enough. To make this statement, you would have to get to know me as an individual."

Wayne Jackson says, "I just want to say to my sistas: don't ever question yourself as if some White/Asian/Hispanic woman has something you don't possess. A man of any race who gives that reply is not a true man, and he doesn't deserve the time it took you to even ask him the question."

TTaylor, a 35-year-old Black woman married to a Black man for 16 years, says, "It saddens me to hear Black men say they refuse to date Black women. To dismiss us is to dismiss yourself. For you to write off an entire race of women is truly asinine. If you took the time, you would realize that not all of any race is good or bad. That includes White women as well. They have issues just as we do but when you are at an advantage you deal with differently. I am not jealous or bitter because anyone who finds love and I mean true love is really lucky regardless of color. But to premeditatedly look for that love outside your race is self-hatred at its worst."

I wonder if TTaylor is a shrink because Dr. Grace Cornish, the psychologist and author of "10 Good Choices That Empower Black Women's Lives," will tell anyone willing to listen the same.

"It's a cop out on the part of a Black man to blame Black women for his choices," Cornish says. "If they have a preference, that's one thing. But then to downgrade your whole race of women is the most ridiculous thing on the face of the earth. I don't think these men have a problem with Black women. I think they have problem with being Black themselves and they take it out on Black women.

"Definitely, a lot of Black men struggle to reach a certain level and they never feel they have reached the level of their White counterparts," Cornish says. "They feel they need a White woman as part of that lifestyle. These are the ones who actually have a backlash against Black women. They have not dealt with their own internal anger. Instead they see the opposite sex within their own race as the problem."

Cornish, who says she has seen how talk shows love to hype this issue, agrees that many Black women show anger and impatience but says that it is not a trait unique to us. "Our rites of passage are different,' she says. "We're told to be careful, to watch ourselves. We work so hard and we give away so many pieces of ourselves. We're tired and sometimes that tiredness is short of patience.

"The difference I find is that White Women are born with this air, this programming of entitlement," she adds. With us, we're always told you have to be twice as good to be considered half as good."

Marc Rutledge, in his message board post, says that as a Black man he understands the pain among Black women. "Black women get a bad rap because they are fed up with the lack of respect, consideration, admiration, and love they deserve from Black men," he says. "Couple that with the difficulties Black women face in the workforce… and you have more than enough justification to be 'filled with rage'. The mainstream media has played a major part in playing up these stereotypes as well. In most movies and TV shows, Black women are portrayed as hostile, angry, and bitter.

My experiences with White women have been pleasant, however my most meaningful, passionate relationships have been with Black women. I truly love and admire them, and to some extent I understand what they have to go through on a daily basis."

Slogging through this muddy issue reminds me that women, in general, have allowed men—often with the assistance of women—to dictate much of the discourse on relationships, whether race is a factor or not. A similar example would be how women are told that if they don't have a man, it is because they are not pretty enough, demure enough, not good enough a cook, too independent, not interested enough in sex or sports…Women allow themselves to played against each other—younger versus older, low-income versus high income, big butt versus no butt, etc.—like sorry chumps often fighting for a man who is a chump anyway. A whole industry of media, books, self-help tapes and videos feed this female insecurity and conditioned longing for a relationship. The latest example of this exploitation and misogyny is ABC's reality show, "The Bachelor," in which 25 women competed to be engaged to one White, male Harvard graduate. But many of us, thankfully, steer clear of this banquet piled high with false expectations and bitterness.

"I think it is not true that White or Asian women are nicer than Black women," says Monisha N. Austin. "I think it has to do with the way the man treats a woman for a woman to react back at him. Most Black women don't take too much crap from men. I think every body is the same way in every race because White men say they date Black women because they are nicer than White women, whereas Black men say they like White women because they are nicer than Black women."

Tana Kennedy adds, "There are good Black women and good White women and there are bitchy women of every race as well. Every woman should feel she is worth having a good man. I believe that most men, (Black, White, or other) want a good, strong woman who can add to their lives. As a woman, I believe every woman should strive to be a happy and independent person and then a good man will come into your life.

"To everyone, be proud of who you are," she adds. "Good Black women, you do have a unique and beautiful strength. Good White women, you too have beauty and just as much to offer any man you want as anyone. Good women, do you. To thine own self be true."

Esther Iverem's reviews and essays also appear on BET.com. A version of this essay was originally posted on BET.com.

-- September 26, 2002

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