I am a black woman who has only seriously dated black men. I am still single, but I am not insecure, co-dependent, stupid or a ho. I’m sure many women find themselves in similar situations, but LaShaun Williams is not talking to you in her recent post, “8 Reasons to Date a White Man.” Here are the reasons:
1. They open wide instead of down low
2. Not looking for someone to take care of them
3. Attend and graduate from college
4. At least attempt to marry before making babies
5. They don’t glamorize ignorance
6. Financial planning and stability
7. Have the ability to look beyond your past
8. Don’t take everything as a challenge to their masculinity
Williams declares that even though she is married to a black man, black women should date white because “some things about white are right.” Even if we ignore the facts that 1) Williams doesn’t self-identify her race and 2) she is speaking about an experience that she is not living, her argument is problematic: essentialist, decontextualized, insulting and, well, just plain wrong.
Williams initially assumes that white and black men are fundamentally different. She privileges the white experience when she declares that white men are more honest, self-sufficient, intelligent, financially stable, secure and accepting than black men. I am utterly dismayed that a woman writing about black relationships in the 21st century, who is married to a black man, would describe black men as inferior. Yes, black men face challenges in the areas she mentioned, but so do all men. I am horrified that her premise is based on essentialized categories and not the experiences of real people.
Williams writes as if there were no context for understanding the black male experience. Somehow these men are personal failures, as opposed to individuals caught up in various matrices of oppression.
All men in our society are gendered to be protector/providers. Jackson Katz notes that when men cannot fulfill these social expectations many of them rely on a tough guise that masks their emotions and conceals their frustration about failing to adhere to cultural norms. The tough guise could manifest as aggressiveness, violence, apathy, risky behavior or the ignorance that Williams notes. More black men than white men don a tough guise because they face greater challenges to their ability to protect and provide than do white men. Attending underfunded urban public schools that lack the resources to channel boy energy into mastering the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic is poor preparation for attending and graduating from college. An inferior education leads to higher unemployment rates, which make it difficult to support a family.
Fathering children one cannot support isn’t ideal, but unprotected sex is a result of high-risk behavior which stems from the apathy of feeling like a failure. When little else is going right, having children is often seen as an accomplishment, and being a father proves that one is hetero. Atlanta mega-church Bishop Eddie Long’s virulent homophobia and the recent reactions to charges that he forced male teenagers into sexual relationships with him reminds us that being publicly gay is one of the worst things a black man can be. Black men have different experiences because of their race, but these problems are not limited to black men and these scenarios do not describe all black men. Men of all races deal with the restrictions of masculinity and can fall prey to the tough guise and its domino effects.
Williams insults her readers when she assumes they would neither be aware of nor care about these contextual issues. She especially insults her female readers when she writes
Promiscuous Black men think they deserve to settle down with virgins and allow past relationships to haunt the present. Not White men. They have no problem turning a ho into a housewife.
Williams essentializes single black women as hos who desire to become well-kept housewives. Furthermore, Sophia Nelson’s recent response to the No Wedding No Womb movement contradicts Williams’ depiction of black women who desire marriage before children.
Finally, Williams is clearly wrong on two accounts: 1) Black women don’t need to be convinced to give “vanilla a chance.” Black women can date anyone of any race. Black women who want to stay down for their brothers should be respected for their choice. For those who want to date outside of their race, why is white the only acceptable alternative? I suppose other men of color fail to measure up to her almighty white standards as well. 2) There aren’t eight reasons why black women should date outside of their race. There’s only one: common interest. A date is not a lifelong commitment. If you have something in common, no mater what color he is, go out, have a great time, learn something about yourself and someone else in the process. It might be the best way to eradicate these heinous essentialized notions. One date at a time.