We hear so many stereotypes about Black women and Black men from everyone. And sometimes even as people in the Black community, we participate in perpetuating those stereotypes. This is especially true in the area of dating and relationships. So today, a Black woman (me) and a Black man (my friend Brandon who has graciously decided to do this with me) will be having a conversation about love and relationships between Black men and Black women.
Kovie Biakolo: So let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. Why does it sometimes appear that Black men and Black women have the worst stereotypes about each other. From the “loud Black” woman to the “no-good” Black men, people in the Black community perpetuate negative stereotypes about each other along gender lines. Is this a function of racism (and in the case of women, sexism too) that we’ve bought into? Or is something else going on between Black women and Black men?
Brandon Lewis: I would have to say a lot of it comes from the media. Every time you turn on the news you see how a Black man is being shot, or it’s their mug shot across the screen. When it comes to TV shows, Black men are gang members and the women are loud and obnoxious (Real Housewives/Basketball Wives/Love and Hip-Hop).
I’m not saying all shows are like that, but a majority of the mainstream shows that depict Black culture do so in a negative way. We see reinforcements of negative stereotypes constantly. They aren’t true, but when you see them enough, you can’t help but think that they are. I know I used to believe those stereotypes because that was what I was used to seeing when I started dating.
A lot of the Black women that attended my predominantly White high school were bussed in from the city. An overwhelming majority of them exhibited those “loud, ghetto” stereotypes, and I just associated that with Black women. That all changed when I went to college.
KB: I think that latter part is part of a pejorative and kind of classist objectification of the Black and poor, but I will save my lesson for another day and stay on-topic. I want to talk about a video that I came across recently. It’s really cringeworthy: a Black man and his White girlfriend are stereotyping Black women the entire time. So let’s talk about that.
Why has it become a “thing” that Black men are sometimes seen as unattracted to Black women? I mean from the statistics, most people still date intra-racially. But what do you think when you see a video like this when a Black man and his White girlfriend are basically being bigots towards Black women in general?
BL: Wow, that video made me sick. And I feel like an asshole because I used to think like that guy. But after thinking about it for a while, here are some thoughts after watching it:
1. The white girl looks like a discount Cher.
2. Is pulling out hair really that big a strike? (I know the importance of a Black woman’s hair.)
3. “Most Black girls expect the men to provide for them” – my Black girlfriend doesn’t need me to support her. She is the smartest woman I’ve dated and I’m not ashamed of that. We are both lucky to have each other in our lives.
4. “You won’t see a White women with 5 or 6 kids”…. I’m pretty sure there is a whole segment dedicated to this on TLC.
5. The hair thing might be a little spot on with spending all that money on hair.. but the paying the bills thing is a stretch, come on.
If anything, all this points out is that people like dealing with simple people and not a challenge. I’ve dated my share of White women but now I’m dating a Black woman. The only difference is that my current girlfriend challenges me, which could be interpreted as an attitude at times. It seems to me that the guy in the video doesn’t want a challenge. Dumb people are attracted to dumb people.
But what are your thoughts when you see a Black man with a White woman vs. a Black woman and White man? Also, we’ve know each other for a while now and you know my dating history. Do you think I’ve changed since dating a Black woman vs. the White women in the past?
KB: You’re wrong for that Cher comment though! I’m so glad you asked that question. Because allow me to say this for the one millionth time: most Black women do not care that Black men date non-Black women as long as they are not out here bashing Black women.
There seems to be this stereotype that we care – we don’t. But then again, that’s most of us. There are admittedly some who have a problem with Black men dating non-Black women and that’s just kind of lame. Although I do understand the socio-cultural neglect that Black women sometimes feel. So for them it’s like, “Well, if Black men don’t want us, who will?”
To the above point, there is this stereotype that Black women do not like to date non-Black men. I can wholeheartedly say false. And when I see Black women with a White man (or non-Black man), I pretty much have the same opinion: I don’t care as long as you are not out here bashing any group of people, particularly on the basis of race.
I will say as a Black foreigner, the way interracial relationships are scrutinized in the United States was definitely something I had to get used to. But I understand it now because of the specific history of race relations which still affect us today. Still, honestly, date who you want. Just don’t do it because of self-hate, or prejudice, or falling into stereotypes you have about others. Certainly attraction is still riddled with prejudice, as is anything is in our society. Personally, though, as a girl who freely dates any race/culture of men, I always kind of hope that the guy I’m dating feels the same way about women. The one physical thing I’m prejudicial about is height!
To your question about you. I will say I’m just glad you opened your eyes. It’s been interesting and maybe kind of awesome watching you go from having those negative views about Black women to being a Black man who truly understands the kind of social and cultural things that Black women face – from a race and gender perspective. And so I think you’ve come a long way and of course, I like to think I had a little something to do with that. (Ha!)
But let’s talk about something else. People always talk about attraction in the black community and how colorism plays a role. How do you think this affects Black women and men differently?
BL: Disclaimer I’m light-skinned. Not sure if that will really play into my response, but I thought I should disclose that. I do think colorism is a big deal and I think it negatively affects Black women more than men. This one hits home for me. I used to discount a lot of dark-skinned women based on my personal prejudices from high school and middle school. It wasn’t until I was in college where I was surrounded by Black (African) women of all shades and my eyes were opened. As stupid as it sounds coming out of my mouth, the shade of your skin really doesn’t determine your personality.
Let me get back on track, I do feel that the media does show preferential treatment toward lighter-skinned Black women. I have noticed a shift and I’m happy with what I see. Big thanks to the First Lady, and the I love my skin movement.
KB: Nice touch with the African women, Brandon. I guess the one final question I have is how do you think new-age dating, in terms of apps and online, and even just the culture of young people dating in general, affects Black men and women? I think Black people, despite having websites and apps dedicated to “finding black love” or whatever, still like meeting each other in-person.
Do you think more Black people should take advantage of the tech age of dating? I mean for Black women in particular, it’s been made known that they benefit the least from these dating apps, especially in “mainstream ones.” But I want to hear your thoughts.
BL: I will confess that I used many of these new apps to find a relationship. That could be a whole other conversation. Luckily, I found my current girlfriend on one of them and we have been together for more than a year. That’s besides the fact – dating is hard work these days.
With these apps, I think Black men do have it a lot easier. Lucky for them, according to that wonderful video from earlier, there is an abundance of White women for them to match with. This is going to sound like a broken record, but Black women have it really hard. These apps just make it easier for them to experience what they deal with on a day-to-day basis, but from the comfort of their phone.
When I was using these sites a few years ago, a friend (Black woman) and I were comparing our responses. Her being a woman naturally received more interest than me, but it was all for the wrong reasons. Very few of them were genuine, an overwhelming majority of them were White guys saying that “they had never been with a Black woman” or asking them if they had been with a White guy.
All in all, this conversation has really made me reflect on how far I’ve come. I’m not sure if that was the intended purpose of this conversation but I’m glad it went in that direction. A few points to close on:
1. Man, I was an idiot back in the day.
2. You always manage to bring out good conversations when we speak.
Thanks again for giving me the opportunity.
As it turns out, Black men and Black women are doing just fine. Sure, we have a lot to work on in terms of uplifting each other in a society where we sometimes face the brunt of inequality.
In the end, whoever we lay our head next to and whatever politics ensues because of it, we should remember that in a special way that is human — but that is especially necessary when you are part of a disenfranchised group — we are each other’s keepers.