By Dionne Walker, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — For years, Toinetta Jones played the dating game by her mom’s strict rule. “Mom always told me, ‘Don’t you ever bring a white man home,'” recalled Jones, echoing an edict issued by many Southern, black mothers. But at 37, the Alexandria divorcee has shifted to dating “anyone who asks me out,” regardless of race. “I don’t sit around dreaming about the perfect black man I’m going to marry,” Jones said.

Black women around the country also are reconsidering deep-seated reservations toward interracial relationships, reservations rooted in America’s history of slavery and segregation. They’re taking cues from their favorite stars — from actress Shar Jackson to tennis pro Venus Williams — as well as support blogs, how-to books and interracially themed novels telling them it’s OK to “date out.”

It comes as statistics suggest American black women are among the least likely to marry. “I’m not saying that white men are the answer to all our problems,” Jones said. “I’m just saying that they offer a different solution.” She reflects many black women frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows: They’re nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

Census data showed 117,000 black wife-white husband couples in 2006, up from 95,000 in 2000. There were just 26,000 such couples in 1960, before a Supreme Court ruling banished laws against mixed marriages. Black female-white male romance has become a hot topic in black-geared magazines and on websites, even hitting the big screen in movies like last year’s “Something New.”

That film centers on an affluent black woman who falls for her white landscaper, a situation not unlikely as black women scale the corporate ladder, said Evia Moore, whose interracial marriage blog draws 1,000 visitors a day. It features articles like “Could Mr. Right Be White?” and pictures of couples like white chef Wolfgang Puck and his new Ethiopian wife.

“Black women are refusing to comply with that message about just find yourself a good blue-collar man with a job, or just find a black man,” Moore said. She pointed to low rates of black men in college, a place where women of all races often meet their spouses.

Black women on campus largely are surrounded by non-black men: In 2004, 26.5% of black males ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college versus 36.5% of black women that age, according to the American Council on Education’s most recent statistics. Even after college, Roslyn Holcomb struggled to meet professional black men.

“I wanted to get married (and) have children,” she said. “If I was only meeting one guy a year, or every few years, that wasn’t going to happen.” The Alabama author eventually married white. “I think a lot of black women are realizing or feeling that the pickings are slim,” she said. They’re made even slimmer, grumble many black women, by high rates of successful black men choosing blondes. For some, they argue, white wives are the ultimate status symbol. “They don’t want a dark chocolate sister laying around their swimming pool,” Moore said. Nearly three quarters of the 403,000 black-white couples in 2006 involved black husbands. Meanwhile, psychological barriers have discouraged black women from crossing racial lines.

“Black women are socialized to stick by their men,” explained Kellina Craig-Henderson, a Howard University psychology professor who studied 15 black women dating interracially. She said modern black women agonize over breaking male-female bonds forged in slavery and strengthened through the Jim Crow era. “It may be even more of an issue for educated black women who have a sense of the historical realities of this country, where black women often were abused at the hands of white men,” Craig-Henderson said.

Jones remembered being troubled when a white man politely approached her around 1990. Her stance softened years later, after a sobering party experience. “All the black men literally pushed (us) out the way to talk to the blondes,” said Jones, who soon declared, “I’m going to date whoever.” Black men and women have openly feuded before.

At places like Atlanta’s Spelman College, black women have rallied against black male rappers characterizing them as promiscuous. But black men are voicing their own frustrations with women they feel regard them with suspicion. “They treat us all the same,” said W. Randy Short, a Washington writer who dates across races. “The rapist on the TV is the same as me.”

It’s a frustration director Tim Alexander tackles in “Diary of a Tired Black Man,” a frank film covering everything from black women’s demeanors to their weight. Frustrated by black women, the main character dates a white one. “To a certain degree, black people are sick of each other,” Alexander said. “It would be better for black men and black women to open their options.”

But Ayo Handy-Kendi, creator of Black Love Day, argues blacks are simply reacting to messages linking success with whiteness. She referred to a string of successful athletes with white partners, including golfer Tiger Woods. “They normally rejected their culture and they went to the acceptable standard of success — a white woman,” said Handy-Kendy, who thought it ironic high-achieving black women were mimicking the behavior.

Back in Virginia, Jones feels life is too short to ponder race when it comes to love. As for mom, Jones figures, “she really admires the fact that I did something she may have really wanted to do, and never did.”

Source: AP & USA TODAY

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  • gabriela

    Why is it that in the African American culture, the women are deemed as the leaders of the race.It is the biggest historical anomaly, that I have ever seen. The African American male can be absent, reckless,uncaring,mysoginistic, and irresponsible,and not one member of the community would mention or critize it; in a world ruled predominantly by men. African American women if they see it fit, should date and marry who they want.Why do you make such a big deal out of it, when so many other ethnic groups are intermarrying? What is the biggest sin, crime or taboo, that makes it a no no for African American women to date and marry other men? Why is there such a heavy burden on the backs of African American women to lead Black America, and the men are left off the hook? Why the injustice from a people who have been treated unfairly?Incidentally, the highest number of Black women, who marry and date white men are not African American , but Africans, in Europe and Afro latinas in the Americas.Remember people date and marry who they find appealing.Let us stop believing that black women cannot be atracticve to other ethnic groups. It is a fallacy, and it is part of the slave mentality. Stop seeing the other groups as superior to Blacks, they may be benefiting more from dating and marrying Black women. I am glad that in the the Afro latino cultures of the Americas, there is no such burden on women.

  • Kai

    I strongly disagree with the part of the article that imply that African American women are dating white men because were seeking revenge after seeing African American men with blondes. Why does there have to a calculated reason for the color of the person you date/marry/whatever? Could it be that you just fall in love with who you fall in love with, despite of their skin? Why the over-analyzing and drama? Relationships aren’t chess games. Moves don’t have to be calculated.

  • Sage

    The real fact of the matter at hand is hatred has bred hatred. People of African descent, from the African continent to South American to the Caribbean to good ole’ USA have been and are currently bombarded and pummulled with the notion of white supremacy to the point that we cannot see through the haze. And frankly many of us don’t want to. It is ingrained and would take too much work to unravel its threads from the fabric.

    Bottom line is if you are attracted (in more ways than one) to someone, whether they are white, damn-near white, yellow, caramel, cinnamon, milk-chocolate or blue-black, go for it!!! Life is too damn short and blessed to be worried about what everyone else thinks. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. And if you TRULY know yourself, then the love union you make, will be TRUE also!!

    Me personally, I love, love, love Black men. It’s in my soul. However, if a fine, intelligent, funny, conversationalist, sublime soul of another race happens to stir mine the right way, best believe I will holla!!

  • Danielle

    Well, I am just speaking by my own experiences but i’m attracted to white men because I like them, not some kind of revenge thing against black guys. I don’t understand how so many black women are not open to dating other ethnicities, it’s a good thing. I’ve had great experiences with my white boyfriends and most likely i’ll marry one. About the whole dating african men thing, isn’t the same issue happening in Europe (Britain) with them wanting non-black women too? Sure there are black men who want black women, but why not try white, asain, latino? Dating outside of my “race” has been a breath of fresh air.

  • Trevor

    I’m just so weary of the black-men-date-white-women-because-they-are-self-haters but black-women-date-white-men-as-a-last-resort-because-black-men-suck rationale… people, date who you want to date, and don’t feel the need to justify it to anyone else.

    It should be obvious to anyone with a lick of sense that if it’s okay for one black gender to date interracially, it’s okay for both to do so.