A while back a friend of mine suddenly announced that she was going to start dating white guys—which, you know? Sounds dandy. Sure. Go forth and be down with the swirl. But (and there was a but) I was skeptical of whether or not she could pull it off.
It isn’t that my friend isn’t smart, beautiful, funny, charming, and a great cook. She’s all those things and a bag of sea salt-flavored chips. What man, regardless of race, wouldn’t find her attractive? But I felt my friend was overlooking a big issue that would be the difference between date night disaster and romantic success.
“Have you ever had a white female friend?” I asked
“I don’t really get down with white girls like that,” she said.
What followed was a brief rant about how annoying white people could be, particularly white women. So I then said, “You can’t date a white guy.”
“Why?” she asked, incredulous.
“The minute he asks you what you do with your hair at night, you’re going to rip his head off and go on a rant about why is it that you know about his hair, but black people been in this country 500 years and he is still ignorant.”
She laughed because she knew I was right.
It was like my old co-worker, who happened to be white, who had a black fetish and would go on and on about the first time she visited Washington, D.C., and there were “so many beautiful black men everywhere.”
“Don’t you think black men are beautiful?” she said to me, all breathless and starry-eyed.
“Some of them are,” I said.
“I just think they’re so gorgeous and sensual.”
“Um … my dad is a black man and my grandpa is a black man and all my uncles are black men. I went to school with a lot of black men. Black men are kind of just ‘men’ to me. Some of them are good-looking, some are nice. Some are complete assholes. I mean, they’re people.”
She looked so disappointed after I said that. She really wanted to someone to join in her brother-love fest.
There’s this thing that people do when they exoticize the “other;” they lose the human element. White men stop being men and turn into mythical unicorns, devoid of psychological burden. Asian women stop being women, and turn into submissive sex kittens. White women stop being women and become happy-go-lucky, trophy doormats. Black women stop being women and are suddenly sex-crazed, unmarriageable, rage monsters. Black men stop being men and become walking penises. Basically, we’re all prone to be turned into someone’s fetish, reduced to the sum of our stereotypes.
How can someone date white men, but not like white women? They come from the same place, essentially. They share various cultural signifiers and nationalities. For someone to be cool with one gendered half of a race but despise the other leads me to think that even the half they “like” is still based on seeing someone as a “type” and not an individual. White Man is not a brand of Instant Boyfriend you can pick up down at Target. You might happen upon a man who you can share your interests, talents, and life with, who just so happens to be a white guy, but just Perfect White Man? They don’t make that.
Plus, the ability to make meaningful, long-term friendships across the racial divide will serve you well if you do get serious with a white guy. After all, I’m sure that guy will have family and friends who will possibly look a lot like him. How are you going to get along with all of them if you can’t relate to them (and if they can’t relate to you) as a human being? You’re not dating people in a vacuum. You’ll have to deal with the reality of interpersonal relationships called “your people’s people” at some point.
My friend who wanted to abandon black men and ride the white wave did, eventually, go on one date with a white guy that went OK until he made some comment about the First Lady Michelle Obama and how he thought she was patterning herself after Clair Huxtable from “The Cosby Show.” It didn’t end well. But she did get what I was saying about that whole seeing people as people and making friends first, and we came to the following conclusions:
1. She could date a white guy if she wasn’t the first black woman he ever dated. (That way she avoids the “is he clueless or is he racist” divide.)
2. If that’s not available–black are men still men, but without the pesky hair explanations.